Crispy Comedy Cuts writer Jonathon Dean reviews a very special night of comedy at Manchester’s critically acclaimed XS Malarkey club night. The event took place at XS Malarkey’s new home Platt Chapel and featured performances from Seymour Mace, Sarah Millican and Toby Hadoke.
“I’ve never killed a man!” seems a strange choice for a catch-phrase, but it’s one that compère Toby Hadoke somehow found himself adopting for the evening. His usual charmingly eccentric and blustering self peppering the warm-up and linking sections with self-commentary, and bringing the new sections of the audience on-side – those of us who are regulars at the club already know and love Toby, but those turning up primarily to see a celebrity guest for cheap take a little more convincing.
Taking up the open spots were James Meehan, whose friendly, cheeky style warmed the crowd up nicely, and Matt Hollins, whose amiable personality and humble, self-deprecating remarks kept the crowd happy to watch him, but unfortunately his routine was filled with well-worn subjects for comedy, making it difficult to stand out for an XS audience so used to attending comedy shows.
The high-profile act pulling in the crowd for the evening was Sarah Millican, testing out material for her new television show, and while the club does not announce guests of her profile (preferring to ensure the regulars are able to attend), a few tweets brought some new faces to Platt Chapel. As is usually the case when new material is being tested, it was a stop-start affair, with lots of rifling through notebooks – but her commentary rescued it from getting uninteresting. She went down a storm (and was it ever going to be any other way?), and although I was wary about her performing the same club two weeks in a row becoming stale, the different jokes she brought to the table allayed my fears.
Headlining the evening was strangeness enthusiast, backing-dancer impersonator, and all-round bonkernaut, Seymour Mace (Craig/Steve in BBC Three’s Ideal), who was, as per usual, the highlight of the evening. His surreal style and manic, borderline psychotic delivery started the audience off on the back foot. Confused reactions and nervous giggles eventually gave way to roaring laughter as the humour of his act gradually dawned on them.
Following a TV personality like Sarah Millican can be a daunting prospect for any comic – particularly when they have wildly diverging styles. I’ve seen great acts bomb before, because their humour was so starkly different from the rest of the comics on the bill, but Seymour Mace skilfully turned the initial hesitant reaction from those portions of the crowd unfamiliar with him into waves of laughter – earning himself the biggest applause of the evening.
There’s a reason XS Malarkey has won so many awards; it manages line-ups like this, crowds as friendly and welcoming as any comic could hope for, and door prices a fraction of the price of most other clubs. So three cheers to all the people who volunteer their time and effort to keeping it that way!