I think we can all agree that there are few things worse than bad comedy. Bad stand-up is like gone-off milk – it makes me feel a bit queasy. So when a friend suggested going to Oxford's Glee Club I agreed with slight trepidation.
To be honest my expectations weren't high. For starters the Glee Club location is connected to the (not very) classy establishment that is Wahoo. Also, being part of a chain of comedy clubs, I wondered would Glee be the comedy equivalent of a motorway service station food – caters to everyone but ultimately a bit overpriced and tasteless? Determined to drink my way into finding it funny, we ordered a couple of Hooches (we meet again 1990s!) and set about assessing the crowd which was surprisingly mixed for an Oxford gig – couples, students, a few 'work nights out' and an impressively restrained stag do.
My second surprise was that the first act on (Stephen Bailey) was actually funny. We were served up a real laugh-out-loud set based around flirtation with unsuspecting male audience members, unrelenting self-deprecation and heavy doses of filth. However he managed to side-step the cheap, obvious gags and inject something that felt genuine – such as the jokes about the acceptance (or not) of gay Bailey by his parents. Comedy is its best when it has a hint of tragedy and Bailey exploited life's everyday tragedies to provide us some great belly laughs.
Fredrik Andersson took the filth to the next level, right into hilarious discomfort. These are the jokes I know I shouldn't laugh at – which is of course why I do. Most of the jokes revolved around him either being in some way offensive or immoral, in contrast to his deadpan Swedish delivery. He managed to (narrowly) avoid bad taste though as the laugh was always on him. Again I was pleasantly surprised that Glee had avoided a bland, cliché-heavy act.
The final and most established act, Paul Thorne, was the most conventional of the night. He still made me laugh though (or maybe the Hooches had kicked in). By questioning audience members, who hopefully realised beforehand that being in the front row makes you a sitting target, he managed to be engaging and unpredictable.
I left Glee happy – with an aching belly, fuzzy head and my faith in stand-up thankfully restored. So I would say the Glee Club is less like motorway sandwiches and more like a top notch kebab van (pleasantly spicy).