Billed as “experimental comedy”, the Comedy Collective is not nearly as excruciating as it sounds – instead it’s a chance for some familiar faces to try new material, explore character pieces and master the art of quick-fire improvisation.
The evening starts well with some decent funnies from compere Richard Melvin, including a smart observation about thinking in one accent, but speaking in another. A quick level check later, and big-name draw Jo Caulfield eases into the role of host for the recording of the venue’s monthly podcast, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, which pits Graeme Thomas and Jim Park against the recently- married (to each other) Keir McAllister and Jay Lafferty.
Thanks to Caulfield’s catty questioning, the hilarity is largely at the newlyweds’ expense, with their counterparts doing their best to expose the flaws in the fledging relationship.
It’s rough around the edges at times, but the ramshackle nature is endearing rather than off-putting, and Caulfield’s TV panel show experience is clearly evident as she keeps a grasp on proceedings, mopping up wayward topics, ever ready with a killer jibe or pithy aside to keep the laughs coming.
It’s just a shame that we don’t get a more prolonged assault from her tonight as she’s undoubtedly the star of the show. McAllister and Lafferty are in fine form throughout, however, while Park rescues an early failure with a succession of one-liners that has everyone howling with laughter.
A Blankety Blank-style quiz follows, with the bitchy Bruce Devlin making a welcome, albeit brief, cameo as Caulfield’s co-host, along with Melvin and Sunday lunchtime regulars Stu and Garry. The switch of cast only serves to muddy the waters, though, with some of the initial audience rapport lost.
By the time the final acts take to the stage, dwindling crowd numbers make for a slightly subdued atmosphere. Ben Verth is calm and assured, but his tales of Dr Who super-fandom fail to raise much mirth, although he has the good grace to admit defeat with some self-deprecating humour, while Gareth Waugh’s guide to political pulling has promise if not polish. It’s a bit hit-and-miss overall, but still well worth a fiver nonetheless.