By Luke Spiby and Thom Greenwood
Photographs by Emma Simpson
This week Manchester Metropolitan University’s newly built Student Union hosted a night that exuded laughter. Comedy Central, a regular night at MMU, is a chance for some of the rising stars in comedy to test out their material. On Tuesday night, the headline act Paul Chowdhry, supported by Suzie Ruffell, did not disappoint.
The night was hosted by Joel Dommett, who has made appearances on television shows such as Russell Howard’s Good News and Skins, as well as presenting on Impractical Jokers UK, and more recently a team captain on the new ITV comedy Reality Bites.
Dommett, energetic from the start of his set and began with some great banter with the crowd – in particular, with a gentleman he called ‘Heather’. Crowd participation played a large part in Dommett’s opening, and was clearly well received. He told stories about common occurrences that easily relate to life as a student. One joke in particular started with, “Most of you here are students… Give me a cheer if you’ve ever heard a flatmate having sex in the next room”, to which was met with arguably the loudest cheer of the night. Dommett then told an anecdote about his own flatmate, and his rendition of the flatmate’s ‘mobile phone’ sex noises was hilarious. As Dommett’s very entertaining first set drew to an end, he introduced the evening’s support act, Suzie Ruffell.
Ruffell engaged the audience with jokes centred on lesbianism and motherhood. Her unique and honest approach made for many memorable moments. As a lesbian, Ruffell stated that she “feels weird” telling people her sexual preferences; continuing, “You don’t see straight women sitting down at the dinner table and saying, ‘by the way, I prefer it from behind.’” Ruffell then moved on to ‘motherhood’ and how she and her partner adopted… a cat. Her confession that the ‘baby’ she had mentioned was actually feline split the audience in half; the animal lovers offered an auditory wave of ‘Aww!’ while the rest were left shaking their heads. The divide soon disappeared when Ruffell told an amusing story about unwittingly kidnapping a random cat that she thought belonged to her neighbour. After Ruffell shared her high and low points of 2014, which included her first television appearance, the halfway point of the event was reached.
After a short interval, Joel Dommett came back for his second set, which left the audience wishing there was a third. Louis Stockwell, a Politics student visiting from the University of Huddersfield told Humanity Hallows, “[Dommett] was great. His jokes were relatable and he had good presence onstage… I think he acted as a perfect platform for the other comedians.” Humanity Hallows also spoke to Michael Riordan, a Law student from MMU, who said, “I’ve seen Joel Dommett on TV a couple of times… I think he’s hilarious, although sometimes he does talk too fast.”
The headline act was British Sikh comedian Paul Chowdhry, who was performing to promote his new tour and subsequent DVD. Chowdhry played heavily on racism and racial stereotypes, in a similar fashion to Chris Rock, but also managed to incorporate stereotypical impressions, which did well to emphasise his punch lines and made many of his jokes even funnier. Although his material would never be accepted in a retirement home or a high school, the sea of students at MMU couldn’t get enough of his crude humour, and didn’t even bat an eye at jokes such as, “If a white man grows a beard, it’s cool, but if I grow a beard everyone thinks I’m going to Syria.” Despite the constant mockery of people in the front row, Chowdhry developed a remarkable connection with the crowd – his set felt more like eavesdropping on a chat between a group of friends in the pub than a comedian speaking to 200 or more faces in a crowd.
Josh Ingham, a maths student from the University of Central Lancashire later expressed his opinions on the comedian’s choice of content stating, “That Paul Chowdhry… His jokes were somewhat controversial, but I found him very entertaining, and so did everyone else. I think that was the right type of crowd for the topics that all of the comedians made jokes about tonight; students are generally more open-minded.” Louis Stockwell added, “He was really edgy, in a good way. I really liked his cross-cultural style and his banter with the crowd.”
As the students flooded through the exit, heading to their homes or house parties with brand new, top-of-the-line jokes to impress their friends with, there was a buzz in the air. Everyone embraced the freezing temperatures of Higher Cambridge Street with smiles and laughter, proving that Comedy Central at The Union had again been successful. Humanity Hallows was able to get some final words from Michael Riordan on his way out; “The event was great. The comedians were all decent; they really worked the crowd well. I’m definitely coming to the next one.”
Luke Spiby is a third year Chemistry student with a passion for film. Follow him on Twitter @LJSpibs. Thom Greenwood is a third year History student with a passion for music. Follow him on Twitter @tdg_tdg.