If you are looking for something to do, Outliars is a cosy, convivial way to spend a cold winter evening. It is organised by QED Comedy Lab, a small team which strives to create a little comedy fiefdom in Oxford with a range of “experimental comedy” events in a range of venues.
“Experimental comedy” sounds dangerously avant-garde but in fact Outliars plays out more like a Victorian parlour game and is comfortingly low-risk for the audience compared with other forms of stand-up comedy. No-one had to worry about being pounced on or picked on or made to look a fool. On the contrary, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming – this is the kind of event to which you could happily turn up solo without feeling self-consciously single.
In short, six comedians told us stories, of which four were true and two were not. The comedians ranged from a local second year undergraduate to a Jewish mother from London (who claimed to be paid by 'an organisation' to tour overseas – truth or untruth?) When all the stories had been recounted, we were invited to question the narrators on the details to see if we could catch them out, and then guess which of the stories were true.
The participants were all personable, entertaining, fluent storytellers, and the stories ranged from a gentle incident involving stray sheep to a very graphic account of a sexual dysfunction. The final contestant, Sarah Mann, stole the show with her rendition (with piano accompaniment) of the pop song she claimed to have written as a teenager for her A Level Music composition. Her lyrics were laugh-out-loud-ludicrous and the audience enjoyed the chance to join in with the ridiculous backing track.
Trinity College Beer Cellar is a pleasant venue for this kind of event, small, intimate, atmospheric, comfortable, and the audience went home looking happy that they had received good entertainment value for the £5 entrance.