By Jack Holmes
Group Therapy’s monthly comedy nights have been pulling in some big names of late. Their March gig is no different, with a headline spot from Josie Long, who we covered in a spotlight piece just last week. For one month only it’s been moved from its usual Gorilla venue, to the club area in the back of Pub/Zoo.
The sold out night its wall to wall chairs and tables, but if anything the crowded room adds to the communal feel that’s giving the Manchester comedy scene its current buzz.
Our host for the evening is Jess Fostekew. She’s charming, witty, and refuses to let some pretty awkward responses from the crowd in any way slow down the pace of her performances throughout the night. Her material is some of the most accessible of the night asking audience questions such as “If you could be any animal what would it be”, it’s a testament to her skill she manages to run with responses such as “capybara” and make it work. Her rapid responses are something comedians find difficult to practice, and Fostekew shows she’s a master.
The first support slot goes to Fin Taylor who blows the crowd away with one of the fastest and funniest sets I’ve seen in a long time. We’re not talking one-line jokes either; Taylor fires through full topics that feel like a torrent of never-ending punchlines. He opens with a section on white privilege, which is very close indeed to a perfect theme for the London comedian. Why is a bearded white man saying “honky” just so darn funny? His later material gets a little more risky and enter a slightly more hit and miss territory. This is likely down to the material being a little more intelligent, jokes on the Israel/ Palestine conflict for example, which the mixture of local students and Josie Long fans appreciating the political aspect. On the other hand jokes on issues transphobia draw a couple of startled looks from the crowd, likely due to their overall left-wing nature, a belief cemented later on during Josie Long’s set.
Overall however Taylor’s set is well written, intelligent, and rarely stops for breath. My cheeks hurt from laughing by the end, if you see him on a bill I’d recommend attending.[bandcamp width=100% height=42 album=3672454542 size=small bgcol=ffffff linkcol=0687f5]
Taylor’s followed by Sean Morley who makes an original appearance for his set by posing as one of the members of the crowd who just won’t stop clapping. It’s a strong start to an act that walks a dangerous line throughout. It’s original material, often focusing on taking advantage of classic comedy gig tropes, such as the “clap until the next acts on stage” rule. The crowd are 50/50 at the start, with the 50% who aren’t completely sold on Morleys outside of the box comedy making the set difficult to move through at Morley’s desired pace e.g. a gentleman heckling from the back. But the set itself seems to lose itself when it comes to its pacing, there’s only so many times we can laugh at being told not to laugh, before we start to take it seriously.
Finally we’re greeted by Josie Long, and it’s difficult to know what to expect from the comedian who’s been performing since she was 18. She addresses this straight off by reading on of her “old jokes”, it’s from the 16th century actually, but still holds up. Her discussion of finally hitting 30 misses the largely student audience, however it’s later on in the show when Long starts to discuss left wing politics and the Tory party that the crowd are really drawn in. The passionate comedian is perfectly suited to a room full of Mancunian students. This political aspect of the set is something you just don’t get to hear on televised comedy, with the set regularly straying into “I’m not allowed to tell you this but…” territory.
Long’s anecdotes are amusingly delivered with her trademark charm as she discusses trying to protest against the right wing while also being terrified of the consequences. If there was ever a time that a set and message like this would work it’s now. Delivering her message to students who have likely found themselves in 20-30 thousand pounds more debt than they would have had the Tory party not been voted in, results in huge cheers from the crowd.
Her final speech draws the largest of these, and almost feels like less comedy, and more a clear message of a pro-cultural Britain, as she talks about the ways in which London has changed so much and that culture as a whole is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Long delivers not only a strong comedy gig, but an all important message. She reminds us that not only is comedy a tool for entertainment, but for education as well.
If you’re interested in catching one of Group Therapy’s comedy nights you can see all their upcoming gigs here.