Chambers & Nettleton
Chris Norton Walker
Colin and Rob
XS Malarkey, Nov 1, 2011
XS Malarkey, by overwhelming consensus Manchester’s best independent comedy club, has not long settled into its new home in a disused chapel in the studenty Fallowfields part of town.
It feels like an appropriate site, with a quirky, homespun ‘knit-your-own-organic-teabag’ atmosphere, but with enough professionalism to ensure sound, light and audience comfort is all just right.
The main thing that makes the night, though, is resident compere Toby Hadoke, who treats the paying punters like friends popping round his house for a chat – trying out new material with varying shades of success, but primarily creating at ambiance of relaxed, respectful bonhomie that has defined the club over the years.
He plays up the attitude of a mildly irascible middle-aged man, but he’s someone who just knows what he likes rather than being overtly angry at the world. He stresses the differences between XS and more corporate clubs, berating himself for the odd double entendre, though, of course, not holding back from doing them.
It builds up a supportive clique, and never more so than the section where he reluctantly handed out cheap prizes. By refusing to play along to the cheesiness of the idea, it becomes hilarious in its casualness.
Opening act was Javier Jarquin, a half-Latino, half-Chinese Kiwi. Cue predictable racist stereotypes about each half of his heritage and how they might conflict – a predictable, by-the-book approach he never really got beyond.
He can sometimes wring good jokes out of the over-used formula, though, as his bit about British store names attests, and he’s a robust, confident performer – perhaps learned in his other professional life as a magician. It all made for a solid, if uninspiring, set.
Andrew McGowan is a Robbie Williams impersonator in the Rochdale area, clearly taking advantage of XS’s genuinely open ‘open mic’ policy to make his first moves into comedy.
But he has a very restricted outlook of what modern stand-up entails. Generic jokes about Josef Fritzl and Fred West abound, with fast-decreasing returns, and when he told a gag about Jedward being ‘less popular than a gypsy’ you could hear a pin drop, as the last vestiges of support evaporated. Add flabby set-ups and old pub gags into the mix, and you have someone who’s still got a lot to learn about the comedy basics.
Ruth E Cockburn is an intriguing personality, adept and in control on stage but apparently racked by self-doubt and klutziness in real life. Her embarrassing stories have the ring of truth to them that makes the self-deprecation really work, and there are a good number of solid jokes here.
She’s not yet the finished article, as the different elements of her comedy and personality don’t always fit well together, but she’s eminently watchable, sympathetically flawed and quirky enough to be interesting. However, the closing song – ‘You’re Girlfriend’s A Minger’ – is old-fashioned and, frankly, a little dull. The rest of the set suggests she is better than this, and certainly has the potential to be a lot better.
Finally, late-booking headliner Chris Cairns, a large friendly Scouser who has so many years of experience in the business that he knows how to hold the room in rapt attention. He needs to, as well, as his pace is incredibly slow, and he spends a lot of time talking around a subject before settling on its punchline. The payoffs are usually strong, but not really worth the wait, which adds nothing to the tension.
The occasional turn of phrase nicely highlights the precise mundanity of his middle-aged, lazy life, but again he doesn’t exploit them particularly well, meandering around the subject with little concern where the next punchline might be. There’s definitely the feeling that he’s a comic who’s found his place on the circuit and is now doing the least he needs to do to get by. But with so many hungrier comedians coming up behind, such complacency doesn’t seem nearly enough.
|Date of live review: Wednesday 2nd Nov, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Wednesday 2nd Nov, '11- Manchester XS Malarkey
Friday 1st Feb, '02-
What has the guy got to do to impress you? Jesus! I've seen Chris on numerous occasions over the years, and have always found him hilarious. He's a natural compere, and his laid-back (not "lazy" as you said) approach puts the audience at ease. You comments about his size too, are disgraceful - what has this got to do with anything?!! I guess you'd slag off Sam Kinison or Bill Hicks too, by that rationale? Lighten up, mate!
Dear oh dear.This review reeks of a man who is a failed comedian himself.I have seen Chris C quite a few times now and have found his act to be genial as well as razor sharp.Like all critics, you get paid to give feedback,in this case non constructive, and like most critics,you cannot actually do the job yourself hence you criticize others.Methinks you should put yourself up there to be shot at.Would love to hear your punchline
I was at this gig and I thought the night was great - I think Toby is fab and is really relaxed in his new home. I am, however shocked on your comments about Chris Cairns - I thought he played at the pace the room needed - there were around forty people in the room and the rest of the show had been very slow paced - I think he used his experience to match the pace of the rest of the show and not overwhelm the small crowd with the energy he applies to busier gigs. I go to lots of comedy gigs in Manchester and Leeds and have seen Chris MC Leeds Jongleurs and he was very upbeat and dealt with the busy room perfectly. Surely this is what an experienced act is meant to do? It seems the reviewer doesn't appreciate the difference between a weekend and a quiet Tuesday night?
Shame on you! this guy made me wet myself!
I think Chris Cairns is awesome the two time s i have seen him i've nearly wet myself laughing!! brilliant comedian keep up the good work Chris!!
Best comedian I have seen in a while. The line up, apart from him, was poor but Chris made us all howl! Brilliant
Saw Chris recently at Baby Blue - was very funny with original current material