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Killforaseat Comedy Club @ the Bullingdon

Independent comedy club in east Oxford
The Bullingdon Arms, first Sunday of every month until December 2009. Sporadic thereafter.

November 2, 2009
1st November 2009
Last night's Kill for a Seat comedy was intense, exciting, and occasionally a little unpleasant. All the acts were men, none were especially young, and none seemed to have a great deal of love for the world or their audience.

Richard Wilson, the compere, was a short, hairy, geezer-ish comedian from Kent. Almost immediately, he identified a bunch of Brookes students at the front as the 'victims' for the evening, and set about ridiculing their degrees. These guys were in for a tough night. Wilson is rarely screamingly funny, but he's relaxed, confident and engaging.

The first main act was Duncan Oakley, a tall, bearded, slightly lost looking chap. He wasn't a great advert for the lifestyle of the touring stand-up. He described how he'd recently split up from his partner, and had been living in his camper van. The van was starting to get a bit smelly, he told us. Oakley's approach is to jabber away in a breathless stream of conciousness, delivering dreadful puns and snippets of sex and swearing. He often sounds like a man trying to get in a few extra insults before he gets punched in the mouth. I thought he was a bit old for some of his material, which was often rude in a slightly schoolboy-ish way.

When Stewart Black came on, he looked really nervous and uncomfortable. Pale, skinny, and drawn, with a strong West Country accent, he looks almost too fragile to be doing stand-up. At first, I didn't think he was going to find his rhythm, but when he got going he had some really quality jokes and routines, and was probably the funniest act of the evening. His best bits were about sex, particularly his impression of Sting being dragged off his wife during a seven hour tantric session.

Michael Smiley used to be the skinny, bald-headed 'Tyres' in Spaced, and before that, I think he appeared as the resident raver on programmes like The Word. He looks really different now – paunchy, with an uncared-for floppy fringe and scraggy beard. But the accent's the same – strong, gobstopper-in-the-mouth Ulster. There's someone else from Northern Ireland in the crowd, and this starts Smiley off talking about Catholics and Prods, Belfast mothers, thick DUP Mps, and the North Belfast Zoo. His best joke was about a fellow ex-pat, a protestant unionist living with his posh wife in Hampstead, who decides on the 11th July to burn an effigy of the pope on his barbecue and have his own Orange order march down to Blockbuster videos.

But then everything changes. A posh girl near the front says something out of turn to her boyfriend, and Smiley is on her like a shot. He asks her to repeat herself, and the girl brazenly tells him she doesn't find him very funny. Smiley, clearly rattled, is really horrible back to her, offensive, personal, and misogynist. It wasn't very nice at all, like the whole class struggle in miniature, the toff all sneering and arrogant, the prole hateful and bitter. Although Smiley was less funny after this spat, I have to admit that the episode suited the agreeably edgy mood of the evening.

October 19, 2009
Sun 4th Oct, 2009
This month's Kill For a Seat featured a Chief-Wiggum-alike one-man-band, a furry-faced failed bus driver and a midget - dwarf - er (what's the right PC term?! 'Person of diminutive stature'?! - Tanya says midget'll do just fine thanks). Sound like a pretty-whacked out combo? Well in fact, it was a surprisingly gentle evening's entertainment, with plenty of belly laughs too for good measure. And the audience wasn't even drunk either (it being Sunday and all).

No compering from club organiser Silky this month (unless you count his deep-voiced interruptions from the sound desk) - I personally missed his on-stage presence, but Richard Wilson's softly surreal tales from his own life went down well inbetween the main courses. First of these was Rob Deering, originally from Oxford, who rather unfairly pointed out that he looks a bit like Chief Wiggum (perhaps crossed with Rick Astley?) before coming out with some terrible one-liners in a style reminiscent of a playschool presenter. But then he introduced his special guest: His Guitar! Yes: His Guitar!! (*applause*) Rob's act won't make much sense if you don't have a pretty decent knowledge of cheesy rock and pop standards (but then, doesn't everyone?), but assuming you do, it's bloody brilliant. Clearly a pretty decent musician, he plays Elvis songs about tortoises, does quickfire one-line musical parodies, uses a loop station to reconstruct Bobby McFerrin and illustrates the trend for certain famous people talking like they have a bit of bread in their mouth. AND he can mimic 1990s rave-style time stretch WITH HIS LIPS. Sounds silly: is hilarious. I'll be looking out for where I can see him next and so should you.

