Comedy Night At The Jubilee Centre
Stand-up comics, I suspect, know plenty about being short of a bob or two early in their careers. It isn't an easy business to make a living in, so perhaps they, better than many, understand the value of the work of national Bradford-based charity Christians Against Poverty, which provides debt counselling and budgeting assistance for those who most need it.
The talented lineup for this fundraising event had variously travelled from London, Liverpool and Manchester to perform, pro-bono, to a sell-out crowd that packed the Jubilee centre right up to the back - or perhaps I should say, considering most people's hesitance with regard to getting picked on at a stand-up gig, right up to the front.
Host and compère Martin Cowles, an employee of CAP UK, is a comic himself, and did an admirable job of hauling the throngs to their seats from the makeshift bar. His warm and inviting manner set the tone for the evening; his awkwardness - endearing, if occasionally a little disingenuous - was guaranteed to get the audience onside for a brilliant evening. Sure enough, his introductory housekeeping preamble, with the assistance of a PowerPoint presentation and some FAQs read from a piece of paper, was expertly calculated to raise the first belly laughs of the night right from the off. He went on to ensure smooth and entertaining segues throughout the night, building a great welcome for each act while also receiving a great response of his own.
Rob Thomas from London was the first programmed act to take the stage and he did so with infectious energy bordering on mania. His material, ranging from his upbringing in Anglesey to the products on offer in Aldi, was marvellously honed and the laughs came thick and fast, but it was his boundless animation that really kept the stage alight. Judicious use of props added variety to the onslaught of verve, with tremendous, relentless physicality that put me in mind of Jeremy Vine on election night after eighteen Red Bulls and a double espresso. His finale piece, a denouncement of modern TV themes, was a triumph that had the audience creased up without respite for no mean length of time.
Local boy Joe Popplewell arrived next after a short intermission. Perhaps at first too conscious of establishing his persona, he soon settled into his set, capitalising on the comedy potential of his delightful surname before straying into ever more surreal territory. Here is where his true strengths lay, his crackpot storytelling disclosing a wildly inventive imagination that carried the willing audience along for the ride with no difficulty. The set from this point contained some real highlights and Popplewell is clearly a promising young talent who, with experience, could blossom into a very accomplished presence on the circuit.
After the dual madness that had preceded him, Liverpool's Mark Williams represented a perfect change of pace. Warm and likeable from the first instant, he appeared immensely comfortable on the stage, winning huge appreciation as he riffed happily on the venue and crowd. His superbly constructed set - a masterclass in observational comedy that touched on form-filling, the challenges of courteous door-opening, and Facebook ad algorithms - was delivered with assured ease, and rightly gained a resounding response.
The final act of the night, Andy Kind, was a worthy headliner - quite the statement, given the high standard of comedy already delivered by the rest of the bill. Now in his tenth year as a full-time stand-up, he is as professional and accomplished a comic as you will ever see on the big TV shows. I've been fortunate enough to see Kind perform a number of times before, and his name on the lineup was the biggest draw to the event for me and his rollicking set was no disappointment.
His anecdotal style features tales so convincingly insane and strewn with punchlines that they're actually impossible to disbelieve, a his manner - simultaneously cocksure and self-deprecating - a delight that here meshed perfectly with his stories of embarrassment and woe. The set ran well over time as he tossed out comic gems in an almost profligate manner and no objections to this were raised by the uproarious and incapacitated audience.
I might have had to run for my last train home, but luckily, my lungs had been exercised to fine working order from a night of pure hilarity.
The event was estimated on the night to have raised well in excess of £2,000 for CAP UK.