Review: Bristol Comedy Garden, Thursday 15 June 2023

(Photo by Rob Grieg)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a comedy review cannot be funny. Sorry. 

Returning to Queen Square after two spells on the Downs, Thursday night at this established Bristol favourite promised a lineup delivering off-beat, critically acclaimed laughs. The evening sun was shining in full force over the Comedy Garden. Wine was served in cans; chuckles would be served in the tent. 

Your faithful reviewers took their spot in the tent, shoulder to shoulder with other comedy-hounds. The tent was thick with body-heat which was eased by two intervals to break up the supersized five act lineup. 

Up first was our compere for the evening, John Robins (4 stars). A returning local, Robins effortlessly eased into crowd-work. The sound of cans crisply cracking peppered the room. 8-months sober, Robins took this and ran seamlessly into his own material. Overall, a very safe pair of hands to host this promising evening of comedy. 

Ivo Graham (3 stars) walked onto stage to a warm reception after his recent turn in Taskmaster. Graham delivered zeitgeisty anecdotes covering some of the hottest topics of the last 12 months. Spare, the Traitors, Jack Grealish – nothing was safe from Graham’s whimsical observations. At points, Graham’s gags did not land broadly across the tent (perhaps due to the rising heat) but for those who are fans of his unique brand of introspective and whimsical humour this was a treat. 

After a short break, Ania Magliano (4 stars) was up next. After a much-hyped run in Edinburgh last summer, Magliano delivered confident jokes about queer life, love and the joy of gossip. Magliano had an excellent command of the room, delivering a well paced set which won over anyone who hadn’t yet had the pleasure of seeing an Ania Magliano show.

Tim Key (5 stars)  strutted on stage next, can in hand. After seeing his ‘Mulberry’ tour twice in the last year, your reviewers were very excited to catch Key again. He did not disappoint. Key delivered new poems, randomly selected from his trademark deck of poetry cards. He commanded the stage, and baffled the audience with his intimate knowledge of Bristol’s Fatface. It is a real joy to see a comedian so comfortable on stage and so adept at adapting his material to shorter festival sets. If you get a chance, see Tim Key. 

The night’s headliner was Nish Kumar (3 stars), who delivered relentless, topical material. Fuelled by the findings of the week’s ‘partygate’ report, he delivered a high-octane tour through the last 13 years of Conservative rule. Acknowledging that this gig was the closest he had come to leading a rally, Kumar’s anger towards the Tories was so fervent he broke the mic-stand mid-monologue. Fair. Kumar’s ability to react to current events is impressive, but the speed of his material was perhaps a bit much for your reviewers who were generally hot and tired by the final portion of the show. Nonetheless, Kumar was very popular in the tent and rounded off a lineup which lived up to pre-gig expectations.

Joe Fraser & Alice G