Laughter-House invites audience reviews
All of the comedians featured on our picture montage have been booked to perform here at Laughter-House. See who you recognise from TV appearances!
Please enjoy the audience reviews below, and feel free to send us your own.
Don't forget to check out our Facebook page where you'll have the regular chance to win complimentary tickets.
Since we started in 2007, comedians often say they love performing at Laughter-House, due to the intimate atmosphere and warmth of our Basingstoke audience.
We take pride in booking line-ups months in advance; all comedians are hand picked by Jan to ensure variety and 'balance' to a given night.
Most often, our headline and opening acts have regular TV and/or radio appearances on their CVs.
March 2015 review by Sue Barnes
I've been going to Laughter House for quite a while
now, but this time was different. This time I was going to write a review, and
I found myself with a changed approach right from the start. For instance, I
never sit at the front (who in their right mind does that at a gig, unless you
actively want to be the target of all the Emcee's jokes all night?). But this
time I needed light to make notes and also I wanted to see the audience's
reactions more clearly. So I went up closer and also sat on my own, which I
found made me concentrate more on what was going on.
I couldn't have chosen a better night to do it. A lineup of 3 great acts, Jan
doing her regular spot plus favourite Phil as MC made for a totally brilliant
evening. It was sold out and on top of that, Ali had installed a new speaker!
I could just leave it there, because that sums it up really, but as that
wouldn't really be classed as a review I guess I'd better pad it out a
First up, audience fave Phil "Chocks away" Dinsdale. I've rarely seen
anyone so relaxed and comfortable on stage, time after time, and yet also
clearly revelling in his role as warm up and link man. Yet as some of his
material is so inspired (for instance the closing piece about how to use the
'FAST' acronym for teens) I would actually love to see him do a full set some
time. He works best when he has great audience fodder to work off, including
the mystery inflatable woman, but take my advice - never ask him what a bush
tucker trial is.....
Next on was Christian Schulte-Loh, who we first saw last year and who Jan has
been trying to get back since, as he was such a hit. An amazingly tall,
amazingly clever and amazingly funny guy who can deliver his material in THREE
languages, all delivered at speed and with better grammar than most English
can. However he is still at a loss to understand why the Brits are so obsessed
with buying their houses, and recommends that we should adopt the German
approach of renting, just in case there is another war.... We also had the obligatory
football joke against England, although we are not the only nations that came
in for a kicking. The Scots, Finns, Serbians and Eastern Europeans generally
all got a mention. Imperial measurements and their sources - who knew??
Christian is self deprecating, charming, intelligent, devastatingly accurate
with his observations and does it all with a smile on his face. Brilliant.
After the break and another short stint from lovely Phil, we settled down to
enjoy lovely Jan Jack. She was fab as always, with the usual digs at men and
marriage, life in Basingstoke, how to go upmarket in Salisbury and advice on
when not to share a bath. Not to mention one of her short, sweet and hilarious
poems. Only Jan can make rudeness rhyme so well.
We then had the 'Middle act', traditionally the slot for relative newcomers.
And this was a surprise, as Jack Barry is still said to be learning his trade.
You wouldn't have known it, though, because his confiding approach, bringing
the audience into his slightly offbeat way of looking at the world, meant that
his stream of consciousness musings soon had everyone giggling helplessly. He
has a day job still, which he hates, but which is useful for material. In my
opinion he is definitely good enough to pack that in and go full time standup
(although he might miss the ready source of jokes). A really great LH debut.
Another booze/loo break and then onto the headliner Mitch Benn. What can I say
- the guy is a consummate performer, professional, polished, musically so
talented and puts a shed load of energy into a set that holds 100% of your
attention. This slot just sped by as Mitch delivered song after song
accompanied by an astonishing variety of musical styles on his guitar. The
opening song was reminiscent of Flanders and Swann, except was much more
Brabbins and Fyfe with its bawdy scatalogical references; his Song for Europe
roused a huge amount of guffaws from the unashamedly Brit audience; and after
some eerily accurate Star Wars impressions, Mitch concluded with his very own rock
opera. Touch of the Bill Bailey's, given his impressive adaptability to all
musical types, but the two can't really be compared ; where BB is whimsical,
Mitch is outspoken and opinionated. In a really really funny way. If you want
to hear more then tune into BBC Radio 4, where Mitch appears regularly in the
satirical programme The Now Show (and I suspect does not make such extensive
use of Anglo Saxon).
So, dear reader, if I may refer you to what I said at the beginning: a totally
brilliant evening. You can tell when you're leaving that it has been a good
night. Everyone's buzzing, talking, with that lovely warm feeling of shared
humour, people are queuing up to shake the hands of the acts, and
congratulating Jan on another wonderful Laughter House event. Which is exactly
what it was.
September 2013 review by John Shaw
Jan Jack began the new season at the Red Lion with another strong line-up. She has the knack of putting together quality performers whose different, individual voices make for a constantly engaging evening.
Of all the comperes who appear, Debra Jane Appleby stands out for me. Her own material is excellent – she even drew on quantum physics for some memorable moments. Her quick-witted interaction with the audience never flags.
Mark Maier has appeared before in Basingstoke. We were treated again to his hilarious account of attending a speed awareness course in Wolverhampton, where his ability to mimic accents heightens the humour. It was interesting to see how he handled a shared revelation from the audience about a testicular deficiency. As he drew his set to a close, he cleverly wove the heckle back into his prepared material. He could as easily have headlined the evening as opened it.
After the interval, Jan’s naughty double entendres were , as ever, warmly received.
She then introduced Tez Ilyas, whose confident, crafted delivery belied his relative inexperience. Throughout his set, he played on his Lancashire background. At the end, his ethnic background informed a brilliant punch-line to conclude a story which appeared to be going in a completely different direction.
Patrick Monahan’s humour relies largely on his warm relationship with the audience rather than prepared material. Charming,charismatic – it was easy to see how he has been so successful as a warm-up act. Even when he was dismissing the notion that Basingstoke has an ice-hockey team as some kind of audience set-up, he never lost that warm intimacy that he created.
Five very different voices, all very enjoyable.
May 2013 review by John Shaw
The more I attend Jan Jack’s Laughter House in the Red Lion,the more curious I become about the backgrounds of the people who choose to take to the stage as stand-up comics, especially those who turn to comedy having already established themselves in other, more mainstream professions.
Rhodri Rhys, who opened the evening, is a case in point.Smooth, confident, he is a relative newcomer to the stage. The programme notes hinted an unusual career path and noted he had been the subject of a number of programmes in Welsh, Czech and English. He revealed only that he had gone travelling at a time when his friends were building a future at home, had learned languages and returned to Britain where his friends helped him settle down by suggesting hobbies he might enjoy. His observations about running, golf and his account of rock-climbing in Snowdonia were hugely enjoyed by the audience. A little research after the gig revealed that he had in fact had a very successful career in property in Eastern Europe for a number of years.
Debra Jayne Appleby, the compere, is more forthcoming about her previous employment. She enjoys challenging the audience to accept that afat Northern bird could have come into comedy after twenty or so years in I.T.Despite struggling with a cold and a new, improved microphone, she was razor sharp, as always, in her interaction with the audience.
This sense of meeting real people reflecting on their own life experiences gave a substance to the evening which I particularly enjoyed. Bryan Lacey closed his set with an hilarious story involving noisy sex and a seagull,after Jan Jack had briefly reminded us about the odd behaviour of relatives,colleagues and her long-suffering partner.
Imran Yusuf oozes charm and energy. As a British Muslim who came to England after his family had been expelled from Uganda, he has a rich well to draw from as he explored the absurdities of national identity and cultural misunderstandings. But I most enjoyed the later part of his set in which he shared the pleasure and pain of finding and losing the love of his life.
No two evenings in a comedy club are ever the same. This evening was for me one of the most satisfying I have attended, because of the skill and humour and honesty of the performers.
April 2013 review by John Shaw
Jan Jack treated another sell-out audience at the Red Lion Hotel to a line up of comedians, any one of whom could have headlined the evening.
Rich Wilson was compere for the evening. We've seen him headline before, he brought the same laid-back, conversational approach to this role and this set the evening up perfectly. He was funny and he looked forward as much as the audience to the line-up he introduced.
Adam Crow's laid-back manner was more carefully considered, his material much more subtly textured. He affected, or genuinely shared, a dyspeptic view of relationships. If she's not so good, take her to a party and give her to a friend.
He viewed topics like obesity and gun laws through the same unflinching lens. His mastery of his material and of the audience was total.
After the interval, Jan Jack performed a short set which, as always, was warmly received. She then introduced Graham Whistler, a young man with a bright future Cerebal palsy may not seem the most promising source of humour, but Graham's experience of 'pity' sex' had the audience in stitches. Having a spasm during intercourse turned him, apparently, into a human vibrator. To his partner's dismay, he couldn't promise a repeat performance. His material was carefully crafted, the punch-lines tellingly delivered.
