Golden Gods Charity Smoker

PHIL LIEBMAN likes free wine and comedy. A trip to Pembroke New Cellars got him both.

Charlotte Jeffreys Comedy Matt Pullen New Cellars Oliver Marsh Pembroke Phil Liebman Smoker The Roger Lightwood Experience

New Cellars – Pembroke, 6th May, 8.30pm, £5


Down in the pits of Pembroke a large(ish) audience were welcomed with free wine, nibbles and some snazzy animal stickers. Mine read ‘I did something kind today’, in what was probably a subtle(ish) hint from the Pembroke Players committee. Oh, and there was some comedy as well which was generally pretty good.

From a surreal ensemble performance of the Pokémon theme – ukulele, trumpet, guitar and triangle – to the optimistic suggestions of a rather misguided Danish phrase book, this was an unusually consistent smoker. It was rarely outstanding but thankfully the night shirked the ‘mixed bag’ moniker that follows smokers around like a cloud of, well, smoke.

Compéring the night was Matt Pullen, a first timer, and one of stand-out stand-ups of the show. Outstanding, to be precise. It is so easy for a bad host to destroy a good comedy lineup, and having someone inexperienced take on the burden was a risk, but he did his job between the acts with aplomb while also providing some of the best jokes of the night. Notably his attempt to cross the boundaries between board-games and pornography with the help of a (possibly) unsuspecting audience member drew some embarrassingly zealous laughter from yours truly.

The night was book-ended by the two most assured performers. Jamie Mathieson’s brand of dry humour and cleverly-crafted monologue were a great way to start. In particular his Power-Rangers-centric social commentary got a deservedly impressive laugh.

The other slice of funny-bread in this comedy sandwich was the charmingly skittish Charlotte Jeffreys. Her complaints over the accuracy of a wildlife-based jigsaw puzzle and the soothingness of an oddly-shaped stress ball rounded the show off aptly.

That’s not to say there weren’t good performances in between. The Roger Lightwood Experience were… an experience. Their combination of ukulele playing and Pokémon unleashed the ’90s kid in all of us. Admittedly not a kid that should be unleashed too often, but they pulled it off. ‘The Experience’ really demonstrated how much humour is inherent in an unsuitably small instrument and a collection of strange facial expressions.

Jon Bailey also gave us a couple of musical numbers, including a song riffing on the overuse of the word “baby” in pop music. I’ll leave the rest up to you. Ian Samson and Ollie Marsh gave solid sets, both surfing a wave of happy chuckles without ever getting the full-blown belly-laugh that would really have rounded off their performances.

However, as so often happens, the pace fell off towards the middle and I eagerly sought refreshment at the interval. Not too much wine, mind, I kept my professionalism. Although I did lose my sticker and so stopped being nice.

There were a number of acts who forgot lines, and recovered to varying degrees of success. Forgotten lines in stand-up are understandable for one-man shows, but for short smoker sets it’s always a bit of a let-down. Admittedly no jokes were ruined but comic pacing is a fickle beast which is easily lost when the audience is staring at someone staring at their hand.

Post-show food and drink were gratefully accepted (other shows take note), and I returned home pretty contented with the night’s comedy. And the free wine. Overall this a good smoker with several standouts and few, if any, real disasters. A thoroughly uniform bag of a show.