The Wrong Show is an independent and alternative comedy night in Leeds. This is our blog. Here you will find comedy reviews, features, and interviews. We were formally known as HOWL. First Wednesday of the Month, The Fenton, Leeds.
HOWL Alternative Comedy Night #9 is fast approaching and we have what might be one of our best line-ups yet, featuring Fern Brady and Michael Sterrett, with fantastic support from Robin Parmiter, and Mike Bentley. Hosted by Simon Finnigan.
Fern Brady - Fern was a So You Think You’re Funny? Finalist in 2011 and recently a finalist in the Harrogate Comedian of the Year 2012 competition.
“Spirited…enjoyably sarcastic” - Chortle
“She has powers. Scary powers. Some say that she has the power to make baby girls grow beards and get astigmatisms in their eyes so they need spectacles.” - A Sideways Look
“An effervescent bundle of raw comedic energy…For a performer still in her early twenties, Brady seems remarkably in control of her stagecraft, and on the strength of this performance, it is surely just a matter of time before mainstream success comes knocking.” - Retford Guardian
“Fern Brady is a genius. I think she’ll become a massive, massive name one day. She’s dry, charismatic, very funny and right.” - Some guy.
Michael Sterrett - Michael is one of the founders of HOWL, but he has also been quickly making a name for himself as a well respected comedian, having been a finalist in the Mr Bens Comedy Club New Act Competition earlier this year, and qualifying (again) for the next.
“On the surface, Michael’s material may seem bleak, harsh and dark, but to use words like that don’t give credit to the vulnerability that Michael portrays on stage. His set had the audience in stitches, but it felt like there was something more to his comedy, and that’s what sets him apart as a class act.” Pigeon Hole Comedy Night.
Robin Parmiter - Yorkshire’s only subscriber to Oprah Magazine.
“Fantastic high-energy set filled with positivity and healing provided a fantastic start to the night” Pigeon Hole Comedy Night
Mike Bentley - Like Michael, Mike will be taking part in the next Mr Bens Comedy Club New Act Competition.
I like nothing more in comedy than honesty, and this is one of the most honest and raw comedy experiences I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Hilarious and utterly heartfelt. That’s why we booked him.
Thursday 1st November.
1-3 Grand Arcade
Last Thursday was HOWL #8 and one of our lovely audience members decided to review the night. Here’s an excerpt:
“The amount of Alternative Comedy in Leeds at the moment in phenomenal. There is a new breed of comedian rising from the area that are paving their own way in the scene…This is without a doubt the strongest line up I’ve seen from this group and they’ve developed and grown so much in the time I’ve been attending their nights. It’s amazing to see members fresh from Edinburgh and winning local and national competitions.”
You can read the rest of the review over at Lewis’ blog, PORTBORN.
By Thom Milson
Tomorrow it will be nine months since the first ever HOWL Alternative Comedy Night. A lot of things have changed in that time, especially the comedy scene in Leeds. When we started HOWL Leeds had two nights*: Comedy Cellar at the Verve, and Mr Bens Comedy Club Gong Show. Now there is HOWL, Pigeon Hole, Comedy Cellar at the Verve, Mr Bens Comedy Club Gong Show, Mr Bens RAW, Generic Comedy Night, Sh!ts and G!ggles, and Latent Mutant Comedy. There will probably be even more by Christmas.
At the moment Leeds is really coming alive. It feels like the beginning of something special (and something new). I was talking to an act I know in Manchester and he mentioned how much the scene seems to be diminishing there. It doesn’t have to be that way if the performers start taking responsibility and putting things on. That’s how it got so good in the first place. That’s what is happening here.
I have to be honest though, it isn’t perfect, but I think that’s refreshing. We live in a world in which people now expect things to be perfect all of the time. I find this boring: nothing is as exciting as something that feels like it’s going to keep getting better and better, and that’s what all this feels like to me.
Tomorrow we’re presenting a great selection of comedians at HOWL #8. We have Michael Sterrett hosting, Myself, Si Finnigan, John Briscoe, Liam Pickford, Jacob Rawcliffe, and Callum Scott all performing in what is going to be a very refreshing night of comedy. I can’t say too much without giving certain things away, but what I can say is that it will be different, and very very funny. It would be a shame to miss it.
*I don’t count nights like House of Fun Comedy, Whatever it is Oceana does, and Highlight.
HOWL Alternative Comedy Night takes place on the first Thursday of each month, upstairs at Santiago Bar in Leeds.
