Club Smashing, Leicester’s very own alternative comedy night, is celebrating its second birthday on March 9th. Everyone loves a party – though this one probably won’t be what you expect.

Live comedy is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a funny thing. One person’s hilarious joke is another person’s dull story about someone’s day – and that’s fine. It takes all sorts to make the world go round, as my liquorice-obsessed family say. I grew up on alternative comedy – Lee and Herring and Vic and Bob both two grammatically tricky to write down but very formative influences in the young Wallbank comedy mind.

The thing is, if you don’t like “straight” stand-up, you can be in a bit of a bind when you try to find a comedy night you’ll enjoy. Many multi-act nights will often have an unusual act on, but that’s slim pickings for the true alternative comedy fan. Luckily, Leicester has Club Smashing, the pay-what-you-want monthly alternative comedy night at The Criterion. Hosted by award winners Ian Hall and Bruce Edhouse, Leicester’s very own alternative double act, Club Smashing offers an experience totally unlike anything else in the city.

“[We wanted] to introduce a different kind of night into the Leicester comedy scene,” says Ian. “Have acts that were funny but a bit more odd, a bit less of the ‘it’s funny cos it’s true’ style and more variety – stand up mixed with double acts, characters, sketches, karaoke. Encourage acts to collaborate and try something new. And a healthy dose of wigs and cardboard.”

Encouraging acts to try new things is a key tenet of Club Smashing – it’s heavily encouraged that you do not perform material you’ve done elsewhere, and that if you’re a stand-up you should try sketches, or if you’re a character comedian you try songs. The willingness to try new things is Bruce’s favourite part of the local scene. “We have people doing different things in different styles. Some places it’s all straightforward stand-up, but I always like it when people come to try out something completely new at Club Smashing. I’ve enjoyed the pantos we’ve done. There was the James Bond one, The Man With The Golden Goose, and then last year we had A Very Radiohead Christmas. You’re not going to see things like that anywhere else around here!”

The second birthday show is undoubtedly going to be an extravaganza – it features BBC New Comedy Award semi-finalist Sean Morley, local hero and previous Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year Matt Hollins, and Leicester Comedy Festival Best Show nominee Lucy Thompson, amongst others, all performing new or unusual material for the discerning comedy crowd. Once the birthday is over, Bruce has plans to encourage more people to take on the compère role: “We’re going to get a few more guest MC’s in so that people don’t need to put up with me and Ian as much. It’s nice when we get guest MC’s in, as they always bring their own atmosphere and magic.”

The thing that hits me most about Club Smashing is how inclusive it is – they don’t care who you are, if you’re willing to go along with them on ludicrous flights of fancy and get involved with some of the silliest things you’ve ever seen then you’re welcome in their house. The thing is, because it is so different, it can be quite hard to describe what a Club Smashing night is like. Previous highlights have been Dave McGuckin’s Play Your Cards Right sketch, in which his demented Bruce Forsyth attempted to make players guess “higher or lower” with a deck of cards that included a 7, Mr. Bun the Baker, Death and Jesus Christ.

To help me find something that sums it all up, Ian offers a suggestion: “Graham Milton as Tom Cruise in Top Gun entering on a toy tractor then taking a long time to try and reverse it. Sterling Morrison said that if anyone wanted to hear a song that captured why The Velvet Underground were unlike anything else, he’d play them Venus In Furs. That’s our Venus In Furs for me.”

Club Smashing takes place on the second Thursday of each month at The Criterion.

Dan Wallbank has been floating around the Leicester comedy scene for five years and the music scene for ten. He's the founder of Comedy and Cocktails at Manhattan34, host of the Firebug Pop Quiz and creator of Instant Nostalgia, the podcast that reviews itself.

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