Comedy and Cocktails at Manhattan34 is one of Leicester’s longest-running monthly comedy nights. It’s now seen the always-charming Dave McGuckin at the helm for most of its life – but things are about to change.
Once a month a selection of fine comedians descend the stairs into the perfectly-appointed venue at Manhattan34 in order to entertain delighted audiences for the low, low price of literally nothing at all. You could argue that this makes it one of the best value entertainment experiences on offer – many of the comedians who appear at Comedy and Cocktails have won or been nominated for awards, including Jack Campbell, Daniel Nicholas and Ian Hall, amongst a host of others. Should you have enjoyed yourself at the end of the evening, there’s an option to leave a Pay-What-You-Want donation, or to “buy the night a drink”.
Comedy and Cocktails is widely regarded as one of the warmest, friendliest and most welcoming nights in the Midlands, and because of this you’ll get a show you’re not likely to see anywhere else. Acts who have been touring the circuit for a while will often come to try out new material – road-testing the new stuff is hugely important to any working comedian, as nothing is universally funny. The night also features a section called The Debut Five – this is a section where a new comedian who has never been on stage before is welcomed to try out their first-ever five minutes of material. It’s a great initiative and it’s hard to imagine it working at many of the other comedy clubs I’ve been to – but the air at Manhattan is just that bit different.
When Dave announced at the 4th birthday show that he was handing over the reins, it was clear that he had to exercise extreme caution in selecting his successor. Whoever he was going to choose to run the night after his departure would have to be not only funny, but welcoming, warm and a pleasure to spend some time with in a basement. Luckily for Dave, he didn’t find one new host, but two.
“They asked if they could do it, which was a small clue that they might be interested,”
Step up Lucy Thompson and Thomas Rackham, the much-loved local double-act behind the Toad Radio podcast and hugely popular show “Lady” at the Comedy Festival. “The first reason why I decided that it should be Tom & Lucy who take over Comedy & Cocktails was because they asked if they could do it, which was a small clue that they might be interested,” Dave told me when I collared him at the most inopportune time I could for a short interview. “The second, and arguably less important reason, is that they could be a perfect team to run such a comedy night – Tom has a professional attention to detail, incredible organisational skills and a penchant for admin; and Lucy would also be there.”
Lucy is a fixture of the Leicester comedy scene, but she’s a relatively recent addition to the ranks. “I moved to Leicester in July 2013. I moved here for a girl who pretty much immediately dumped me,” she laughs. “I moved from Italy, I’m not even talking somewhere close! I hadn’t done comedy before. I’d always wanted to, but it always seemed so unattainable – the thought of standing up and talking to people was quite scary.” From these humble beginnings Lucy has become a key figure in local comedy. “I think the Leicester comedy scene is amazing – I don’t want to sound too cliché, but the people are just – I’d be lost without them, truth be told! It’s really inclusive, it’s really supportive, everyone’s just on it. Everyone has got me through some tough times – it’s brilliant”.
As of January, Lucy and Tom will be the new hosts. How does that feel? “Comedy and Cocktails was my third ever gig,” she remembers, “and I love it. I like all the gigs in Leicester to be honest. I think Comedy and Cocktails is lovely, fun, and I’d always do new material there over any other gig. I feel really excited to take it over, but I feel lucky I’ve got Tom”.
Tom Rackham is the straight man to Lucy’s wise guy, the “sensible” half of the double act that is the key to any successful comedy partnership (Ian Hall and Bruce Edhouse’s show “The Two Syds” takes this idea and plays on it, suggesting that a show featuring two straight men and no wise guy can still generate plenty of laughs). He started performing comedy in 2014, and met Lucy when she was writing the show that would become Lady. “I love Comedy and Cocktails,” he says. “It’s my favourite gig to do new material at that I’ve done so far and I can’t wait to be at the helm with Lucy. I always suggest people acts check it out, so I’m looking forward to being able to say ‘you’re really great, come and do this gig in Leicester’!”
Dave’s final show as host is coming up on Tuesday 6th of December – and it seems likely that he’s not going to let it pass quietly. Head down to Manhattan34 and settle in for a night of great comedy, amazing drinks and an unbeatable atmosphere.