Live Review: (Yes, A Live Review): Angel Comedy, The Bill Murray, N1

Live Review: (Yes, A Live Review): Angel Comedy, The Bill Murray, N1
Live Review: (Yes, A Live Review): Angel Comedy, The Bill Murray, N1
Live Review: (Yes, A Live Review): Angel Comedy, The Bill Murray, N1

An enduring comedy trivia question is who did the first UK arena comedy performance? People will usually say it was Baddiel and Newman when they played Wembley Arena in 1993. But smug, insufferable bores will point out that Sean Lock was the first because he opened for Baddiel and Newman.

Now there's a new trivia question to update this. Which comic did the first public indoor performance after lockdown ended on May 17, 2021? The answer is Barry Ferns (pictured). He co-runs Angel Comedy at the Bill Murray pub, so it's fitting he opened their first post-lockdown show. A while back the team joked about putting on the first post-lockdown gig at 00:01 on May 17 and after they landed a late licence they decided to see it through, wth Fern as MC.

Around 40 fans - most of them supporters of the venue through its Patreon scheme – queued up at midnight. Rules meant no admittance until after the clock struck twelve. Then there was the usual Covid safety admin before we were seated (no masks required once seated) before Ferns finally kicked off around 12.35am. They say comedy is all about timing, I think we can allow him to have been a little late on this momentous occasion.

Despite the fact that they had every reason to be rusty all the acts were on good form, running as much on adrenaline as lager and excitement. The discerning, committed audience might have been small, but they were well into it too, playing along with Grizzly Adams lookalike Ferns' banter. One man – I think it was a man, they were on the other side of a single plastic screen which divided the audience – claimed to be an award-winning kebab photographer. He didn't explain whether that meant he won the award or he shot kebabs that had won the award.

Comedian Sikisa had the honour of doing the first actual stand-up set. She was feisty and funny, joking about the origins of her name and the problems of modern dating. Sikisa was followed by Erik Pohl, an Australian with possibly some Hungarian connections too, though he preferred to concentrate on his Aussie side because, the Hungarians are, he explained, "a nation devoid of joy."

Final act of the first half was the biggest name on the bill, Helen Bauer (pictured), who had picked up an Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination in 2019 and whose career was very much in the ascendant when everything ground to a halt in 2020. I've seen her a number of times – including in a park in Highgate late last year, and she never fails to impress with her mix of self-deprecation and comedic confidence. Now comedy is back she will surely go from strength to strength.

Despite the lateness of the gig there was no shortage of energy during the second half. In fact Barry Ferns seemed positively fired up by the sense of event, chatting away energetically and freestyling new ideas on the spot along with more genial post-Covid chat about vaccines and his beard.

The final two acts kept the momentum going to the very end. Shaven-headed Dinesh Nathan quipped about how he dreams of being mistaken for Idris Elba but is more likely to be mistaken for your next Uber driver and had an interesting take on keeping a fox for a pet – all the trappings of a dog, less of the cost. 

And finally Jason Patterson reflected on Black Lives Matter and the people he had met on marches – the closer to the front the more committed they might be, but it was also more complex than that amd he slickly found the funny side. It was a short set and when he checked how much longer he had it turned out his time was pretty much up. Hopefully after over a year when it felt like time was permanently up for stand-up there will be plenty more opportunities for stage time for everyone in the future.

Support Angel Comedy and also see what they have coming up here.

Read more about the show here.




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