Our Top 5: Comedy Duos

 Armstrong and Miller

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Before Alexander Armstrong was a Pointless host and the man your mum definitely has a crush on, (trust me, she does) he was half of the comedy duo Armstrong and Miller, with fellow Cambridge graduate Ben Miller. Their sketch shows featured wonderfully absurd one-offs (such as a choreographed musical number about farmers markets) and an array of recurring characters, most famously the RAF pilots who speak in modern slang (“Fo sho, those Germans will be owned, blood. Isn’t it. Isn’t it though”).

Memorable quote:

“I was playing a chef who in real life burnt his hand on a hot stove, when suddenly I burnt my elbow on a hot stove.” – Miller, in a sketch about accident insurance for actors who injure themselves acting in accident insurance adverts.

 

Fey and Poehler

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Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are successful as individuals – Fey created and starred in 30 Rock and Poehler is Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope – but a lot of their best moments happen together. Whether serving as the first female co-anchors of SNL’s Weekend Update, starring together in films like Mean Girls, Baby Mama and Sisters, or ripping stars to shreds at the Golden Globes, these two have helped put funny women into the mainstream.

Memorable quote:

“Gravity is nominated for Best Film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a women his own age.”  – Fey at the 2014 Golden Globes.

 

French and Saunders

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Their sketch show ran for 7 seasons and 47 episodes between 1987 and 2007, not including their Comic Relief specials or live touring shows. A lot of the best sketches are big-budget parodies, but the heart of the show was always the relationship between Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. French and Saunders have won numerous awards and much critical acclaim individually for The Vicar of Dibley and Absolutely Fabulous respectively, and were jointly awarded the BAFTA fellowship in 2009.
(Also they are rumored to be replacing Mel and Sue on The Great British Bakeoff, as if they didn’t have their national treasure statuses secured already!)

Memorable quote:

Not a quote as such but watch this.

 

Pegg and Frost

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Hot Fuzz. Shaun of the Dead. Bits of The World’s End. Need I say more?

Memorable quote:

“DS Andy Wainwright: You do know there are more guns in the country than there are in the city.

DS Andy Cartwright: Everyone and their mums is packin’ round here.

Nicholas Angel: Like who?

DS Andy Wainwright: Farmers.

Nicholas Angel: Who else?

DS Andy Cartwright: Farmers’ mums.” – From Hot Fuzz.

 

Laurel and Hardy

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Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are comedy legends, the kings of slapstick and the source of many a dad joke. Over their careers they starred together in a staggering 107 films, including 23 full-length features, and they bumbled their way into the hearts of a generation with their masterful use of visual comedy, as well as smatterings of great one-liners (such as “I was dreaming I was awake but I woke up and found myself asleep”).

Memorable quote:

“Hardy: Call me a cab.

Laurel: You’re a cab.” – From Another Fine Mess.

 

Hannah McLeod
Clogs Editor 

Review: Going Awol Unwrapped

****

I had no idea what to expect when taking my seat for AWOL’s production of Going AWOL Unwrapped. I could never have predicted where the next 90 minutes (roughly) would lead. 

Lydia Keating and Elizabeth Eaton (the show’s stars and our guides for the night) took us through France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Holland and Germany on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, disposing of the dismembered limbs of their boss, whom they accidentally-on-purpose murdered. Sounds weird? It really was. 

Once you get 14354975_1830274607217033_8793994003415629325_nyour head around the weirdness, Going AWOL Unwrapped was uncompromisingly silly, imaginative and surprising. Lydia Keating was fantastic as the prim and proper Valerie Silverston, chief editor at the Times. Elizabeth Eaton was perfectly matched as her comic sidekick, with the two fulfilling several other roles besides (including a bull, a crazed Scottish OAP and a hunky American journalist.)

The production’s use of props was inspired, and helped to give the audience a multi-sensory experience; at one point I could have sworn we were in the middle of the ocean, thanks to a simple spray of mist and a scattering of bubbles.

