Review: Monkey Business Comedy Club - Camden

Monkey Business Comedy Club 

Saturday 28th January 2012 - Despite hard economic times the London comedy circuit has continued to boom, flooding our stages, pubs and clubs with exciting new talent. The Monkey Business Comedy Club in Camden is no exception. It has two alternate venues performing every Thursday and Saturday. Last night I visited the Sir Richard Steele near Chalk Farm to view the talent on offer with headline act Stephen Grant.

The Sir Richard Steele is an intimate but perfect setting for a Comedy night. The bar is well stocked with reasonably priced drinks, the staff are friendly and the atmosphere makes for a welcoming venue. I am greeted at the door by Martin Besserman, the friendly MC and founder of Monkey Business, who guides everyone to their seats and makes sure they all have a drink in hand.

The concept of Monkey Business is not a new one. It aims to showcase new talent while building up to a more established headline act. There is inevitably a bit of pot-luck in regards to who you get to see on the night, and while all new acts have to begin somewhere it can sometimes make for awkward watching leaving the audience a little volatile. This appeared to be the case last night, and it made for an experience similar to that of a gladiatorial styled arena where only the strong survived, and the weak were left licking their wounds.

Tickets for the night are quite pricey at £15 a head. Having chatted to some of the audience they stated they would have felt more comfortable paying around the £10 mark, particularly as for a couple of pounds more they could have gone to The Comedy Store.

Last night began with the lovable Jewish comedian, Sol Bernstein. An absolute gem of loveable grandpa meets filthy old man. The sort of man I would be desperate to take home to my Nan and leave them together for a while to see who could be more offensive…

Musical act Carly Smallman made for a delightfully different act, singing sweetly with her guitar about incest, relationships, love and psychosis. Having most recently performed on the Rob Brydon show she handled the audience well, cementing herself as ‘one of the girls’ – if a slightly desperate, stalker-like one…

The other acts failed to capture the audience’s attention and while we had a simply delicious menu of magic, live music and stand-up that on paper looked very exciting, unfortunately they did not create the buzz they had promised. Admittedly the audience last night was a difficult one, unafraid of letting the acts know when they weren’t “feeling them”. There was an air of tension that was very intimidating, yet these moments are always important in shaping the careers of young performers.

The headline act Stephen Grant saved the night, exploding onto stage and cleverly releasing the pent-up energy that had been collecting in the room. He took on a tough crowd and his experience shone through as he managed to heroically diminish the annoying hecklers in the room with ease (receiving an almighty cheer from the rest of us!).

Monkey Business makes for a good night out, and while at times can feel like the weird audition stage of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ there is no denying that it is an important backbone for propelling new talent out onto the comedy circuit. And while the crowd, in their drunken state, distracted from the action on stage I have to ask myself… in words stolen from that famous gladiator film…

“Are you not entertained…?”

And the answer is

“Yes, yes I am.”

Review by Melissa Phillips