T + 271 Glee Club

Yesterday I had a night out at the Glee Club in Birmingham for an evening of stand up comedy. Though I am a huge fan of stand up I've only ever been to the Glee Club a couple of times and they were both music gigs.

So here are my thoughts on the venue and the acts we saw.

The booking said it was allocated seating but didn't actually say where we would be seated so after a quick drink in the rather swish Glee Club Lounge we headed upstairs to the main room and were shown to our seats. The room is laid out with theatre style curved rows with small tables in front of free-standing, and not overly comfortable, chairs. We were shown to seats in the second row just off centre, about 4 feet from the small stage. A great view of the stage but potentially a great view for the acts to see us and make us part of the performance.

Luckily there were a large group of girls in the front row and they provided most of the audience interaction. We were in our seats by about 20:00 but the show didn't actually start until 21:00, it was a sell-out however with, we estimate, about 500 people in and the club obviously wanted to make sure they all got the chance to buy a drink at the bar.

The first act of the evening was the compere for the whole night, Alistair Barrie. He had a light easy style and interacted with the audience well along with his pre-prepared material. By chance one of the single women in the front row was sitting next to a single guy and they both "sold energy" one for Eon and one for EDF . They became the centre of attention for a running gag all the way through three spots that Alistair did between the main acts.

After about 20 minutes by Alistair the first act proper was brought on, Rob Rouse. I recognised his face from a couple of shows on BBC3 and he has also appeared as a talking head on one of those "100 greatest something or other" shows.

Rob put a lot of energy into his act which included a fair bit of physical comedy, particularly with his use of expressions. This was great for us being able to see so clearly but the whole room seemed to appreciate his act. After a brief mention of Jacqui Smith and her husband the rest of Rob's routine was about domestic matters and he built up the energy with a long routine about his over-amorous dog embarrassing itself at his mother-in-law's. The routine was perfectly pitched and paced and he really had the room roaring by the end. An excellent start.

Then came an interval of supposedly 15 minutes but it ended up at half an hour before Alistair came back on to do a few more minutes and then introduce the next act. Although the room was getting more lubricated by alcohol it had lost some of the energy Rob had built up so Alistair did well to get us back on track as it were before the second act Andrew Lawrence was brought on.

As you can see from the pictures on his website Andrew Lawrence has an "unconventional" appearance and a lot of his humour is self-deprecation. His voice, but not his style reminded me of the comedian Andy Parsons. He has quite an aggressive delivery and did a few "patter" routines with long streams of invective. They were very clever and an impressive feat of memory but they fell short of being rip-roaring funny and some of the terms he used like "spastic" and "gypsy" were, I felt, needlessly offensive. He did get some shock value and aside from that he had some good lines but overall his performance was a bit hit and miss.

We then had a second interval of about 20 minutes before Alistair came back out for his third spot and then introduced the headline act. Steve Gribbin.

Steve came out with his electric guitar round his neck and it was a surprise to see a more mature comedian when a lot of comedians are late 20s or mid 30s. Given he did some routines about his 15 and 17 year old children being like living with Scooby Do and Mutley I guess he was in his late forties / early fifties.

For a lot of his act Steve played just the first few bars of popular songs like "I'm a believer" but with alternative lyrics that were funny and satirical. The musical comedy equivalent of a one-liner. His targets were mostly political leaders around the world but Michael Barrymore also came in for some amazingly vicious (and funny) treatment, but as Steve said "This isn't telly so I can say what I like, the laws of libel don't apply to live performances". I'm not sure about the laws of slander mind you.

Steve worked the room like a real pro and was clearly enjoying himself , he even managed to work in a song about the "couple" in the front row who sold energy so this was a nice "call-back" right to the beginning of the evening that Alistair had first started.

The show finished just on midnight and the tables were being cleared away for the self-proclaimed cheesy disco as we were leaving.

All in all it was a very good night out and I laughed a lot, which must be the point after all. It's a great venue to see comedy at, especially if you get seats where we did. I will definitely be going back for more stand up shows.

My only criticism of the venue, and I might be showing my age here, is that the music played during the intervals was way too loud, almost painfully so with some tracks. ( Which included, bizarrely, the theme to Black Beauty ). My voice is a little hoarse (no pun intended ) this morning from having to shout to Gareth to be heard above the music.

The tickets were £13 each, which I think is very reasonable for 4 comedians.


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