14681587_1845990775645416_414633515291536990_nMy highlights from the show included a very funny (and I couldn’t possibly know if it was accurate) portrayal of being high, thanks to a mistaken purchase of some brownies in Amsterdam. The arrival of a feisty Spanish bull also threw an interesting spanner in the works, as did the aforementioned hunky American journalist. When Valerie Silverston uttered the fatal words, “Fancy another holiday Miss Upshaw?” the craziness was amped up another level.

After the interval, things took a turn for the much weirder. Suddenly, we were in Lapland….*queue festivities.* I wouldn’t recommend bringing children to the show, as its ending may just ruin Christmas for them, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone seeking a bit of fun and some easy laughter in an evening. 

Kudos to Lydia Keating and Elizabeth Eaton for so magically and entertainingly taking us around the world, whilst all the time in the Improv Theatre’s incongruous setting in the backroom of a Polish Ex-Servicemen’s Club.

Going Awol Unwrapped is on again TONIGHT (Thursday 15th December) at the Bristol Improv Theatre.
More info about Awol Productions: https://www.facebook.com/awolproductionsbristol/

Emily Snow
Deputy Editor

Our Top 5: Funny YouTubers

Jack & Dean (531,016 subs)

This comedy duo, based in London, specialise in short, snappy sketches that combine everyday situations with a touch of the surreal. Their comedy style is characterised by simple, often very silly concepts (a talking tree, everyone in the world turning into balloons) coupled with understated comic acting. Although some of their best sketches involve several characters, what Jack and Dean do particularly well is quick-fire yet deadpan dialogue as a pair. Their strength as a double act has also translated into a series of live shows, as well as their series for Fullscreen, Jack and Dean of All Trades, for which they are currently filming a second series. JADOAT involves the pair attempting to find jobs, with a different career in each episode. It even stars Jessica Hynes as their employment officer, Marv, and was nominated for three Streamy awards. Coupled with their growing success elsewhere, Jack and Dean continue to make YouTube sketches for their channel.

Try watching: ‘Ghosts Aren’t Red’

Grace Helbig (3,028,828 subs)

This American comedian has also had success outside YouTube, with two books and several live shows. However her main focus is her YouTube channel, which she uploads to three times a week. Helbig is both self-deprecating and silly, and can manage to go from being sarcastic to enthusiastic during the course of one video. She makes a range of content, from chatty ‘stream of consciousness’ videos to challenges and the occasional beauty tutorial, all with her characteristic sense of irony. She often collaborates with other YouTubers, most often with fellow comedians Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart (no relation). Known as the ‘holy trinity’ of YouTube, when these three make a video together it is guaranteed to involve both hilarity and a lot of alcohol. Helbig’s sense of humour might take a few videos to get used to, but she is undoubtedly a star of YouTube comedy. She also has a dog called Goose, which ought to be reason enough to look her up.

Try watching: ‘Mannequin Challenge with My Dog’

Mamrie Hart (1,191,689 subs)

Mamrie Hart’s show ‘You Deserve a Drink’ has gained her over a million subscribers and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a successful book deal. The show basically consists of Hart teaching her audience how to make a different kind of drink in each episode, occasionally with the help of a guest. The main feature of YDAD though is the rapid-fire puns, each one dirtier than the last. Her guests are often left reeling, from both the alcohol and the jokes, while the host cackles delightfully in the background. Hart makes her show with the help of Grace Helbig, and the pair also sporadically perform a live show together: ‘This Might Get Weird Y’all’. They recently brought this madcap show to the UK and Ireland, with performances in London and Dublin that ended with a lot of paint going everywhere. Hart also has a second YouTube channel, ‘Mametown’, where she makes short vlogs and collaborates with other YouTubers. As a comedian she is raucous, mischievous, quick-witted and a lot of fun.

Try watching: ‘Montreal that!’

Tomska (4,249,252 subs)

If you’ve heard of anyone on this list before, it’s likely to be Tomska and his ‘asdf movies’. With a channel that’s been around almost as long as the platform itself, he is by now a seasoned YouTuber. As well as the hugely popular asdf movies, (a series of very short, simply animated quick-fire jokes), Tomska produces comic sketches and cartoons. His sense of humour is dry, yet all his videos have a touch of the ridiculous about them. Whether it’s a sketch about French aliens taking over the world, or a song called ‘shoot all your problems away’ (yes, really) Tomska will give you a good laugh. And only make you question yourself briefly for laughing.