Mike Gunn closed the evening with another beautifully crafted set. He opened his set with a list of things that women like that men don't, which set up a whole range of observations which everyone enjoyed. He closed his set with a clever reprise of this list encouraged the audience to buy a recording of his material. A great end to a great evening.
Featured on BBC South Today TV news
Comic Relief - Stand Up If You Dare.
Filmed by a BBC camera crew at
Laughter-House Basingstoke, in conjunction with Mervyn Stutter
March 7 2013 review by John Shaw
The March gig was the right time for Jan Jack to announce a slight change to her booking policy for her already highly successful club.
Raising ticket prices from £12to £14 would enable her to attract even stronger opening acts so that the audience would enjoy two “headline” acts, at the beginning and end of the evening.
So we were treated to Steve Day as the opening act, setting the bar high for the rest of the evening. Deaf, with a small “d”, African wife, five children – as he said,a fully paid-up, right-on liberal with a well of personal experience to draw from. This he shared in a warm, engaging manner, so we were given a glimpse of the joys of subtitles, the nuances of sign language, the embarrassment of sharing a platform with Boris Johnson at the Paralympics as Our Leader attempted to count down from 10 as an athlete with cerebral palsy carried the torch for the last hundred metres, and cultural mis-communication. His degree in Philosophy allows him to confront modern paradoxes, such as why poor peoplehave most kitchen appliances in their front garden.
Jan is also ringing the changes on her choice of compere, but Phil Dinsdale is the most frequent visitor to occupy this spot. He’s skilled at keeping the energy levelhigh and has a fund of stand-up material of his own. Not that the energy dropped at any point.
Jan was as ever warmly received for her own set in the middle section and Paul James delivered material which kept the audience continually laughing. Nothing,however, had prepared us for what I found one of the most memorable acts to have been booked for Basingstoke.
I’m a bit reluctant to go into detail as I’m not sure whether he’d punch me in the face, metaphorically, for singing his praises. If you like your comedy thought-provoking, in your face, edgy,impassioned, Ian Cognito’s your man. For me, here was an authentic voice, not prepared to go gently into the night, with important things to say, very loudly. Someone so good he’ll never become a household name.
We needpeople like him, just as we need clubs like the Laughter House. At £14, it’s still a snip.
February 2013 review by John Shaw
There’s a car pulled over on the hard shoulder of the motorway. A tall, attractive lady is standing by the car. Crouched down, someone with long hair is changing the wheel. It’s cold and dark.
Meanwhile, another packed house at the Red Lion as another new compere kicks the evening off. Matt Price is over six feet, weighs more than twenty stone and comes from Cornwall. No-one is going to argue with him when he insists he’s ugly but he’s not getting the best of the banter with a lady in the front row.
Ava Vidal is so cold she’s struggling to text Jan Jack to tell her what has happened. It looks like she won’t make the gig, as as another act has agreed to transport her, it looks like he won’t make the gig either.
Jan swiftly despatches a Laughter-House helper, Ben, to go and be her white knight. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to find her, let along bring her to the gig.
Matt Richardson opens the show. A young comedian, his delivery is polished and confident. He and the audience are blissfully unaware that the remaining acts are not going to get to the gig in time.
Jan explains the situation to the audience. She’ll do a slightly longer set, Matt will be more stand-up than compere, and Dan, a local hairdresser who helps front-of house, will make his debut. And with any luck Ava will make it in time.
Everyone seems happy, even excited by the turn of events. And the longer interval means more time to eat and drink.
Ben valiantly manages to find Ava, frozen stiff on the side of the M25, 40 minutes away. She jumps into his car, leaving the other act to shiver and wait for the RAC.
Jan, as ever, is warmly received. No-one would have believed Dan was more of a stand-in than a stand-up, so smooth was his delivery. And Matt relished the extra time and space to perform his own stand-up material.
And yes, Ava Vidal made it, opening her set with an account of her evening so far. There was a freshness and spontaneity now as everyone shared in the experience of an extraordinary evening. It felt like a Laughter-House Unplugged and all the more enjoyable for that.
November 29th review by John Shaw
There was a great energy long before anyone took to the stage for the final Laughter House show before Xmas.
The headline act, Jonny Awsum, had gone down a storm on his last appearance, and a number of groups had clearly decided to celebrate the approaching holiday by flocking to the Red Lion Hotel knowing that the evening would end with a hilarious sing-song.
No-one suspected how much Peter would add to the entertainment – least of all, Peter.
Nor did I suspect that Debra Jane Appleby would turn out to be such a brilliant compere. She’s performed before, so I knew she would play the “fat, Northern bird” card to great comic effect.
What she brought to the role of compere was excellent interaction with the audience and a very quick wit in responding to the unexpected. And by the end of the evening she was rocking with the rest of the room to the closing number. It would be great to see her back as a compere next year.
(Note from Jan - John - Debra is coming back to compere in May!!)
Paul Kerensa opened the evening, in a witty, laid back manner. He is now heavily involved in writing and editing, but will probably be remembered by most people as that West Country man who doesn’t have a belly-button. It was a sight which almost sobered up one well-lubricated member of the audience.
Alexander Bennett is a young stand-up. His material was well-received, but his brilliant handling of the unfortunate member of the audience whose mobile phone went off during his set is what will stay in most people’s minds.
Jan Jack, as always, contributed a short but perfectly-formed set to complete the middle section.
Jonny Awsum’s set was almost, but not quite, identical to his last appearance in Basingstoke. Each song was received with great enthusiasm, in much the same way we like to listen again and again to our favourite pieces of music. And, of course, he simply exudes great charm. What was new was his final number, in which we all participated, and for which Peter was plucked from the audience to demonstrate hitherto unexpected mastery of the triangle.
Jan has established a club with a great vibe. What a pity there's a few weeks break now, but on 7 February Ava Vidal is headlining
I'll be there!
November 1 2012 review by John Shaw
Laughter House continues to pack punters, keen for a good night out, in to the Red Lion Hotel. Jan Jack had three unfamiliar names lined up for the November gig, but such is the reputation for quality comedy, built up over the last few years, that extra seating was being hurriedly put in place minutes before the compere, Phil Dinsdale, took to the stage.
The regular compere, Danny Dawes, has emigrated to Washington with his family.
Jan now intends to ring the changes for each show and Phil, who is well known to the Basingstoke audience, delivers well-prepared material rather than relying on improvising on the spot, which was Danny’s trademark approach. He engages warmly with his audience and kept the energy high throughout the evening.
Paul Ricketts opened the evening confidently and entertainingly. There were times during the set when lines hinted at more substantial material and his slapstick Leveson Inquiry, with members of the audience wearing wigs and running round the stage, dropped the level of his material for me. I was left with the feeling that Paul could have delivered more, although the general response was more positive than mine. Perhaps I shouldn’t have googled his name before the evening and brought high expectations. It just seemed rushed.
It is interesting, however, to learn of the background of the acts as many stand-ups have a lot of strings to their bow. Dave Keeling connected with the audience immediately, with a fast-paced and witty set and I could see how inspirational his work as a Stand Up Educationalist with disaffected pupils( and teachers), must be. He drew everyone in and included a hilarious extended riff about spiders. Actor, comedian, writer, educationalist, with an appropriate twitter name. Just google him.
Jamie Bowen has many strings to his bow as an entertainer and he brought the evening to a great close. As well as his physical and writing gifts, he is a very talented musician and treated us to a virtuoso finale with his ukulele. I can see him being as successful here as he has been in his native New Zealand.
Jan Jack had only a few minutes to remind us of her skill as a writer and performer. I don’t think we should underestimate her skill in continually coming up with great acts.
ForChristmas she’s bringing back Johnny Awsum. I can’t think of anyone better to bring good cheer to Basingstoke.That’s Thursday November 29. Doors open at 7.30. Best seats usually taken by 7.31.
September 2012 review by John Shaw
The Laughter House picked up after a summer break where it left off, with a cracking evening’s entertainment. Phil Dinsdale compered the evening impeccably, mixing his own material with enjoyable audience interaction. Jan Jack continues to deliver her winning formula, unearthing interesting newcomers and attracting outstanding headline acts.
Andre King was playing his penultimate gig before returning to his native New Zealand. He took us on a wickedly accurate tour of the British Isles, picking up on regional accents and characteristics. The only custom which mystified him was vejazzling, practised by the Orangina Tribe settled in Essex.
In the middle set, Jan Jack’s tour was of her previous employment and Tom Glover took us to the West Country, with a close look at Newquay. It is always interesting to watch Jan’s confident, carefully crafted performance alongside a newcomer learning the trade. Tom’s short contribution was well observed and received.
