Outliars Presented by QED Comedy Lab

Comedians tell you six outrageous stories. Four are true. Two are lies. Can you spot them?
Trinity College, Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3BH

Outliars is one of the signature shows from QED Comedy Lab, Oxford's experimental comedy collective known for zany concepts like Punderstruck, It's Debatable! and the Oxford Festival Fringe Preview Comedy Festival. In this charming combination of confessional storytelling and panel-show-esque interaction, 6 comedians each tell an extended anecdote, while the audience has the chance to ask questions in their attempt to figure out whose tales are complete fibs. This mixture of well-honed stories and spontaneous conversation combines to produce a night of hilarious surprises.

In the atmospheric setting of Trinity College's Beer Cellar, audiences can hear tales on such diverse topics as run-ins with Jehovah's Witnesses, disastrous dates and traumatizing (in a fun way!) pet-related accidents from variety of local and visiting comedians.

May 6, 2019
Truth, lies and an evening of laughs

One of Oxford's premier providers of stand-up comedy goodness have a humdinger of a show in Outliars. The set-up is simple: six comedians tell us outlandish tales that often border on the ridiculous, and the audience have to vote for the two that are false. It proved a surprisingly tricky endeavour as an audience member. My partner successfully picked each of the lies, whereas I was wrong both times. Ah well, it mattered not as we were treated to a night of exceptional comedy.

The evening was kicked off by our host Matthew Chadbourne, who glued proceedings together with an awkward charm and an amusing befuddlement at the colloquialisms of British life. This played nicely into several stories, in particular Kirsten Brown, who took a personable story and laced it with a celebrity supporting cast (reminding us all how good Charlotte Church's one pop hit was) and cultural references (what is a cheeky vimto?) to chortle-inducing effect. Akshay Moryay continued the laughs, marrying an absurd family tradition with a surprisingly tense narrative, plus a prowess for Italian that far surpassed mine. It was at this point that it became clear what a talented line up of comedians we had before us. The first half was rounded off by a fabulous turn from Matt Hobbs, who kept his story simple, effectively lacing it with a self-deprecating humour that went down a treat.

On to the second half, and another trio of hilarious stories. Luke White Thompson told the kind of heartbreaking story that taps into the social anxiety we all have thrust upon us through school. The tone of the evening shifted twice after this, firstly with Adam Goldstein whose story was crass and pleasingly silly as it built in confidence through its telling. The evening ended with a spot of black humour as Tara Newton-Wordsworth went dark, which felt perfectly suited for a show built around seeking out lies.

Outliars feels like the perfect vehicle for comedy in 2019, with our anxiety around truth and lies played successfully for humour. Each of the performers were exceptional, eking out their fair share of laughs and it made me want to go to QED's next comedy night. What I particularly enjoyed was how the comedians approached telling their stories, adding depth and variety to the evening, with some built out of awkward encounters we've all experienced, and others out of exceptional circumstances. QED Comedy put together a cracking line up and it shows why they have a well earned reputation for both fostering local talent and bringing the next big thing to Oxford. I for one can't wait for their comedy colossus, the Oxford Festival Fringe Preview Comedy Festival. Bring on the laughs!

February 4, 2019
Fact or fabrication – can you tell the difference?

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.

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