Comedy in Manchester, stand-up in particular, is nothing new.  Venues such as The Comedy Store, The Frog and Bucket, Bar XS, and the Opus, have, in conjunction with other independent comedy nights, been at the forefront of pushing the scene over the last few decades, giving rise to some of Manchester’s finest talent. So, when JAM got wind of a comedy night that was breaking the mold, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to engage our laughing gear and take a peek.

Hosted at the Manchester’s Lass O’Gowrie, the hike up into the pub’s top floor micro theatre felt like a trek back through time into the realms of underground comedy nights in the eighties and nineties, minus the asphyxiating cigarette fumes.  The atmosphere and surroundings certainly did have an element of ‘blitz spirit’ with the night’s compere and fellow comedienne Kiri Pritchard McLean describing the venue as a WW2 war bunker.  She was quick to point out that in the event of a fire everyone was “out for themselves”.

First up was Kiri who’s direct and quick-witted bravura couldn’t help but break the ice in style, leaving the audience hungry for more. What’s more, in what is generally a male-dominated world it was fantastic to see the ladies at the forefront, doing some serious damage to the audience’s ribcages and diaghrams via and giving the myth that girls aren’t funny the middle finger.

Next up was Jayne Edwards whose eccentric character and very alternative set kept the theme of girl power ticking along nicely, massively contributing to what turned out to be a truly multi-layered spectacle of comedic talent. The final two acts were two sets of comedy sketch trios; Sheffield’s Stapleface and, of course, Gein’s Family Gift Shop.

Stapleface aka Tom Burgess, Mike Bentley, and Sam Nicoresti presented a watertight selection of hilarious scenarios which were as captivating as they were imaginative.  Their contemporary take upon the use of slinkies morphed effortlessly into a similarly amusing skit on the subject of funeral dilemmas, whilst their views on art and bedtime stories kept the audience hooked and laughing from start to finish.

Finally, the night was brought to an end in spectacular style by Gein’s Family Gift Shop aka Ed Easten, James Meehan, and Kath Hughes.  The Manchester based trio commenced in a manner that demonstrated they meant business. It would be criminal to let slip what exactly they did to start the proceedings and ruin the surprise, but it will suffice to say that it was ballsy.  Again, the transitions from sketch to sketch were completely seamless, and the creative chemistry between the performers was plain to see. In particular, their stance on adoption, chess, and ghost stories meant the laughs just kept on coming and we have every confidence that this trio will fare well at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

All in all a job well done by every act, but more than that, the night constitutes a unique and pioneering jewel in Manchester’s underground comedy crown.  Attended by many upcoming comedians currently working the circuit in the North West, which is a strong testament to its authenticity, moreover the event helped bring women into the spotlight in addition to its commitment to providing a platform for high-quality sketch acts.

Our thumbs are up and our sides are split, we wish every performer involved every bit of luck in Edinburgh and look forward to reporting on how they smashed the Fringe in the name of the North.  For those who haven’t been, the next Bargain Basement will be taking place on the 2nd of September at the Lass o’Gowrie and if you like comedy then there really is no excuse not to go and check it out.

Words & Images: Emily Morus-Jones


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