March was an incredibly busy month, so I’ve got a lot to tell you about, including disability exhibitions, theatre shows and museum visits. But to start with, I wanted to tell you about a special charity comedy night I went to.
The Leonard Cheshire charity provides valuable support to disabled people, helping them to live, learn and work as independently as possible. And, like any charity, fundraising is essential. So they sometimes hold special events to raise both money and awareness.
In March, therefore, they held Cheshire Chuckle, their first ever comedy night. I was very kindly given complimentary tickets to see and review the show, so I attended with my friend James. But all opinions here are my own as always. Thank you very much to the charity for inviting me along and looking after us.
The event took place at the Backyard Comedy Club (which I’ve been to once before). It’s well known for its comedy nights, and is just a short walk from Bethnal Green station, so it’s a nice venue that’s easy to get to. They also do lovely pizzas, incidentally, and James and I each had one before the show. The place fills up quickly, so it’s important to get there early if you want to sit and eat something. We got there an hour before the show was due to start, and it was a wise move, because a lot of people did indeed turn up. It looked like the show was fully booked, so it was great to see the charity getting so much support.
I had never heard of any of the comedians on the bill, but I had no problem with that, as it’s always refreshing to hear someone new. It was a very diverse line-up, with an international mixture of men and women from different backgrounds, and with varying styles of comedy, so there really was something for everyone. I was particularly delighted that a disabled comedian was included as well.
If any of the comedians were nervous, it didn’t show. They all seemed confident in delivering their material. From my quick web searches on each one, it looks like most of them have been on the comedy circuit for a while, and they’ve all found success, including TV and radio work. Which is no mean feat, as it’s a tough business to get noticed in. So it did feel like effort had been put into choosing acts who were good as well as diverse, rather than just picking any random comics who happened to be available that day. If you look up each of the acts on Youtube, you can find clips that give you a good sense of their style of comedy, and a few have channels of their own.
The event was hosted by Emily Lloyd-Saini, an award-winning comedian who co-hosts the Mawaan & Emily show on the BBC Asian Network, is a member of the improv group Battleacts, is one half of the double act Egg Comedy, and played Tanya in a few episodes of the Channel 4 show Catastrophe.
She was very funny and the perfect compère for the evening. She had a really good rapport with the audience throughout and enjoyed chatting to a few people who got her attention, as well as doing a bit of her own stand-up material in between the acts. She also did the raffle towards the end with the aid of a lady from the audience, in which there were a lot of rather good prizes, though my friend and I didn’t win. Emily kept proceedings moving along nicely, so the event flew by with her in charge.
The comedians she introduced were all very funny too, and all of them got a very favourable response from the audience. There was a really good atmosphere in the room, and there was never any heckling, disruption or awkward silences, which was great.
The line-up included:
- Josh Berry, a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers and Newsjack. His impressions of stars like Andy Murray, Jimmy Carr and Josh Widdicombe were spot on. You can see some of his impressions on his Youtube channel.
- Steff Todd, an award winning new comedian who went viral for her Love Island impressions. You can see some of her impressions on her Youtube channel.
- Ken Cheng, winner of Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe 2017, and has a BBC Radio 4 series called Chinese Comedian. He also has his own Youtube channel.
- Twayna Mayne, highlighted by Time Out as a “Star of the Future”, and has got a new show commissioned for BBC Radio 4 this year.
- Sukh Ojla, a BBC Asian Network comedy star who has been in TV shows including Hospital People & Black Mirror, the film Victoria & Abdul, and the Old Vic production of Future Conditional.
But the headline act and highlight of the evening was Tim Renkow, who has cerebral palsy and is the star of BBC Three sitcom Jerk. In that show, and in his comedy set, he uses his disability to his advantage, clearly demonstrating that it doesn’t stop him living a successful life and having fun. You can tell he enjoys messing with people who act awkwardly or negatively around his disability, to show them he’s much more capable than they assume. And the audience loved him, he easily got some of the biggest laughs of the night.
So it was a very enjoyable evening. Whenever you see a show with multiple comedians, you naturally prefer some to others, and not every joke will work, that’s to be expected. And while that was of course true here, there wasn’t anybody who I could say I disliked. They all got laughs out of me and the rest of the audience, so we were all having a good night.
Assembling such a mixture of comedians was fantastic and important as well. It matters a lot, because it really helps to break down barriers and misconceptions in society, in terms of disability, gender, race, and so on. Anybody is capable of doing comedy, and it’s a great vehicle for spreading a positive message and raising awareness, in a manner that is entertaining rather than patronising. So I’m glad they weren’t afraid to mix things up, and especially pleased on a personal level that disability was represented.
Given the success of this first comedy night, hopefully there will be more by Leonard Cheshire in the future. And if there are, I can recommend going along, So do keep an eye on their website, Facebook and Twitter for details of this and other upcoming activities. Thank you to the charity for a great evening and inviting me along!