Yes it's that time again.
This week I went to a couple of very different comedy nights - the rather genteel Bottle Rocket at the New Players Theatre on Sunday, and the unwieldy Monkey Business at the basement Caramel Bar, Kentish Town on Thursday. Different then, but both a lot of fun and both featuring Stephen Merchant, a man who is very much 'doing the rounds' at the moment, building up to what he describes - more or less seriously - as a 'lucrative tour and DVD without having the split the money with "you know who"'.
The Bottle Rocket show seems to be a new one, but the New Players Theatre, tucked in the arches behind Charing Cross station, is a nice Goldilocks venue and given the promoter's ability to get not only Merchant but Jon Richardson, Holly Walsh and Mark Watson for the first show, I have a feeling it'll do alright. With York's own Dan Atkinson on MC duties, it all made for a hugely strong line-up, with one unintentional theme - being a bit of a crap human being. Atkinson admits to drinking too much and making stupid mistakes the whole time, Richardson says he gets angry on other people's behalf if they don't achieve the perfection he expects, Walsh is consistently self-deprecating and Watson - soon to be a dad for the first time - worries that being a comedian isn't a great example to set, and that he will mainly only be able to teach his young son how to chase things. The only exception to the rule is Merchant - he does complain that fame has not brought him the perks he had hoped, but, speaking in the guise of a caricatured version of himself, he certainly doesn't point the finger of blame at himself. Overall, it was an impressive line-up that lived up to its billing. Which is always nice.
Despite the promise of Merchant and an unnamed big, er, name, Thursday's gig was essentially an open mic night, and as such about twice as long as Sunday's show, with around four times as many acts. As well as being glad of the chance to see Merchant almost literally in my back yard, and intrigued by who the other headliner would be (Russell Howard, though he was actually replaced by the surprisingly excellent Simon Brodkin), I was also there to support a Mr James W Smith whom Simone and I met at that brilliantly odd Weather Party. A lovely man and a clever comic, this newfangled technology we call 'hyperlinks' allows you to read about the night in his own words.
I haven't been to many comedy nights like this, so it was a bit of an eye-opener to discover that there are comics out there who apparently consider the line "I've found the best combination of drugs - viagra and rohypnol" in some way appropriate. That line of comedy was, thankfully, not the norm however and while the quality fluctuated, it was generally a fun night and I'm especially glad that I've seen Brodkin and got rid of my arbitrarily-held opinion that he would be rubbish.
Up this week - Armstrong and Miller try-outs at the legendary Hen and Chickens, Chris Addison, a We Need Answers recording and, most excitingly of all, a trip up north for some home comforts.