Follow us on Twitter: @howlcomedygroup
By Michael Sterrett
I’m writing a new bit at the moment and I think it could be good. It’s potentially one of those big meaty bits that you pop into your set and it wraps around a bunch of tinier bits and makes the whole thing feel like a cohesive piece as opposed to a string of incoherent thoughts. But I don’t want to push it. It occurred to me whilst I was on a plane trying desperately to drown out the sound of a drunken eejit. I’ve got to let the idea sit in my subconscious for a bit longer before I tease it out and pummel it into submission with my comedy hammer. I’m fascinated by process; where comedians get their jokes, how they work them out and form them into delightful little truth bombs to make people laugh. I know quite a few comics who literally sit down with a pen and paper and write material, which I’m ambivalent about. On one hand I’m impressed and intimidated by the discipline and writerly approach but likewise I have a punk rock/uppity douchebag reaction because that’s not how I work at all. Not to dissect the butterfly but all my writing occurs in my head, the closest I get to physically writing my comedy down is in a little cheap notebook I have where you can see pages with lists of ideas. One page reads; Laser Eye Surgery, Daddy’s Love, Frigid, Barely Legal, Neck Tattoo, Batman, Enemy. Sort of like a band’s set list, just there to trigger the memory and get my ideas lined up and flowing.
In fact, the idea of having a perfectly scripted act sounds insanely boring to me, and to be honest when I see someone performing material that is rigidly scripted with no room for manoeuvre a bit of my brain shuts down. Don’t get me wrong, George Carlin’s material was delicately crafted and written to the letter but such was his way with words that to see him perform was to watch a master orator in his element as opposed to someone who has practiced a long winded anecdote in front of a mirror, complete with facial expressions and pauses for laughter. I think what I find so off putting about tightly scripted acts is that there is no real get out clause. I’ve watched comics bomb horribly for ten, fifteen minutes because they are simply too locked into their material to just get the fuck off stage. The audience are sat there with sad, blank expressions whilst the act is sweating and stuttering, and their eyes darting nervously about the room. It’s bloody awful, and as someone who has bombed A LOT I sympathise, but at some point the animal caught in the trap gnaws its own leg off and makes a quick exit – it’s best for all concerned.
So that begs the question, is there a happy medium between being a comic with beautifully written jokes and one who is a hilarious, shambling mess? Dave Attell springs to mind. There’s no doubt that he is very much a gag based comedian yet he manages to infuse a loose sense of freewheeling spontaneity into his act. He’s also one of the best comedians working today and a personal favourite of mine (I once bought a brown jacket purely because it looked like one I saw Attell wearing in a clip on Youtube). What sets him apart though is that despite the fact that he is delivering pretty straight forward jokes there is a nihilistic undercurrent that reveals a deeper truth about who he actually is. Recurring themes of sexual inadequacy, pornography, alcoholism and loneliness reveal the desperate sadness he clearly struggles with, elevating him above the ranks of mere gag-smith. As a fan of the more confessional side of stand-up comedy it was Attell’s Skanks for the Memories album that truly opened my eyes for the first time to material that wasn’t strictly autobiographical, but still kicked ass and connected with me on a visceral level.
So yeah, I think I’ve gotten away from my original point. Process. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently as the last gig I did was on a bill with a bunch of gag tellers. Good gag tellers but gag tellers none the less. Afterwards another comedian who had been watching told me that he overheard an audience member say something along the lines of “That guy didn’t even do any jokes”. This is completely accurate but indicative of a schism in approaches to comedy. I honestly don’t know if I could sit down and write jokes about 50 Shades of Grey, Wayne Rooney or the coalition government. All I know is that I have no passion about any of those topics and would consider it a waste of time to even bother thinking about them, let alone share my observations with an audience. My own life on the other hand is endlessly fascinating to me. The noxious combination of self-loathing and narcissism that makes me a comic fuels pretty much everything I talk about on stage. I give a shit about the fact that I went out with a girl with daddy issues who showed me a picture of her dead father holding a chimp because her damaged sexuality and downright insanity formed some basis for the way I think about women. This endless self-examination can make me feel vulnerable and I was actually warned by a friend who regularly attends a therapist that by using stand-up as a means of exorcising my personal problems I may in fact be exacerbating them, turning genuine issues into neat little stories that I can file away in my head and not properly address. To which I of course responded, “Fuck you, you’re not my real dad”. Oh Jesus…
Not to be pretentious, in fact fuck it I’m going be pretentious because I am pretentious, I see the disparity between these two approaches to comedy as the equivalent difference between say expressionist art and those nice calming pictures they sell in poster shops. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Jack Vettriano, plenty of people get immense pleasure from his paintings but give me Edvard Munch’s globs of bright red suicidal despair any day of the week because even if some of his work is far from perfect, I at least know there is an essential truth behind it, jumping out at me and forcing me to interact with his pain. I can’t hide behind nicely crafted one-liners, vajazzle jokes or, god forbid, a character act. I just wouldn’t see the point in doing that. As it stands my process is a long torturous excavation of my own personal failure, neuroses and insecurities. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mjsterrett