There was an audible sense of disappointment when Rudi Lickwood brought his set to a close; the audience clearly would have liked him to continue indefinitely! The well-spring of his humour seems to be to “keep it real” as he visits familiar and not so familiar areas of experience. The obvious targets are there; children, relationships, sex, racial stereotyping. Mixed in with this were sharp and insightful comments about Britain’s colonial past and the hypocrisy of attitudes towards last year’s rioters. All of this was delivered with enormous energy and good humour. Members of the audience were drawn in as his set developed to illustrate how painfully necessary “keeping it real” can be.
If this evening was anything to go by, followers of the Laughter House are in for a treat.
July 2012 Review by John Shaw
Jan Jack has created a very successful stand-up club over the past few years by bringing high quality performers and building a comedy-savvy audience.
The biggest audience of the year turned up for the July gig, to enjoy two familiar favourites and a brilliant headline act, new to Basingstoke.As usual, the evening was compered by Danny Dawes and, as usual, he very quickly unearthed interesting members of the audience.
When I first visited the club, I used to think this was set-up, but I’ve come to learn he actually does think this quickly on his feet, without any prepared material. On this occasion, a journalist and a Media Officer for the Hampshire Police provided the entertainment.
Rich Wilson opened the evening. He’s a naturally engaging, funny, likeable person, sharing his own experiences much , I imagine, as he does when he’s standing at a bar with his mates. Back in the “good old days”, he explained how we looked upon paedophiles and flashers differently. Undeterred by the presence of the law, he recounted what he could remember of attending Glastonbury and meeting up with someone who’d brought a green door with him for the Shakin’ Stevens’ set. Too old to club, too young to attend bingo, he left to loud applause, pausing only to tell us what he thought of foreplay.
The audience was treated to an extended set by Jan Jack. She has come a long way since the days of Nessie Flange, without losing the skill in including risqué material, often at the expense of her long-suffering husband. Her material is always carefully crafted and she clearly enjoyed the opportunity of being centre stage, as did her audience.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time Roger Monkhouse entertains a Basingstoke audience. Tall, bald, in a black teeshirt and shorts, he began by making fun of his own appearance and the venue in equal measure. Edinburgh, he assured us, would be shitting itself now that Basingstoke had an International Festival, featuring The Laughter House. He adopts the persona of a slightly dyspeptic middle-aged man with strong opinions about the young, the old, and the state of Britain. All of these are cleverly woven into interaction with the audience, so that his prepared material and the interaction seem seamless.
He embodied for me what makes live stand-up in a small venue uniquely entertaining; the sense of a shared experience created by performer and audience. The next season begins in September. With performers such as Rudi Lickwood and Imran Usaf already booked, there’s much to look forward to.
June 2012 review by John Shaw
There are some evenings at the Laughter House which resonate long after normal life is resumed. The June gig was one of these. Disparate sounds and images come crowding back: the voices of Michael McIntyre and Pingu; Victoria Wood in the body of Robin Cook with access to the wardrobe of a gay cowboy; Adam Bloom, half Jewish, embracing a member of the audience whose claim to be half-Catholic he disputed. And the Adams family. And Tim. And Andy, eventually.
The mood was set right at the beginning by the compere, Danny Dawes. Son of a Bishop, he could not have predicted how the evening would build to this climactic coming together of two great religions. His first task was to unearth the comedy material in the audience.
Joe Wilson opened the evening. Young, energetic and a very gifted impressionist, his vocal dexterity gave his set great energy. For one horrible moment Michael McIntyre was on stage, before we were whipped through a supermarket check-out, entertained by Pingu and serenaded. The audience was buzzing by the first interval.
Somehow Jan Jack, amid all her other commitments, had found time to prepare new material which was well received. She then gave way toJohn Pendal, a newcomer to Basingstoke. We have been fortunate to hear some very interesting , mature newcomers to stand-up. John’s set was perfectly pitched; his material, like his leather boots, was beautifully polished.
And so to Adam Bloom. Bobbing to and fro, with an almost manic intensity, he swept the audience along as he explored the absurdities of his life and ours. Travel with him, and you find yourself grappling with the big questions, about life and death and God and why men fantasise about having a threesome with identical twins.
It’s more an event in which everyone participates than a performance until, finally, half a Jew and half a Catholic embrace to acknowledge that there are some questions which not even Adam Bloom can answer.
I can’t think of anyone who could have ended the evening as he did, but such evenings owe everything to the chemistry of the four acts, the compere and a whole-hearted audience.
May 2012 review by John Shaw
Another cracking evening’s entertainment at Jan Jack’s Laughter-House. Familiar faces were as good, or better than expected and an unfamiliar face stole the show for me.
Russ Powell was a “newcomer” last year, when he performed a short, well-received set.
This time, he had been invited to open the evening. He has a comfortable, confident manner and enjoys drawing the audience into stories about his own life. His girl-friend featured more this time; while not all of us watch television in the same way they do, his account of meeting her parents struck a chord with many of the audience. It was impressive to see how much new material he had developed in a year and how at ease he was in what can be a challenging slot.
Jan Jack’s writing skills are always evident in her carefully crafted set.
Regulars and newcomers alike always respond warmly to a routine which invariably includes some of her verse.
She was followed on stage by Jonny Awsum
making his first appearance in Basingstoke.
A talented musician, he describes himself as a stand-up and host and has appeared in a wide variety of venues.
I certainly hope he makes his way back to Basingstoke soon. He could fill any slot on the bill. Whether he was encouraging the audience to sing along, or presenting hilarious parodies such as “Dinner Lady in Red”, interspersed with excellent stand-up material, he was brilliantly entertaining.
Simon Evans had also impressed last year as a headline act. We were treated again to his side-splitting riff on Wales and his account of life in Brighton.
New to me was the section dealing with his visit to theme parks. Americans, he assured us, have done for the word “Parks” what the Germans have done for the word”camps”. As before, it was polished, witty, urbane – a master-class in stand-up.
It was an exceptional evening and Phil Dinsdale was an exceptional compere.
As with the acts above above, a confident, easy manner conceals the clever crafting of the material. Not even a sneeze of Olympic proportions could distract him from setting up his closing joke about his mother
April 2012 review by John Shaw
A large crowd, milling round at least half an hour before the show began, was testimony to the continuing success of the Laughter House. This is one of the strings to Jan Jack’s bow, another being her bespoke Perfect Verse. So, while everyone is ordering food, drinks, or just chatting, congratulations to Jan on her Business Award, presented by Theo Paphitis.
Danny Dawes, the compere, was in a celebratory mood – no work the following day - as he kicked the evening off, but this mood changed when he discovered that the front row was occupied by hairdressers.
He prides himself on never preparing any material, but in the previous gig he had realised he doesn’t know any hairdresser jokes. Fortunately, sitting beside the hairdressers, were Scott and Nicole.
It’s easy to get laughs at the expense of members of the audience. It’s entirely different to engage sympathetically, and to draw the entire room into the developing narrative and still get laughs. Did Scott think he’d ever have his own business? He doubted it. Did Nicole think Scott was going to be her boyfriend? A deadpan Nicole doubted it, to the audible disappointment of the audience. It was a great, shared moment, though the compere laughingly observed that he seemed to be straying from comedy into counselling.
This was an ideal platform for Paul Redwood to open the show. He had a pleasant, affable manner. As for most parents, raising children provides a mass of material. One exchange that went down especially well was when his daughter offered/ threatened to never see her father again. When do children realise what thought flashes through parents’ minds at this point? After the interval, Jan’s short set included a trailer for Olympics for the Elderly, along with a few examples of her verse which were, as always, enthusiastically received.
At this point Jan is usually followed by a newcomer presenting a short set. James Alderson had a rattle bag of material which went down well. Getting into a bath to animal noises was clever and funny. He was certainly a good advert for the Banter Comedy Club in Havant, which he has just opened.
I had seen glimpses of Ava Vidal in “Mock the Week” and “Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow”. I was looking forward to seeing her perform an extended set, unconstrained by the format of these programmes. An interesting documentary on You Tube on how she had made her way into stand-up whetted my appetite further.
She took an unflinching look at racism and, more important, helped us walk around in her shoes as she recounted experiences in England and on tour in America, Australia and Europe. This was all delivered in a relaxed, conversational tone which drew the audience in ever closer to her. Having established her PC credentials, she was then able to cash some of her credit in as she delivered a lengthy, non PC riff about her daughter. There were some beautifully crafted “asides” which made it clear she was well aware of her own shortcomings as a mother. Here was an entertaining comedian with important truths to share. The time passed much too quickly.
I think she is the first female comedian to be asked to headline at the Laughter House. Would I rather have been at the O2 watching a McIntyre stadium show? Doubt it.
