Every other Thursday, Bristol Underground Comedy promises to deliver a carefully curated selection of the country’s finest comedians to a reclaimed space underneath Temple Meads railway station. Or, as compere and promoter Pete Dobbing puts it: “We’ll bring you the funniest comedians you’ve never heard of”. If the first night is anything to go by, this is no empty promise. It’s rare to see a line-up of five acts with not a duff one amongst them.
The Invisible Circus’s new Loco Klub – already well on its way to recapturing the unique bohemian atmosphere of the late lamented Old Fire Station – offers a charming intimacy, good sightlines and an unusual semi-hemispherical stage with some fantastic acoustic properties (more on this later). It’s an excellent venue for comedy, accurately described by one act as “a dump – but the perfect dump”..
One factor which should help ensure the future success of the event is the presence of Pete Dobbing as regular compere. Combining a frenetic energy with sharp wit and a relaxed likeability, Dobbing has all the characteristics you’d look for in a class-A compere.
John Robins (pictured top) talks about his girlfriend a lot. What he doesn’t mention is that she’s fellow comedian Sara Pascoe, and it’s rather touching that her own recent set in Bristol was largely devoted to her boyfriend – young love communicating through the medium of the stage mic. Robins delivers a polished and laid-back observational narrative – “Polish shops sell what you thought booze would taste like when you were a kid” – blending snapshots of domesticity with bursts of self-loathing.
The central section of tonight’s three-part evening consists of short sets by three acts. Bristol-based Angie Belcher (pictured above) uses her local knowledge to good advantage. Her razor-sharp ridicule of the pretensions of middle-class Bristolians (“they say that in London you’re never more than five metres from a rat; in Bristol you’re never more than five metres from a Reiki teacher”) blends with memories of a working-class Midlands childhood to produce a tight observational routine with high laughter content.
Josh Pugh’s material slithers through a random selection of offbeat thoughts and tiny poems: there’s nothing unique about Pugh (although he is occasionally reminiscent of early Eddie Izzard), but he’s a good bet for some solid laughs.
The final mid-section act every fortnight will be a variety act, possibly in a nod to the venue’s circus links. El Toro Grande is certainly the epitome of a variety act: the only Mexican wrestling-themed comedy diabolo act you will probably ever see. A seven-minute journey into the totally surreal.
Headliner John Gordillo (pictured above) abandoned the mic to take advantage of the natural amplification of the semi-circular stage: a handy tip for future performers, since he could still be heard perfectly and it created the ideal intimacy for this self-confessed “messy comedian” with his intelligent ad-lib-laden meanderings, from the effect of ticket prices on an audience’s reaction (if you’ve paid a shedload of money you’ll be more desperate to laugh, whereas at this venue’s prices – 75p per act – the laughs have to be earned) to the ridiculousness of the evermore pervasive star rating system (how do you give the Grand Canyon a star rating on TripAdvisor?).
With an audience who had, by show of hands, never heard of him, Gordillo proved that Bristol Underground Comedy really can bring you “the funniest comedians you’ve never heard of”. In a culture where comedians’ ticket prices and venue sizes skyrocket the minute they’ve been on the telly, this is a great chance to see a packed bill of genuinely funny people, in the kind of intimate setting that suits good comedy, for less than the price of a couple of pints. A promising addition to Bristol’s comedy scene.
The next Bristol Underground Comedy will be on Thursday,November 26. For more info and to book tickets, visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bristol-underground-comedy-the-loco-klub-tickets-19421585485