Last month I previewed the Invisible Dot’s New Wave Tour, which shines a light on some rising stars of comedy. The first show of the tour, which took place in the John Thaw studio, a stage in the University of Manchester’s centre for drama and dance, was even better than I was expecting it to be. It was, admittedly, filled with the kind of people that one would expect to find in a university ‘drama and dance’ building, but that did nothing to spoil my evening, and indeed only provided me with almost as much comedy in overhearing people’s conversations than did the show itself (a rather amusing mix-up between Gary Numan and Gary Glitter when telling a story about a childhood encounter being my personal eavesdropping highlight!).

Kicking off the evening was sketch comedy from SHEEPS, breaking the fourth wall with gusto, allowing their stage personae to bleed into the sketches they create. Faux ineptitude like overly-serious straight men ruining would-be generic sketches allows them to dissolve brilliantly into bickering and keeping a running thread of humanity and character in what can occasionally be something of a hit-and-miss genre. Combined with their vision of a world filled with caricatured celebrities in unlikely situations, SHEEPS make for a highly entertaining trio, though perhaps slightly too young to successfully pull off some of the characters they intend without feeling a little like a university comedy society revue.

Nick Mohammed, character comic extraordinaire, uses a single prop to craft each of his wonderfully well-observed creations. From the screamingly camp “Mr. Swallows”, to the posh girl on campus, to the conductor leading a particularly strange orchestra, each character allows not only a joke at the expense of the characters we each meet in our everyday lives (I think any of us studying at university know the “Oh my G, it was like, totes random!” girl, and if you’re anything like me you take steps to avoid her) but also an opportunity for Nick Mohammed to show off the different types of comedy he’s capable of; from stories with punchlines, to observational humour, to playing with musical cues. He’s a genius when it comes to spotting the funny bits of normal people, and equally fantastic at turning himself into them.

Headliner Jonny Sweet ends the evening on an unusual high. His show, an hour long lecture about the decommissioned naval frigate, the HMS Nottingham, is a very strange subject for comedy, but all Sweet seems to need in subject matter is a background canvas against which his comic personality can shine. He appears to have been grown out of the same vat of bonkers-juice as Doctor Who’s Matt Smith – his foppish charm and eccentricities instantly endearing the audience to him. He actually began the show by personally greeting every member of the audience, hugging some, briefly chatting with others, and escorting confused newcomers to their seats. His mock-old fashioned statements, complete with outrageously caricatured misogyny just added to his stage presence. Not that he needs it, this is a man who positively glows with being the centre of attention; I got the feeling that even if he didn’t love it, he wouldn’t have much choice in the matter. It’s almost impossible to take your eyes off him for any period of time – no wonder he won the Best Newcomer award at Edinburgh a few years ago. This man is going to be big!

The Invisible Dot tour continues for another few weeks, and if the rest of the acts involved in it are this good, then it’s worth checking out. Not only because it’s a fantastic night, but in a few years’ time you’ll be able to tell everyone that you saw them before they were famous.
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