March 2012 review by John Shaw
Having missed the February show, and in need of a lift after an extended stay in hospital. I was looking forward to resuming my monthly fix in Jan Jack’s Laughter- House.
I know why I’m a regular; part of the pleasure is that every show is different and unpredictable, even when the names on the line-up are familiar. And I always leave feeling much better, even when I felt fine to begin with.
I can’t think of two pick-me-ups more different than Edward Aczel
and Gary Delaney. The former subverts every expectation you might have of a stand-up; his delivery is flat, his material appears unpromising, his manner is clumsy and he rarely makes eye-contact. For much of the set, he’s reading from notes, when not glancing at his watch to reassure us he won’t be boring us for much longer. And he’s funny. This is the second time I’ve seen him live – I use the term “live” loosely- and I’m fascinated by how it works.
, on the other hand, is smart, slick and delivers brilliant one-liners. As his headline set developed, I became increasingly desperate trying to remember the funniest jokes, as he seemed to get funnier by the minute. In his case, I wondered how he remembered such a wealth of material. It seemed so effortless, so random, yet it clearly isn’t. What I found especially engaging was that he so much enjoyed what he was doing, laughing himself at what worked best. A wonderful headline set; rapturously received.
Perhaps Laughter-House should be renamed Laughter-Home. Jan Jack
has created a club with a warm, family feel to it. She is always well received when she presents a short set and introduces a relative newcomer in the middle part of the evening. On this occasion, Richard Gadd sustained the high level of performance. His material was carefully crafted and presented confidently.
Danny Dawes, as compere, holds the evening together brilliantly. He energises the audience and pulls together all that is happening. With his approach, you have a sense of the evening continually gathering momentum, with audience and performers thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. Don’t get too hung up on exercise and healthy eating. A night out at this club is the best value medicine in Basingstoke
I hate Basingstoke with a passion that I normally reserve for people who talk at the cinema, but on one Thursday evening a month there is a very good reason to go there. Surely there can’t be a reason in the world strong enough to go to Basingrade you say? Well yep, there is, and I urge you to go one month to Jan Jack's Laughter House at the Red Lion Hotel.
The line up were 3 comedians I’d never heard of, Windsor, Chris Norton Walker (who whispered in my ear “do you know any good jokes” seconds before going on stage!), with the headline act Dave Fulton. Dave was in the headlines himself after saying the word “wanker” on BBC Breakfast the day before while sitting on the sofa with uptight hosts Bill Turnbull & Sian Williams. I’ve seen the clip on Youtube and all I can say is “urgh really?” Tis but a very sad world we live in if we find a simple little word like that so mortally offensive.
Add in a little bit of Jan Jack, and a compere, Phil Dinsdale, who I remember taking the piss out of me and my beard as part of his act at a previous Laughter House and we had our evenings entertainment… the git!
Oh, and yes before anyone asks, I did get lost trying to find my way out of Boringstoke.
In December we were privileged to have 2 reviews written for us.
The host, Jan Jack, welcomes pretty much everyone as they arrive, and says goodbye as they leave. You feel as if it’s a special gathering of friends, rather than a comedy gig!Having been to one of the Laughter House nights before, this was only my second outing to this gig. So I knew roughly what to expect.
There’s usually 3 comedians plus a compere, and Jan usually does a short set herself. Unusually, we had an extra act that night, due to a slightly enthusiastic booking on Jan’s part… so we had a total of 6 comedians!
Danny Dawes is the regular compere. As usual, he was on top form. However, having been away for 2 months (whilst on holiday), he was keen to get his foot in the door again. Danny was a little upset that Phil Dinsdale (the compare for the previous 2 months) had been so popular, so Danny was slipping in several jabs at Phil during his warmup.
Danny quickly identified the comedy magic in the front row, featuring Ian, a retail manager for the Basingstoke branch of Toys’r'us. During the summer riots, Toys’r'us was the only target of any trouble in Basingstoke, featuring a few youths who quickly dispersed following a brief chat. This linked in perfectly with the September show, where the riots were a large part of Danny’s act.The front row provided Danny with lots of material, but one member in particular provided the most material for what became a running theme throughout the night. Damien (a friend of Ian’s) was the subject of many jokes due to his girlfriend ‘not turning up’ to the gig. Since Damien works in IT, Danny made the strong suggestion that his partner didn’t exist at all.
Logan Murray, doing a character called Ronnie Rigsby, completely missed the audience. Logan was doing lots of shouting, and had a strange popup book as a prop. I found his set to be very painful to watch, as did many of the audience. I got impression that Logan is generally a good comedian, but he was trying something new that just didn’t work.Logan worked hard to regain the audience having lost them immediately, but never got them back. He faced lots of heckling, but his replies weren’t witty enough to win affection. The audience just didn’t appreciate him or his act… demonstrated by some pretty weird heckles such as ‘am I hallucinating?’. There was a polite applause of relief when he left the stage.
The audience was clearly keen for anyone vaguely funny, as Logan had left the audience feeling awkward and cold. Sunna told some very novel jokes crossing a few lines, not least one about using Durex’s Sensations lubes as a topping for Children’s ice creams.
Jan Jack usually does a set herself at her gigs. Given her performance in September which lacked a degree of fluidity, I thought Jan was on top form for the December show. Jan had some jokes based on the local area that still worked great even for those of us who’d never heard the areas she talked about. Her impression of her posh neighbour was hysterical, as Jan sounded just like Queen Lizzy II! As usual, Jan was very witty and dirty, and a couple of jokes made me cringe, especially with my Mum sat next to me!
Alex opened up with some really bad dwarf jokes that actually warmed the audience to him very quickly. Alex did rely on working some golf-based jokes early in the routine. However, since pretty much nobody was interested in golf, Alex seemed to lose his flow for a few seconds. A risky strategy to play, as there’s not likely to be many golf players in a live comedy audience anyway (maybe at a golf club?!?). That said, Alex recovered quickly and worked hard to build up to leave the crowd on a high note.
Marlon is a real breath of fresh air. This chap has real talent, and his act frequently returned to his self-deprecating description of his ’round face’. Interestingly, Marlon’s act was very light on swearing, and he had a very conversational style that just left you feeling like he was one of your best mates.His jokes were pitched perfectly, covering the ‘credit crunchie’ (yeah, as in like the choccy bar!) and the joys of living with his parents. Marlon was particularly funny when talking about being a parent with a 3 year old boy who wants to be a princess and plays with dolls. This chap had me in stitches from start to finish, and was a true pleasure to watch.
The venue was very keen to have heating on, despite there was enough sexual tension between Danny and Damien to heat up the Albert hall. However, the really warm room was a touch on the uncomfortable side -- possibly due to having 105 audience members!
Laughter House nights are high quality evenings, very reasonable ticket prices, a fantastic host, and just knowing you’re always going to have an outstanding headliner is a great reason to go.Thanks Jan, see you in February!
December 2011 review by John Shaw
December’s Laughter House gig was packed full of the ingredients which go to make up a cracking evening’s entertainment.
Three stand-ups had been announced; four turned up; five performed. And in the front four seats were a battle-scarred veteran of the riots, from ToysR Us, his partner, an empty space and a punter whose partner had not turned up. Comedy Gold for a compere like Danny Dawes.
If stand-up is like walking a tightrope, Danny Dawes never performs with a safety-net. He relies on unearthing interesting members of the audience and using his quick wit to develop material. On his last appearance, several months previously, he had joked about “rioters” in Basingstoke targeting the toyshop. And there, in front of him, was the man who’d lived through that hell.
The room was crackling with laughter and energy as the compere eventually introduced the first act. The opening slot is usually occupied by an experienced performer. In the past we’ve enjoyed acts such as Rich Wilson and Nathan Caton, who have also headlined. We have also had Andi Osho, who has subsequently enjoyed a meteoric career.
What I haven’t seen is a character comedian taking on this challenging spot. Logan Murray numbers Andi Osho among those who have taken part in his highly regarded comedy courses. He will know better than anyone why his alter ego, Ronnie Rigsby , retired, bad-tempered children’ s entertainer, failed to engage with the audience. If the audience doesn’t buy into the character, that tightrope walk must be very uncomfortable. For many in the audience, it was an edgy and at times uncomfortable experience.
Next on to this supercharged stage came Sunna Jarman. Within a few minutes, she’d modulated the intensity and set everyone at ease. With a background in modelling and acting, she had all the skills and presence to draw everyone in. Risque material seems especially funny when it comes from such a refined lady. She is someone I would certainly like to see back in Basingstoke.
Jan Jack and Alex Cissold Jones presented enjoyable short sets after the interval while Danny Dawes continued to mine the goldfield at the front of the audience .The mood was high when Marlon Davis came on as the headline act.