Try watching: ‘The Wish’

Humza Productions (319,866 subs)

Although his subscriber count isn’t as high as some of the other YouTubers on this list, Humza Arshad definitely deserves your attention. He’s an actor and comedian who makes videos about his life, often with hilarious observations about the differences between his London home and his Pakistani heritage. His most popular videos are his ‘Diary of a Badman’ series, which tell the life story of a fictional version of Arshad himself, combining drama with daft comic moments. As well as making comedy, Arshad has worked with the police and gone into schools to raise awareness of the dangers of extremism. He is a proud Muslim, and works hard to separate the ideas of religious extremism and terrorism from Islamic values. Arshad is a likeable and funny personality, and he succeeds in combining serious messages like these with silly comedy.

Try watching: ‘Asian people vs white people going on holiday’

Hazel Hayes (227,378 subs)

(Yes, I know this is meant to be a top five, not a top six. Think of this one as a bonus; number 5.5 on the list. Not because she isn’t as good as the others, but because her channel isn’t exclusively comedy.)

Hazel Hayes is a filmmaking YouTuber, originally from Ireland, who produces short horror films and vlogs about cinema in general. She also does a series called Tipsy Talk, which is as funny as the title is self-explanatory. The reason she has made this list, though, is for her comedy writing. She occasionally makes comic sketches, including ‘Not the John Lewis Christmas Advert’, which is both brilliant and seasonally appropriate. And she has recently released an excerpt from her sitcom, ‘Hot Mess’, which she is hoping to get commissioned. ‘Hot Mess’ tells the story of two friends in their late twenties, muddling through life together. The performances, by Hayes and Andrea Valls, are real and heartfelt, and both display genius comic timing. Hopefully someone will pick it up and make it, because it deserves the recognition.

Try watching: ‘Hot Mess’

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Alice Harper

Review: Convenience

When “The Russians” demand that your best friend pays his £8000 strip club tab, the logical next step is to take said idiotic best friend to rob a petrol station, right?

That’s how this crazy crime caper begins, and continues, until it’s wrapped up so nicely you’d think Billy Shakespeare wrote it himself.  Upon realizing the safe in the petrol station is on time-lock and won’t open until 6am, our ‘heroes’ pose as cashiers whilst the other staff are tied up in the office. Then the assistant manager returns from her ciggy break and mistakes them for new trainees, welcoming the two would-be robbers into the world of the convenience store whilst they attempt to hold their cover until 6am. It’s rife for comedy pickings, and they’re picked with intelligence and style.

One of the things that makes Convenience such a gem is the theatrical script and style; there’s almost only one location (the shop) and a handful of characters who move in and out of the shopfront (read: spotlight), before being gagged and shoved in the manager’s office (read:backstage).

Related imageIt’s got a cast full of people you’ll recognize, not necessarily as standout actors but who all know how to pull off a good punchline or a convincing look. Utopia’s Adeel Akhtar definitely doe stand out as the loveable goofball best friend with an irrational fear of babies, and Eastender’s Ray Panthaki does a great job of the smarter but more weary ‘older brother’ figure. As a duo they’re brilliant to watch; imagine George and Lennie in a Guy Ritchie film. It’s also nice to see Vicky McClure using the comedic talent which she showed in This Is England, in contrast to many of her current more humorless roles.

For his directorial debut, Keri Collins hasn’t done too badly either. The direction is mostly simplistic, letting the actors and the script do their work while the camera captures it from the best position, although a few shots involving Verne Troyer and his Mustang are especially gorgeous, and the shop interior is always captured in a slightly Orwellian composition and tone. Whatever he did he did well, and the film won Collins the 2014 BAFTA Cymru Breakthrough Award.

