Review: Comedy Night XS Malarkey @ Pub/Zoo
April 17, 2016
Umpteen-time winner of the Chortle award for best comedy venue in the north, Manchester’s XS Malarkey repeatedly proves that it is worthy of the praise. Despite the relatively quiet turnout (a result of the football scheduling and essay deadlines for this student-heavy crowd), the atmosphere was pleasant and welcoming.
Compère Toby Hadoke‘s amiable persona took a back-seat as his phone started ringing the moment he stepped on stage. Toby is an expert in handling an audience after almost two decades hosting the show, and skilfully used the phone call to maximum comedic effect as a great warm-up for the show. Immediately you can tell the club has its own community – the advantage of XS Malarkey’s low price (just £3 for members) is that it becomes a weekly staple for many rather than an occasional treat.
The evening’s opening two acts, the deadpan Sean Patrick playing on his accountancy background and perceived dullness, and the livelier, more offbeat Josh Pugh, are both entertaining acts. While neither are exactly mouldbreaking in their choice of material (indeed, both did the “faux-poem” bit), and both stuck closely to traditional comedy topics and formulas, they each made the material work in their own unique styles.
CBBC star Howard Read, appearing here without his usual animated co-star, was a change of pace after the first interval. While some of his material seemed unprepared or new, occasionally forgetting what he was going to say, the majority of the gags were good, and delivered well in his slightly daft style. A particular treat was his dark and cynical lullaby, which will doubtless stay in the audience’s head for days.
Sunderland’s Nick Cranston‘s observational comedy rounded out the middle section. His quirky, well-structured material, offered a mixed-bag of gags and anecdotes with a focus on relationships and his native north east. The material was well-received, though at times it felt like it still needed some polish, and he admitted himself that his material doesn’t link together with any particular narrative thread or logical flow.
Headlining the evening was Paul Pirie. The bearded, ranting Scotsman decided to perform the majority of his set without either a microphone or shoes. His material, largely revolving around alcohol, his wife, and his theory that Primark and Wetherspoons are, in fact, the same place, made for some highly entertaining material which blurred the line between real-life anecdotes and flight of fancy. Combined with the occasional non-sequitur which seemed to channel Robin Williams at his most excitable, Pirie’s act is absolutely hilarious. It feels like it would have benefited from a slightly older crowd than XS’ student regulars, however, but Pirie’s style pulls it off regardless.