He was hugely entertaining, as he introduced us to friends and family members. His step-dad remains etched in my memory. As the set built, he took us into those thoughts and feelings we normally suppress or have learned to control. “Observational” can be used to describe a wide spectrum of material. His set was built on observing what we know to be true, about ourselves and those around us.
Looking back over headline acts that have impressed, I can think of a number who would brighten up twelve days at Christmas. Marlon Davis is one of those, along with acts such as Bob Mills, Brendan Dempsey, Adam Bloom, Simon Brodkin a.k.a Lee Nelson, Steve Jameson a.k.a. Sol Bernstein, Chris McCausland, Milton Jones, Quincy, Mark Maier, Simon Evans and Jim Tavare.
All male, unfortunately. So how about some female headliners in 2012?
November 2011 review by John Shaw
There can’t be many comedy clubs where the audience is starting to fill up the seats three quarters of an hour before the show opens, but that was the case for The Laughter House this month.
Was it the excellence of the hospitality offered by the Red Lion, or the prospect of a mouth-watering line-up? Neither disappointed.
Had it been a competition based on speed of delivery, the opening act was a clear winner, followed by the soldier, the compere and then Jan Jack herself.
The headline act, despite his age, finished strongly to an enormous cheer. Adam Ethan Crow opened with a smooth, polished set, jokes tumbling over each other. Much of his material was quite dark, but the audience had little time to be offended. Even when the lights went out in the middle of an extended passage about religion, he was unfazed. His observations on the anti-obesity movement went down especially well.
Jan Jack delivered a short set. She paces her delivery to allow her material to work to full effect; the pauses not only give her time to engage with the audience; they give the audience time to appreciate the skill that has gone into the crafting of her lines.
Martin Semple, serving soldier and comedian, cranked the speed up again with exuberant retelling of stories of his experiences serving in the Household Cavalry and in Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see how this confident and engaging young man develops.
Phil Dinsdale, as compere, has a warm genial, manner. He’s as much at ease drawing on his fund of stories about his family as in working the audience. It would be very interesting to see him performing his own set. He had kept the evening moving sweetly along when the time came to introduce an unforgettable senior citizen.
Sol Bernstein, 82 year old Jewish stand-up, is a character developed by Steve Jameson. His is a beautifully realised performance. Moving from wisecracks to bawdy humour, he brings the audience with him on his outrageous journey. He’s 82, so he can say what he wants about sex, religion and politics. And he does. As his act progresses, he is building an extraordinary rapport with the audience. Has he said something to affront you? Nothing that a slight dollop of schmalz followed by an even more risqué remark won’t put right. Time flies in his company because he exploits the full range of comic effects and he’s utterly believable. And very, very funny.
October 2011 review by John Shaw
I don’t know if putting together a great line-up is an art or a science or just good luck. The October acts were all from the North, and a significant number had a background in I.T. I don’t know whether this is of any significance, but together they provided one of the most enjoyable evenings that Jan Jack has put on in the Laughter-House since it opened.
The compere unearthed a long- forgotten George Formby lyric; the opening act was one of the best I’ve seen in the Laughter-House; the youngest performer was confident and accomplished; and the evening closed with an outstanding headline set.
Debra-Jane Appleby comes originally from a village near Keighley, about which she had little good to say. She engaged immediately with the audience, performing in a relaxed, conversational style and interacting with the audience to establish a feeling that was to set the tone for the rest of the evening. As she moved towards the end of her set, she painted a memorable picture of a fat Northern woman mugging youngsters.
The middle set usually consists of a “new” voice with a short contribution from Jan. This time Jan took time to entertain the audience for longer, with a wider range of material. Adam Tempest was the new voice - at ease both with his material and the audience. Standing 6’3”, he too had a story of mugging, as victim rather than perpetrator.
Chris McCausland included only one quote on his poster for the Edinburgh Festival. “A must see”. Which explains his own attitude to his blindness and sums up my opinion of his set.
“I’m not going to talk about my blindness. It’s boring and I wouldn’t know if you had all walked out”.
We were then treated to a beautifully crafted set by a storyteller with a love of language. He often began with a simple idea which he then developed, but I shall remember him best for his hilarious analysis of the minefield that is communication between men and women. Sharp, witty imaginative and truthful – quite a winning combination.
We have Phil Dinsdale to thank for his performance of George Formby’s song about anal bleaching. I thought I knew all his material.
Two thoughts have been running around in my head since the show. What kind of people go into stand-up comedy, and does IT attract funny people or make people funny.
September 2011 review by John Shaw
Laughter-House evenings can be memorable for a variety of reasons; one stand-out comic, perhaps, or a line-up which consistently entertains for the whole evening. This gig highlighted how unpredictable an evening of stand-up can be and how dependent it is on the chemistry between audience and performers. The success of this gig reflected how successful Jan Jack has been over the past few years in building a warm and supportive atmosphere in which both performers and audience thrive.
Danny Daweswas remarking on the scale of rioting in Basingstoke
– 4 kids hanging round ToysRUs – when he spotted a young newcomer sitting in the front row.
Al turned out to be an investigator, in the security business, which cast a different light on the theme of rioting, but the compere had to move on to introducing Michael Legge, the opening act.
His set consisted largely of what is known in the business apparently as “titting around” with the audience. First he identified Tom, a middle-aged member of the audience who had resisted his demands that everyone should whoop before he “began”. He then turned his attention to Al, whom he characterised as too posh to be considered as one of us. His full frontal approach was not to everyone’s taste, but throughout it all Al remained his charming self, unruffled by anything hurled at him. I could see Michael Legge working successfully as a compere, or perhaps in partnership with another stand-up, but in the end I felt more than a little short-changed. Banter can be amusing, in moderation, and is best when it’s two-way.
The gentler style of the two locals, Jan Jack and Matthew Bayliss, was much appreciated in the second part of the show.
Jan continues to develop her own material and is very sensitive to the mood of the audience. Matthew immediately earned the respect of the audience by revealing himself to be a single father of six.
Looking for a partner on the internet, he has found www.hoitytoityhottytotty.com especially useful. Al was encouraged to contribute something of his own experience in this area.
Mark Maier’s headlining set was a masterclass of wit, subtlety and craft. His gift in adopting pitch perfect accents and voices added enormously to the humour of his stories, as in his account of having to attend a speed awareness course in Wolverhampton.. When the audience was invited to contribute their own experiences, Al described his experience of a speed limit sign being changed when he was abroad on holiday, to everyone’s amusement.
The next gig is in October. Who knows who the star of the evening will be?
July 2011 Review by John Shaw
Stories told by a good storyteller will live on in the memory long after the event. Jan Jack had lined up three such talents for her July show: Phil Dinsdale, as compere, celebrated his grandfather; Nathan Caton, a Basingstoke favourite, brought his fearsome Grandmother to life ; and Nick Page, convicted, but yet to be imprisoned – he lives in hope - took us on an hilarious tour through the highways and byways of the British Legal system.
Phil has a laid-back style, as one would expect from a former member of the Village People. If you’re into tattooing, his left arm is a work of art. He was clearly delighted to welcome Nathan Caton on to stage to open the evening, knowing how successfully he had headlined a previous Laughter House gig.
Nathan can bring people and situations memorably to life. Confronted by a group of young people, he characterised their “bad-boy” swagger as the Chlamydia walk, “I burn, I itch, move aside”. Attending a birthday party for his younger brother, he took part in a cussing game with a nine year old girl. He won, just, and we felt like we were there, with him, in this struggle to bring off a win. And we were there, in school, as his Grandmother confronted the teacher about the insistence on making her lactose intolerant grandson drink milk. As his set moved towards a climax, he shared his dilemma as a lover invited him to lick cream off her naked body. Life can be shit sometimes.
Jan Jack performed a couple of her poems and then brought Paul Savage on stage. His set included material based on predictive text, on rhetorical questions and on inappropriate karaoke songs in particular contexts. As ideas, they had potential, but with time I am sure he will deliver his material with more confidence and more light and shade.
Interestingly, Nick Page also delivered some of his material at speed, but it heightened the humour and the material had been beautifully crafted.
Having been found guilty of illegally obtaining £24800, the sentence of 200 hours community service seemed like a Best Buy, especially as the time was largely spent lighting bonfires, every young man’s dream. Complicated negotiations followed about how much he should pay back. He got it down to £1000 or a week in jail, which costs £9000. He offered to pay the £1000, if they could go half on the money he had saved by not going to prison. The offer was refused, but he now came under pressure from friends and colleagues to get the prison sentence they had all expected. At this point in time, he is considering attending an open prison, for a day or two, but the nine hole golf course is not all it’s cracked up to be.
What some people will do to get brilliant material for a stand-up spot. For once, the most interesting person in the room wasn’t in the audience, but was on stage.
