Words by Ed King / Pics by Lucy Heath
“Are there any students in tonight..?” I’m honestly not sure if this approach is a parody. After all, the bill is 70% comedy, I don’t know what standard of stand up to expect on Birmingham’s smaller gig circuit, and I’ve paid only £3 to get in. It’s too early to tell; but I guess the continuing puns could be Chris Morris clever.
Nestling into the corner of a confidently busy room we’ve come to check out the first Giggling Girder Club at The Church in Hockley. Pitched as a ‘night of spoken, sung and smugly said words’ we’ve got Blues guitar from Karl Merrick up first, once he circumnavigates the tired jibes about his braces.
Merrick walks us through some rag time standards, or at least I think they’re ‘standards’ (and he told us they were ‘ragtime’) as The Church’s back venue shuffles towards standing room only. All the tables are busy, our burgers are en route, and the fire (well the projection of a fire – oddly warm) burns snugly on the wall; a comfortable chatter mingles with the strains of steel & guitar.
Our compère takes the stage, and after a failed engagement with a table of post grad law students introduces Tom Christian – the first of tonight’s stand ups. Broad, blonde and comfortable, Christian tackles the reticent room with professional good grace.
And he picks up some momentum too, before worrying the borderline audience with some race based material. Not racist, I guess that’s part of the point, but a dangerous dance when we’re not fully on board. I’d like to see him again; if for no other reason than to hear his dead/paedophile routine in front a warmer crowd.
Our compère returns to introduce the second of tonight’s stand ups, Graham Milton, under a growing swell of irritation, groans and people switching off. Milton, a young man with dark intentions, presents himself through short, self deprecating misanthropy. No one here gets out alive I guess.
Excellent material to me; but which, to others, may work better as prose on a page rather than as jokes in the air. Milton, again, wrestles with an unfortunate introduction to win us round, the phrase “vaguely consensual pornography” never sounding so appealing, and by the time he explains “simply nodding as a girl made fun of me cry” I’m fully immersed. But that’s me, and I may have a problem.
The already failed segue returns, and returns, and returns to welcome on Rohit the Poet – an exuberant poet (clue’s in the title) who explores his demons with a rising inflection. It feels like a middle class football chant, and the rhyming couplets compel me to start guessing the… FINISH LINE. Didn’t I do well.
Rohit the Poet is initially a bit weak for me, but his jab at Pseudo Lefty Narcissists is refreshingly appropriate amidst the gentrification of Hockley, and (after a late night Goggle search) more representational of the man’s material. Maybe he’s sticking to safer guns tonight. I wouldn’t blame him.
Another disaster introduces Dave Pitt, a man “who used to do stand up” but is in front of us tonight to deliver spoken word – a term I loathe, finding it patronising and unnecessary.
Working the comedy rule book with precision, Pitt gets us all laughing. Immediately. Honestly. And, for a while, unfortunately at the photographer stage right; who should reconsider his approach to flash photography when in a room of professional comedians.
Pitt reads us a short story about a man and his tragic list of pet fatalities; delivered with a comfortable patience that keeps us quiet and loud in all the right places. I feel the room’s shoulders drop. Ah, together again.
Next is a candid explanation of how Pitt fought depression, his black dog called Burt, and the roles comedy played in both the attached anxieties and continuing cure. Its personal but not dramatized, as talking about mental health experiences should be, and leads us into a reading from his book, ‘Starting out in Stand Up’ – a chronological march through Pitt’s career Gig #1 to #100.
Tonight “you’re getting my erection”, Dave Pitt admits as he reads Gig #98 – performing on a strong Manilla Road bill at The Victoria in Birmingham. The crux is fear. Then the reality of facing fear. With the concluding prose bringing elbows onto the table tops and some salt in our eyes. You can buy Pitt’s book, ‘Starting Out in Stand Up’, from the man himself or though other more modern means of distribution; but if you get a chance to hear him read some of it first, I’d start from there. Dave Pitt and “fuck you Burt”; two things to remember.
The Giggling Girder Club concludes its debut with more stand up from Rob Kemp, more Blues from Karl Merrick, and more puns Vs shallow commentary from the compère; the latter, by now, becoming professionally offensive to the acts either side. By the end of the evening all sympathy, and half the room, is outside waving down taxis.
But I am full (The King Burger) a little merry (Woodford Reserve) and relatively still in pocket (£3 on the door, £10 with a main meal). Plus clearer on a couple of the questions I started the night with.
Birmingham, it seems, does indeed have a healthy stream of stand up comedy; flowing from suburb to city centre and washing round the obvious. I am compelled to wade further, and to stop using metaphors in confirmation of strong material, confident deliveries and professional comedians ‘doing the circuit’.
Excellent entertainment for the price of a bus ticket. Just avoid the puns; they’re not big and they’re certainly not clever.
For more on Dave Pitt, visit http://davethepitt.tumblr.com
For more on Rohit the Poet, visit https://myspace.com/rohitballal
For more on The Giggling Girder Club, including info and links to tickets, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/696371687054525/?ref=notif¬if_t=plan_user_invited
For more on The Church, visit http://www.churchjq.co.uk