It’s not often an event comes along that brings together work, laughs, charity and beer, so it was with some excitement that I attended the Wirral Mencap Comedy Night at Tranmere Rovers FC last Thursday.
The sold-out event saw seven first-time comedians present a short set in aid of a fantastic local charity for people with learning disabilities. As you’ll know if you follow our blog and social media channels, or if you’ve spent so much as five minutes with him over the past six months, one of the seven was our Technical Director Darren. We were there primarily to lend him our support, but I was looking forward to seeing how the other six got on too.
The rookie funnymen (and funnywomen) had been given a bit of help along the way. A series of training sessions from Cameron Jones from The Comedy Trust honed their skills as the big event approached, and veteran comedian Sam Avery did a great job as compere on the night, geeing up the crowd for a high-spirited evening and ensuring the first-timers were shepherded on stage to rapturous applause and whooping.
First of all, I will stress that I was genuinely surprised at the high standard of the performers, and the variety between their acts. All seven made me laugh a lot, and not just pity laughs either! They had material, personality, stage presence, timing and really seemed to know what they were doing. I watch a fair bit of comedy and I’ve seen seasoned comics bomb a lot worse than any of them did, so hats off to them all, and to Cameron for bringing it out of them.
Bravely taking the stage first was Wirral Mencap’s own Matt, and I have to admit he was just the sort of comedian I like with his “a groan’s as good as a laugh” mantra. After giving us a humorous bit of background about his job and life as a nerdy physics graduate, he launched into a barrage of Tim Vine-style one-liners that had everyone in fits of titters. My personal favourite? “I bought a bin, but it isn’t very good. It’s a rubbish bin!” A great ice-breaker, and exactly what was needed as the opening act.
Things then took a turn for the bluer, as ‘Mortgage Dan’ guided us through an acerbic set that centred largely on a particular part of his anatomy (here’s a clue – it wasn’t his bald head!) Phallocentric frolics aside, there were some oddly heart-warming stories about his relationship with his aging mother and her somewhat “traditional” views. A set that could be described as “touching” in more ways than one!
After a short interval, we were hit by the middle block of three comedians, with Engage Web acquaintance Sauren getting things underway. Tackling themes like religion, relationships and life as a vertically challenged mixed-race man in 2019 Britain, it was an edgy and thought-provoking set featuring some fantastic use of props.
Next up was Ricky with a charismatic and hilariously delivered bunch of jokes, reaching a pinnacle with the classic “How do you make an egg laugh? Tell him a yolk!” Some of the best comedy is unscripted though, and an abrupt “what?” down the microphone after mishearing his assistant tickled everyone’s funny bone. Quite simply, Ricky made everyone laugh out loud, and that’s what good comedy is.
Truly embracing the gender divide in the room was Jen, whose gory and meticulously detailed account of the birth of her second child had the ladies in the crowd shrieking with laughter, while a lot of the blokes shifted in their seats and managed pained smiles. Myself, I loved it! She came across as possibly the best performer of the night and someone who could easily try her hand at acting.
Another quick beer and toilet break followed, and then it was time for our final two acts. The delightfully quirky Niamh was the penultimate performer, owning a role that reminded me of that of Meg Griffin in Family Guy – the unpopular, teased runt of the family. Funny and idiosyncratic, and no easy task to follow it.
So it was left to Darren (who we’ll call the “final performer” rather than the “headliner”) to round off the evening with his “angry Rhod Gilbert” routine. He’s been chunnering about it in the office for weeks, so I had a vague idea what his jokes were about beforehand, but his narrative of life at the beck and call of his Apple Watch was absolutely superb. Proudly bearing the name of his sponsor Oil Store on his shirt but somehow avoiding any jokes about lubrication, it was a performance that truly captured his personality. It’s just a shame that anyone who didn’t know him would probably think he was playing a character!
In any case, Darren’s set (and his legion of supporters) was enough to see him win bragging rights for this year, with Ricky very harshly robbed of first place and Niamh coming in third. The real winners though were Wirral Mencap and comedy itself. I’ve always believed that pretty much everybody is funny, and it’s just a case of finding their comedic voice and presenting it in style.
Don’t forget, you can still sponsor Darren via his JustGiving page.