Simon Fantauzzo’s script is what really makes Convenience so enjoyable. A relatively unknown screenwriter, with only a Danny Dyer film under his belt before this, Fantauzzo’s script feels like a mix of Pinter, Shakespeare and the guys who wrote The Inbetweeners (Damon Beesley and Iain Morris). The nicely tied up ending feels like the conclusion of Twelfth Night. Perhaps the title Convenience says more about the plot than the setting, although it never feels forced within the already outlandish crime caper genre. The buddy humour is funny and consistently so, but the real humour comes from the subtle truths and darker moments that get close to the bone: questioning each other about their disguises as store assistants, they point out that no one’s going to question two Asians working behind a till. Also there’s a delicious moment in which the baby fearing of the two has to help a dwarf reach the top shelf, and a bewildering yet touching scene where the same goofball stops a man from burning himself alive on the forecourt.

Convenience is one of those rare comedies which tackles human psychology extremely well. Sure, you won’t have any huge philosophical revelations, but the characters’ motives and actions are for the most part understandable and dig a layer deeper than the average comedy. The unfolding dynamic between the three manipulative lead characters is mentally engaging and entertaining (a combination which isn’t always achieved), and by the manic yet brilliant end of the film you’ll be wholeheartedly rooting for the unlikely pair. Rather conveniently it’s on Netflix at the moment, and it’s one of the best films you’ve never heard of before so give it a go before it flies off the shelf.

 

Sam Toller

 

Review: The Night Before Christmas

***

‘The Night Before Christmas’ has something to say about Christmas, but it’s not quite clear what that is. It might be suggesting an anti-Christmas message or it might be that elves really do exist. It might be the secret to that special Christmas feeling (bringing a whole new meaning to the words ‘high on Christmas’) or it might be that doing the right thing is, after all, the only Christmas feeling worth having. Whatever Christmas means to you, prepare to have your feelings challenged.

Anthony Neilson’s play (first performed in 1995, so spot those ‘90s references) is a crackling 55 minute swoop of melodrama, laughs and downright silliness.  It all starts when Gary (played with bumbling aplomb by Arthur Godden) calls his mate Simon (an angry Joshua Phillips) on Christmas Eve to come to his warehouse as he has captured – drumroll, please – an elf!  Simon is convinced the elf is a burglar (after all, shouldn’t an elf have pointy ears?), the elf is desperate to get away (for reasons which later become apparent) and, well, hilarity ensues.

Tawdry Lace Theatre have a great time performing this foul-mouthed anti-pantomime in the Alma Tavern Theatre, with a lot packed into the 55 minutes. Is the elf actually an elf? Will Simon will ever stop being a modern-day Scrooge? Will Gary get local prostitute Cherry out of his warehouse before his ex-wife drops by? Can Power Ranger toys be wished into existence? Can Cherry can give her son a better life? Does anyone ever get what they really want for Christmas? All of this is contained in a gleeful dollop of furious comedy.

Calum Anderson as the Elf(?)

A small set works well and they play the unspoken as well as the spoken, with laughs coming as much from a well-timed look or grimace (including a daft scene where they try and take the elf’s heartbeat) as from the dialogue itself.  Calum Anderson’s elf, though with fewer lines, does a good job of maintaining this farcical elf-not-an-elf-but-actually-maybe-really-is-an-elf act, mixing his Eeyorish predictions of Christmas catastrophe with sly flashes of cheeky–chappy (or should that be cheeky-elfy?) adroitness.

After a while I found the first half a little too much of a one-note rant and enjoyed the tonal shift about halfway through when it lightened up, characters opened up and there were some moments of real heart along with comedic brilliance. There are some cracking comedy one-liners – a joke about Hartlepool and another about ‘a Queen’s speech you’ll never forget’ spring to mind – and the energy was high throughout.

Sweary, lairy and loud, this anti-Christmas-yet-Christmassy show will kick you in the goolies whilst warming your heart at the same time.  Not one to take the kids (or those with genteel sensibilities!) to but well worth an hour of your time.

 

Jessi Tucker

An interview with Tawdry Lace Theatre, on The Night Before Christmas

I’m sitting in a function room turned rehearsal space above The Townhouse on Whiteladies road. Sat in a semi circle in front of me are Janet Adams, the director of Tawdry Lace Theatre’s ‘The Night Before Christmas’, and three of the four cast members, Arthur Godden, Calum Anderson and Joshua Phillips.

Clogs: Tell us about your company, Tawdry Lace.

