XS Malarkey

Last time I heard the Jurassic Park soundtrack it was August and the Wilderness Orchestra was playing it to a pliable and slightly too happy version of Al in a field in Oxfordshire. For some reason it’s playing at The Bread Shed this evening.

I’m settling in for an evening of comedy having been dismissed early from tech. They were never going to get to my bits. James our director used to be an actor (Oxford and RADA darling) so he notices when someone is sitting around unused and has enough perspective to release us. I am free and it’s only 7.30pm. The Bread Shed is right next door to the RNCM. As you’d expect from the name, it used to be a bakery.

I’m here to support the MC, Toby Hadoke, who is playing Doc. He does this all the time. This is his bread and butter. I’ve taken the precaution of sitting at the back. He knows too much about me.


I lucked out. What a brilliant evening of comedy. Turns out I was at XS Malarkey, a night which has been running for years, and is a proving ground for new material. We had Fay Treacy serenading us with a courgette trombone and telling us about a trumpeter shitting himself, various touretting, depressed or psychotic characters, and a surprise appearance from Russell Kane, who lives up this way and wanted to throw some shit at the wall. His actual new material was regarding stealing his dad’s porn as a kid, but the heart of what he did was extempore, and the better for it. Him and Toby both have stood in front of enough audiences now and not exploded that they have the faith to just riff on a theme and frame it gracefully and win.

I think if I was to ever do stand-up, I’d end up talking about death. It’s one of those funny things that happens to all of us and it’s a little taboo. That’s two things that help with a comedy set. Although Toby had me laughing about Star Trek, and very little of that has happened to me over the years. It’s taboo in some social circles I suppose. You wouldn’t bring it up at dinner with the Queen. Although who knows, she might be a closet Trekkie.

I was thrilled to watch Toby work a crowd so effortlessly. I think of stand up as being mostly the domain of people who think they’re God, so it was a relief to see pleasant human beings saying funny things for us without showering too much ego on us. If you’re in Manchester you can’t go wrong with this night. 6 acts including Russell Kane and Amir Shah, with Toby in the gaps, and it’s a fiver, or three quid with an eight pound lifelong membership. That pretty much guarantees a happy audience that will be forgiving enough for the acts to try new material. In London something like this would be minimum 15 and you’d probably get punched by the comic.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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