Ok, when they said free tickets to a TV comedy recording, I didn't realise they meant five shows filmed back to back, lasting four and a half hours. We were barely home before midnight. It reached the point where they actually had to bribe us with free sweets and money to stay til the end.
Fortunately I'm anyone's for a Gummy Bear, so wild horses couldn't have dragged me out of there. I also got more TV close-ups than a QVC presenter (mainly because I agreed to laugh every time the camera was stuck in my face, regardless of the quality of the material). Unfortunately they failed to capture my best side, and kept zooming in on the gap between my teeth, making me look like a cackling pirate at a hoedown. I knew we should have sat on the other side of the hall.
Anyhoo, for a free night out, it was great value for money. Lisa and I left my flat together and on time (it's shocking, I know), at which point she caught the bus and I walked. Guess who got to the Corn Exchange first? But still, her £3.20 bus fare did give her a grandstand view of me disappearing over the horizon on foot, and I'm sure it was quite exciting wondering if she'd ever catch me up.
As it turned out, we didn't need to arrive that early, and having made it through the doors, we had our pick of the best seats. I chose the end of the second row, right next to the cameraman. I'm now officially the face of Comedy Blue. I might have to get myself an agent when it's broadcast in February.
Host for the evening was Jason Byrne, who I've seen on TV a few times and never been that impressed with, but in person I have to say he's very good. And not just because he looks like Howard Jones. The man's surprisingly funny, especially when he ad-libs. He should forget about writing material, and just lark about in front of an audience all day.
Jason's job was to come on, do five minutes of stand-up, introduce the first act, take us into the commercial break, immediately say "Welcome back!", introduce the second act, close the show, then repeat all of the above ad infinitum. Or at least for four and a half hours. It was all quite intense. Not only were the commercial breaks non-existent, but there were no pauses between each show, meaning that the moment Jason said "Thanks for watching, and goodnight!", he was straight on to "Welcome to another edition of Comedy Blue!". I barely had time to eat my Gummy Bears and perfect my fake laugh for the camera.
Anyhoo, the first act on was Craig Campbell, (or Crack Cowbell, as I thought they said), a bearded Canadian who was pretty good. Although I didn't like his trousers.
He was followed by Kitty Flanagan, an Australian comedienne who was possibly my favourite of the entire evening. And not just because I like cats. She pointed out that New Zealanders talk like stroke victims, and came up with an ingenious way of using parent/child parking spaces at the supermarket. I could have happily married the woman for her sense of humour alone, but obviously I have Lisa, and she knows a lot of offensive jokes, so there's really no need.
First up on show two was Jim Jeffries, another Australian who I've seen a couple of times on 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks'. He provided one of my highlights of the evening with an anecdote about his father, a train load of Germans, and a concentration camp. I couldn't repeat it, but trust me, it was funny.
Then came Gary Delaney, the first Brit of the night, who was completely different to every other comic there, specialising as he does in fiendishly clever one-liners. Much like myself. Obviously. He came out with lines such as "I live next door to a family of anorexic agoraphobics. I bet they've got some skeletons in the cupboard."
Gary was followed by an angry American whose name I completely failed to catch. Fortunately he was among my least favourite comedians, so it's no great loss. After Mr Angry came the festively named Jarred Christmas, an endearing Kiwi who commented that "On beaches in New Zealand you can build sandcastles. On the beach in Brighton you can build... castles."
After Christmas we were let out of the auditorium for twenty minutes to eat free sweets and write our filthiest jokes on a piece of paper. The best ones were read out at the end of the show. I submitted my favourite gag about Donny Osmond (which I can't repeat here for legal reasons) but sadly it wasn't quite offensive enough to make the cut.
The second half saw the arrival of Carey Marx and his cuddly bear Parsnip, who was there to soften the blow of his most offensive material, after whom came Paul Chowdhry (see right), another of my personal favourites, who began by saying "I won't be doing any of my early stuff - Purple Rain, etc".
Paul was great from start to finish, as was American Scott Capurro, who I've seen on TV a couple of times. Scott was by far the most offensive act of the night, and some of his material was verging on the illegal, but he also happened to be the most brilliantly funny guy (or should that be gay) on stage.
The penultimate performer was Dave Hadingham who looked and sounded like an east-end criminal who smokes sixty a day, but who actually came out with some of the cleverest gags of the evening. I warmed to him immensely. Which is more than I can say for Andre Vincent, the final comedian, who never really did it for me, and ended up calling the whole audience 'f***ers' for not laughing at his last joke. He left on something of a low.
By this time it was gone 11pm, and much like anyone reading this blog post, we were all wondering when it was going to end. Fortunately the TV producers had foreseen that situation, and at the start of the night had given us each a raffle ticket, with a cash prize of £125 on offer to anyone who managed to stay til the end. It was a wise move. Half the audience had left by the middle of the second half, so without the raffle, Andre Vincent would have been playing to an empty room. Which might have given him a better reaction.
So having filmed the audience's best jokes (Why are men like parking spaces? Because all the good ones are taken, and the only ones left are disabled), Jason Byrne got a bloke out of the front row, spun him around on the floor, poured the tickets into his mouth, and got him to pick the winner by choking.
Tragically neither Lisa nor I picked up the cash, but we had such a good time, we're considering going back tonight for the second half of the series. Sadly there aren't any tickets available, but I have it on good authority from the woman in the box office that if we hang about outside looking cheerfully telegenic, they might let us in. I think it's worth a try. If only for the free Gummy Bears.