June 2011 review by John Shaw
There’s something especially enjoyable about attending the Laughter House when you’ve no prior knowledge of any of the acts lined up. That was the case for me this month. You can rely on Jan Jack’s judgement, Danny Dawes’ skill as compere, and the good humour and generosity of the Basingstoke audience to ensure a great night out. There’s sure to be someone with a story to tell. Like the one person in the room who had the good – or bad – luck to get tickets for the Olympics.
Having identified the “lucky” punter, Danny Dawes kicked the evening off by inciting everyone else in the room to vent their jealousy. The mood altered slightly when we found out that he had two tickets for Boxing and hadn’t decided who to go with.
It was into this excitable atmosphere that TonyCowards made his entrance.
He had a self-deprecating stance which set off the one-liners and puns that peppered his set. He established a warm, congenial mood, the perfect context for advice on how to avoid becoming HGV positive and the usefulness of keeping a logbook if you suffered from IBS.
Jan Jack played a longer set than usual, widening her material beyond her inimitable insights into Sex in the Stoke. She then made way for Russ Powell, who, according to the programme notes, has only been gigging for a year.
He introduced himself by pointing out his resemblance to a Japanese lesbian and/or James Corden. It’s remarkable how images can stay with you. I’ve seen James Corden several times on television lately and it’s so easy to imagine him in a kimono. Russ also handled a potentially irritating member of the audience with skill, drawing our attention to how uncannily like Fabio Capello this person looked. Will stand-up comedy prise this young man away from the world of IT?
George Egg was a surprise and a delight. When he began his set, I was immediately reminded of Tommy Cooper.
But George Egg is much more than a vaudeville act. I especially enjoy comedians who draw you into participating in the making of the joke. This of course what lies behind his visual and sound gags. And at the end of his set, having explained how greyhounds can be helped to leave the traps quickly by the application of mustard to a sensitive area, he just needed to mention his child’s sports day for us to make the joke for ourselves.
May 2011 review by John Shaw
With Rich Wilson and Brendan Dempsey, both Basingstoke favourites, scheduled to appear in the line-up, the May Laughter House promised an exceptional evening. They did not disappoint, nor did the Basingstoke audience who contribute so much to the success of the club.
The regular compere, Danny Dawes, was replaced by
He has a quieter, more gentle approach, but was no less successful in reaching out to engage the audience. Two lads from Belfast were an easy target, but a sealant gun designer aroused his curiosity when he explained how they were used to build bridges. The audience then led him, mystified, into the world of Hobby Craft.
Rich Wilson’s style is as much confessional as observational. He led us into his world as a 39 year old male. It seems age and gender are both problematic. He asked us to compare how women and men behave in groups. Women apparently look after each other, whereas males will humiliate each other at the slightest opportunity. At 39, he can no longer wear fashionable clothes or like fashionable music without looking stupid. And come to think of it, even as a young man, he remembered looking stupid as every car he ever sat in chewed up his music and he had to rewind the cassette with a pencil. He’s funny and a lovely bloke.
Jan Jack slipped onto stage for a quickie, asking the audience whether they wanted to hear a poem about sheep or a poem about willies. She performed both, to loud applause and made way for a comic new to Basingstoke, BenVan Der Velde. This is a spot where young comedians have the chance to hone their skills. Although he did not always seem at ease with his material, his energy and spontaneity carried him through.
Brendan Dempsey must be one of the best headline acts currently performing. He opened with a few references to Bin Laden’s death and Berlusconi’s difficulties, though he did acknowledge that he wouldn’t mind taking up Berlusconi’s gig if it came free. At the heart of his set are beautifully crafted riffs on a range of subjects such as chickens, Children in Need and accidents. Affecting a misanthropic stance, he drew gales of laughter as he railed against the chicken welfare lobby, complained about supporting children in need for years while they never seemed to grow up and told of his frustration about being delayed in a traffic when no-one had been properly injured in the accident ahead. He owned the stage and owned the audience.
Roll on June. I don’t know any of the acts and I have no idea who will be in the audience. I just know it will be great craic
April 2011 review by John Shaw
Another packed house once again enjoyed a great night’s entertainment at Jan Jack’s Laughter House. The April line-up brought together acts which had not appeared in Basingstoke before; this heightened the anticipation and made the success of the evening even more satisfying. It ended with the unusual sight of Danny Dawes, never lost for a word, speechless... almost.
Jez O’Donnell opened , effortlessly and expertly drawing the audience in. He was equally at ease whether delivering prepared material or improvising with responses from the audience, transporting us on a lurching journey down a train, one hand full of liquid soap, or improvising with the audience on the vegetarian notion of not eating anything with a face –Jammy Dodgers (his idea) or Cadbury’s Chocolate Animals (from the audience) It was a performance which established a perfect platform for the acts which followed. Jan Jack always contributes a short set,
managing to satisfy the regulars who enjoy her racy accounts of her private life as well as broadening her range of material.
She then gave way to twenty-three year old Olawale Gbaja-Biamila.
Ola happens to have Nigerian parents but, in contrast to the set Andi Osho delivered last year, he makes little reference to his ethnic heritage. Instead, this LSE graduate plays, for example, on how American women fall for his educated English accent. Quoting from the St James version of the Bible goes down especially well, as does using impressive sounding but meaningless phrases such as “gregariously hilarious”. This is a smart, distinctively individual voice.
Markus Birdman closed the evening with an enthusiastically received set.
He has come to stand-up comedy via teaching, writing song lyrics, and performance poetry. He began by translating what teachers really mean when they write reports or talk to parents. He also made it clear that, in his book, swearing was both big and clever. He played the audience perfectly, as he challenged conventional takes on topics as diverse as religion and High School Musical.
The Laughter House has a very warm, supportive atmosphere. There’s great interaction and Danny Dawes contributes to that as compere. But even he was speechless when he discovered not one, but two, Twitter Ladies in the audience. One from Doncaster and one from Stockport.
Whatever it must have cost them to attend, they had good value for their money.
February 2011 review by John Shaw
It was no surprise that Jan Jack’s Laughter House should begin its 2011 season with its biggest audience since it opened a few years ago. Jan has a winning formula: a variety of voices, often drawn from the busy London circuit; a growing reputation among headline acts that Basingstoke is a great place to perform, and a following that has grown through word of mouth so that Thursday’s audience included a number of people who’d travelled a considerable distance to join the regulars.
Phil Dinsdale compered the evening. Unlike regular compere Danny Dawes, he has more tattoos, he’s from north of Watford, his mother has a moustache and he has gained a 1,2 in Microphone Studies. Like Danny Dawes, he built an instant rapport with the audience, especially with the lady who was just about to emigrate down under.
Down under actually turned out to be a recurrent area of interest all evening.
Ashley Frieze exuding good cheer, plugged his guitar in and immediately endeared himself to the audience by singing about how he was crap at sex, not least because of his ample proportions. He has a great voice, brilliant breath control( a skill he finds is much appreciated when he is not playing the guitar)) and a mastery of musical idiom which he uses to deliver his comedy. “Songs have to mean something” set up hilarious versions of “That’s Amore”. It will be difficult ever to listen to Coldplay again as he demonstrated how to appear to sound intelligent and deep and sensitive and sincere and meaningful and tuneful and melodious and lyrical if you just use a few notes and hold on and on and on and on and on and on to them for ridiculously lengthy periods of time. He closed his set with the heartfelt plea, set to a deceptively simple, catchy melody, that we avoid anal sex. Note to his agent: don’t take a gig at Guilfest this year. James Blunt is headlining.
Jan Jack opened with a lengthy poem about her muff. I’m of an age at which most of this goes right over my head, but I did notice a lot of ladies, of all ages, helpless with laughter. Her brief set included one of her most successful stories, about multi-level selling. It’s on this website. Have a listen to hear how to craft a joke.
My understanding of teenagers is drawn largely from surreptitiously watching “Skins” and “In Betweeners”. Matt Richardson doesn’t fit the dysfunctional stereotype. He has a confident stage presence and you can immediately see how he has picked up his comedy awards. Most of his material is drawn from observations about friends and family. Clearly a young man to watch as he develops his own voice. Simon Evan’s voice, patrician yet engaging, is unmistakeable. I had never seen him live but knew his work from Radio Four and had seen his contribution to the Michael McIntyre Roadshow, when I was channel-hopping in a desperate attempt to avoid Michael McIntyre. He opened with a “There was an Englishman, a Welshman and a Pakistani” line and then went on to subvert the audience’s expectations. Yes, there were hilarious confusions about Whales and Wales, but he used it to establish his “educated” persona, even when explaining that people don’t actually behave in this way but they do in jokes.. His observations were funny and his delight in story-telling. shone through whether he was making asides or delivering a carefully crafted set-piece. Glass of wine in hand, pausing and smiling as set our imaginations alight.