A few more of Rich Wilson's humourous sacking incidents later and we're creating a slightly elongated welcome-applause so our headliner can get herself onto the stage, then onto a stool, then onto a chair (standing). YES: she knows what we're thinking! She's...GINGER! Ha ha haaaa. But not only that: she's 3 feet tall. Tanya Lee Davis is amongst the smallest grown-ups I've ever seen, and there's no way to forget this during her act, which, simplified - and unsurprisingly, I suppose (wouldn't you?) - consists almost entirely of her making fun of how she looks. Given that I'm not usually that interested in what people do with their appearance (I HATE Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean) but what they do with their mind (I LOVE Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder), this act was a tricky one for me. There were definitely some laughs to be had (she and a pal get drunk in the park, then ambush passers-by pretending to be live garden gnomes) but much of her act was a little like a documentary on How Little People Live. Intriguing: but not essentially that funny. Unless you already find small people intrinsically funny, which I don't. Sorry! Tanya's also pretty keen to emphasise her interest in sex - good for her! I previously thought (*SARCASM WARNING*) that dwarves didn't do that! But now I know they do. Good for me. And with big people too! What this little lady does most successfully though is to grab you before you can grab her: like many comedians, she has turned herself into a comedy act before her audience has the speed of wit to, thus giving herself the upper hand and a big fat shield to deflect them with. (Everyone needs one of those sometimes.)

Ok, enough with the cod psychology already. Comedy is a fascinating thing - and here you can get it at extremely high quality, just round the corner from your house, for little more than a fiver. And you can sit on a proper chair and everything (they're like hen's teeth on the Cowley Road they are) - and you can SEE the comedians! NAY: you can even get spat on by them and picked on by them too if you want. Espcecially if you are a gold-digging farmerphile. Check it.

September 3, 2007
Sun 2nd Sept 2007: Dave Fulton, Owen O'Neill, Tom Greeves & your inevitable compere, Silky

It's hard to fill an Oxford venue on a Sunday night in the University holidays, so three cheers to compere and organiser Silky for meeting the challenge. We were a sleepy crowd, but it had been a long weekend, so three cheers to us all too for not staying indoors slumped in front of the idiot box.

First up tonight was Silky himself, who had clearly been practicing guitar (it's not often that the soundcheck gets applause). Silky's a great compere, though try not to be a backchatting nine stone lifeguard in the front row unless you fancy a difficult night (or are a really, really good sport). His audience attacking this evening was interspersed with some good new material and a song I'd not heard before about David Blunket, though if he thinks I'll be singing 'bongo bongo' in the supermarket, he's got another think coming.

Next up was Owen O'Neill, a ginger from Northern Ireland who from the back row looked a lot like the first bloke I ever snogged (whilst assuring us that it was impossible to be sexy with an Irish accent). O'Neill's laid-back, friendly style endeared him to the audience, who didn't seem up for a face-slapping at this early stage of the evening anyway. A few of his jokes were familiar, but he got some genuine laughs, and his tale of the vibrating fist used for admonishing Dutch traffic system violators had me - uh - tickled.

Some more Silky later, and we were treated to a micro-spot from Tom Greeves, a chap with a scarily convincing ability to impersonate a nutter. His in-yer-face PC-bashing style is not generally my cup of tea, but when I wasn't gaping in disbelief I caught myself guffawing at the image of him stuffing himself with GM foie gras and shouting Nazi Freudian slips (eh?!) in a rural pub, so he can't have been all bad.

The face-slapping headliner this evening was Dave Fulton, a human incarnation of Wile E Coyote (with added motorbikes). Worth seeing for this reason alone, he was also an impressively quickfire, bitterly dark comic with a mouth as foul as a henhouse. With an incomer's ability to highlight the prejudices and predilictions of the British (sod biofuel - we want a car that runs on chavs), he had a bird in his pocket for those offended by the edgier side of his humour, and the disdain for his own nation common to many UK-based US expats. Despite his gruff exterior and your-face-broke-my-pool-cue anecdotes, he mixed the right amount of flattery with his self-deprecating cynicism to win us over and left us wanting more.

Dave Merheje didn't turn up (no explanation was forthcoming), but missed a good night. I hope he makes it over some time, as I'd love to hear what a Canadian with middle eastern origins makes of the terrorist-obsessed UK comedy circuit. The next one is Sunday 7th October - see you there.

September 11, 2006

Wed Sep 6, 2006: 'Grandma’s homemade petrol didn’t work out very well’

Would you have guessed that there was a top class comedy club in the backroom of your local pub? Sometimes it takes a while to uncover the hidden gems of the Oxford cultural scene, but it’s always worth the dig. This independent, smoke-free comedy club has been running in the city since 2002, and given that you’re likely to spot top-flight comedians like Ed Byrne, Ross Noble, Nina Conti (her of the talking monkey) and Milton Jones strutting their stuff alongside the freshest of new local talent, you’d think people would be shouting about it in the streets. Thank goodness they’re not. It’s the intimacy of the venue (which now has – gasp - theatre-style row seating at the rear) and the loyalty of the regular crowd that makes this place feel like a genuine club, keeping the vibe free from the dilution common to larger commercial venues.

