MANCHESTER’S The Pub/Zoo hosts a regular comedy night, XSMalarkey every Tuesday, but this week offered something special. Not only was Stuart Goldsmith headlining with his new tour show ‘Compared to What?’ but there was an impromptu appearance by comedy giant, Johnny Vegas.

Compere Toby Hadoke kicked off the show. His experience shone through as he was able to bounce off the audience to get the laughter flowing immediately. Several science students became the subject of Hadoke’s gags, which were full of wit and never targeted a particular victim. Instead, his self-deprecation gathered the largest laughs, a refreshing change from a compere.

The first act of the night was Jemima Palfreyman who’s bravery was evident, as not only was she the first act to be thrown in front of a cold audience, but she aimed to create comedy from the delicate and incredibly awkward topic of women’s health. With an awkward veil cast over the crowd, laughter was hard to muster.

Peter Fleming was next on stage, with a drastic change of style to say the least. His character is an eccentric faux-children’s TV presenter from the 70s. He reminisced about the abysmal shows he once ‘made’ for the BBC, which would have only served to traumatise children.

His reconstructions, featuring rudimentary props and bizarre music, were hilarious. This juxtaposed with revelations that his life is at a dead end in the form of soul exposing glances and pauses, making for a superb act.

Hadoke returned to the stage, his hand shading the lights whilst looking into the audience. Then the announcement came that Johnny Vegas was to perform.

Seemingly with no material, Vegas’ stream of unconnected thoughts were a knockout. His mix of self-angst and despair culminated in some fantastic stand up comedy. He belittled himself only to then target a member of the audience, whose hair, despite bearing the brunt of a torrent of jokes, maintained its curls.

Vegas then went on to list a stream of incidents in which strangers had been incredibly unfortunate only to the St Helens comic’s guilty delight. The highlight being a hilarious twist to a seagull attack on a man carrying a bag of chips.

As Vegas winds down his set, beating himself up as he does, his jokes became more funny and all the more bizarre. He ended on the time he took a duck for a walk. The room was in stitches, not only for this particular gag, but for the entire time Vegas graced the stage. His ability to crack an audience up in the space of a few words is truly unrivalled.

Headlining for the night was the much underrated Stuart Goldsmith, who performed his tour show Compared to What?

Following a comedy colossus would not be easy, but by making clever callbacks to Vegas’ act, Goldsmith filled the comic gulf left behind as the legend snuck out the back door.

It’s clear to see that Goldsmith structures his sets with great thought, and this hour long show is no different. His brand of observational comedy is captivating and underpinned with superb pay offs.

The material in his latest hour follows trends of many middle-aged comics. Much of the show weighs heavily on him recently becoming a dad and adjusting to his new life. However, he looks at it from a refreshing angle and his wit ensures those who are unable to relate can still thoroughly enjoy the show.

As a flip to the view that single people getting into new relationships ‘die,’ he presents the same thing happening when couples have a baby. His construction of parenthood heaven is a masterpiece of comic visualisation.

Goldsmith also discusses his love affair with city life. He turns around the grumbles most people have about public transport, to find the chipper side to the city’s most uncomfortable moments in an almost convincing argument.

Goldsmith also talks about some of the most overwhelming moments that occur in a man’s life, which, for him had less poetic results. A proposal to his girlfriend that didn’t quite go to plan, as well as the first time he held his baby son, are times he experienced rather different outcomes to what he expected.

Goldsmith isn’t afraid to reveal things about himself that others would be worried to admit. He brings to life the quirky thoughts that flow through our heads on a daily basis. Who hasn’t at one time or another believed they’re the main character in a film about their life? Goldsmith gathers the room together by tackling these shared thoughts with a likable charm very few can replicate.

Goldsmith performs with an incredible energy, which captivates an audience, even on a night that contained close to three hours of comedy.

His passion for stand up shines through, not just in his performances, but also in his regular podcast in which he interviews fellow comedians. Catering for his fans, he hosted a quick Q&A after his show.

By showcasing his comedy in the wake of Johnny Vegas, Stuart Goldsmith proves in his new show that he’s becoming a powerful force in observational comedy.

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