The Union is Another Place

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Last Monday, Venue 1 hosted an unusually funny evening of Comedy with Josie Long

On Monday of last week, a rare thing happened in Venue 1: an event was put on that was genuinely quite funny, a welcome change from the ‘ironically bad dancing (but really just bad dancing) and sanity badgering pop music’ funny of the Friday night Bop. What’s more, there wasn’t that stubborn aftertaste of substandard alcopops and shame. No not that night, because Josie Long brought her nationwide touring show ‘The Future is Another Place’ to the St Andrews Union.

Plastic chairs were lined up in rows like you might find at a local parish council assembly or weight watchers meeting and a half-hearted buzz of anticipation graced the room as the audience entered. But all that Monday night lethargy was soon effervesced by the girl Josie Long herself, who took it upon herself to distribute her self-produced ‘showgramme’,an odds and sods assortment of childlike handwriting and even more childlike drawings, just balancing somewhere on the right side of the line between quaintly charming and nauseatingly kooky. The show itself was a bit of a hodgepodge of calamity, hilarity and sweaty hoodies, but the lack of glamour was a suitable tonic for any St Andrean grown weary with the sight of Barbour jackets and Hunter Wellies that have never so much as had a peek of mud.

Opening act James Acaster surely had some intriguing material to perform, but his 15 minute stint on stage was blighted (or given a leg up) by some muppet in a hat, who broke the first rule of going to a comedy gig: heckling with the insults of a moron. Acaster was unperturbed and beat the brat down with comebacks like fists as the heckler proceeded to dig himself deeper into a fool shaped hole. This whole episode was of itself an impressive display of improvised wit but as Acaster began to check the back of his hand for prepared material he caught glimpse of his watch to see that his time was almost up. And it seemed that the spirit of conversation between audience and comedian was contagious as another, more polite, audience member responded to a joke about pancakes with the question ‘When is pancake day?’ It seems St Andrews needs more practice in comedy club etiquette.

Brigitte Aphrodite provided the second bout of mishap entertainment of the night but where Acaster came off dignified and jubilant, Aphrodite came off just plain weird, and a little bit scary. Some dubious guitar playing was put further into doubt as her strap snapped and a chair was needed for leg support giving anyone in the front four rows an unwelcome glimpse of thigh as she belted out the words to ‘Zombie Ex-Girlfriend’. Things got even more personal as Aphrodite began to holler out her broken hearted break-up poetry with a slightly threatening flair for theatricality. The audience that had once dared to query the whereabouts of pseudo-religious holidays suddenly became rigid and fidgety with the awkwardness of it all.

Now, I’m not one for sing-alongs, but when third act of the night The Pictish Trail began to rally the audience into an organised sing song, it was just what was required to spark a bit of life into the dazed remnants of our minds post-Aphrodite. Local Fife resident Johnny Lynch opened with an untimely and expletive rendition of the Christmas carol, ‘LittleDonkey’, setting the tone for a set of twee folk with a delightful twist of disingenuous cynicism, like giving a soundtrack to a twilight bus journey to Dundee and back. There were laughs aplenty at the woeful performing of Lynch’s 30 second masterpieces, one entitled ‘Sweating Battery Acid’ (dedicated to his mum), the tinny beats for which were provided through iPhone speakers. It was a fine testament to the foregone shoddiness of the evening that The Pictish Trail didn’t feel the need to wow, but nonetheless he performed admirably his unique mixture of triumphant sing-along folk and shambolic comedy.

Before headliner Josie Long entered the spotlight (after a bit of technical trouble from the lighting team),she gave herself a rightly flattering introduction from behind the side curtain. Her booming Americanised voice was not to be the last of a series of dreadful but mostly hilarious accent attempts including, a Scottish golfer and part time otter enthusiast, Jedward, The Beatles, the Bronte sisters and a wise cracking 1940’smovie star. Indeed, during Josie Long’s act it often felt like we were on some sort of rudderless journey through a mind of well informed historical and cultural insight and just sheer nonsense. No doubt, this provided bags of laughter and never came across as either esoteric reference dropping or as idiotic frolicking. The balance that Long didn’t quite manage to strike right was that of the show’s anti-coalition political agenda and what mostly just seemed like Tory bashing. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good satirical slating, especially when it comes to politicians on the right of the scale, but where Long poised herself to attack her victims it usually culminated in the damp squib declaration of ‘Those Tories, eh? What a load of C—ts’. By the end, Long turned to plug anti-cut initiatives in a somewhat propagandistic manner and the comedy felt like it had been side tracked for political pamphleteering and Long’s own need to restate her blatant allegiances: ‘I’m just a lefty left socialist, I just love people’.

Admittedly, the night had its share of blunders but what we got from it was an event of genuine character and unabashed opinion. On top of that, for the cheap price of £7, bellies were bloated with laughs and some decent music on a night in Venue 1 which didn’t end on ‘Mr. Brightside’ for a change. A price well worth paying.

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