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Red Brick Comedy Club
Published on Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I can only describe my experience with Brighton's "finest, funniest late-night stand-up comedy" as disappointing.  It's a shame to have to tarnish it with such a low star-rating, but there is sadly little to praise; the two headlining acts were poor and, although Zoe Lyons is a very talented compere, she was clearly as uncomfortable and embarrassed as the audience.

Zoe's material was lively and snappy, but unfortunately made the following drudgery all the more startling. I've never seen it happen before, so here's a note for all comedy enthusiasts: beware nights when the compere is more talented than the acts.

The acts were Gerry Howell and Lewis Schaffer - and both struggled, although in completely different veins. Gerry Howell's material was excellently abstruse and fun, but the punch-lines aren't snappy enough, nor the jokes clever enough, to give his rambling style any comic potential. His set fizzled and died painfully quickly although, to his credit, he did pick up towards the end. Maybe a more direct delivery, or a more engaging style, would do Howell a lot of favours.

Luckily, Howell's rather average set was nothing compared to the train-wreck of Lewis Schaffer's act. Having never seen Schaffer before, I cannot know if this is his regular material or his regular style - but this set was easily one of the worst I've had the experience of seeing recently, and sank the whole night. His lack of wit, charm or aggression did nothing to help, nor did his crass and offensive material; and his subsequent attempts to ply an audience he seemed to take great pleasure in insulting were the last, pathetic strugglings of an act with little to say or knowledge of how to say it. His endeavours to explain why his act were failing were slightly more painful to watch than the excuses he offered for his meagre material.

After half an hour, it should have been clear that the audience wanted him to leave, and yet Schaffer seemed to refuse to leave the stage; never have I felt such a desire to see one of those over-sized candy-cane hooks emerge from the wings and drag an act off.

The poor quality of the acts leaves me with a difficult conundrum: were they poorly chosen, or just having an off night? With no way of knowing, I cannot critique the Red Brick Comedy Club itself, although I would be hard-pressed to want to return any time soon. A shame, and a disappointment.

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