Off Menu Live, Foil Arms & Hog, Slim's Laughter Connoisseurs - Mark Muldoon's Comedy Diary

Off Menu. Image shows left to right: James Acaster, Ed Gamble. Credit: Paul Gilbey

It's been a couple of years now since live podcast recordings suddenly became able to fill the country's biggest arenas, but it's still quite easy to find their popularity somewhat mind-boggling.

How do they manage to sell so well, given that fans are usually just able to listen for free, once the episode is eventually released? Are audiences more attracted to the one-off pleasures of witty off-the-cuff conversation, rather than the same finely honed stand-up routines comedians are performing in every city? Maybe it is due to the intimacy: listeners feel like they have a deeper personal connection to the shows, and therefore by extension their hosts?

You don't doubt the Off Menu tour could've played the same rooms, given how quickly these tickets sold out. But the question remains: is it worth paying £37 for a show that's presumably one day going to be released for free anyway?

In fairness, presumably not every minute of the 120 here is going to 'make the final edit'. In that time, the show certainly never gets boring - and there are a couple of moments of real comedy gold. For the most part what comes before the interval is more fun, when James Acaster and Ed Gamble pick apart dream menus pre-submitted by the audience.

Tonight's interviewee Elis James is no letdown though: he's exactly the kind of perfect guest who gives entertaining but baffling choices for his perfect menu: the sort of guy happy to disclose how - before going to bed - he's already excited about the porridge he's going to have in the morning.

You doubt many fans left disappointed - it unquestionably works as an entertaining (if maybe not essential) evening, for those willing/impatient enough to spend £37 on it.

Foil Arms And Hog. Image shows from L to R: Sean Finegan, Sean Flanagan, Conor McKenna

Irish sketch trio Foil Arms & Hog, meanwhile, have themselves recently completed an impressive three night stint at London's grand Palladium.

There's definitely excellent stand-out moments in their show: the sketch centred around a handgun is great knockabout fun, whilst their musical song about musical songs is fairly unequivocally the highlight of the evening. They're also, meanwhile, skilled at rescuing their more middling sketches with a genuinely good final punchline.

The second half doesn't zip quite as well. Whilst it's an extremely effective approach in smaller doses, they rely a little too heavily on working earlier audience-interaction jokes back into sketches later in the show. A good number of audience members will likely see where they're going with the show's climactic set piece. One bit of audience participation - involving slices of bread - has a distinct "will this do?" feel to it. The clear aim, though, is to offer up a good, energetic night out to a comparatively mainstream audience, and they're pretty effective at it. If you're responsible for teenagers or young adults, I'd certainly still recommend it as a family night out.

Annette Fagon

Finally: Slim's Laughter Connoisseurs, a fun showcase for black comedians. Of all five acts on the night we visit, Annette Fagon is the one you need to get on your radar immediately. Fagon has a pleasingly unhinged nature. Early on she shares some of her favourite shoplifting techniques. It turns out to be one of the milder details she reveals about her personal life. Elsewhere, Chris Savage and Quincy are also good company: Quincy as a relaxed, confident storyteller, whereas Savage maybe treads often familiar stand-up terrain - interracial observations, modern dating, and, erm, farting in long term relationships - but the punchlines always hit the spot.

Read previous editions of this column (including James Acaster, Rosie Jones, Ed Byrne, Ahir Shah and Kate Berlant).

Mark Muldoon is also available on Instagram and Twitter. His dream menu would be still water, Walkers Sensations Lime and Coriander Poppadoms (with Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Tomato & Habanero Chilli Chutney), Reggae Wings from Fish Wingz & Tingz, the Chicken Ruby from Dishoom, Rosemary Salted Chips from Honest Burger, Masala Chai from pretty much anywhere in India and his mum's apple crumble thanks for asking x.

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