The third night of Bristol Comedy Garden was a friendly affair. All the comedians on the bill seem to share genuine affection and friendship outside the rigours of touring comedy – and it comes across during one of this year’s more varied lineups.
Our host, Aisling Bea, launches straight into material about Melania Trump which raises a smile but slightly misses the mark. She grows into the role as host as though, and has been handed a comedic gift as her friends have now nominated her as the fountain of all knowledge on the DUP. Her material is varied and it feels like you’re listening to an old friend – which is great, even if it lacks a few belly laughs.
Sara Pascoe has an altogether more structured set that whisks the audience along with her on tales of singledom, family and yoga retreats. She has some brilliant moments, like wringing every last drop of awkwardness out of a story of an uncomfortable boyfriend who realised she wore the same pants as his mum.
She fares less well when training her sights on why she hates all art. Some observations are razor-sharp, but others lack focus – and laughs.
If Pascoe sticks to well-trodden stand-up paths, then Tim Key must be her antithesis. Strolling onstage in a ragged suit with a plastic bag, a couple of cans of lager and a tie, Key is clearly not one for convention. He declares he’s getting fat for a film. He admits, though, that he doesn’t know what part, what film or when.
His set is a melange of poems (some funny, some wonderfully bizarre) and stand-up. Here is a man who has thought about his character, and we’re treated to a set that ducks and dives through material that is enjoyable for its unpredictability. Thankfully, he hasn’t forgotten the number one rule of defying stand-up convention: you still have to be funny. He delivers plenty of big laughs in a set that whizzes by.
Headliner David O’Doherty (pictured top) delivers the evening’s roundest mix of conventional and non-conventional comedy. His underscoring of jokes with his keyboard punctuates the lines and lets it ebb and flow. Not to be confined to musical comedy, O’Doherty does plenty of straight-down-the-line material too. His routine about becoming a “social media influencer” hits all the spots of a modern observational comedian talking to a room of Twitterers and Snapchatters. He’s sharp and likeable, and a full-length show would be a treat.
David O’Doherty and others played Bristol Comedy Garden on Friday, June 16.