Following my trip to The Comedy Store last week, this Tuesday I went to another comedy club – this time the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green, for a show called An Evening Of Unnecessary Detail, produced by the team at Festival Of The Spoken Nerd. I’d heard a little bit about them before, so had been curious about going to one of their shows. So when my friend James invited me to go along with him, I happily took up the opportunity.
The Backyard Bar & Kitchen is very easy to get to, just a straight walk down the road from Bethnal Green station, provided you come out of the right exit (Cambridge Heath Road, west side). It’s very easy to spot on the corner of the second side road, with the big sign above the door.
The show was due to start around 7:30pm, but we wanted to have some food and drink and a catch-up chat first, so we got to the venue at 5:30pm. Which sounds early, getting there 2 hours before the show, but if you want to ensure you can grab a table, it’s the best way. James had been there last month as well and discovered that. At 5:30pm the place was nearly deserted, but by 6:30pm the place was crammed. So it does quickly fill up, and it therefore became apparent that we had picked the right time to go.
So we had a drink and a good chat for a while first, then at about 6:30pm we ordered our food. Their menu consists of pizzas, one of which is vegetarian, along with sides like nachos, chips, onion rings, wedges and dips. They also do a brownie stack as a dessert, which does sound very tempting. But we didn’t go for it, as we didn’t have time nor room for that!
So I went for the BBQ sauce base with Chicken, Red Onion & Mixed Peppers, while James had the Chorizo with Sundried Tomato & Basil, and we shared a side of beer battered onion rings, as well has having another drink each. We enjoyed eating all of that and it filled us up nicely. It arrived nice and quickly too – they give you a bottle with a numbered wooden spoon standing up in it as your table number, and the waitress found us in the crowd easily.
Then it was time for us to go in for the show. James showed the QR code on his phone for them to scan as our ticket, and they put a small ink stamp on our hands – this was so we could get back in to the performance room if we came out to go to the bar or use the toilets.
An Evening Of Unnecessary Detail takes place on a monthly basis, and each time they have a variety of different acts, over the course of about 2 to 2½ hours. And it’s split into 3 parts, so there are 2 intervals. As the name of the show suggests, each act goes into an unnecessary level of detail about a particular topic that they’re interested in. And It’s very interesting and very funny. You don’t need to consider yourself a nerd to understand and enjoy it either to be honest – there are some nerdy jokes in there, sure, but a lot of the humour can be appreciated by anyone.
The first people to come up on stage were Geoff Marshall [@geofftech] and Vicki Pipe [@norwegiancheese] from All The Stations [@allthestations]. This was a particular delight to me, because I loved following their journey last summer, when they visited all the mainline rail stations in the UK, documenting it on Youtube and across social media. So I wrote about them when I sponsored a station, had an adventure in Southend and joined a group of 100 people to help them recreate the British Rail logo.
So to fit in with the theme of this show, they decided to go into detail about station names in lots of different ways – which, for someone like me who enjoys word games, was really good fun. For instance, we learned how many station names had just 3 letters or 4 letters, and learned that there are no stations with exactly 19 letters, even though there are some with 18, and a few with 20 and above. So Geoff & Vicki offered a free drink to anyone who could make up a proper-sounding station name of 19 letters – which I don’t think anyone did at the time, but one or two did on Twitter afterwards.
And of course they told us the longest station name as well. You might think it’s Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (which Vicki pronounced perfectly during the show from memory, twice in quick succession!). However, as they pointed out, it’s proper name in the official station list is just Llanfairpwll, so you could argue the longest station name is actually Rhoose Cardiff International Airport. Which is still in Wales, but much easier to say!
Update (9 April) – Geoff & Vicki have now posted a video from that night! Enjoy!
There are also about 4 stations that are anagrams of other stations, and quite a few where you can change the first letter to make the name of 1 or even 2 other stations – Horley & Morley for instance. Geoff also set a bit of homework for people, to find out the quickest way to travel to all the stations on a particular line in Wales that has quite limited services.
