Review: Laughs Comedy Club – 10 April
“Could Bristol be Left With Only One Comedy Club?" cried this headline from the Bristol Post in 2013. What the Post was reporting on was the potential (and eventual) closure of the Jongleurs on Baldwin Street in Bristol. Though the number of times Jongleurs has been threatened by bankruptcy, or the owners bought it back for a £1 or its changed venue locations, no one really knows if it even exists anymore. Of course, this could bode well for this new club that's taking up the large bar-space attached to The Cuban, just off Millennium Square. Incidentally, this was a former Jongleurs, which actually does still exist and has moved to Pryzm, about 100 metres away. Despite the Jongleurs banner still powerfully adorning the building, this is actually the new Laughs Comedy Club. The opening night was free, but a regular Friday and Saturday show will now continue at 'Crazy Prices', notes the press release. On Fridays, tickets would be £7.38, and on Saturdays, they'd be £8.37. So cray.
Tonight's line up features Jongleur veterans Colin Cole, and Otiz Cannelloni, alongside Ryan McDonnell, with Bristol-based comic Sally-Anne Hayward on compering duties. Hayward is a hugely capable performer and had a solid handle on the crowd from the start – she knew who she was performing to, and acted accordingly. The traditional meet-and-greet was smooth and she dropped in a number of her own routines before introducing the opening set by Belfast-born, Cambridgeshire-residing comedian Ryan McDonnell.
Take my wife..
McDonnell gave the evening a measured start – a warm presence, with a number of decent one-liners. Some longer-form stories about his background segued into a number of bits on the IRA, including the good old days of barwork where his accented announcements of time at the bar had the distinct power of emptying the pub. He also had some stock-material on religion, priests, and his own experiences, such as when he recently found out the term 'midget' was offensive.
Next up was Otiz Cannelloni. Now, ten years ago he may have been described affectionately as an end-of-the-pier style act, but as times move on so have perceptions and expectations. What hasn't, is Cannelloni's act. Still employing 'my wife' jokes and all manner of corn-ridden gags, Cannelloni seems to acknowledge their fast ageing by incorporating being a bit rubbish into his actual act. This is most prominent in his somewhat duel-billing as a magician. It's clearly a honed act and his dedication to it at least distracts from his 1950s joke book, but ultimately it remains uninteresting. Speaking of the joke book – someone should tell him that joke books have been published this side of the 20th century too, and while this won't help him progress to originality, they'll at least give him room to retire the joke: "I do the ironing the old fashioned way – my wife does it."
Stuck on repeat...
During the break the gameshow-style announcer reminded us to buy drinks twice, to turn off our mobile phones four times, and playing Daft Punk's Get Lucky twice. Nobody seemed to notice.
Finishing off the evening was Colin Cole, described by Chortle as having jokes "so predictable that you could fill in the punchlines yourself," while also noting his "obsession with midgets". When Cole reached the stage, he took the mic and screamed "I bloody hate midgets". There were a few giggles as the crowd wondered whether the Australian comic was riffing off of McDonnell's material from earlier, throwing in a quick shocker to warm us all up, but it turns out the Chortle review was pretty accurate. Five minutes later, and Cole's full midget routine was complete. It was obvious we were dealing with a certain kind of comic here.
The truth is, Cole has been a Jongleurs comic for years – we imagine it's one of the few places that tolerates him. Not only is Cole's view on the world warped and out of touch – he's entirely unoriginal, throwing up jokes as if he'd written them this morning, whereas in reality they died off sometime in the 70s when people realised you don't have to hate people that aren't you to make others laugh, and that putting pineapple chunks in an airline sick bag is a pretty rubbish prank. Especially as these days a tin of pineapple chunks wouldn't even be allowed in your carry-on in the first place.
Cole isn't the most offensive comic out there, far from it. But his material scrapes every single comedic barrel, pilfered from various sources and so long ago that he probably doesn't even remember where it originated from. If you thought airline material only existed within parodies about hackneyed standups, Cole is happy to prove you wrong.
Somewhere between the jokes "the air hostess has to push the trolley because the poof's not strong enough", and "sincerely, if there's any homosexuals out there... just stop it... it's yucky," we left.
This is the problem with Laughs. Both Cannelloni and Cole are Jongleurs veterans – and while Laughs isn't specifically trying to market their night as anything else, it seems like either a lazy, or miscalculated choice to host two of the most antiquated comedians on the opening night of something new, rather than trying to create an alternative to an already floundering circuit. But what's worse than copying Jongleurs act-for-act, decor-for-decor, is giving a fuck-headed moron; an anti-pillar of original, progressive, or even slightly interesting society another stage to spew his nonsense. Because despite (depressingly) significant pockets of laughter, the likes of Cole are also taking the piss out of the royal you as they stand there, grinning like a depraved sea turtle spitting out jokes that were already rotten and covered in mould during the reign of King Tut.