Manchester’s Frog and Bucket comedy club has been the springboard for many a promising comic’s career, helping to launch the likes of Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas and Alan Carr to celebrity status.

Situated in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter district, famed for its nightclubs and slightly off-the-wall bohemian bars, it is a favourite for stag and hen dos, birthdays and office parties. The flagship event at the Frog, ’Barrel of Laughs’ on Fridays and Saturdays, is very much used to this kind of loud and rowdy crowd, with many of the regular comics expertly putting down hecklers and demanding the crowd’s respect for the stage. It’s a very “Friday night” event, which shows in its popularity and £16 door price, but its great reputation is well justified.

Compère Dan Nightingale is among the best, seamlessly transitioning between audience interaction and prepared material, keeping his sections of the show rocketing along at an impressive pace without any loss of quality. Simultaneously being guaranteed laughs from his gags and delivering everything a comedy audience expects of their host for the evening.

Danny Deegan provided the opening spot, and his cheeky tales of immature practical jokes and entertaining ideas about things to do in the bedroom went down a storm with the crowd. His growing up locally (in Bury) allowed him to add a dash of local colour to the jokes, without feeling contrived in the way that visiting comics often can.

The second slot was filled by the manic Phil Walker, whose rants and faintly controversial social comments received a more reserved reaction from the Friday night crowd, but his appeals to nostalgia and barbs against modern youth culture were an instant hit with the older audience members.

Finally, the headlining Smug Roberts, with his down to earth stories about his family and children, complete with a heart warming ring of truth, found himself lost in entirely the wrong audience. The late November Friday night crowd, with early Christmas parties and stag nights simply weren’t interested in his jokes. I’ve seen Smug many times before and his material is top notch – however, the crowd was looking for knob gags and pop-culture remarks, which simply isn’t his forte. I’ve rarely seen a comic elect to leave the stage early without a particularly nasty reaction from the crowd, but that’s precisely what Smug Roberts did – fifteen minutes into his set, he announced that he was experienced enough to know when it was time to leave, and duly vacated the stage.

It was an unfortunate end to a great night, but the now-restless crowd were happy enough to proceed straight on to the after-show disco with its late-licence bar, so perhaps I’m in the minority in thinking that.


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