Pembroke Black Tie Smoker

Jaded Theatre Editor FRANCESCA HILL has her bitter heart warmed by this quirky comedy night.

Ben Pope Comedy cows drink milk Ken Cheng milo edwards Pembroke Smoker

Pembroke Old Library, 7.30pm, Saturday 16th February, £10

Watching comedy in black tie makes me think of the lull which occurs around 2am in the course of every May Ball. Probably because it’s the only time it normally happens. What was pleasantly different about the Pembroke Black Tie Smoker was that I was actually there for the comedy, not just because there were seats and my feet hurt and because the tent was warm and I was cold. For one thing, it was a library and not a tent.

Initially unconvinced that the gloomy, severe Old Library provided an atmosphere which encouraged mirth, I turned my attention to the drinks table. It seems the rest of the audience had arrived at the same conclusion. Drink flowed all evening, and when it’s included in the price of your ticket, it feels almost reprehensible not to make use of it.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll admit that a lot of the material performed had been done at other smokers this term: the Cambridge comedy scene is kindest to those who attend but occasionally. Perhaps eighty percent of each of Ben Pope, Milo Edwards and Ken Cheng’s respective sets had been reviewed by The Tab at least once already this term (I was rather nice about all of them here) but that was ok: for those of you who have more varied social lives than I do, they’re all really funny guys.

And actually, they’d all improved even in the last fortnight. Surprise surprise, Cheng walked away with the cash prize for most popular stand-up of the night. He really is everybody’s favourite politically-incorrect Chinese man. Well, since Phil Wang left town anyway.

Having brushed aside the arguably more renowned half of the acts on the simple premise that I’m (affectionately) bored of them, let’s focus on The Others. Compere Kit Holden started off endearingly geeky and awkward, and blossomed into confidently crude. His material ranged from the difficulties associated with using his girlfriend’s toilet to insights into French pastimes (fucking and smoking). Not entirely original, but definitely well-delivered.

If he’s really only a first-year, I’m very interested to see where Yaseen Kader ends up after a few years on the circuit. His set started with 17-minute sex, travelled via the acceptability of being straight whilst wearing a lot of purple, and ended up with a hilarious poem about ancient Greek sacrifice. Bizarre? Yes. But also entertaining.

At the other end of the experience scale, returning Jamie Mathieson is a man who clearly knows his audience. Jokes about Sporcle, the excellent Hermes-exclusive verb “expunge” and getting stains out of dress shirts all hit their mark. Chris Page on the other hand (perhaps suffering from negative association with CUSU and communist protest) seemed just a little too earnest to be truly funny, despite some potentially strong ideas.

Cows Drink Milk were the lone sketch group in a sea of stand-up, and to be honest, whilst they weren’t terrible, they weren’t anything particularly new either. Clearly influenced by every sketch show that’s ever been to the Fringe ever, a charming “sound effects guy” and some parodies of Poirot and Hollywood movie trailers didn’t get me too excited. Their shorter sketches were definitely their sweetest.

Minor blips aside, Pembroke Black Tie Smoker sported one of the most consistently strong line-ups I’ve seen for some time. For a tenner, some decent comedy and a fairly unlimited supply of low-grade wine is a pretty decent proposition, and even this world-weary, jaded reviewer chuckled throughout. Keep an eye out for next year’s Black Tie Smoker, they have a distinct charm.