‘Knock2bag is one of the best comedy nights in London – a solid crowd with a great atmosphere, interesting and original acts and well worth the money’
‘If you want a no-fuss night out packed with all kinds of innovative comedians, you want Knock2bag’
Design My Night
‘To all the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make this night possible, thank you for working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this night possible’
‘Worst club in London. I don’t know why I keep doing it!’
‘This club is good and nice’
‘I love knocking the bag’
‘Cult Shepherd’s Bush night’
‘It’s rare you come away from a comedy night thinking I’ve never seen anything like that before and with well over a hundred comedy clubs a week running in London nowadays, that can only be a good thing’
‘An outstanding night’
Steve Bennett, Chortle
‘Consistently good line-ups’
London is Funny
‘Knock2Bag is a really good comedy night, in a nice venue… Get along to the next show’
‘Best comedy club for quality and diversity in London’
‘Excellent acts in a great venue for comedy’
The Fix Magazine
Guardian Guide, June 2010
In terms of basic bottom-dollar value for money, you’ll find it hard to beat Knock2Bag. There are plenty of nights in London that pack as many acts in as possible, but few offer the consistently high quality that you get at this unassuming, intimate Shepherd’s Bush club. Each comic is restricted to a 10-15 minute set, but there are no duds on the bill; every act is capable of pulling off a top-drawer, full-length show, and these taster routines will only pique your enthusiasm. Queen of cerebral whimsy Josie Long heads the bill this week, supported by Viz artist turned stand-up Simon Donald and dark-tinged sketch duo Two Episodes Of MASH. Watch out too for a performance by maverick Miriam Elia, a former conceptual artist whose uncompromising approach to comedy has already won her an acclaimed BBC radio series. Some of Elia’s imaginative leaps aren’t for the faint-hearted but, at her best, she conquers comic territory that many more conventional performers don’t even know exists.
One of the increasing number of London comedy nights that put sketch and character comedy on a par with stand-up, the awkwardly named Knock2Bag comedy club has a monthly residency in Bar FM, a comfortable and well-designed basement bar just down the road from Television Centre, so attracts more than its share of BBC employees.Tonight, the near-capacity audience got quite a treat – at least until… well, more on that later.
Compere Nick Helm has an unusual – and not entirely successful – approach to his MC’s duties. His act involves barking out wilfully appalling jokes in his growly rasp of a voice, then selling with them with an enthusiasm that’s entirely undeserved, but childishly appealing. However, taking that same loud, brusque approach to audience interaction proved more intimidating than engaging, and the reluctance to join in his shouted catchphrases and stilted banter was palpable.
Luckily How Not To Live Your Life star Dan Clark was on hand to do his own, more welcoming, warm-up. Effortlessly inviting, he genuinely engages with the audience rather than yelling at them, building a natural rapport as he drifts seamlessly between unaffected banter and material. It may not be the most challenging set, nor boast the punchiest gags, but it’s a warmly witty collection of observations that are well-made and skilfully exploited.
His personality is his biggest asset; he first appears the epitome of laid-back metrosexual cool, but it’s laced with a disarmingly self-effacing wit that only enhancing his underplayed charisma. It would be a hard heart not to warm to this charming man, and he didn’t break a sweat in getting the crowd chuckling throughout.
Knock2Bag in Shepherd’s Bush has been a consistently good comedy club for the last year or two now. Always packed out, it attracts a first rate line-up of comedians from big names to new talent on the rise. It’s not unsurprising then that they’ve branched out to the much bigger venue of the Tabernacle in Notting Hill to cope with demand. And when I say big I mean big. At the entrance, there are two different McAlpines on the ticket list (definitely a first for me at a comedy gig) and we bump into two friends (not together) on the way to the bar. The Tabernacle is a stunning venue for a show (Lily Allen used it for a secret gig a few months back) and I’m told by organiser Rupert Majendie that tonight it’s well over seated capacity with a 366-strong crowd!After a rousing audience chat-up by Matt Green, he introduces the first act – Phil Kay, a highly acclaimed stand-up who improvises every set. This is the second time I’ve seen him first on the bill. ‘Why so’ I wonder? – ‘He’s so damn good, he should be last!’ It may be that the man has too much adrenaline to stay in the wings waiting his turn; it would be like making the Road Runner wait at a level crossing. Kay explodes onto the stage with a tumbler of whiskey, kissing a man hello in the front row and telling us about how he’d just chased after someone who’d left their Metro on the train – ‘Excuse me, you left your Metroooo!’ He throws himself around the stage, making up jokes and songs on the spot about everything from the microphone stand to a man crossing his arms. His energy and quick-wit are astonishing; at one point we literally can’t stop laughing. He challenges the audience to stop, pointing accusatorily at anyone who dares snicker, mimicking them until the whole crowd is in hysterics again. During the break I spy him pottering off into the night with his guitar and imagine what hilarity might ensue were some poor, unsuspecting mugger to try and fleece him.
