Opinion: Give Comedians A Break. Or Maybe Not

I went to see Maria Bamford at the Leicester Square Theatre a while ago. It was quite possibly the gig of the year so far. You can read a review here.

One of the best things about it might have been that there was no interval. Support act Felicity Ward got the audience in the mood – not that they needed much getting in the mood – and then simply brought on Bamford.

I think this tactic kept the momentum going, whereas usually just as the crowd has been warmed up there is an interval and the star act has to warm them up again. So who exactly is the pause button pushed for? I guess it doesn’t do the venue's bar-takings any harm. And maybe some fans – and even performers – need a toilet break. Comedy shows at the Eventim Apollo tend to have an interval, but Billy Connolly has never had one when I’ve seen him there and you’d think as a man in his seventies Connolly would need a piss break more than most.

If Connolly’s epic shows don't need an interval nobody's shows need an interval artistically-speaking. I’ve always felt if a warm-up act is there to get the audience in the mood for the main attraction there is no point having a break straight after them. That way they become more “cool-down” than “warm-up”. In America the system seem to work better, which is probably why Bamford id things this way. Jerry Seinfeld's show at the 02 Arena a few years ago was the same.

On the other side of the pond the support act-cum-hype man often introduces the star turn with no need for a frantic rush to the bar between them. But I've got a feeling Americans don't drink as much at gigs as Brits do. Sometimes I've been to gigs that are so raucous I wonder if the comedy sometimes gets in the way of the boozing.

I know venues are keen to have intervals to make a show feel longer and more like an event as well as boost bar-profits, but here’s an inside tip for performers. Writing as a critic who often has to file overnight reviews, one of the best things we can read in a press release is “one hour, straight through, no interval”. That may be why comedy shows get such good reviews in Edinburgh, where sixty minutes uninterrupted is the norm. But outside Edinburgh maybe British comedians could take a leaf out of Bamford's book. 


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