Janet: Myself, our co-producer Paul and Faye, who is in the cast but can’t be here tonight, all met on a production of The Winter’s Tale, and decided we wanted to carry on working together.

Arthur: So they started a supergroup.

Janet: We had a lot of fun playing shepherds, and we wanted to carry on with that fun. We did our first show as Tawdry Lace in October last year; Travels With My Aunt, based on the Graham Greene novel. We were doing lots of multi-roling, sharing out 51 parts. It got five stars, but then we had the 2nd album worries as to how we could follow it up.

 

Clogs : Then you went with The Night Before Christmas. What made you choose it?

Janet: It’s an Anthony Neilson play set in the mid-90’s.

Arthur: Around the time Paul Weller had his solo career.

Janet: I’ve had to explain a few 90’s references the younger members of the cast don’t understand. Telling them, trust me, the audience will find it funny. It’s about…

Janet struggles for words.

…an elf in a workshop…

Josh: …Who gets captured…

Josh peters out.

Cal: And hilarity ensues.

Janet: There’s lots of swearing, which is why it’s sixteen plus. Faye, who plays the prostitute, said it’s the most swearing she’s ever had to do on stage.

 

Clogs: So the play is quite dark?

Janet: It’s definitely a dark comedy.

Arthur: Neilson was a contemporary of Sarah Kane, though he’s not so in your face.

Cal: But it’s fun, there’s no Christmas hating.

Janet: It’s a bit of an anti-pantomime.

 

Clogs: What are your favourite moments in the play?

Arthur: When you first see the elf. It’s bizarre. I’m looking forward to see how the audience react. The initial bit is funny, but then there’s even more on top of that. It’s hard to choose one.

Cal: It changes a lot. We do have one loud GASP, it’s very pantomime. We find it hilarious.

Josh: I get a lot of good rants. It’s cathartic. That’s not even my favourite bit, but I can’t ruin the rest of the play.

Janet laughs knowingly. 

Janet: He’ll be the favourite of the skeptical ones.

Cal: The dads.

Janet: My favourite moment changes all the time. I can’t decide.

 

Clogs: For the director, who has watched it over and over, a better question might be ‘Which bits still make you giggle?’

Janet: Too many. I can’t say.

Janet looks guiltily at each cast member.

Arthur: It’s favouritism. Like choosing between your children. Janet can’t do it.

 

Clogs: Do you have comedic backgrounds or are you more serious performers?

Arthur: I usually go for comic roles and I’ve done a bit of stand up. I’ve never done a fully straight character. This is probably as close as I’ve got. I usually make jokes out of jokes, how bad I am as a performer, lots of fourth wall stuff, especially when I do stand up. But in this play, the humour is from the seriousness.

 

Clogs: Cal?

Cal: I’ve always been naturally funny. I get a lot of comedic roles, I think it’s because I look funny. But seriously, it’s a great ensemble peace.

Arthur: It’s the situations, not the characters that make it brilliant. The less you play it up, the funnier it is.

Josh: My comedic background is similar to Cal’s and Arthur’s; I naturally lean towards comedic roles. I pull them off better. I have an improv background, I’ve been up to the Edinburgh Fringe for the last few years. I lean to comedy, certainly.

Janet: I’ve done lots of comedy, lots of seriousness too. Lots of farce.

 

Clogs: But as a theatre company, you focus on comedies?

Janet: They sell better! I shouldn’t say that.

 

Clogs: Not at all. Gotta make a living.

Arthur: It’s a serious piece, but it’s a great comedy. Cal’s actually doing another similar project off the back of this.

Cal: It’s a play about Anne Frank called ‘And Then They Came For Me’, playing at the Alma Tavern in January. I’ll be performing in my post Christmas, lethargic, overfed state.

 

Clogs: What’s after this for Tawdry Lace?

Janet: Hollywood!

Cal: Tinsel Town!

Josh: McDonagh!

Arthur: Churchill!

Janet: We havn’t decided yet. We’ve had a few ideas.

 

Clogs: But it’ll be something, and it’ll be something funny?

Janet: It’ll be something, and it should be funny!

 

Clogs: Sounds good. Thanks for chatting to us!

‘The Night Before Christmas’ will run from the 27th November – 3rd December in The Alma Tavern Theatre. You can buy your tickets here. 