So they were really good fun. And it was the first time I’d seen them doing a live show on stage too. They also stayed for the rest of the show, and were around in the intervals for people to say hello and buy some maps of the rail network. But it was so busy that they sold out of the maps pretty quickly and I didn’t get a chance to say hello them. Which was a shame, but I did get to say a fleeting hello to them at the logo event last year, so I can say I’ve met them, albeit very briefly.
But in any case, if you haven’t checked out All The Stations, look it up. It’s not about trainspotting – about the areas that the railway can take you to, rather than just trains, so there’s lots of beautiful scenery and places of interest, and they do discuss accessibility too.
So they were my favourite part of the show, as I knew them best. But all of the others were brilliant as well. For instance, to name a few that particularly spring to mind:
Scientist Steve Mould [@moulds] talked about how it’s possible to film inside a microwave, to see what happens to objects inside it. And in particular, he explained why you can’t put metal inside them, and why the metal interior walls of a microwave don’t cause a problem. He’s also made a video explaining it as well.
Performance programmer Seb Lee-Delisle [@seb_ly] showed us how he could program an old Casio keyboard by typing numbers into its calculator, and then demonstrated how he could create loops by putting together a great version of the iconic 80s hit Axel F section by section.
Neuroscientist Sophie Scott [@sophiescott] was talking about voices, and how we as humans are very unique in the kinds of sounds that we’re able to produce, and how other animals can create and hear sounds at different frequencies to us, a subject she’s discussed at the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. So the people in Jurassic Park could in theory have hidden from and beaten the dinosaurs by speaking at a higher pitch, which they couldn’t have detected. And she pointed out how wrong characters like Paddington and Voldemort are, because they can’t possibly speak as well as they do in the films, given that Paddington is a bear and Voldemort has no nose. So she was really interesting.
Musical comedian Kyle D Evans [@kyledevans] showed us how the Paul Simon song 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover should have progressed, given that there are only about 7 ways that are really listed in the original. So, in keeping with the original song’s style of rhyming a reason for leaving with a person’s name, he rolled off another 43 reasons in the same melody, which was very good.
There was also a lady called Bec Hill [@bechillcomedian], who pretended to have travelled from the future and allowed the audience ask her questions about it, some of which were inevitable and some of which were very random. And there was some stand-up from biologist comedian Simon Watt [@SimonDWatt], who was also good.
But the most important act to mention was the host of the show, Matt Parker (Stand Up Maths). He’s a former maths teacher who now does stand up comedy and public speaking about maths and topics relating to it. And he’s really good. His Youtube videos are well worth checking out, and he was great as the host here. I did very well in maths at school – I took my maths GCSE a year early and got a B for my A-level, and got a 2:1 in my accounting and finance degree at university, plus I like number games and puzzles, so the type of stuff he does is very interesting to me.
He’s about to publish a new book, and at this show, among other things, he told us a few stories about the consequences of errors that people had made. For instance, the mere act of adding 2 cells in a spreadsheet rather than getting their average (i.e. forgetting to divide them by 2) lost a company £2 billion!
But the stories he told of miraculous plane landings were particularly interesting. One involved a pilot being sucked out of the cockpit window due to the glass being incorrectly bolted in place, so it popped out during the fligh! He was left dangling by his legs, and people held on to him until the plane landed, assuming he was dead. But amazingly he survived, and nobody died.
And the other story involved a Boeing jet that had too little fuel put into it, because they had used the wrong units of measurement, so it ran out 12 miles before its destination. But, fortunately, the pilot was an experienced glider, and incredibly managed to glide the jet into land on quite a short runway, surprising everyone on the go-karting track at the end of it! The plane is now known as the Gimli Glider in homage to the incident.
So it was a great show altogether, very funny throughout, and educational as well. And it’s definitely something I’d be happy to go to again in the future, along with others by Festival Of The Spoken Nerd. Having such a variety of different performers helped to keep things interesting and engaging, and made it very good value for money too. And it’s great that it’s different to the regular stand-up comics you see on TV as well. So I definitely recommend it, especially if you consider yourself a little bit nerdy, but also for anyone who likes comedy in general really, because you get to have a great laugh as well as learning a little bit at the same time. It’s well worth a go.