Following the announcement of the line-up at Monday evening’s Old Rope Comedy Club there was a palpable frenzy of excitement amongst comedy fans. Well it’s not every day you get to see Noel Fielding, Tony Law and Joey Page on the same bill. And that’s before you consider the the other excellent acts who performed alongside them. Of course, The Velvet Onion was there to take notes; here’s what Velveteers Paulyne and Mog made of it all:
On Monday evenings you can usually find me in one place, The Old Rope comedy night at The Phoenix pub. Located perfectly round the back of Oxford street, not only is this one of my favourite places to either relax or let my hair down, it’s also one of the best for comedy.
Last night was an exception for one reason – that being it was the best night for comedy. The cosy basement was filled with more people than I had seen it for a while – mainly with waistcoats, trilbys or ponchos, which is unsurprising as Noel Fielding made his début at the new-material comedy night.
The line-up took us all on a journey throughout the ages of comedy. As we began with Phil Nichol’s old school one liners which carried us from one act to the next, we then first got to hear about James Acaster’s first sexual experience with a woman and the dull life that straight couples lead whilst in a monogamous relationship. Al Barrie then slotted in next with his view on homophobia – his dry ‘let me tell you something over a pint’ delivery made him great fun to listen to!
Tiffany Stevenson stuck with just one set rather than her usual compère spot as she was still recovering from a tongue operation (ouch!) – but even with a slight lisp she still knocked it out of the park. As we got into the second half of the night, things took a more ‘contemporary turn’ – Tony Law performed his usual routine which not only made the audience turn the air blue but also made everyone’s hair move. Joey Page fitted in perfectly afterwards with some more snappier jokes rather than his usual one, super sonic comeback-filled anecdote – an interesting new light to see Page in!
As it was already getting late and once we all had our 2nd intermission to empty and refill ourselves, I was quite taken aback by the well-behaved and polite audience. With the show already running over, a crowd naturally get antsy about missing the last tube, plus it was clear this audience knew well that we would be taken on a massive mind-warp of a journey with Fielding, everyone was still settled and content right to the end.
As the “old rope” gets taken down for the headliners, we got taken to the world of the thieving Monkey Edwards, but this version of the story had me realising that the more worked up Fielding gets telling his story, the more I’m gasping for breath.
The highlight of this set for me was any moment that Fielding called back to a front-row gentlemen who responded at the wrong time, throughout the show the man went from loving Kiss, getting naked, and Jimmy Savile jokes.
If Fielding warmed-up last night to see if he still ‘had it’, those improvised moments were solid proof that those mind cogs are still working to a high standard.
As has already been said, it was an epic evening of different comedic styles, but given the nature of this here website, I’ll focus on the final three acts of the night.
Taken as a singular dose, Tony Law, Joey Page and Noel Fielding offer the comedy fan a very welcome break from the norm, a respite from the more traditional observational gags and one liners. Taken together, it feels a bit like you’re stepping off the edge of reality into an abyss of lunacy – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means. In fact, on a chilly wet evening in January, it can be a very good thing indeed – as evidenced by the basement full of cheering, appreciative punters at Old Rope.
Each comic provided a unique take on the world of the surreal:
Joey played a delightfully coy game of mental hopscotch with the audience – leading us down some lovely faltering alleys of oddness only to pack an unexpected belly laugh punch when you were least expecting it. His wonderful dog diary was a particular favourite, reinforced by a beautifully-observed and understated delivery that made my very heart glow.
Tony merged utter madness with utter genius; his was an act that defies description with words alone (but we’ll give it a go anyway): full-beam, clever, deranged and brilliant. A one-off. His on-stage charisma kept the crowd laughing even when he’d knowingly run out of things to say. My scribbled notes from his time on stage which simply say, “Chinese Nigerian = science guys from space” tells you all you need to know. But it makes perfect sense when Tony says it.
Noel’s set was a bit like going on all the fairground rides at once – full of colour and sounds, sudden stops and starts, and unpredictable changes in direction. Mental dodgems. It took the audience a few minutes to catch up with him and figure out what was going on, but when they did there was genuine joy to be had in the partnership between the comedian and his crowd.
The Fielding classics were there, many of them with a glorious dollop of fresh energy, but some of evening’s highlights came from his brilliant ad libs towards the end of the night when he proved himself incapable of leaving the stage. Clever, funny and silly in equal measures – and just a bit rock ‘n’ roll. Noel may worry that his approach is “wonky”, but it thoroughly charmed everyone there.
By the time we left our brains were mush: exhausted but happy from the mind aerobics that the final three acts of the show had put us through. A big thank you to everyone concerned!