This year’s LAUGHTERMARKET kicks off with a warm and fuzzy welcome from Sam Stone – the brains behind Brighton’s annual comedy event, and the balls behind curtain up. There’s a lot of pressure on the MC to open the show with a bang and, although it does take a while to get going, Stone’s witty banter soon makes up for a jerky take-off, and in a matter of minutes we warm to her high-pitched, nervous giggles and endearing charm.
The first act of the night is Mock-of-the-Week-ette, Zoe Lyons, who you may also recognise from Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. I’ll talk as straight as she does – Lyons is, quite simply, hilarious. Her commentary on recent events in the news is both impressively observed and very, very funny. We get everything from David Silvester’s warped take on the recent floods, to the ban on women drivers in Saudi, to the Nigella / Saatchi split… these political / pop-culture hot topics are delivered with many classic and cracking lines, and we can’t help butsnort along in laughter (puns intended). There are ample gags about the Brighton / Hove divide: the seagulls in Hove prefer Tiramisu, don’t you know? Lyons’s sharp sense of humour hits the button and the auditorium bellows with belly laughs throughout the entire set.
After a brief interlude, Rue Barratt (Stone’s friend and co-host) takes to the stage. Barratt’s response isn’t as enthusiastic as he perhaps expects – it may have made more sense to stick to one compère for the night for consistency’s sake. Saying that, we do get a guided tour around the Sussex coast and Barratt successfully andamusingly personalises Hove (the well-behaved child), Brighton (the unruly child), Hastings (Brighton’s junkie twin brother)! Barratt holds the fort and keeps the energy levels cranked up to an appropriate LAUGHTERMARKET level.
Joe Wells boldly strides on stage and his set drop-kicks into a few UKIP quips, which would have been funnier if it hadn’t already been covered by Lyons (perhaps a slight programming oversight?). Thank goodness everyone in Brighton is a liberal leftie – I’m not sure how his act would go down otherwise! We all know that comedy and politics work hand-in-hand but there’s always the danger that we’ve heard it before… and, yep, some of it we have, sorry Joe. Saying that, Wells offers a new way of looking at Marxism – we learn that the need to laminate scissors may result in a conflict of interests between capitalist and labourer (who’da thought? – WORKERS UNITE!). Overall,Well’s is on form and has us in stitches.
Next up; James McDonnell, who describes himself as a Kurt Cobain lookalike, who’s addicted to beans instead of heroin… and as soon as he struts on stage with a guitar and a recording device (for his absent mum’s benefit), we know we’re going to like him. We get a song about a sexual deviant with a short attention span, a brief musical medley about the stock market, and a death-metaller’s take on a lullaby… which made us all LOL in our seats (and perhaps go a little bit deaf). McDonnell’s act is a breath of fresh air and he works the audience with ease.
Headlining the evening is Holly Walsh; a delightful bouncy bundle of energy! Walsh is an extremely natural and confident comic. She demands attention and, despite what she says about being invisible, she has buckets of stage presence. Walsh directs the audience with grace and the effortless crowd interaction means she can show off her quick-witted impro skills. She’s naturally funny and it becomes apparent that we’re in safe hands. Walsh covers everything from those awkward family questions (‘when are you having kids?) and relationships pitfalls (including farting), to bum sex, show business and strip clubs.
Overall, The Old Market’s LAUGHTERMARKET does what it says on the flyer – lots of laughter in a Market; an Old one. I’ll certainly be heading back next year.