After a months hiatus due to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Trapdoor Comedy was back with two nights at its regular haunts Solomons and The Old Monkey. It was the latter which we found ourselves visiting again, having last attended it back in January. The Old Monkey has the air of a friendly local ‘boozer’ within the city centre and at under £3 a pint, definitely not city centre prices!
We’re there early (as is standard!) however it seems we’re not the only ones. The pub downstairs is quickly filling up with revellers who are also their for the gig. The group next to us are clearly regulars as the MC Tony Basnett stops and chats to do them whilst another group nearer the bar seem to be ‘newbs’ as one worryingly asks whether they’ll get abused by any of the comedians. They shouldn’t worry as they’re at one of Manchester’s friendliest comedy nights which at times feels at times more like a family gathering than a standard comedy gig.
We settle into our seats and the lights go down before the now familiar sound of Sami Zayn’s theme music kicks in and the ever energetic Tony Basnett rushes to the stage to a cheer from the audience. This is the first Trapdoor comedy night for 2 months as Tony was up in Edinburgh, if he was suffering from fatigue he wasn’t showing it as he was in fine form. The night has a very hardcore following and he bounces off the audience well, chatting to the regulars and quizzing the ‘newbs’ on their jobs and their general well being. He jokes about forming a cult but given one regular is due to get the trapdoor logo tattooed on his arm I don’t think he’d have to go far to find an abundance of loyal followers!
The first act of the evening is Chris Washington, an instantly likeable chap with a comforting Northern accent. His style is akin to Jason Manford or a Peter Kay for the smart phone generation. His set is a very every-man style, regaling us with tales of Whatsapp groups he never wished to be part of, school work experience and the perils of working as a postman. His set is nothing groundbreaking but very relate-able, it is very well crafted, brilliantly timed and most importantly laugh out loud funny (his school presentation bit had one woman behind me in hysterics, so much so she sounded like a squeaky door!).
After a quick break we were ready for the middle section with 3 acts on show, 2 of which we were familiar with and one fresh off the boat from Canada.
First up was Hannah Platt, entering the stage to the tune ‘Lust for Life’ which we are quick to find out is something she doesn’t have! Brilliant dark and self-deprecating, her set is very deadpan, brutal and designed to make the crowd feel a slight unease at laughing at such topics, focusing on her own self-loathing and contempt for the audience. As with one of the other middle act we’ll see later in the evening (Tony Wright) it is clear she’s a star on the rise with her set getting better crafted and delivery even more well timed every time we’ve seen her.
Next up was Evan Desmarais, a Canadian comic who has just washed up on the shores of Mancunia and making it his home after a successful Edinburgh Fringe run. Canadian performers always seem to be so chirpy and full of life and Evan is no different! His set is very fast moving and discusses his recent trip to the Fringe in which he removed a heckler who had previously bought him a beer, unsolicited dick pics and the general pitfalls life throws at him. Like Chris Washington he manages to find the ridiculous in the mundane aspects of modern life.
The final act of the middle section was the sharpest dressed man on the Manchester circuit (and going out a limb but probably the most stylish man ever to enter the Old Monkey upstairs function room) – Tony Wright. This was our fourth timing seeing Tony and each time we see him, his act (like his suits) gets sharper and better crafted. Although his act has been very similar each time, the delivery and his gauging of the audience has improved immensely. Even the squeaky laughter of the girl behind me doesn’t throw him off his game. He’s an act starting to pop up more and more in middle slots amongst experienced comics but doesn’t look out of place in their company.
We have another break and then we’re ready for the main act of the evening, the former if.comedy award winner Brendon Burns. Brendon comes storming to the stage carrying two cans of the energy drink ‘Monster’, taking a seat on the stool provided but he doesn’t stay sat still for long. He is a bundle of energy and like many Aussie comedians his jokes are very much on the cusp. However offense is always taken and not given, those who would take offense at his jokes would be missing the point entirely. He discusses Feminism and Islam, two subjects which often cause a sharp intake of breath from the audience however it is handled in such a manner to poke fun at those who take offense on others behalf rather than the subjects themselves. He also pays homage to the Manc resilience after the Manchester Arena attack, praising the spirit of the people and the way the people just said a big fuck you to terrorism and those who tried to divide us.