West Wales is a beautiful part of the world and has a food scene that punches above its weight
But where would we be without the Arts Centre at the University?
It’s our main venue for theatre, music and comedy, and manages to lure big name stars out west.
In addition to big comedy names like Jimmy Carr, the Arts Centre has been host to a monthly comedy night for the last two years.
It’s run by Little Wander, the company which manages (amongst other things) the Machynlleth Comedy Festival.
This gives the audience the chance to see three relatively unknown acts for the very reasonable price of £10.
We like to arrive a little early for the performance, and have a drink.
A bottle of wine gives us a glass on arrival, a glass during the show, and a sip at the interval.
You do need to swap your glasses for plastics during the performance, but the bar staff will keep your bottle safe behind the bar.
That Tempranillo was easy drinking, with a little tannin and oak.
Just the thing, and OK-priced at £15 (alas, their £10 bottles before 7pm offer has expired).
If you’re worried about ending up near the front, don’t be.
There’s usually plenty of seating choice, and if you do end up near the front, and don’t want to interact with the MC, a stony silence will usually suffice (I’ve seen people use “Just tell us some jokes” to great effect too).
We’ve been about four times, and this was the first that there were obviously unsold seats, but it was shortly before the Super Furry Animals played.
The compere was Stuart Goldsmith, whom I’m familiar with from his excellent Comedians Comedian podcast.
Having a comedian interview other comedians gets further into the subject more quickly – check out this episode with recent Comedy Club star (and now Mock The Week Regular) Gary Delaney.
Goldsmith is clearly a very experienced MC, whose crowdwork focussed more on praising people’s fashion choices, and going deeper into people’s life stories, than the usual “What’s Your Name? Where You From?”
And, rarely for this gig, the MC didn’t mention how long it took him to get here.
He got the audience involved and warmed up with a charming likeability and a seemingly easy wit that only hard work brings.
Normally a compere would have introduced the first act after a few minutes, but with only three acts on the bill, he had to execute a slightly grinding gear-change into his prepared material.
This worked less well, as the audience were used to him being interactive with them. And baby material is more for an hour show – which I’d love to see – than a Thursday night crowd in a student town.
The first act was Norwegian Ingrid Dahle, who successfully mined her offbeat upbringing, and used her outsider status to joke about Britain.
She has a great stage presence, and a fantastic physical-comedy climax utilising her trousers.
Her brilliant accents lifted a Jeremy Kyle section, and though she still feels a bit new she has all the making of a future TV regular.
And after a bit of chat from Stuart we’re into the interval.
For me, a 45 minute first half seems a bit light. But Bethan – who likes to be home sensible – thinks that’s just right.
After the interval Stu the MC did some material about blueberries and babyfood, although people still felt they could chime in where they liked (including the two tired and emotional young ladies in front of us) so he had to push a little harder here.
He also had some very interesting Brexit material that helped explain how we lost.
Stuart believes “cool people” voted Remain, and anyone who voted Leave must be a swivel-eyed immigration obsessive.
Now, I appreciate this is comedy, and I’m an enthusiastic Remoaner myself (fuck you, Daily Mail), but I felt a bit awkward with this lazy stereotyping.
It was revealing to see how Remainers really can’t understand anything about why people voted Leave.
Many comedians refer to the guitar as “The Cheat Stick”, but we love a good musical act.
Johnny is actorly, theatrical and possessing a fine voice, while the Baptists (actually a chap called Paddy) has serious guitar chops and a nice way with the audience.
Songs about killing the Queen and ugly babies were much better than you’d expect (“Your baby looks like a brass rubbing of an already ugly baby”).
A very professional act who have put the effort into writing and rehearsing and working hard.
Clearly going places, and the unenthusiastic audience in Swansea the night before know nothing.
Aberystwyth is a very supportive crowd, and we cheered them from the first to the last.
We had an excellent evening, and £10 was a very fair price.
Not recognising any of the performers’ names is no reason not to go (quite the opposite, in fact).
If you haven’t been, I’d urge you to give it a try.
If I have one problem with the event, it’s that it doesn’t allow “Open Spots”.
Open spots are when a club will let inexperienced comics do 5 unpaid minutes within a regular gig.
All comedians start out doing open spots – there’d be no comedians, comedy clubs or Little Wander without them.
The Comedy Club is the only regular comedy gig in our part of West Wales, and Little Wander’s decision to refuse open spots could be stopping a generation of local comedians coming through.
As with the Mach festival, they are entertaining us, but not empowering us.
The Arts Centre has a community remit, and I think the audience would like a bit of variety. Having someone doing jokes about the Cambrian News, and noting what a short trip it’s been for them, would be a nice change.
But I can understand Little Wander’s concerns that Open Spots might be rubbish (eg here’s a video of our IT spod, Tony, telling his unfunny jokes)
I’m also aware of doing a review of a unique, individual comedy night isn’t particularly helpful so I’ll leave it there.