Frog and Bucket

Richard Herring – Lord of the Dance Settee

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15/10/14

Frog and Bucket, Manchester

The UK’s hardest-working comedian brought his Edinburgh Festival show to a sold-out Frog and Bucket, bringing much-needed laughter on a grim and rainy Wednesday night in October. As ever, when you see a show in a different venue, there are pluses and minuses.

The pluses were evident from the word go. Herring was able to extend the material over a more leisurely ninety minutes, instead of the brisk one-hour slots that are the Edinburgh norm, and it was also clear that he’d honed and polished the material since August, extracting every ounce of humour from it. His unique, hectoring style is a joy to behold, finding laughs in the most unlikely places and time and again, he strays perilously close to the indefensible, only to dance nimbly away, defusing the whole thing with a barrage of carefully chosen invective. Laugh and learn folks, laugh and learn. At times, the packed audience was near to hysteria.

The minuses were mostly imposed on Herring by circumstances beyond his control. He couldn’t, for instance, recreate the ingenious circular narrative of the original shows, mostly because of the confines of the club’s tiny stage and the fact that the titular settee (freshly sourced for each location, apparently) looked as though it would have resulted in broken limbs if he’d tried to do what he did in Edinburgh. But ultimately, it didn’t matter. A friend at our table judged this to be one of the best comedy shows he’d ever seen and the iconic name of Daniel Kitson was mentioned as a suitable comparison. This was also an opportunity to get hold of the (reasonably priced and much-longed for) Fist of Fun DVDs. There are still some seats available for later in the tour (Crewe in particular, judging by an off-the-cuff remark that Herring made onstage) so if you have the chance to catch a show, then I would strongly advise you to take it.

Laughter is in perilously short supply these days and this is comedy gold.

4.7 stars

Philip Caveney

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Big Value Thursday at the Frog and Bucket

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28/08/14

On Thursday nights at the Frog and Bucket, the accent is on value for money and we certainly get that. For a basic admission cost of £9, there’s an ebullient host (Dave Ward) and four comedians. Drinks are relatively cheap for Manchester city centre and the interior of the club is clean and welcoming. 

First up is Geordie comic, Seymour Mace, who looks like a cross between Eric Morecambe and Elvis Costello. He favours a sly, much put-upon persona, which doesn’t always connect with the crowd, but I really liked his closing routine where he imagined himself as a backing singer for Gladys Knight. (One of the Pips?) He demonstrated a flair for movement and visual comedy, something that he might want to develop more.

Liam Tulley is an impassive young stand-up who could do with a little more confidence than he’s currently showing. There are some decent gags peppered through his ten minute spot, but he has a tendency to rattle through the material, where a more measured delivery would reap dividends. That’s something that will surely come with experience.

Mike Milling is a different kind of comic entirely. A bearded, hyperactive chap in shorts, he leaps onstage and with a series of hand drawn cartoons, outlines his plans for a blockbuster sequel to Snakes On A Plane, Jack Russell’s in a Caravan. It’s faintly surreal and occasionally very funny, but once again, the short time slot works against him. 

The evening’s headliner is Jeff Innocent, a Londoner and his evident professionalism sets him apart from his fellow comics on tonight’s bill. We’ve caught his act before at the Comedy Store in London, where he came on dressed in combat gear, looking very aggressive and proceeded to charm everyone by being the exact opposite of what we expected. His approach to comedy is clever and he delights in confounding expectations. He’s certainly on fine form tonight, describing himself as the ‘jewish Bruce Willis’ and pointing out how confusing it must be for people who expect him to be a racist only to discover that he’s really quite the opposite. He works the crowd expertly and is rewarded with hearty laughter. He’s given the lion’s share of the running time and it simply zips by. Almost before we know it, the show’s over and it’s time to head home.

The ‘Frog’ has been Manchester’s foremost comedy club for something like 20 years and those looking for a night of good value entertainment could do a lot worse than trying their regular Thursday night sessions.

3.5 stars

Philip Caveney