Review by Mark Rough
The place was heaving and I was glad that me and Dave Twentyman's mum got there early and grabbed a table right at the front.
Toby went up, announced that he hadn't writen anything as he'd been doing his tax returns - how Southern! He then warmed the room up nicely with some lovely observations and even the odd pun. He seemed to delight in the fact that he had fuck all to say and I saw glimpses of the old Toby as he searched his head for quips - bloody marvelous.
The first act up was Archie Arlo.
He was an older geezer just starting out. He had some nice material (mostly Chubby Brown's) and he began really well, but really floundered when he tried some audience participation. Sometimes the lines between mainstream and circuit comedy can be blurred. This time it was painfully obvious that this was "old school".
Next up was Tim Craven, in what we were led to believe was his first ever gig.
He was very confident and had some great lines. He was obviously helped along by having a lot of mates in the crowd, and he surfed them well and must have been pleased with his night's work. He was very good, however I'd have to see him in front of a not so friendly audience to judge him in a true light. It was lovely to see him post gig, getting hammered and revelling in his new found status with his mates. They'll not be there when you die on your arse though mate, remember that.
Third onto the stage was Malarkey stalwart Roland Gent.
Roland started with his John Peel impression that delighted me and the oldies in the crowd and managed not to confuse the students too much. I like his new confident style, the nerves that used to be so obvious are being used in a sort of "fuck you, I know I'm funny" attitude and it works. There was some gold there and stuff I hadn't heard before.
After the break Toby really got into his stride, berating the professional Northerners in the crowd (ahem!). I honestly could sit and watch him all night when he's in that mood.
Freaks Outing at Malarkey's is a mystery to me.
He is one of my favourite acts (and people) on the circuit, but Malarkey's just seems to be confused by him. His stand up is now much better, his songs are top notch but a lot of the crowd just seemed bewildered by him. He did well but I've seen him go down so much better elsewhere. His new song, Anally Retentive, is brilliant if a little close to the bone in Malarkeys!
It's no secret that Anthony J Brown and I go back a long way, we did our first gig together and I'm a huge admirer of his.
But when did he start to banter with the audience and comment on his surroundings? That's not what he does and it totally detracts from the character he assumes on stage. It also spoils the magic of some killer lines. I know he has stormed it there in the past and whilst he did go down very well I'm sure the "fans" among us have seen him in much better form. The Pete Townsend line was superb though and almost worth the admission price on it's own!
I had a great night, the noise at the back wasn't as bad as usual (maybe because I was at the front!) and the crowd were very warm. However I suspect that they were there to support Tim and not the others. Man of the match? Toby and Tim. Oh and a mention for the people who do the sound and lights. Whilst I do miss the old venue the set up at Bar XS is very good, the way the music helps to build the atmosphere and the stage lightinmg makes it into a proper gig rather than a comedy night in a pub. Well done, whoever that is.