THERE’S arguably no tougher job in the world than being a stand-up comic in a provincial town.
Just finding a venue and an audience is a challenge.
Winning them over and making them laugh can be an even more daunting task.
Never mind the reviewer from the local paper, the most severe critics are those in the back row with a pint of lager in their hand.
So it’s great that Arundel’s Jailhouse is playing a key role in reviving this ancient art of self-inflicted torture for budding and not-so-budding comedians.
It’s ‘Jailhouse Screamers’ - held every last Friday of the month - has become one of their most popular events.
So much so that they are now taking the winning formula to Worthing at the Charles Dickens pub in Heene Road - starting May 6 on the first Friday of the month.
Collin Baxter scouts out the talent from other comedy clubs and open mic nights.
“Sometimes other comedians will recommend other acts who they think would be suitable for our venue and I now get a lot of acts contacting me and asking for a slot. I always try to get an eclectic mix of talent for the night. I find this to be more inspiring and entertaining.”
But Collin is not always the man behind the event. A noted actor and former boy band member, sometimes he takes centre stage too - as he did last Friday at their ninth such showing.
Joining forces with the busy and talented Sally Chattaway, they reprised a performance from a few years back at the Edinburgh Festival. It got great reviews then and landed Collin his first agent. It’s lost none of its magic in the intervening years.
The pair are Clantessential, a dodgy folk group - complete with 1960s style open toed sandals and thick home-knitted woollen pullovers. Naeve and innocent, their happy songs are riddled with innuendo which passes them, but not their audiences, by.
It has all the skill of a Two Ronnies sketch at its best - except this lives closer to the edge.
For the rest of the evening, the other acts were solos. Rachel Parris mixed extraordinary music, bitter-sweet humourous lyrics and a wonderful voice; while Kishore Nayar explained why he preferred comedy to the day-job as a lawyer. His keen, clean and intelligent wit won him lots of new friends.
Adam Smith was the final act, with a style as deadpan as anything Jack Dee has produced; David Blood had a rhythm which was as streetwise as it was sharp; while the comedy was more visual with Tom Appleton - whose set revolved around the cockatoo styling to his hair. How many hours does it take him to get ready to face the world each day?
Eden Rivers had a naturally disarming style as compere.
Was there room for improvement amongst all the acts? Of course there was. Some of the material featured in the evening was still a little raw; and there was an inevitable tangible nervousness in the Jailhouse atmosphere.
ut these kind of gigs offer the same polishing process as the grit in the oyster. And the audience was appreciative. If you are going to lay the humour of your soul bare, Arundel is a good a place as any to start. The crowd enjoyed it, and so did we.