September saw the début of a brand new monthly comedy night in Manchester. Based in the bar/theatre Gorilla (formerly known as the Green Room), their mission statement is to provide a weekend comedy night for people who actually want to listen to the acts. No stag and hen parties, no heckling and no talking over the acts allowed here – the evening’s organisers have nine years’ experience organising comedy events, and have a genuine love of comedy that goes far beyond the usual goal of getting punters to the bar, and this night is for people who love comedy as much as they do.

The venue itself is nice and quirky, with the decoration of various dials and switches making the stage oddly reminiscent of a 50s B-movie – setting a nicely surreal tone for the evening, which the acts manage to live up to, and even surpass.

Headlining the inaugural evening was panel show regular Alun Cochrane, lending his usual sardonic fare to the wonderfully friendly and attentive audience. I’ll be honest, I thought I would never attend a Saturday night comedy show that wasn’t populated by “Mental-Barry-from-Accounts”-types repeatedly trying to upstage the acts – but this was the real deal. The crowd interacted with Cochrane’s banter without playing up, and indeed, the entire evening passed without a single heckle being fired. The organisers’ approach of being absolutely up-front and honest about the crowds they did and didn’t want worked perfectly, and I’ll admit, much better than I was expecting it to!

First act on was David Longley, somehow tackling observational humour (with a focus on sex and relationships) and surreal flights of fantasy in the same measured, calm and collected tone of voice – somehow making the more surreal portions of his act all the funnier for their unexpectedness, while a very clever and clearly well-rehearsed routine about the differing uses of swearwords added a more juvenile giggle to the act as well.

After Longley (and defying all probability in the process!) came two transvestite comics to round off the inaugural bill; Australian Ryan Withers leant a highly surreal, energetic and theatrical style to the evening’s entertainment – song and dance numbers, audience participation (even faux-audience participation!) and ghost stories rounded off with special effects made this an incredibly entertaining act!

Finally, Andrew O’Neill took the stage, switching gleefully between the serious and the whimsical, with strange repeated non-sequiturs (the geekier of the crowd may even have noticed an obscure reference to the 1975 Doctor Who story ‘Terror of the Zygons’ hidden in there – or was I the only one who got that?) and a mime stretched out beyond all reason while still managing to remain funny. O’Neill masterfully keeps the audience on their toes wondering what’s coming next, while never ever leaving them disappointed.

Overall the night was a roaring success – it somehow managed to combine the respectful and friendly atmosphere of a mid-week show with the numbers and energy associated with weekend gigs. If Group Therapy can keep this kind of quality night up, it will be a welcome new addition to Manchester’s comedy landscape!

Group Therapy is on each month at Gorilla, Whitworth St West, Manchester. Check out their website at


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