It’s a very strong start; surely no one can top that? But the line-up suggests it could.
The first comedian that comes on tonight, Wil Hodgson, is a classic Knock2Bag diverse act. It’s not just the fact he is a pink-haired ex-wrestling socialist with Care Bear tattoos all over his arms but his delivery isn’t exactly typical either. He talks in a rapid monologue staring intently at a fixed point in the distance; not the best tactic to endear oneself to an audience. As we get used to his patter however, there are some winning lines to be heard like why he isn’t attracted to Paris Hilton: “It would be like shagging a Toblerone dipped in Ronseal.” Although admitting to an unhealthy obsession with My Little Ponies and Care Bears, Hodgson tells us he’s not gay. A staunch leftie, he hates ignorance and prejudice, especially homophobia and use of the Americanism ‘faggot’: “At least use the word poof or queer and have some national pride in your prejudice.” While he has a fairly intense style and doesn’t tell jokes as such, he makes up for it with intelligent quips and interesting stories from his life in backwards Chippenham, where ‘you’re considered gay if you can read’.A stand-out act of the night is Trevor Lock who could probably win a record for most laughs produced a minute. His routine revolves round him telling a joke and then apologising to correct it, usually with a pun, pushing the wordplay to such an extent that the original joke becomes unrecognisable. For example a story about him dressing up in his mother’s clothes as a small boy and receiving an order to ‘take off Mummy’s clothes’ takes a darker twist as he reveals his mother used to like him to undress her. He is equally skilled at improvisation; squeezing a lot of laughs out of a faulty mic stand and making a noisy audience member appear to have a crush on him.
Solid residents Carl Donnelly and character comedian Brian Gittins are another reason why Knock2Bag works so well. As far as comperes go, Donnelly must be one of the best on the circuit. He goes through the usual schtick of asking the front row what their names are and what they do for a living but somehow manages to turn such a simple thing as someone’s occupation into comedy gold without offending anyone. Brian, a bizarre roadside cafe owner-cum-comedian has a regular spot which differs each time. This month he pairs up with Richard Sandling and the two make a good double act as Brian lets Sandling (one of his cafe patrons) have a shot at stand-up. The results are disastrous as Sandling’s character turns out to be a horrible racist and after much cringing, Brian has to cut him short.
This is the third time I’ve been to Knock2Bag and each visit has been incredible. The comic genres range from magic to poetry, music, character comedy and top rate stand-up so it never feels tired. It’s not surprising that it regularly sells out and while you couldn’t call Bar FM a small venue there is still an air of intimacy to the gig, possibly a result of so many tables being crammed in to cope with demand. Roll on next month…
Another good night of comedy at Bar FM in Shepherds Bush tonight. And a night where I learnt a lesson – that is to get there early! Not just to get a table, but also to get a seat!The club is getting so popular, rightly so, and so the seats go fast. And at least when you get to this club early you have the chance to eat some good Thai food.
Of all the acts on tonight the highlights for me included Ginger & Black, a male/female double act who were very funny and played their mostly-BBC employee audience perfectly. Ed Aczel is a refreshing change from the fast patter of most stand-ups, his measured, rambling and and occasionally absurd delivery is a joy to watch.
The next gig at Knock2Bag looks special. Just added to the lineup is Stephen Merchant, with an already strong line-up of Robin Ince, Stephen Carlin, Spencer Brown, Robert White, Andi Osho, Brian Gittins and MC Richard Sandling.
It’s not often you get searched on the way into a comedy night so I’m mildly surprised when Desperate Dan asks if he can peruse the contents of my handbag on the way into the show – a pretty dangerous action in itself as my bag has magical powers akin to Mary Poppins’ carpet holdall, and whilst it may not swallow lamps, people have been known to lose a hand or two. Nevertheless Dan survives and I make my way into the rather strangely named Knock2Bag, a monthly comedy night in Bar FM, Shepherd’s Bush.Perhaps the safety checks are in place for any die-hard British nationalists attending as German comedian Henning Wehn was first up; armed with a multitude of jokes based on shaky Anglo-Germanic relations. He plays the stereotypical German, using a stopwatch to keep his set running in good time and lambasting any loo breakers for interrupting the schedule. He uses topical material well, instantly making a controversial issue funny by addressing it from a different perspective. On the recent furore over Archbishop Rowen supporting the introduction of Sharia law, Wehn suggests he should have tried giving us some plus points…