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Quirky fun now and then

Trudie Robinson begins our new comedy pages with a look at the elements that make up the laughter scene in Manchester. She starts with the quirky.

Published on May 8th 2007.

Quirky fun now and then

It’s easy for a city to open its doors to chain laughter merchants like Jongleurs. They have their place on the scene; many flock to their lager and chips comedy at the weekend but they only just fall short of installing a take-a-ticket machine to wait in line for your designated joke.

What Manchester has always done well is the specialist, quirky club.

The first on the comedy scene was The Buzz above The Southern in Chorlton. This was a pub that lived for locals with the racing post tucked under one armpit and a bullterrier under the other, except for when mirth came a-visiting with the comedy club run by John Marshall aka Agraman. Agraman? Take a look at it closely. Yep, it’s an anagram of anagram. That’s right he’s bats and don’t we just love him for it. Sadly he’s now departed for Hull for the love of a good woman (Hull is all about romance you know) and what remains of The Buzz does very well at The Waterside (every month Sat, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale. 0161 912 5616 www.watersideartscentre.co.uk. From £10) but the original takes some beating. Agraman would put on local acts but much to their annoyance they’d often only get a couple of gigs a year as he would ship in the best acts (and sometimes, it would turn out, the worst) and the most bizarre he could find from far and even further away. Outside of a bizarre industrial accident, where else were you

likely to see a man running around the room with a chimney on his head singing Tamperer’s ‘Feel It’? Altogether now ‘What's she gonna look like with a chimney on her?’

Elsewhere the weirdness gave way to nurturing long lasting talent with early gigs from Eddie Izzard, Lee Evans, John Thomson and Steve Coogan. Dear Mr Partridge still looks back with a wry smile and just a hint of fear in his eyes when anyone mentions Agraman.

That was then and we miss it. But it’s not all history. Let’s pick out a couple of nights for our fine readership. XSMalarkey in Fallowfield (every Tue, Bar XS, 343 Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield. 0161 257 2403 www.xsmalarkey.com. From £2)is a natural successor. A little more staid than The Buzz – no rogue chimneys have been sighted here though Key 103’s Justin Moorhouse has appeared in the buff. Seen by many on the circuit as a great gig to play, the downside is that on the rare occasion of a less than rapturous reception it’s enough to put a comic into depressive decline. Featuring an audience of those impressionable, fresh gooey brains open to mind bending ideas - students, many have flocked back to do gigs such as Peter Kay (a man rarely seen on the comedy circuit since his mum bought the bungalow) and his Phoenix Nights co-star and writer Dave Spikey.

Mirth on Monday is another independent Manchester gem. This has evolved again in Chorlton at the zany Cheers-on-speed bar, Iguana (115-117 Manchester Road, Chorlton. 0161 881 9338 www.iguanabar.co.uk. From £3). It’s a sort of successor to The Buzz. Again prone to quirkiness usually in the form of Des Sharples the club’s compere and promoter who, unable to use material from his regular stand up set as they heard it all ages ago, instead tries out new material and ideas on his regular crowd, some of which works, some of which doesn’t. He’s also keen to try out talent from around the country on his usually receptive crowd, an audience that on occasion breaks out into random acts of madness itself – then again it is Monday in Chorlton and all the mung bean shops have closed.

So the spirit of quirk engendered by The Buzz lives on - albeit in a slightly less concentrated form. And without the gentlefolk with rolled up Daily Sports and very closely cropped hair.

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