As somebody who has been performing comedy in and around Bristol for 2 years now, I feel relatively qualified to compile a list of some of my favourite nights to watch and perform for in this unique city. The creative buzz that surrounds Bristol is irresistible to anyone looking to get into the world of arts and comedy here is no different, with Bristol boasting a nascent open mic scene and a colourful laugh-inducing spectrum of nights.
A Bunch of Japes-Smoke and Mirrors
Held at Bristol’s premier magic bar, A Bunch of Japes is the child of Mark Olver, widely thought of as the best TV compere in the business (he’s currently the host of Deal or No Deal and Sky 1’s ThroneCast), Comedy Yoda, and former inhabitant of the now famous “Bristol Comedy Flat” alongside Russell Howard, Jon Richardson and John Robins. Mark occasionally hosts, and the rest of the time the night is run by Alex Mahoney, a Welsh Comic to keep an eye on. The theatre room itself is a gorgeously intimate space, with a relatively small red-curtained stage, oak-laden walls and classic furniture reminiscent of Houdini and his contemporaries. While officially a new material night, the main attraction of A Bunch of Japes is its star name headliners-with Jimmy Carr, Russell Howard, Russell Kane and Seann Walsh all having formerly topped the bill, and local legends such as Mat Ewins and Stuart Goldsmith regularly taking slots. At £3.50 a ticket (£5 for the special attractions) you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better value form of entertainment on a Monday night.
Stand Up Picture Show
The Stand Up Picture Show, run by married team Alice and Dave Taylor-Matthews, has now been going at The Cube Cinema for 4 years and has gone from strength to strength each year. The premise is simple, an hour of brilliant stand ups and then a choice film, but it’s expertly executed, both by the hosts-who film themed snippets according to the selected film and the audience. Performing at the Halloween showing of The Evil Dead was a personal comedy highlight for me, as would it be for anyone if they could see at least two separate Shauns from Shaun of the Dead in the crowd. The Cube cinema, with its strong independent ethos and recondite location is a perfect arena for the alt-comedy it hosts and there isn’t a nicer feeling in comedy than performing to a warm comedy savvy crowd. On the 5th of November they will be showing the 2006 film, Idiocracy – in which a ‘braggadocious’ demagogue has been voted into the Oval office by his similarly half-witted citizens. Apt.
Chubby White’s Variety Night
I’ve heard about this hip night that no one I know, definitely not myself runs. The idea is that George Erlanger, a comedian that I don’t live with, was walking down the street when an old poster for a 70s variety night flew into his path. Picking the poster up George felt a spiritual connection with the Night’s mythical host Chubby White-a cult comedian with a penchant for themed shows, nonsensical jokes and nudity. In the show’s updated form the Night boasts a Variety of acts, but also a Variety in and of itself as the themes and plot filling out the slots in between acts change each time. Previous shows have included Chubby White’s 1001 Nights-an Aladdin styled caper featuring Chubby White as a smurf blue Genie and Chubby White’s Brave New Night-a take on an Orwellian society where comedy has been made illegal and run by the evil Administrator. A great part of the night’s joy is the songs, sound effects and technical wonderment, written and performed by in house producers Nicky Green and Jamie Maier. It’s a lot to take in but it makes a change from the humdrum of standard “What’s your job” MCing and adds a certain emotional investment into the overall flow of the evening. At least we think so. I mean they.
Bristol Underground Comedy
The Loco Klub, usually a circus venue, Bristol Underground Comedy was set up by Stuart Goldsmith and Pete Dobbing who are both street performers turned stand ups. Goldsmith has received widespread recognition for his podcast ‘The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast’, where he interviews the country’s best comedians to reveal their internal processings. In the dripping bowels of Temple Meads, Bristol Underground Comedy often showcases the best Alternative comics around such as Mock the Week and Live at The Apollo performer Dane Baptiste, Simon Munnery and next month hosts the explosive Paul Currie, while Dobbing and Goldsmith also call on their street performer friends to bring their delights exotic to a normal stand up night. Expect mayhem.
Bubble @ The Barge
Jo Duncan left behind teaching to become a Comedian and has not looked back since, having been voted a Funny Woman’s one to watch and beginning her own brand, Bubble Comedy. The fruits of her labours can be seen at the monthly showcase, which she hosts and features brilliant acts. The Grain Barge itself is gradually becoming a delightful spot for midweek comedy as its sub-aquatic setting creates a disarming atmosphere for punters in the same way the best comedians would. Bubble and Chubby White’s Variety Night also co host a new material night, which is also run monthly on Wednesdays.
For a consistent line up of well seasoned pros, there isn’t really another brand of Comedy night in Bristol with a similar watermark than Comedy Box. I mean they’ve been going since the year I was born. They mainly run gigs at the Hen and Chicken, but also host at the Tobacco Factories, Redgrave Theatre, The Lantern and the Bristol Old Vic. There’s not much more that I can say than if you want a sure fire evening of top quality stand up, head over to a Comedy Box night.