Contributed by Jonny Collins
Well, we did it. After 20 long months of not being in a small, enclosed room yelling jokes at 20-35 strangers, Blizzard Comedy officially returned with a bang on Monday the 4th October!
And oh what a show it was. Plagued with technical hiccups, performance anxiety and…well…the plague, I’d be lying if I’d said this wasn’t the most emotionally exhausting thing I’ve done all year. Thankfully there were plenty of new faces and the old faces hadn’t seen me for a while so I could get away with recycling the tried and tested material.
I also noticed that I’ve gotten much more confident riffing and bouncing off the room, a feat I put down entirely to 18 odd months of YouTube and Twitch streaming building up my improvisation confidence.
Notice I say confidence and not skills – whether or not this newfound self-esteem was founded or not is up for you to decide.
But even if I am grossly overestimating my own entertainment, our line-up certainly didn’t disappoint!
Opening the show, we had an act who I’ve been excited to see ever since I first booked her back in 2019 for an early 2020 show that was cancelled for some reason; I forget the specifics of why.
Katie Mitchell is the comedic icon I wish I’d had growing up. A bottomless well of whimsy, with immaculately crafted jokes, and a delivery that could sell the weirdest jokes to the rowdiest audiences. Luckily, our audience is not rowdy, and therefore gave her an even bigger reception that she absolutely deserved. A true alternative comedian.
It will come of little surprise to anyone who knows me that mine and Katie’s influences are broadly the same, although she is much more polished and hard working than I am and will definitely be looked back on as one of the titans of alternative comedy in the 2020s.
Next up we had Ben Hodge, who has the honour of performing at our last live show before lockdown, and our first afterwards.
Ben is an instantly likable and engaging performer, made even more impressive by delivering some of the filthiest material I’ve ever heard in front of his own family. Transmasculine representation in comedy is even lower than Trans-femme representation (which is already basically non-existent), so it is delightful to be able to platform him as one of the biggest up and coming stars of this generation of comedy.
Ending the first section we had Tony Basnett who has been lovingly bestowed the nickname “Face of Blizzard Comedy” thanks to his picture being used in an article about our City Life nomination, next to a paragraph praising us for our commitment to diversity. Tony Basnett is a Cishet White Man.
But unlike a lot of cishet white men, Basnett is actually pretty damn funny. Regulars of the Manchester comedy circuit will recognize him as the resident MC at the shockingly underappreciated Trapdoor Comedy in the upstairs of The Old Monkey – which incidentally gave me some of my first semi-pro work after a long hiatus in 2016/17.
Basnett is an incredible performer, effortlessly hilarious, and full of charm.
After the Interval we were joined by Blizzard Comedy Broadcast Avalanche regular Bobbie Jones for their second time on our stage.
Bobbie never ceases to impress me with just how fluid between genres and styles they can be. While for the most part a fairly standard yet polished joke teller, they have a knack for blending in bits of absurdism and deadpan borderline tragedy in a set that is by all accounts fucking hysterical. Whether it’s a series of gay one liners, heartfelt anecdotes or poems about being a toaster; audiences are never quite sure what to make of Bobbie, but one thing’s for sure, they always enjoy them.
Following on from Bobbie we had another Blizzard favourite Umby Winters. Umby has got to be one of the most naturally funny people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, so much so that I forgive them for fucking up the projector angle for the sake of having their eyeshadow better visible.
Umby has something of a rockstar energy, which is impressive when they have material about struggling to piss in the shower. They have a command over the room which many comedians envy, and whether they’re telling solid gags or straying into new experimental territory, the audience never loses engagement.
Umby is a stalwart of Northern queer comedy – which whilst specific sounding, is a much broader church than you might realize.
Finishing off the second section we have Tony Wright, who was one of the first acts we ever had on our stage back in April 2019.
Tony was excellent then and has only gotten better since. Like Umby he has an effortless hold on audience attention, but he manages this with a much cooler and calmer persona. Tony has a voice that audiences just want to listen to for hours, both in a literal and metaphorical sense.
With a half English/half Somali background, Tony can tackle even fairly mainstream topics with a new angle and in ways that don’t seem hack. Tony has a skill on stage that many comedians can only dream of achieving, and on top of that he is one of the most handsome people I’ve ever worked with in literally any job.
After that we had the iconic (No) Money In The Bank headlining. Truthfully there was no other way we could’ve ended our first show back. Ever since their first appearance in June 2019 they have been instantly recognized as favourites of the club and have been involved both actively and passively with many of our projects since. From guest MCing, to appearing regularly on our panel show, to providing themselves and subjects for an erotica competition.
(You can get the zine featuring that erotica here!)
It is very hard to explain NMITB to someone who hasn’t seen them before, but “Aggressively 90s” is probably a good start. Covering topics from Wrestling to Pop-Punk to David Hasselhoff; and ending with three grown men chopping each other in a manor that can only be described as “irresponsible but hot.” Which now that I think of it sums up these boys quite nicely.
What a way to spend our first live show back!
Our next live show features some acts who we’ve been very excited to see for a long time – with headliner Erika Ehler, featuring support from William Stone, Kath Marvelley & Alex Stringer.