It's a heartening comment on the thirst for comedy in the capital at the moment that a gig held in the middle of the week on a freezing January evening would find the sort of audience that its admittedly brilliant line-up deserved. Shepherd Bush's basement Bar FM was the venue for last week's Knock2Bag night, and it was pleasingly packed for MC Colin Hoult and headliner Paul Foot.
I've not seen Colin Hoult MC a club night before, but - as a committed fan of his genuinely excellent character comedy - it was great to see him compere as both the self-absorbed luvvie actress Anna Man and the Alien (and Aliens, and Predator, and Aliens v Predator...) loving ex-army man Andy Parker; giving the audience a sneak preview of his full-length show (playing at the Soho Theatre next month) across the course of the night.
First on the bill was young Norwegian comic Daniel Simonsen, who won round an originally luke-warm crowd with his increasingly revealing stories about being a quiet, easily-embarrassed guy. He starts by saying, uncontroversially, that it's annoying that flatshare adverts are always looking for 'outgoing' people, but the theme elicited more laughs as it developed and got darker, particularly a section about dwelling on cringey moments for years, and culminating in an irritating little voice in his head asking "why can't we be somebody else?"
The hugely-liked sketch duo Cardinal Burns provided a truly odd ten minutes as their eastern European mini-cab drivers, telling each other apparently filthy stories involving animals without using a word of English, before the sister act (sorry) Toby took to the stage. Comprising of siblings Sarah (overbearing) and Lizzie (downtrodden), this duo might look all sweetness and light but their act managed to cover paedophilia, murder and even bestiality in the blink of an eye. Cute they ain't. But the mix of that surprising edge and the fact that, as sisters, they're willing to be pretty rotten to each other in the pursuit of a laugh, does mean that they're very entertaining indeed.
Character comic Neil Dagley was up next, and he probably got the biggest reaction of the night for his lovely twenty minute set as German skiing champion Flange Krammer. A womanising athlete who finishes his bad jokes with the line "Eat my powder!" may not seem like ground for intelligent comedy but actually this is very clever stuff. When Flange gets two ladies from the audience up on stage for a round of Blind Date, it has the potential be quite uncomfortable, but Dagley manages to create a really warm atmosphere - corpsing little and often certainly helps. Fun stuff.
Much of Tom and Tom aka, er, Totally Tom's set was taken up with sketches featuring a thigh-slapping, mead-quaffing king and his advisor but in fact their best was the first, in which a lady tries to explain what happened during a pretty run of the mill crime in the face of a policeman obsessed with the sort of glamourised violence he's seen in Hollywood action movies. These are very assured comic actors on which eyes should be kept.
The night finished up with Paul Foot being as bizarre as ever, stomping across the stage as he delivered a really great skit about the pitfalls of "van sunglasses" (glasses which help you avoid seeing vans, of course) as if it's traditional "what's with that?" observational comedy. All in all, a high quality night among many high quality nights that Knock2Bag manages to pull together on a frighteningly regular basis.
Written for the new Live section over at British Comedy Guide.