(More of a general feature on alternative comedy in York, which is mainly us..)
York can be seen as a city of culture on many levels, though one of which is lesser known: its alternative comedy scene. Tucked away in pubs, and squeezed onto the calendars of local clubs, York’s alternative comedy scene is not one that makes itself known. However, if you do so happen to stumble upon one of the many events across this city (as I did), you’ll discover a plethora of little comedic gems that will have you laughing more than some campus tabloids’ attempt at culture.
One such event that I had the pleasure of catching was the Burning Duck comedy night, hosting shows at the Black Swan pub every second Tuesday of the month. With Australian delight Bec Hill headlining, there were a host of acts that all got the (rather cosy) audience in high spirits. Acts such as Sam and Tom from TV! really did themselves proud, as their washed-up 90s kid’s show stars spiel got everyone giggling and their unexpected audience participation was warmly welcomed.
Although not from York themselves, Sam and Tom exemplify perfectly the comedy that Burning Duck’s director, Al Greaves, is keen to put into the spotlight: “I suppose it’s just a bit more freedom to perform the material that they might want to do and which might not go down so well at other, more mainstream clubs.”
Why is Burning Duck so different to local comedy clubs then? “In other rooms, which are a lot bigger, there are a lot more people to try and satisfy. While that’s interesting and worthwhile, I personally prefer watching performers do the sorts of things they like to do themselves, so I think that comes across on this night. There is a much more intimate vibe, so people can kind of relax into that and not feel they have to water down or dilute what they offer.”
Not only does Burning Duck comedy give up-and-coming performers the opportunity to perform their own ‘concentrated’ material, but it also allows more established comedians, such as Bec Hill, to reach out to other audiences. “There is a similar night in Sheffield, called Square Hole,” Al told me, “and Bec gigged there the night before this. It means that we can ask performers who might be based in London or further afield if they want to come up for a couple of nights.”
With a host of acts, both fresh-faced and seasoned, Burning Duck comedy sheds light on not only York’s, but also the rest of the North’s alternative comedy talent. Acts from the likes of Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle are regulars on the Burning Duck’s lineup, demonstrating the collaborative and supportive nature of the alternative scene.
What’s more, many of the acts showcased at Burning Duck often end up in Edinburgh over the summer as part of the Fringe festival. Both Sam and Tom and Bec Hill are heading up to the Fringe, both also doing paid shows. This certainly is an exciting element of Burning Duck, especially during pre-Fringe season, as it gives people a chance at some sneak-previews of the Festival, demonstrating the talent in and around York that is capable of partaking in one of the UK’s most prestigious culture festivals.
Nevertheless, Burning Duck comedy is not the only club around if you’re looking for something a little different during the week. The Hyena Lounge at the Duchess often plays host to exciting touring comedians, such as James Acaster and Josie Long, who don’t necessarily have standard club sets. It gives you a chance to experience these comedians in a more intimate setting as well as the type of material comedians may not use on a mainstream level.
With the Fringe Festival looming, it would most definitely be worth your while embracing York’s alternative comedy scene. Of course, it is not just Burning Duck comedy or the Hyena Lounge that showcases our Northern hidden talent – there are far more clubs hidden around York, waiting to be discovered.
BURNING Duck celebrated its half birthday this week, and in the last six months the comedy club has established itself as the go-to for alternative comedy in York city centre.
MC Edy Hurst compered the evening well, offering up some clear direction with silly jokes and alternatives to observational comedy. His musical bit was a real gem, as Hurst “memorised” all of the James Bond themes.
Another musical comedy highlight came from The Mad Bishop and the Bear, whose generic anarchist anthem had the audience members singing along by the end. They also dealt with some difficult hecklers with excellent improvisation.
Stephanie Heald delivered her one-liners and cheesy puns with brilliant enthusiasm. The audience warmed quickly to her sunny outlook, although her puppetry set was reminiscent of Nina Conti and Monk.
