Leicester Comedy Festival review: St Martins Comedy Club at St Martins House

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Review by Emily Barker

With 10 minutes to go before the start of tonight’s comedy club, there are just six people in the audience. Around five minutes later, there’s a flurry of arrivals and the hall gradually fills, but there are still plenty of spaces, and the front two rows are empty; these guys have either been to live comedy before, or everyone got the memo about not avoiding the first few rows.

Undeterred, MC host Alex Hylton gets the crowd going as soon as he sets foot on the stage. And the whole audience, not just those unlucky few in what’s become the proxy front row, are in his sights. No one is safe – including Hylton himself. He tells us he paid £45 for a polite waterboarding rather than the haircut he’d asked for when he went into a salon.

Alasdair Beckett-King is next up, throwing some impressions into the mix. His take on Robert De Niro with a Scottish accent reminds me of the dad from the Disney film Brave. His jokes about train toilets, their different types of doors and poo, land well. But despite the scatological laughs, this is a clean performance. He’s exceptionally amusing. Stick that on the poster.

If Beckett-King is 100 per cent family-friendly, Joanne McNally, erm, isn’t. She gives off a Agnes Brown from Mrs Brown’s Boys vibe and is soon flirting, tongue-in-cheek with various members of the audience. after describing white wine as “lady petrol”, she spots someone filling up on it towards the front. Lift up the glass, she asks, then tells us all that it looks like a uterus. You’re drinking from a menstrual moon cup, she says, to a roar of disgusted laughter. In the future, I’ll be drinking my lady petrol straight from the bottle with a straw, I think.

Headliner and Leicester Comedy Festival favourite Bilal Zafar closes the show and from  the applause that welcomes him on the stage it looks like he’s going to be a real crowd pleaser. And so it proves.

Bilal begins by telling some self-depreciating jokes, from his nose job in Istanbul to his terrible dating experiences on a Muslim dating app. Dating stories are always rich with possibilities for comedians, and this one was in no way predictable, so it was brilliant.

The great thing about stand up, of course, is it’s live. If you screw up, tough. You can’t shoot it again. Zafar isn’t afraid to fess up when he forgets a bit of his sketch, joining in with the chortles from the audience and making himself even more of the butt of the joke than he was before. It’s this part of the show that is the most enjoyable. His honesty and humour really makes it work.

All in all, there’s something for everyone. Fantastic stuff from all four of them.

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