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Soho Comedy Club
The Casino at the Empire
12th July 2013


Soho Comedy Club publicity image

Photography supplied by the Soho Comedy Club

Looking for some exciting, semi-established acts trying something truly different? Try the Alternative Comedy Memorial Society's gigs, usually to be found at the Soho Theatre. A mishmash of stand-up and sketch comedy in an intimate environment with soon-to-be headliners? Head to Monster Comedy at Leicester Square. Want an evening of tried-and-true steady hands mixed with the odd panel show famous face after a few beers on a Friday night? Well, the Soho Comedy Club could be for you.

There's an unwritten rule of thumb for stand-up aficionados that you should never pay heed to those people flyering on Leicester Square. Recently the - similarly named but quite separate - London Comedy Club have come under a lot of fire in the circuit press for being, well, less than great. Whether these claims are correct or not, any fliering in one of the most populated areas of the capital seems to be a cynical ploy to pull in tourists. This seems doubly so at the Soho Comedy Club, in a casino with the maze-like path to the exit frequently blocked by flashing lights and roulette tables, enticing to those who may have had one too many. But maybe I'm being unfair, as what gig, cinema trip or theatre visit doesn't involve some overpriced wine or ice-cream?

The crowd, as to be expected, was rather thin thanks to the blazing sunshine of recent weeks. With plenty of tourists and students in the mix, it wasn't your typical demographic. Especially when one began to heckle emcee David Mulholland with discussions of abortions and punching his girlfriend in the stomach. Mulholland seemed more than a little lost, not to blame him, so pressed the eject button and called on the first act, Josh Howie.

Soho Comedy Club publicity image

Photography supplied by the Soho Comedy Club

Shutting down the heckler immediately, with tales of his wife's pregnancy and child's birth, Howie succeeded in occupying the languid, slightly misanthropic persona as seen on Frankie Boyle or Michael Legge. Although using a lot of pullback-and-reveal gags, these were crafted and timed nicely, weaving into his narrative strands fairly seamlessly. He also skirted around racism and misogyny that his own pathetic, depressed character allowed him to mostly get away with. Frankly, he was the most experimental, with the audience not entirely sure of his shoegazing. Still, he was a welcome change from the standard and the kind of comic I feared I wouldn't find at such an evening - but immeasurably glad that I did.

Next up was Andi Osho, best known as the compulsory woman one on topical panel and comedy shows. Her opening gambit of mocking gambling in a casino was about as edgy as she got as she tackled everything from the woman with two vaginas, Cheryl Cole, internet dating and doing poos. She was recently lambasted by Stewart Lee for being a comic backed by a team of writers and, if true, I suspect they've been in suspended animation. Cheryl Cole has been off the celebrity map for some time now and Hazel Jones first appeared on breakfast TV a year and a half ago. Not hugely impressive for someone who has made her name humorously commenting on current events. But she was a warm presence with plenty of energy that managed to tame one of the tricksiest of beasts - an abortion joke.

Finally, industry stalwart Nick Revell delivered a perfectly tailored set that, while on the surface may seem typical small-potatoes stuff - discussing London, tube etiquette and tourists - was a shrewd move given the crowd. His gags unified, allowing the holidaymakers to chuckle at themselves with his light, friendly but fiercely astute mockery while Londoners laughed the laugh of recognition. It's easy to bandy about easily quotable terms like "craftsman" and "masterful stand-up", but here they're true. As far as observational comics go, Revell is second-to-none and his stage presence and demeanour - that of a loveable grump - disguises yet enhances his finely tuned joke-machine brain.

While the Soho Comedy Club might not have entirely allayed my fears (or rampant snobbery) when it comes to non-specialised nights, by the end it had certainly won me over - in no small part thanks to Revell. If you're on the lookout for something unchallenging but that will put a smile on your face, this isn't a bad place to start.

The Soho Comedy Club have a different line up every Friday and Saturday Night at the Casino at the Empire.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Northern, Piccadilly)

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