Nic Wright

Preview: The return of Frog and Bucket’s WIP night

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Ever wondered how comedians manage to make telling gags look so easy? How they know those seemingly effortless funnies are going to work? The simple answer is, they don’t.

They head to nights like Work In Progress (WIP) first to test out that fledgling material on a live audience. And for that audience, the Frog’s monthly night is a rare glimpse behind the scenes and a chance to take in a completely unique and informal set from a professional act.

The Frog ran WIP for two years until it took a break in mid 2013. Now it’s back with plenty of exciting pro comics trying out their ink-wet gags, getting them ready for live or TV work.

The next night is on Wednesday 24 February and will see compere Pete Otway introduces the one-liner merchant as seen on Mock The Week  Gary Delaney plus the award-winning Phil Ellis and Frog favourite Steve Shanyaski.

Also on the bill is Ellis’ sometime-elf sidekick James Meehan, Peter Brush, up and coming Bolton comic Sophie Willan and Londoner Clayton Jones.

Coming up in the following months are appearances from Canadian comic Allyson June Smith, Steve Bujega, Ciamh McDonnell and local consummate pro Mike Newall among many others. Further into the spring there will be Edinburgh Fringe preview shows as the August festival nears.

Previous WIP shows saw performances from the likes of telly’s most famous funny Scouser – John Bishop, the writer and star of BBC’s Hebburn Jason Cook and Chris Ramsey, the acclaimed Carey Marx and panel show favourite Joe Lycett.

In 2011, one night turned into an unofficial warm up for the Royal Variety Performance when Jason Manford, Omid Djalili and The Boy With Tape On His Face came along to try out their material before it hit the royals. It’s worth just popping in on the off chance too as many of the telly names won’t be advertised, so you don’t know who you might find on stage.

The Frog and Bucket became Manchester’s first dedicated alternative comedy club when it moved from its original premises, The Britannia pub on nearby Newton Street, to its current location at the top of Oldham Street in Manchester’s hip Northern Quarter.

Owner David Perkin and his daughter, and now manager, Jessica Toomey celebrated the club’s 21st birthday last year with a plaque dedicated to all those who had ‘died’ on its stage over the years. As well as those comedy ‘deaths’ there have been plenty of success stories and many, many laughs in the last two decades.

Given the acts that have come through the Frog who knows who might be on future WIP bills when they’re preparing for going out on tour or filming their latest TV show? John Bishop’s first ever gig was at the Monday amateur night back in 2000, Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas were both regulars at the club on their way up.

As were Jason Manford and Jack Whitehall. Back in 2003 Steve Coogan chose the club for to rehearse the material he used in the special line up of programmes to launch BBC 3.

Most of these household names have returned at one time or another to test out new material or showcase a new show. So here’s your chance to experience some of the workings behind the stand up process; a rare insight into how established acts create the comedy magic.

Work In Progress: Wednesday 24 February (and thereafter 30 February, 20 April, 25 May, 29 June, and 20 July), 8.30pm, The Frog and Bucket Comedy Club, 102 Oldham Street, Manchester, £5 (£3).