Edward James

Review: Hilarity Bites Comedy Club, Port Of Call, Sunderland

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Sunderland’s Port Of Call is the latest location for Hilarity Bites Comedy Club, adding to an already impressive list of venues.

The debut night features a stellar line-up of Duncan Oakley, John Whale, Carl Hutchinson, and MC Andy Fury.

MC Andy Fury opens the night with a self deprecating introduction, quickly engaging the audience and playing with some improvised lines around jobs in IT, long-term relationships and the strange concentration of people called Chris in the front row.

Fury brings his inimitable warmth to the room and leaves a willing audience for opening act Carl Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, a North East comedy stalwart having supported the likes of Chris Ramsey on tour, continues in Fury’s affable vein with his sharp observational routines, all intensely relatable in such a room of working laypeople.

His past as a teacher leads to some brilliant crossover material around applying his comedy experience in the classroom, and his routine about an imperfect health kick hits a widespread spot in the room.

As a mainstream comic he has undeniable charm and wit, strong material, and deals brilliantly with some low-level heckling.

Middle spot John Whale is an up-and-coming jokesmith displaying a heady mix of well-written lines, slightly surreal anecdotes, some lovely lonely-hearts reporting, and a healthy dose of intelligent silliness thrown in.

Tonight’s set does seem a little incoherent (as if Whale may be testing chunks of new material) and the audience begin to chatter and heckle.

However he skillfully wins the room back around to end on a high – leaving only tonight’s headliner to play, Duncan Oakley.

Oakley is a musical comic, with songs ranging from wordplay-drenched parodies, through short stings featuring sharp pull back-and-reveals, to full original compositions.

He starts his set, however, with no guitar in hand.

His act is high octane, high confidence, and he is incredibly playful with the room, the audience reactions, and the timing of the routines.

Oakley clearly performs material that entertains his own sense of humour, and as a result his set swings from cheesy dad-craic puns to some pseudo-socio rants about the lack of romance in modern pop music (such as Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran).

It is all too rare to see a comedian clearly enjoying themselves onstage, grinning throughout – and when such material is performed with the skill and maturity of Oakley it is a pleasure to watch.

Hilarity Bites at Port of Call is off to a great start, and deserves all the support it can get in the coming months. Do check it if you’re in the area.

Hilarity Bites’ next show at Port Of Call is on Friday 6 March, featuring Roger Monkhouse, Danny O’Brien and Mike Milligan. Buy tickets.