Most comics just pick Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks and be done with it. Not Robins. Read on!
I’m from Bristol, it’s my favourite city and has some of the best (and worst) spaces for comedy in the country. So for my “fantasy comedy night” task, I have devised a weekend in Bristol where the main three clubs (and one little one) all have stellar line-ups. Not at the super big venues, so there’s enough audience to go round. Crucial to this whole enterprise is we all get to go for drinks on both the Friday and Saturday night! Everyone’s got a hotel and wants to drink long into the night!
So, first up we have a charity fundraiser at the wonderful Tobacco Factory. It’s a 350 seater and it’s being co-ordinated by Steve Lount, local comedy promoter and rigorous time-keeper. And the bill is:
MC Jon Richardson
Act 1 George Egg
Act 2 Sara Pascoe
Act 3 Simon Amstell
Act 4 Ian Stone
Act 5 Nina Conti
Like apples do you? Well how d’you like THEM APPLES?! Jon Richardson is one of the most consummate comperes. Absolute lightning quick wit, wonderful material, but, crucially, he is also a master of making sure the night was set up properly for the acts. He never overruns and never makes the night about him.
George Egg is one of my favourite people in comedy, he’s also a joyous performer. His first 90 seconds on stage has no words. All brilliant, bonkers prop-based fun from his massive briefcase. The routine where he staples a fiver to his head is one of my very favourite bits.
Sara Pascoe – now. I’m biased, not because she’s my girlfriend, but because her agent is so terrifyingly good that she would have negotiated Sara a really great hotel, and I would get to stay in it too! I’m thinking Hotel Du Vin, with a lovely brunch thrown in. Also, watching Sara do stand-up, her ability to be thoughtful, powerful and hilarious, amazes and humbles me in equal measure. I could tell you stories of fathers bringing their teenage daughters to see her live, because they felt it so important that there was an honest, positive, female voice in their lives, but if I told you those stories my heart would burst with pride.
Simon Amstell, I’ve only seen Simon a couple of times, but every time I’ve left feeling I’d seen something completely original and unique, which is very rare for conventional, confessional stand-up.
I think of Ian Stone every time I hear some journeyman comic moaning about the circuit. If you want to do better you have to be better, and crucial to that is constantly writing new material. Not only does Ian turn his stuff over at a phenomenal rate, he can immediately perform it at any club, any time, any place. A genuine master of the art.
I gigged with Nina Conti in Bristol last summer, it was a tent full of 1,200 people, and she ABSOLUTELY BLEW THE ROOF OFF. I can honestly say it was one of the best, gut-bustingly hilarious performances I’ve ever seen. I rarely laugh really hard at live comedy anymore, but Nina Conti always makes me forget I’m not a punter.
Just up the road is the Comedy Box. It’s my favourite gig in the country because it’s where I first cut my teeth as a compere. Gigging there feels like I’m performing in my manor, to my people, so I’m damned if anyone else is compering it tonight. Bang! Robins! Banter! Local! Overrunning a bit! Steve Lount is also running this night, but he’s usually too nervous to watch the comedy, so will pace the hallway as per.
MC John Robins
Act 1 Henry Paker
Act 2 Zoe Lyons
Act 3 Massive Dad
Act 4 James Acaster (above)
Obviously as MC I’ve set the standard pretty fucking high, and it’s a tough ask for anyone to go toe-to-toe with Robins on his home patch, when he’s got both barrels loaded and a shitload of new, but I think these guys are up to the task. I think Henry Paker is the most naturally gifted comedian I’ve ever seen. I saw his first Edinburgh show about eight times and each night there were new phrases, improvisations that would blow me away. He’s a true comedian, in the sense that it’s in his very being, and you can’t get better than that.
Zoe Lyons is such a rare thing, her comedy is about the everyday and immediately rings true with people, but at the same time is totally unique to her. I’ve seen her change the atmosphere of a gig so many times, from cold, judgey crowd, to pumping giggle-fest, in seconds. Read. My. Lips: Zoe Lyons should be on all TV all of the time.
Last week I saw a sketch group who really made me laugh. The most I’ve laughed in ages. They were called Massive Dad. That’s all I know about them really. Their sketch about a radio play actor arriving late is a tiny slice of genius.
Finally a man who is rapidly overtaking Daniel Kitson as the fantasy line-up headliner of choice. It’s James Acaster. Ten years ago, if someone had been nominated for the Perrier three years in a row, every TV commissioner would have a blank cheque awaiting whatever idea they had. Times have changed, and not for the better. I imagine the conversation now goes something along the lines of ”maybe make it like Twitter or something? Or Buzzfeed, that’s cool isn’t it? Yeah, like Buzzfeed but on TV. Can we put Rylan in it or something, that’ll help won’t it?“ (I have no idea who Rylan is, but Google suggested he was a good reference point here). A month ago I saw James Acaster close Up the Creek, and it was the best 20-minute stand-up set I have ever seen. Fact. And … IT WAS ALL FUCKING NEW MATERIAL.
In order to fit all of the acts I like in to Bristol in one night we are going to have to pop into Jongleurs. But don’t worry, they pay their comedians now! All of these acts could play any room, but I thought I’d give the rich mix of drunks at Bristol Jongleurs a real treat.
MC Charlie Baker
Act 1 Michael Legge
Act 2 Lloyd Langford
Act 3 Danny Buckler
Charlie Baker has funny bones. He just makes me laugh. And anyone who has funny bones can do no wrong by me. His bit about his brother-in-law who served in Iraq has me in tears. I’ve had to move away from the backstage area when he’s on because my laugh interrupts the show.
Lloyd Langford is one of the funniest people I know. He’s got a great way of doing observational material without it sounding like a long list of things people notice, which is a real skill, and every bit he has makes me shout “Why didn’t I think of that?!” He’s also a fabulous drinker and whisky enthusiast.
It might surprise people to know that Michael Legge is not just a full-time internet troll. He does comedy too! I don’t care for it myself, I much prefer seeing him do what he does best: bullying the vulnerable online. However, we have to consider the drinking after the gig, and he is one of the best post-gig drinkers around. And then we’ll go back to my hotel room and listen to Queen until we (I) cry. He is also a magnet for gossip because everyone who knows a secret that they don’t want to tell the world, tells Michael, in the vain hope he will put it in one of his skits / rants / tweets.
And who’s that over there performing genuine magic? But with the performace skills of a thespian, and the world weary demeanor of Tony Hancock? I know that person … It’s Danny Buckler! I love Danny. He’s one of the first professional comedians I ever gigged with when I started, and he’s effortlessly funny.
And there we have it, what a treat! Something for everyone.
But wait! What’s that?! Oh, I see. Old Mark Olver has got in on the action! He’s compering his wonderful small theatre venue at a pub called The Smoke And Mirrors. He’s hosting new material from Daniel Kitson and Russell Howard. Mark has a great eye for new talent and I hear these two new acts are very promising.