A brilliant night of sets from three talented comedians, Nonsuch Studios hosted Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Previews on 28th July. Tabitha Smith reviews the evening’s acts: Josh Weller, Kirsty Munro and Masai Graham.
On Friday night, I showed up to Nonsuch Studios (which is quickly becoming my favourite Nottingham venue) for my first ever stand-up show. Having never been to a comedy show before, Comedy Previews for acts that would be heading to the Edinburgh Fringe at the start of August seemed like the perfect introduction. The lineup was advertised as a preview for the comedy of Steve Bugeja and Josh Weller, but in Bugeja’s absence, Masai Graham and Kirsty Munro stepped in to complete the bill. Studio 2, where the show was taking place, was about half full for the event, and I sat in the second row, hoping to be safe from any audience participation.
a set of well-paced storytelling, punctuated by musical interludes and sudden outbreaks of physical comedy
Josh Weller opened the night with his fantastic show, Age Against the Machine: a set of well-paced storytelling, punctuated by musical interludes and sudden outbreaks of physical comedy. Weller’s presence filled the space and helped warm up the crowd, encouraging just the right amount of voluntary participation from the crowd (to my immediate relief). Age Against the Machine sets out the primary structure of Weller’s short-lived career as a musician, signing to Universal Records at twenty-three and touring with the big indie bands of the time, only to be dropped by the label in the same year. Weller cleverly strings together his tale of misfortune with pauses to impersonate generic music of particular eras. This bit has proved popular through his TikTok videos, garnering him nearly 50,000 followers from his impressions of pop punk music, Arctic Monkeys and obnoxious musicians on any given instrument. These interludes weren’t complete without the addition of sudden dance moves, a highlight of which was Weller re-enacting the main routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, gaining momentum from move to move, only to finish on a stiff, apprehensive moon-walk.
he has curated a set from reflecting on his life and genuinely realising that it could make comedy gold
While the majority of the jokes were at his own expense, Weller never came across as overly self-deprecating; he has curated a set from reflecting on his life and genuinely realising that it could make comedy gold. As the show was a preview, Weller was attentive to how jokes were received, recapping aloud each set-up and how it went down in a way that seemed authentic and didn’t take the audience out of the experience too much. I may be showing my bias as a music lover, but Weller’s incorporation of song, particularly his own records, into the routine felt seamless. Although a lot of references were made to the music of Weller’s upbringing in the eighties and nineties, these jokes were universal enough not to go over my head; Phil Collins is definitely still a memorable name when discussing musical success, either in jest or sincerity. Weller certainly served the music of my generation with his final, rather raucous number, a track he had written to be the next biggest controversy since the release of Cardi B’s WAP (it’s certainly a contender).
After an interval, we were greeted by the smiling face of Masai Graham, doing a quick introduction before Kirsty Munro. The crowd had been thoroughly warmed up by Weller, and Graham harnessed this atmosphere well by introducing some of the material which gained him recognition with critics at the Edinburgh Fringe. Graham has placed in the top ten jokes of the festival five times, with three of these entries winning first place. As the current placeholder for best joke of 2022, Graham told us his pun about spaghetti which gained him the award, and I had high hopes for the rest of his set.
Full to the brim with energy, Munro flew through ten minutes of her crude yet delightful Two Slut Drops and a Chicken Burger
As soon as Kirsty Munro came on, she had the crowd giggling in anticipation for her set. Full to the brim with energy, Munro flew through ten minutes of her crude yet delightful Two Slut Drops and a Chicken Burger. Framing the majority of her set around her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and a subsequent stay in hospital, Munro is a perfect example of a comedian who takes taboos and makes them feel so easy to discuss. What was obviously a troubling period in her life was engineered into surprisingly light material which reduced the crowd into fits of laughter. Her infectious and animated performance swept us up in her story. Munro’s set was tragically short, and I was sad to see her thank the crowd and exit, but she left me all the more excited for the full set at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Graham finished the night with his set, a combination of material from his shows 101 Clean Jokes in 30 Minutes and 101 Naughty Jokes in 30 Minutes. Graham’s set felt very different to Weller’s and Munro’s, as there was no overarching narrative to his jokes. Specialising in crafted set-ups and punchlines, it’s easy to see how Graham won the coveted ‘Best Joke of the Fringe’ award numerous times. Graham also used some flashcards with images to accentuate his punchlines, and would regularly remind the audience that he had spent lots of time gluing and laminating them at home to maintain laughter. The wordplay in each of his jokes was clever and evidently well-thought-through. Coupled with Graham’s confident delivery, he eased the audience into the routine without it feeling too start-stop. That being said, Graham’s performance didn’t capture me as wholly as the others, and if it weren’t for the circumstances of his stand-in appearance that night, he would have made an excellent first act, warming up the crowd with his brazen one-liners to enjoy the storytelling of Weller or Munro afterwards.
Overall, this was an excellent introduction into the world of stand-up comedy for me! All of the acts were incredible, with my slight bias leaning towards Weller and his terrific use of music to bring his set to life.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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