Casual sex? Excellent idea. Much better than wearing formal dress. As he mused about the citizens of Brighton, he paused to advise us not to wear those trainers with wheels if we were hoping to engage in some activity down under. I hope his children survive his plans for their upbringing.
I’m not sure how long it will be before the bubble of stadium and theatre stand-up will burst. For me, its roots lie in the kind of shared intimate experience on offer in clubs such as Basingstoke’s Laughter House. Just don’t tell too many people.
December 2010 review by John Shaw
Public advice had been to travel only if the journey was absolutely essential. Why face freezing temperatures and ungritted roads? For a comedy fix at Jan Jack’s Laughter House in the Red Lion Hotel, that’s why.
Basingstoke regulars have learned over time that she will invariably put together a top line-up, often drawn from the London circuit. For me, three stand-ups, with distinct voices, offer variety and entertainment far superior to the “big name playing in a big hall” on offer elsewhere. And the fact that I had not seen any of the published acts added to my anticipation of another cracking night . If they were willing to brave the elements to perform, the least I could do was to be there.
Marc Blake, who teaches and writes comedy, is clearly a clever wordsmith He developed his character, Helmut Schiller,
some years ago. German phrases are woven into his delivery , a device which didn’t work for me, but his quickfire style was warmly received.
The next visitor was Tony Tinman, who drew the audience in to share his dislikes and frustrations on topics as diverse as cosmetic surgery and sex games. He had followed on from Jan Jack, Basingstoke’s resident expert on one of those topics.
By now, all thoughts of the weather had disappeared and the warmth that characterises the feeling between audience and performers was well established. It was while preparing to introduce the headline act that Danny Dawes discovered that in the audience was the local couple who had travelled up to Scotland to marry in a lighthouse. Here’s hoping they turn up to the next gig; there’s so much comedy potential there for the compere to exploit. But the roads were freezing up and it was time to move on.
Of all the acts, the headline act, Andrew Bird, seemed most at ease in his own skin, especially when revisiting his schooldays and remembering the trauma of having a teacher who always talked of himself in the third person. Then on to his days working in a pub, where the landlord’s dog continually tried to hump the customers. And a kind of climax, as he recreated that terrible moment when he wanted to sneeze, but couldn’t, during intercourse.
This was a great end to 2010. It seems a shame to have to wait until February for the next fix.
November 2010 review by John Shaw
So the headline act pulled out with days to go? Jan Jack is not the kind of lady to take such disappointment lying down. She persuaded Quincy to take his place as the headline act at her Laughter House, and the full house enjoyed yet another brilliant night’s entertainment at the Red Lion.
So popular has this club become that regulars are filling many of the seats. Danny Dawes, the regular compere, has the knack of identifying interesting newcomers. He kicked off this time by unearthing a firm with local offices. None of its employees knew what it did and were all, strangely, called Nikki. All we learned was that it was located globally.
Mark Lucero entered the comedy circuit in his 40’s, inspired by a comic he had watched in Las Vegas. In a relaxed, engaging manner, he built up a picture of a househusband in his 50’s, enjoying coffee mornings with his mates, learning to cope with the pleasures and pains of growing old. Shopping in organic stores, losing his reading glasses , washing the au pair’s underwear – growing old is not easy.
Jan Jack delivered one of her poems and made way for Tatiana Ostrokova,
a Russian stand up, performed by Jo Selby. Jo is a relative newcomer and on the basis of her set in Basingstoke has a big career ahead of her. Dressed in dark clothes, carrying an unfashionable handbag, she played the stereotype brilliantly. Types of humour were categorised and presented – from establishing rapport, humour with an educational purpose, observational humour, shorter form jokes. Apparently a product of the State Academy for Comedy, she held the audience with her movement, gestures and expressions – for me, the most impressive new talent I have seen. I had hoped to speak to her after her set, but she was, sadly, collected by a large black car with darkened windows as soon as she left the stage.
Quincy brought the evening to a hilarious close. Quite simply, he’s the kind of company you’d want to keep. Larger than life, with an irresistible energy and good humour, his observations brought shrieks of recognition from the audience. His riff on how the mannerisms of a partner you’ve been with a long time – she’s breathing and you’re thinking I hate the way you breathe – came swelling up on Saturday night as I watched Matt sing “the first time ever I saw your face” in X factor. Quincy’s the man to tell you how it’s going to be after some time, whether you’re a parent or a partner.
July 2010 Review by John Shaw
The timing of the World Cup meant English regulars were deprived of comedy in June; a capacity crowd turned up in high spirits at the Red Lion in July for what turned out to be a championship performance. This time the big names lived up to their reputations, seemingly unaffected by having played a large number of gigs in a very busy season. And a local player caught the eye as well.
Dave Thompson earned notoriety when he was sacked as Tinky-Winky because the BBC considered his interpretation to be “unacceptable” He would probably prefer to be known for his writing and performing associations with Ben Elton and Harry Hill.
Perhaps we should not have been surprised by the sharp, relaxed and confident way he led us from observations about Brighton, through one-liners that still resurface weeks after the show to an absurd and hilarious climax. in spandex. Somewhere along the way I remember seeing stained underpants and him breast-feeding a baby.
How I wish I was young enough to have seen his Tinky-Winky.
As well as organising the Laughter Club, Jan Jack has been developing her own stand-up performance.
This time she delivered an extended set, full of new material. She builds from her local knowledge and draws on experiences such as being an Ann Summers rep. But she’s widened the range of her humour. She’s come a long way since the days of Nessie Flange and now commands the stage in her own right.
By now everyone present knew they’d had the good fortune to turn up for a memorable night’s entertainment.
Danny Dawes can always be relied on crank up the mood; tonight, anxious to get on to the headline act, he kept his banter to a minimum, and arranged for the most promising members of the audience to turn up for the next gig.
Jim Tavare is probably the best-known comedian to appear in the Laughter Club. Royal Variety performances alone have introduced this tall, elegant figure, dressed in tails, with a double bass as his comedy prop, to millions. His smart and silly observations seem all the funnier delivered with a deadpan expression; and all the time you’re waiting for him to launch into music. Which he did, with a recorder and a blues played on harmonica and vacuum cleaner.
It was a brilliant evening. Everyone was as good or better than expected .
Who needs the World Cup?
October 2009 review by John Shaw
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of a night out at Jan Jack’s Laughter House in the Red Lion Hotel, you really must treat yourselves. Three or four different stand-ups, an ideal venue, with food and drink available, a compere who knows his audience, and an audience that itself never fails to surprise and entertain.
And which of us would have thought at 8.00 clock that two hours later the room would be rocking to the chant of “Beard her, beard her” as Lee Nelson, the headline chav, confronted a well-heeled couple from Dummer. How did we get to that point?
It started enjoyably enough with Duncan Oakley whose skill on the guitar and ability to take-off greats like Eric Clapton, enabled him to send up the overly sentimental view of life pedalled in pop music and to strum along to accompany his own bleak view of life. Broderick Chow a Chinese Canadian, followed him. His manner was very different, laconic, laid-back, laughing at himself for sometimes thinking he’s Japanese – a mistake he encounters in his everyday life.
Both acts had been entertaining, but neither had involved the audience. Jan Jack changed the mood of the evening, making a confident and amusing unscheduled appearance. By this point we were aware of a group in the audience calling themselves Kombat, an acronym for Kempshott Old Men Behaving Absolutely Terribly. There was also a small party from Dummer including a lady whose bearded husband was increasingly struggling to moderate her contributions.
Enter Simon Brodkin a character comedian, who had just been performing in Edinburgh as four different people including Lee Nelson, chav “lejend”. I’d seen him on the Al Murray show and enjoyed him; to see him interact with an audience in a small venue was jaw-dropping. His chav character was brilliantly realised and he quickly wove the audience into his show. He saluted Kombat for the thousands of Germans they had killed and apologised for only killing one after some verbals with a tourist who had wanted directions to the city centre. He said he knew he was thick but arranged a “brains off” with the two cleverest members of the audience. And then he caught the husband leaning forward to talk to his wife.
Chanting “Beard her” was the least we could do for Lee, a character who had been so cleverly and believably created. Even Danny Dawes, the compere, was helpless with laughter as he drew the evening to a close.
For those of you following Basingstoke’s Love Story, Andy and Kelly hated their holiday in Rochester but have moved the date of their wedding forward. Will they invite Lee Nelson to be best man? He’d be a 'lejend'.
September 2009 review by John Shaw
The Laughter-House, held in the Red Lion Hotel, has built a reputation as offering an outstanding night’s stand-up. The venue is ideal and the line-up is always first class – no wonder it’s always a sell-out.
One of its strengths is the rapport that has developed between audience and performers, and the opening event of the season was no different. Danny Dawes, the regular compere, enjoys meeting the regulars. Andy and Kelly, for example, were once again encouraged to entertain us with news of their developing relationship and their plans for a cheap holiday somewhere near Rochester.