Sam Toller

An Interview with Every Other Sunday:

We interviewed Michael Burns, one of the people behind new Bristol comedy night ‘Every Other Sunday’, to find out more about a night which will soon become a Bristol classic.

So what makes ‘Every Other Sunday’ different from other comedy nights?

We are the only night in Bristol (and one of the few in the UK) showcasing longform improv and sketch comedy in the style you find at places like The Second City (in Chicago) and the Upright Citizens Brigade (in NY and LA). Bristol already has a great theatre for more narrative and short-form improv at the Bristol Improv Theatre, and of course has tons of great stand-up nights, so we really wanted to offer something unique that would compliment the existing scene.

 

What sort of person is your target audience?

Anyone who’s a fan of alternative comedy, and who likes their comedy as smart as it is absurd and over the top. We’re definitely putting on shows that are not for the faint of heart (for example, at our first two shows we led the audience in singing along with a song where the chorus is ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ over and over – the video is on our Facebook page). So the show isn’t for the easily offended, but at the same time the emphasis is experimentation and creativity. And it doesn’t hurt if you like to have a drink whilst enjoying your comedy.

 

What was it that made you put the show together to start with?

There are four of us that run the night (myself, Jessica Wright, Piers Dixon, and Hubert McIntyre) and we all know each other through the Bristol improv scene. When I was in LA this summer studying at the UCB theatre, I got an email from Piers asking if I was interested in putting on a sketch comedy night, mentioning that he was interested in the UCB style of comedy. From here we reached out to Hubert and Jess, who in my opinion are two of the funniest and most enthusiastic performers in Bristol, and talked about how we could use our shared love of longform improv and sketch comedy to bring something fresh and unique to the Bristol comedy scene. We all love this style of comedy so much – we’re basically just trying to spread the gospel to Bristol!

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You premiered at The Room Above’s opening party – obviously, the venue is very new, so what can you tell us about it?

We absolutely love the space at The Room Above, and feel so lucky to be a part of it! Unlike some of the other theatre spaces in Bristol, The Room Above has the same feel you get at a lot of the legendary improv clubs in cities like Chicago and New York. Because it’s a smaller space, you really get to feel the energy of the audience and it creates an insanely fun feedback loop between the audience and performers. We also love that it’s above a fantastic pub, as we think that the sort of comedy we’re offering is best served with a pint (or four). It’s also just so great to be a part of this space from the start, as the organizers (Sam and Olivia) are infectiously enthusiastic and have such a great vision for its future.

 

What exactly is an “improv jam”?

An improv jam is basically a chance for anyone to get up on stage and give longform improv a try. While it’s helpful to have some experience before getting on stage for the first time, we want to provide a space for newer improvisers and comedians to get some stage time and build confidence as performers in a fun environment. I spent a lot of time at improv jams when I was studying and preforming comedy in LA over the summer, and thought it would be great if we could start to build that tradition in Bristol as well. You can basically think of it as the sort of jam you might get at a jazz club, just with a bunch of comedians with too much energy trying to make each other laugh.

 

The show includes an eclectic mix of comedy styles – what’s your favourite form of comedy?

My personal favourite form of comedy is longform comedic improvisation. It doesn’t focus on plot or narrative, but rather aims to identify funny patterns of behaviour and relationships. We are performing this style of improv as a regular part of our show called ‘Who The Fuck is Armando?’, where we invite our favourite local improvisers to join us on stage as we do 25 minutes of improv off an audience suggestion.

 

Do you have any plans for the future of Every Other Sunday?

The two big things that we’re planning are a couple of themed nights (expect an all musical night in January, and a valentines themed night in February), and some visiting improv acts from around the UK. In particular, we are hoping to bring in some of the fantastic longform improv and sketch groups from London.

 

So what can people expect from your first official show this Sunday?

A ridiculous amount of energy, a mix of sketch, stand-up, and improv, and really smart and really insane comedy. I can’t make any promises, but people can also expect to possibly end up with a free beer if they play their cards right…

You can see ‘Every Other Sunday’ this Sunday 27th, and after that, every other Sunday. 

Hannah McLeod, Editor