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Bristol Comedy Garden – a stand-up’s paradise

Copyright: Emma Blake Morsi

Copyright: Emma Blake Morsi

Dan Squire went to Bristol Comedy Garden. Turns out it was a laughing matter.

From Wednesday 2nd to Sunday 6th of July, you may have noticed that Queen Square was packed full of marquees and food vans, all fenced off behind a big sign that read ‘Bristol Comedy Garden’. As an amateur stand-up comedian myself, I was a little bit miffed that I hadn’t been invited myself (they must have mistyped my email address) so on Thursday night, I went to see what all the fuss was about.

The compère for the night was local boy Jon Robins, whose banter with the audience and quick-fire wit was very impressive. Robins bounced off the audience responses, particularly when he couldn’t find anyone with an interesting enough job to ridicule. I hadn’t heard of Jon Robins before the night, but he was definitely a highlight.

‘In America, three pints is enough for an intervention. In Britain, three pints is what you drink before you go out to drink pints.’ Rich Hall

Next up was Sara Pascoe, who was equally impressive. Her style varied from apathetic and deadpan to frantic and excited, and the fast pace was very effective. Her best jokes were probably the ones about her relationship with her boyfriend, but since she has upcoming gigs in Bristol I won’t ruin the punchlines. Needless to say, I would highly recommend those shows if you can get tickets.

After another transition from Jon Robins, we were treated to London geezer Rob Beckett, who joked largely about his working class roots. He was especially good at introducing jokes early in the set and bringing them back later on for extra laughs – it gave the whole performance much more of a cohesive feeling, rather than the stereotypical stand-up routine full of rants and unexpected subject changes.

Finally, it was time for the headliner. I’d actually spotted Rich Hall a couple of times already throughout the evening, in the garden and in the toilets, but I was obviously too starstruck to say hello. I figured it wasn’t appropriate to introduce myself just after coming out of the urinals, although you would hope he’d see the funny side. Rich Hall, as you might expect from his reputation, was by far the top performer on the night. Like Jon Robins, his interactions with the audience were incredibly quick-witted, and much of his set was focused on ‘Big Nick’, an unlucky sunglasses salesman in the front row about whom he improvised several songs on his guitar. He also got some big laughs for his comparisons of alcoholism in the USA and Britain, and a huge round of applause as he left the stage.

The Comedy Garden has been running for a few years now, and always attracts household-name comedians – this year Al Murray, Stephen K Amos, Ardal O’Hanlon and Milton Jones were also performing. If you get a chance next time this festival comes back to town in 2015, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Bristol Comedy Garden