Laughter (and alcohol) aplenty at Barnstormers’ Comedy Club

The Barnstormers’ Comedy Club returns to Ropery Hall with a bang this month, and for the first show of the new season, resident host Kevin Precious returns to introduce three more top acts from the National Comedy Circuit.  Jo Marwood recalls her last visit to this popular comedy evening, before the Barton Arts week celebrations in June:

Never one to shy away from an evening of laughter, local ales and a bag of Piper’s crisps, I’ve arrived at one of the last Barnstormers’ Comedy Club sessions before it closes for the summer season.  I am seated with my husband on the far left of the second row, in the tentative safety of semi-shadow, but I’m still nervous that the spotlight may shine upon me and the terror of “participation” may be forced to occur.

I’m not the only one – arriving early to an event usually guarantees a good (safe) seat, but on this occasion the audience is wise to this.  Almost half an hour before the MC is set to storm the stage, people are clutching pints and positioning themselves on the row behind other, taller audience members as a form of protection.  A collective sigh of relief ensues when a group of young, energetic, presumably insane teenagers boldly fill the front row.  Now I can relax – why on earth would anybody waste time engaging with us scarlet-cheeked, mumbling bores, when such fresh meat is readily available for the ribbing?

The Barnstormers’ Comedy Club, held monthly in Ropery Hall at the northern end of The Ropewalk, is something of an institution locally.  Held on the last Friday of the month, from September/October to May, each month features three comedians from around the UK and a compère to introduce the acts.  As with most events, the first act is generally greeted with sober applause but we warm up substantially by the second act, which interestingly coincides with the interval and purchase of alcohol.

The bill tonight includes guest MC Kevin Shepherd filling in for resident compère Kevin Precious, and three comedians by the names of “delightfully offbeat” Howard Read, “erudite” Chris Stokes and “edgy” Diana Spencer.  With a warm-up from Kevin between each act, you’d be forgiven for expecting to casually check your watch as the evening draws on, but I honestly don’t even glance at my phone.  Such is the immersive, captivating world of comedy that I barely glance at my husband to make sure I’m laughing at the right moments.

The half-cut teenagers provide just the right amount of comedic fodder for all three acts, and emboldened by that third pint of cider, there are even a few heckles from further back in the audience – success!  During my last venture to the Barnstormers’ Comedy Club, I sat in the back row but actually felt that it was worth the prospect interaction with to sit closer to the stage.  With approximately 70 people in the audience tonight, the Club has a real feeling of intimacy, of throwing off the constraints of the working week and enjoying an evening of cheeks-aching, eyes-streaming belly laughs.

2017 has also been the year of celebrating 20 years of Barton Arts Week, a showcase of the best art, comedy, music film, theatre and more from across the UK.  Ropery Hall was a key venue during Barton Arts Week in June, and the Barnstormers’ Comedy Club has since enjoyed a well-deserved summer break ready for its glorious return this month!

Miranda Hart, super-tall comedienne once said, “The embarrassment of a situation can, once you are over it, be the funniest time in your life”.  It’s true that once you’ve relaxed into your seat and relinquished your inhibitions, the Barnstormers’ Comedy Club is hilarious, silly, shocking and downright daft, just like all good comedy on a Friday night should be.  If you really dread the prospect of “joining in”, leave it to the professionals and just hope that Miranda (or an equally tall Bartonian) is sat in front of you.


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