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Review: Dan Nightingale, John Whale, Nick Cranston and Andy Fury - Sunderland Empire. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andrew Dipper   
09 06 2010
ImageThe phrase ‘comedy in Sunderland' has, for as long as I remember, offered an uneasy juxtaposition. Unlike Newcastle, Wearside's more popular and sexier sister, Sunderland's comedy scene is non-existent, with the city instead focusing on constructing dangerous playgrounds made out of concrete and broken glass, and promoting shit bars ran by Les Battersby of Coronation Street fame.

Recently, however, a few local events have popped up in the city, such as the short but pleasant stint of comedy at The New Music Rooms, The Grinning Idiot's bi-monthly event at The Alexandra, in Grangetown, and now a comedy night based at Sunderland's gorgeous Empire Theatre.

Laugher Live, Sunderland's new-but-not-very-creatively-named comedy club, began its opening night with compere and self-confessed Rod Stewart look-a-like Tony Jameson warming up the 70+ crowd, before introducing first act and local comic Andy Fury. Though Fury's set was identical to his excellent performance at The Corner House last Friday, he still managed to hold my - and indeed the lively, audience's - attention with his funny and assured anecdotes on Gregg's, propositioning seventeen year olds, and, bizarrely, boats. The Hilarity Bites New Act of the Year then finished off his set with a hilarious tale about a vicar in Lincoln. Fury was a solid opening act.

After the short break, 23 year old John Whale took to the stage. It was the third time in just a few months that I'd watched Whale perform, and though his Joseph Fritzl gags are beginning to feel dated, he still manages to make me laugh with his intelligent, thought-provoking jokes.

Following him was Sunderland comedian, Nick Cranston. Surprisingly, Cranston didn't seem to connect with the audience as well as previous act Whale, stumbling through his ten minute slot on stage. He did, however, deliver some amusing anecdotes on the Tuxedo Princess, chavs, and plans for a ski-slope in Sunderland - ‘Yeah, that's exactly what we need', declared Cranston sarcastically, ‘a ski-slope'.  You tell ‘em, Nick.

ImageThe final act of the night, and the highlight, was Preston-born Dan Nightingale. Nightingale was the quintessential impressionist, complimenting his nonsensical stories with hilarious mannerisms and imitations of alpha males, Samuel L Jackson, and the Northern Irish, to name a few. He was, quite simply, a class above the other acts on the bill, and kept the audience laughing from start to finish, especially when discussing his time ‘people watching' at his local gym, and his time as a single man. We've all been there, Dan.

Like Whale earlier in the evening, Nightingale was successful through fantastic delivery of his jokes, and the crowd acknowledged his talent with the loudest round of a applause of the night as MC Tony Jameson brought the evening's comedy to a close.

The story of this review is not that Sunderland is a bad place to visit, rather one which is slowly improving thanks to events like tonight. Laughter Live has much promise; it's positioned at the heart of Sunderland city centre, set in a gorgeous room in the Empire Theatre, and, most importantly, looks set to bring top comedians back to Wearside.

If you're looking to see some comedy at Sunderland Empire, the next event is Tuesday 13th July, in which Andy White, Barry Dodds and Kai Humphries will be performing. Tickets are available for all gigs by calling 0191 566 1045, or visiting Sunderland Empire Box Office.
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