Clare Comedy

Headlock-happy hecklers can’t stop CHLOE MASHITER from enjoying something a bit different at Clare Comedy.

Ahir Shah Atin Banerjee Clare Comedy Comedy Footlights funny Heckler hisham ziauddeen Ian Samson Jamie Mathieson Ken Cheng Naz Osmanoglu Some Idiot

Clare Cellars, 13th February, 11pm, £4

[rating: 4/5]

Procrastinators beware. Cambridge Memes might have some fresh material after last night’s Clare Comedy, where one audience member heckled the headline act before attempting to put one of his critics in a headlock. But even this, in its own bizarre, classless way, added to the atmosphere of the event, which is probably the closest thing Cambridge has to a good ol’ fashioned, endearingly grimy comedy club.

Jamie Mathieson was a warm and amiable compere, occasionally tossing out Sainsbury’s Basics Jaffa Cakes like a recession-friendly pantomime dame. Whilst he only really hit his stride around halfway through with an insight into Samuel Pepys’ filthier side, his personable manner still kept the audience onside.

First up was Ken Cheng, who delivered some of the most original material of the night, covering everything from the comparative heights of actors and windmills to socially acceptable synonyms for black holes. Unfortunately, as with many of the night’s performers, good ideas were occasionally let down by the lack of a satisfying punchline – although Cheng’s skill in drawing laughs from a series of drawn-out phone conversations was impressive. Next was Hisham Ziauddeen who offered a well structured and smoothly delivered set focused on Indian hairdressers with some entertaining tangents, particularly his agricultural slant on immigration.

Ian Samson exploited Valentine’s Day and his single status to great effect, neatly combining meandering anecdotes with shorter gags. He also wrapped up his set brilliantly, having saved some of his best material till last – even if said material has forever tarnished my image of Winnie the Pooh. Atri Banerjee’s set was peppered with strong jokes and promising ideas, but these were overshadowed by his less original material, particularly an opening that echoed many a Stephen K Amos or Omid Djalili set. Ahir Shah was (as might be expected) the most polished of the student performers and even offered some of his nan’s sharp satirical comedy, though a sentimental conclusion to his set dashed the hopes of those looking for one last gag.

Naz Osmanoglu, the event’s headliner, quickly showcased his enviable ease with an audience, introducing everyone to spectators such as Binky the trumpet player and Hannah the racist. His set was unpredictable yet consistently hilarious as he flitted between written material and improvised funnies (including a point-scoring Spinal Tap reference). Even a Bear Grylls routine, a staple of Osmanoglu’s stand up, had been fleshed out since I last saw it and given a new lease of life. His formidable stage presence allowed him to dominate the small underground venue as he brandished the mike stand around the stage (as a spear, brie-bayonet and ultrasound scanner).

Having been a Clare Comedy virgin last night, I’ve no doubt that I’ll soon be back lingering in the shadows of the Cellars. Clare Comedy is like a trip to Mars compared to the Footlights Smokers’ mere moon explorations – the former just offers something a bit more interesting, unexpected and atmospheric.