Andi Osho began the evening, brilliantly. An accomplished actor and writer, she drew on her Nigerian and East London background in a beautifully crafted and confident set. Whether talking about bendy buses in Newham, chavs, memories from childhood – white kids got toys, we made funny noises – or Nigerian men, she drew the audience in to share her take on the world. For me, she’s up there with Gina Yashere. With so many strings to her bow, here’s hoping stand-up will not lose out to her theatre work.
Danny Dawes is funny when drawing the regulars in; he can be hilarious when responding to newcomers on a corporate night out. This time he seized upon a group from a mapping company and took off in a flight of fancy about installing a custom-made satnav in an ambulance, before introducing Jan Jack and Dave Rowan.
Jan Jack continues to develop her material, cleverly setting up gags with a killer punch-line and relying less on her own poetry.
Dave Rowan was the only “newcomer” to Basingstoke and could perhaps have done with more time to tune in to the audience so that they could follow his quick-fire delivery as he accompanied himself on his ukulele.
Rich Wilson closed the evening with a great headliner’s set. It’s difficult to believe that he’s only been doing stand-up for five years. He has a very relaxed, warm and self-deprecating line of humour. This made his rant about trying to buy trainers from shop assistants with little sense of “service” all the funnier.
June 2009 review by The Basingstoke Gazette
A mutual level of heckling between comic and crowd characterised the gags at Jan Jack's latest Laughter-House, at the Red Lion Hotel, Basingstoke.
Dating, edgy jokes and a smattering of one-liners made for another entertaining evening at the Basingstoke comedy night, which kicked off with regular compere Danny Dawes.
A clear sign of how important the audience is at these nights was Dawes' announcement to great applause that a pair of Laughter-House regulars - whose relationship has evidently been the butt of jokes over the past months - are engaged.
The evening's main victims, however, were another bride-to-be - who was a compere's dream after revealing her imminent marriage to a significantly younger man in a lighthouse, offering up more potential jokes than Dawes had time to tell - and a group of plumbers who were sitting in the compere's eyeline. Brave men!
First up on the bill was Nathan Caton Chortle Student Comic of the Year 2005 and star of Paramount's Nathan Caton Show.
Though a tender 24-year old, he reminisced about the days when adolescents made 'your mum' jibes - "your mum's so short you can see her feet in her passport photo" - instead of pulling knives on each other; and declared that these days, with Obama as president, ginger people are the new victims of racism who can only dream of getting their own president one day.
After a great set, including insights into inter-racial dating and the faux pas of swearing in front of your grandmother, Jan Jack took the mic for what seemed quite a short, but entertaining set. She was sufficiently below-the-belt to live up to expectations. Bringing the comedy back to the area, she observed that even the birds in Oakley use satnav to find their bird boxes.
The Irish Grainne McGuire had a chummy style and ironic wit, and created wonderful image of Emily Bronte writing letters in praise of people she hated when she was drunk.
A portly Dave Ward Comedy Store and Jongleurs regular; had the headline spot with a number of one-liners and good crowd interaction, although - he admitted - only to lead in to his own jokes.
These included relationship jokes, a rant against public displays of affection and more besides, in an amusing final set.
A fine way to spend a Thursday night, and the next one is up on July 9.
Lucie Richards, The Basingstoke Gazette 18th June 2009. Reproduced with kind permission.
April 2009 review by The Basingstoke Gazette
Risque jokes, guffaws and fantastic audience rapport made for an hilarious night at Basingstoke’s own Laughter-House.
Headlining the April show last Thursday was television and radio regular Bob Mills, who was on cracking form. He was in good company with three very different acts and charming compere Danny Dawes.
It was my first experience of Jan Jack’s comedy club – it runs every two months at the Red Lion Hotel – and I was giggling from the start as a very natural Dawes joked his way out of initial microphone problems, picking on the new sound boys, before starting on the audience.
My first impression was how important the crowd is. Laughter-House regulars give as good as they get and create a relaxed atmosphere – a blessing for newcomers at risk of a ribbing.
First up was Darlington’s Phil Dinsdale, and he did not take long to lower the tone below the line of a greyhound skirt – for those who were there – making the kind of observations that are not printable in a family newspaper. Though at times a little crude for my tastes, he kept the audience sniggering.
There was a refreshing local touch to Jan Jack’s set, with risqué jokes about her parents in Old Basing and good interaction with the crowd.
Next up was the fantastic Somali comic Prince Abdi I sensed an initial hesitation from the audience, not knowing what to expect from the Brixton-based comedian, who has performed in Jongleurs and The Comedy Store.
But he soon had us in stitches, with observations on how Basingstoke is “different” from Brixton, musings on cultural differences and how, after watching Bollywood films, he started hanging out with his Indian friends more, expecting them to burst into song at any moment. Genius.
It was – quite literally – belly laughs all round as the somewhat portly Bob Mills closed the night, starting off with ironic fat jokes and cleverly throwing in references to Oakley and Andover to localise his set. With pint in hand, the experienced comedian who has appeared on programmes such as Have I got News For You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks and BBC Radio 5’s Fighting Talk, was spot on.
A great night out, in which the audience had a key part to play – and Basingstoke, it seems, is full of good sports.
Lucie Richards, The Basingstoke Gazette 9th April 2009. Reproduced with kind permission.
January 2009 review by John Shaw
A measure of the success of Jan Jack’s Laughter House is the fact that shows are sold out and regulars are having to turn up earlier and earlier to find a “good” seat. For the uninitiated a “good seat” is determined by how involved you wish to be in the fun. The rule used to be, “front row bad, back row good”if you were of a nervous disposition.But a confident Australian in the front row queried, successfully, the meaning of “Chippy” . “So, if that’s a shop, what do you guys call a person who works in a chippy?”. And when you sit at the back, comfortably surrounded by your work-mates, don’t expect them to cover for you when you start lying through your teeth about being an engineer when you actually work in drains. You’re not the funniest person in the room.
As you can see, for two or three hours everyone, onstage and off, contributes to the evening’s entertainment. No matter where you sit. Whatever kind of day you’ve had, Danny Dawes as compere unfailingly transforms the mood of the room as he starts the evening off.
On to a stage crackling with energy strolled Martin Beaumont. This is not a performer I had seen before but I found his genial, relaxed manner very appealing. It concealed, of course, clever craftsmanship. I especially enjoyed his extended riff built around contact lenses and poor memory, and his lyrics written for theme tunes.
Michael Mooney has a dark, brooding stage presence and works off an edgy relationship with his audience. He and Jan Jack presented short sets, Jan continuing to emerge from the persona of Nessie Flange as she develops her own voice.
As for Milton Jones – with so many strings to his bow, his stand-up is always fresh and brilliant.
If I were Nessie Flange, I would certainly be throwing my knickers on stage. She had Adam Bloom in
November and Milton Jones in January. Is the woman insatiable?
November 2008: review by John Shaw
Improvisation was taken to a new level with Jan Jack’s Comedy Club at the “Red Lion” in the last show before Christmas. A normal line-up kicks off with an experienced stand-up, followed by a relative newcomer and ends with the headline act. So what do you do when the opening act doesn’t turn up? Simple. Just improvise.
Fortunately the club’s regular compere , Danny Dawes, has a real gift at working with an audience. He raised the energy level in the room, brought everyone together and had the space and time to extend his banter with the audience.
The relative newcomer, Luke McQueen, opened the show and performed with a slick confidence. The audience were in high spirits by the time the first interval occurred.
Jan Jack has in the past relied on her persona as Nessie Flange, Basingstoke’s most notorious senior citizen, in her act. This time, after the interval, there was more Jan and less Nessie and a lot of new material. The result was impressive – more relaxed, more expansive. I look forward to watching her next year to see if this is the direction she intends to follow.
And so to Adam Bloom who combines prepared material based on his own life and thoughts on the world with improvisation about the audience. If stand-up comedy hadn’t existed, Adam Bloom would have had to invent it to find his place in the world. There is a spontaneity and an almost manic intensity about his humour as he explores the oddity and absurdity of his behaviour, and ours.
And having taken us on this breathless, prepared journey, he closed by improvising around the responses of the audience as if to take us into the very act of creating humour. It seems as if he can’t help being one of the funniest people you could wish to meet.
Headlining the next evening is Milton Jones, a friend of his, and the Occomplete opposite in style of performance. Bloom has written amusingly of how they once did a double act, where they each took turns telling jokes and each joke had to begin with the subject the last one ended with. “He’s got a million short jokes which makes my jokes seem really long.”
How lucky we are in Basingstoke to be able to watch such different masters at work. If you missed Adam Bloom, look out for him. And if you haven’t booked to see Milton Jones, what are you waiting for?