Stephanie Hotchkiss brought observational comedy, discussing the problems of long-distance relationships with a cheery familiarity. Her take on couples and their dinner parties was fresh and promising.
Lou Sanders headlined the night, captivating the room with her mix of false modesty and quirky anecdotes. Having returned from Los Angles recently, her observations on cafes and veganism parodied First World problems and the self-obsessed culture whilst also being incredibly relatable in her misunderstandings.
True, not everyone has bought vintage clothes from boutiques in train stations, but Sanders commands the audience so well you’d leave wondering if you have done this without realising.
All in all, a successful night at the Burning Duck, and with a packed audience it’s clear the word is spreading.
Review: Heavy Petting at The Burning Duck Comedy Club
To lift those frosty Tuesday night blues, The Burning Duck Comedy Club presented a variety of rib cracking comedy this week. Held in the beautiful pub, The Black Swan, the atmosphere was friendly and inviting even before the acts begun.
First on was the musician and comedian Simon D Heaven, with his witty one liners and topical humour about heart break and love, he had the audience in stitches. Heaven, who was shortlisted for the BBC’s Comedy Award proved himself to the audience, even outside of his comedic ability. Simon was able to bounce back spectacularly from a technical problem which enabled him from playing his guitar, which he stated was his main gag. This technical difficulty may have ruffled the feathers of lesser comedians, but he was able to play it off cool and aloof, turning the issue on its head to be part of the experience.
Al Greaves followed, presenting his piece for the acclaimed Leicester Comedy Festival later this year. Luckily for Al no technical issues occurred with his musical piece running smoothly for the whole performance. His rib tickling jokes and entertaining songs caused giggles throughout his piece.
The motivational speaker of “Stanley Brooks” causes quite a stir in the audience, a performer that calls for participation and the ability to think on your feet. “Sell me this pen” was a memorable phrase along with one participant’s refusal and answering every question with the word “car”. Whilst also highly entertaining it also showed Mr Brooks’ incredible ability to handle a slightly uncooperative audience with ease and humour.
The headliner act, Heavy Petting brought unique comedic and slightly sinister sketches to the night All original content, written by the group, the sketches were clearly as entertaining to perform as they were to watch. Heavy Petting also have the innate ability to perform a set of individual sketches that cleverly drew upon each other, melting into each other to provide a unique yet flowing performance that took upon their skills of writing, acting and musical abilities. Their final sketch called for an acoustic, country, heartbroken song, which while being comic was only further accentuated by one of the group cross dressing. An image that I don’t think will be leaving my mind any time soon.
The Burning Duck Comedy Club started only a few months ago, but already has drawn in quite the crowd – and no wonder: their selection of alternative comedy is a delight.
Located upstairs in the delightfully rickety Black Swan pub, it’s a perfect setting for something a little different from the mainstream circuit.
Jed Salisbury compered the night, conducting the evening with a mean streak of humour directed at the audience. Jack Gleadow brought a touch of cheeky humour, claiming his illegitimate Chuckle Brothers heritage and also introducing the audience to a brand of magical comedy.
Liam Cook’s sponsorship skit was a perfectly timed segment of the show. Gina Jenkinson and Rob Mulholland both had some darker material, but both delivered their set perfectly. Jenkinson’s demanding persona stood out in the show, as did her excellently uncomfortable honest humour. Mulholland’s tirade about rescue cats had the audience bursting into spontaneous applause.
The headline act was Foxdog Studios, hailed as an IT Crowd-meets-Flight of the Conchords combination of musical and technical comedy duo.
Teaching the audience about portable appliance testing and peddling their musical shirts, the two “IT consultants from the future” provided experimental and excellently original fun.
With several interactive games (which may be lost on any audience members without an android phone) and a Meatloaf and Cher tribute act unlike any other, they provided the technical expertise with “Tenacious D-esque” rocker flair. They’re definitely a duo to watch in the year to come.