The only all-female line-up at the Liverpool Comedy Festival, Sean Broadhurst took in Laughter Locker and found it a refreshing antidote to a male dominated industry.
Laughter Locker is an independent all female-run comedy night which focuses on promoting talent within the city and beyond. They aim to have at least two female acts on the bill at each of their events. After a successful run of nights in 2016, they’re taking over the Everyman Bistro with the aim of becoming the best amateur/stand-up night in the city.
When we arrived, twenty minutes before the show, the bar in the Everyman Bistro was already packed and when the doors were opened, it quickly became apparent that more seats were going to be needed. The Bistro had plenty though, and with it being a Tuesday night we took the popularity of the event as a good sign.
First up was the event’s compère, Katie Tracey, who wasted no time firing up the audience. Nobody in the front row was safe, nor were the group of students sitting on the bench at the side of the stage, the ‘silver fox’ sitting near the back, or indeed anyone in the room. Tracey used her opening set to lay down a few of Laughter Locker’s ground rules, and discourage any would be hecklers. She openly invited the crowd to heckle her if they wanted to, but, after witnessing her crowd work, nobody dared take her up on the offer.
The evening was split into three sets each opened by Tracey, followed by two acts. Set one showcased Lauren Stone, who’d travelled all the way down from Newcastle and Pearl Kelly-Ince a young comedian from Wigan.
Stone was memorable for her deadpan delivery and her story about her old job — working on a circus sound desk which she described as 90% waiting and 10% clown horn. Her persona, which she described as ‘posh witch on the way to a funeral in the 80s,’ was funny throughout and her set would have been entertaining even without the punchlines.
Pearl Kelly-Ince’s delivery was more orthodox, her act revolved mainly around living in Wigan and how she explained to her mother that she wasn’t a lesbian, the punchline was dynamite, but we’re not going to ruin it for her. She also revelled in singling out the most awkward looking audience member she could find and reading him a ‘love’ poem.
Tracey opened the second set with a joke about how the two opening acts had incorporated poetry into their work. She commented on how apt it was, considering the venue; “the Everyman, a place where they perform mime about incest”.
Next up was a debut performance by Sal Wright. Understandably, Sal looked nervous as she walked up to the mic but the crowd gave her the most encouraging of welcomes, and although her first joke bombed, she took the piss out of the false start before anybody else had seemed to notice and then nailed her set.
Wright’s performance displayed her knack not just for comedy, but also for storytelling. She was the most animated performer of the evening a proper scouser who talked like a woman possessed, enabling her to squeeze the most out of her set. A tussle with a cab driver, impersonating a police officer, a boob-slip, and, standard in Liverpool, a few jabs at St Helens. She got through a mountain of material and we were happy to have witnessed the first performance of what seems a promising young comedian.
Next up was Cash Boyle, from Northern Island. One of the event’s organisers. She made light about her experience as a gay woman in Northern Ireland, and the frustration that is hosting pub quizzes to pay the bills, especially when the misogynistic staff recommend showing some cleavage to get bodies down. They were clearly ignoring her ‘ass-ets’ as she put it.
In the break following Cash’s set we managed have a short interview with her, and learn more about what Laughter Locker is all about. The promo for the evening had boasted the only all-female line up of the entire Liverpool Comedy Festival and we learned that this was by design to get people down. It clearly worked.
The group have been putting on amateur comedy events for around a year now and they’re passionate about promoting female performers and always try to get at least two women on the bill for each event. We asked about Sal’s debut, and how accessible the nights are for virgin comedians and Boyle told us that if someone is interested in comedy, doesn’t have too many inhibitions, and feels they can get up on stage and tell jokes, that’s enough. In fact, she encouraged it saying that, for her, comedy is cathartic.
At the beginning of the final set, the crowd was still buzzing. If anything, they were getting louder and more responsive as the night continued. Some of that may have been drink, but we think the comedy had no small part in it.
Apart from one joke courtesy of Katie Tracey, about an audience members fictional dead dad, the audience hadn’t been challenged very often by risqué humour, Kate Jackson, another organiser for the event, put an end to that.
During her set she discussed kids, or ‘little bastards’ and ‘big bastards’ as she called them; ex-boyfriends with missing bits (ears and hands before you get the wrong idea), and how being funny isn’t always great, especially in the bedroom if you can’t resist cracking every zinger that occurs to you. For those who couldn’t relate she got an audience member up on stage to help her act the scenario out.
Her set wasn’t brutal, it was miles away from Joan Rivers or Frankie Boyle, but it still got the most laughs of the night which were preceded by an involuntary intake of breath.
The last comedian of the night was Sian Davis. She began by pointing out what everyone may have been thinking, that yes, she did look like she’d just walked straight in from The Great British Bake Off, with her glasses and sculpted quiff. But she didn’t leave it there, pointing out that they both shared a love of ‘cake over cock’.
Sian had the audience laughing on a range of subjects, focusing mainly on LGBT issues, marriage equality, divorce inequality, and thinking aloud, she mused that the QI addition to the LGBT initialism probably had something to do with Sandi Toksvig and Stephen Fry.
Finally, Katie Tracey took to the stage to thank the comedians, and the audience for turning out. There was a rush to get out as the venues curfew was half-ten because, ‘Culture stops at ten’.
As we filed out, we noticed patrons seeking out the performers to congratulate them on their performances and thank them for an entertaining evening. We count ourselves lucky to have been there too, not only because of the quality of the acts, but an event as rare as an all-female comedy night was a pleasure to be a part of.
It was an eye-opening experience, because, although, of course, women are funny, it is a male dominated industry. Whenever those odds are reversed, it is noticeable.
And yet, when this event began, the fact all the performers were female didn’t feel at all relevant. It was simply a comedy night. All that mattered was that the performers made us laugh, and they did. Laughter Locker is doing an excellent job of making stand-up accessible for female comedians — the fact we need to use the term ‘female comedian’ highlights the importance of this — and we should be proud to have them as part of our scene.
Laughter Locker returns to the Everyman Bistro on Tuesday 24th October.