This week we were treated to an extended opener from excellent compere and organiser Silky, complete with a part-improvised song or two (see title above) and some gentle audience-teasing. Everyone’s just come back from Edinburgh of course, whence much subject matter for the evening was derived. Silky’s also just been on BBC Oxford with Bill Heine, but I shan’t say what he derived from that. I shan’t mention Singapore either.

Next up was Canadian Ron Vaudrey, whose Jack Nicholson/Bill Murray appearance was approximately mirrored by his sexist and otherwise predictably un-pc gag routine. After informing us that South Park was a US parody of Canadians – who don’t say ‘aboot’ – he proceeded to say ‘oot’ for the duration of his set, which I have to admit tickled me in a kind of schadenfreude kind of way. People in glass houses...yet as Ron tried to win us over with heavier and more cumbersome stones, we soon tired of hearing about greasy whores and ugly members of the royal family. Or at least, I did. Next...

...was James Kettle, an entirely different – er – container of sea creatures. A direct antidote to Act No. 1, James was all frizzy-haired, angelic student surrealism, his deliberately ponderous delivery establishing a persona somewhere between Eyore and Simon Munnery’s ‘League Against Tedium’. The short set from this young ‘un was refreshing, and his tongue-in-cheek, degree-holder philosophicomedy clearly appealed to the Oxford crowd.

Next Aussie Geraldine Quinn leapt onto the stage, all skinny jeans and rock-star looks. With a singing voice to match, she’s clearly a very talented lady, so I found her occasional lapses into eyelash-batting, faux-airhead neurotic monologging slightly grating. Overall though, she had an endearing stage presence, and she taught us that ‘bogan’ is Aussie for ‘chav’, so that makes her all right in my book.

Headlining tonight was Al Barrie, a friendly London toff categorising himself as a fascist Liberal. Well, we’ve all been there. Presenting a broad spectrum of life experience viewed through tolerant-via-mick-taking spectacles, we got liberal snobbery (noticing a theme here at all?!), interesting factoids and a healthy sprinkling of politics washed down with a chaser of anti-religious venom. The last sat a little uneasily with the rest, but all in all Barrie seemed like a jolly decent chap, and had the audience shrieking in laughter rather than protest. Silky even got up for a little double-act section when provoked, but – fortunately or unfortunately - it was a mere flash in the pan. Guinness is a wonderful drink, isn’t it?

From October the Bullingdon Comedy Club will move from Weds to the first Sunday of the month. Yes, Sunday. May those of us with school in the morning remember that this club is worth the embarrassing grovel to the teacher.

Kill For A Seat Comedy Club

Tonight marked the last of the monthly Sunday night gigs at the Bullingdon Arms, which have been running for eight years. A sad day, but luckily a good line-up of comedians was on hand to help us forget.

The compere for the night (Richard Wilson) had it easy, with the East Oxford Board Game Association sat in the front row (enough said). Silky was sat at the back doing the sound for the gig, though as the previous compere and the mastermind behind the Kill for a Seat comedy circuit, he couldn’t resist clever (and occasionally shocking) chip-ins, which made for some good banter between them.

First up was Nick Doody, who delivered the kind of high energy, slightly chaotic rant one would expect after not having slept for a week (which he claimed not to have). He was particularly obsessed with parenthood, or rather, being part of a childless couple. Highly entertaining, if sometimes nonsensical, his set included some great one liners such as ‘at least my carbon footprint doesn’t play the recorder’.

A mini-set by Paul T. Eyres played on the typical Oxford vs. Cambridge banter, with some Jesus jokes thrown in for good measure. Next up was Rosie Wilby, who endeared the audience with her tales of relationships and depression. Her sharp and witty observational humour, peppered with smut, was fun to watch.

Headlining was Paul Sinha, a self-described gay-Asian-qualified GP-comedian, which despite his protests, is indeed a large part of his act. He’s an intelligent guy, and threw grammar and political jokes in along with the single/gay/Asian fare, which seemed to appeal to the Oxford crowd. He’s clearly an experienced comedian, with a strong, polished act and knows how to make the audience laugh.

It was a great show, a good mix of comedians and a fun audience. While this gig was the last of the regular monthly Sunday night events, comedy nights will continue to be organised in Oxford and across the UK by the KFAS promoters.
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