Previously “The Laughter Lounge”, Comedy Central Live is the Union’s Tuesday night bi-monthly offering of professional comedy. Not much about the actual gig has changed except for the name, though as I’m sure most of you know the Bridge underwent an extreme makeover over the summer which has drastically changed the feel of the event.
Just like it’s predecessor, Comedy Central Live is great value for money. Costing just £4 a ticket for well over 2 hours of slick professional comedy. Be sure, this isn’t just an open mic night. These are professional comedians who are good at what they do. And also the bridge is running a £2 chip butty deal at the moment, and a drink won’t cost over £3. So that’s dinner, a drink and at least a few laughs for under a tenner. Smashing.
The actual acts themselves change every time, so it’s difficult to know just how good one of these events is going to be. The evening I went on was successfully compered by the cheekily awkward Gareth Richards, whose style of dry anti-humour sprinkled with childish endearment struggled to win over the cold audience at the beginning, but by the end everyone was on side and laughing along.
The opening act was Latitude New Act of the Year finalist Suzi Ruffell, who’s set was energetic in a psychotically beautiful way. She was fighting an uphill battle with a crowd who were spread out and hadn’t really clicked yet, despite this she managed to pull off an absolutely cracking Prince William joke that got the biggest laugh of the night.
In the second half the audience was much more up for it, perhaps it was just an affect of the interval drinks? It opened with Mike Cox who performed, for lack of a better word, a very classic set. Treading the line between one liners and story very carefully, he didn’t really seem to get into the same flow as the other acts, rarely bouncing off audience reactions. Instead choosing to rhythmically fire off short bits one after another, creating a very rehearsed feel but with no real cohesion or direction. It was a set that felt slick but lacking in spark.
In contrast the show was headlined by the brilliantly dark and dry Andy Askins. Our first view of him was as he trod up onto the stage with a blue shiny guitar, reminiscent of how an embarrassing Dad would do something similar. His timing throughout was flawless, his audience interaction slick and his humour dark in the best possible way. You kind of have to laugh when an over 40 man is awkwardly talking to a student called “Clemency” about her name, and making her sound like a dominatrix.
His signature darkness expanded to his songs, which included a number about hitting a rabbit with a car and getting a “massage” in Amsterdam. Both of which were performed with genuine cheerfulness; nothing makes comedy great like the performer truely having a great time performing. Perhaps his set was a few minutes too long since awkward laughter and anti humor can only last so long.
Despite that when Gareth Jenkins finished the gig everyone in the audience had a smile on their faces, though that doesn’t change the fact that it was a very difficult gig to get started. It could have just been a particularly cold audience, but I think it was the venue that had killed the atmosphere. For comedy to work for this sort of gig, the setting needs to be intimate, people need to be packed in. Laughing is a social reaction and the closer you are to people the more you’ll laugh. With the Bridge Bar’s new laughably large sofas audience members are spread out and all sense of intimacy is lost. Though this could easily be fixed by bringing in some normal chairs to make up the bulk of the audience seating.
Overall Comedy Central Live might have a few teething problems with the refurbished venue, but the acts themselves are as quality as ever. If you’re interested the next one is in two weeks time on Tuesday the 16th of October.