Spaced Out Comedy – Live Review – Victoria Theatre, Halifax
By Steve Crabtree, June 2021
Spaced Out Comedy is exactly what the title says. A gig with some great stand-up comedians, playing to a crowd sat apart in their groups and their bubbles, enjoying live stuff, and laughing through our masks.
Does it work? Yes it does. Massively.
“Like comedy had never been away”
This is the first indoor live performance I’ve been to in 2021. And we were one of the first couples to arrive at 7pm for an 8pm start, as per our ticket instructions. But not before the other people filtered in, whilst our drinks were brought to our seats.
When 8pm came, a safety video by the MC for the night came up and explained what we all know about staying safe and keeping socially distant. The Victoria Theatre perhaps know we all knew this, which is why they did what they had to do with a comedy angle and Tony Vino presented that. That in itself was a nice warm-up before he wandered on to stage, and gave us a good 10-minute welcome.
Despite the small crowd (I reckon we had about 100 in tonight) he got some audience participation from those nearer to the front. He affectionately picked on a couple of people, and it was like comedy had never been away. Then, it was showtime.
First up to the mic was Paul Tonkinson. I remembered him from my teenage years when he presented The Big Breakfast, and popped up on MTV a lot. A Yorkshireman too, but I’d never have realised. He’s been in the capital a long time, and the Thirsk accent has well and truly been Londoned-out.
But who cares? Tonkinson was in great form, and his act was very good. Lockdown and covid had a place in his material (hey, live comedy’s been away because of it; it’s bound to a topic of the day!).
He also talked about his family and his kids. And some of his funnies about how the slightest thing can take a middle-aged man back to the days where they were growing up were far too relatable. His material had substance (in more ways than one… nudge nudge, wink wink), and visually he was on fire too. He took us on a hilarious aesthetic route down the ski-slopes with stories about his days on the piste!
A brilliant and really funny set. It can’t be easy for these guys getting up in front of a distanced audience, with fewer people to bounce off than usual. But Tonkinson nailed it.
After Vino had let us have a 20-minute break to get more refreshments delivered to our seats, he was back on stage leading us into another bit of warm-up. And like all good MCs, he was a much enjoyed third comedian.
“What a great night”
For the second half, he brought Geoff Norcott onto the stage. Norcott is the southerner with that cockney edge in his delivery that us northerners notice as soon as it lands in God’s own county.
Norcott too touched on the thing that just won’t go away: Covid. And there was also a small segment of his act that’s anti-woke. A very refreshing, and non-offensive bit which went down a treat. He touched on politics, and he made us laugh when he asked the audience for questions. The art of the quick comeback is something I’ll always love, and Norcott is as good as anyone with those.
Dry, sarcastic… hilarity set-in many times when he was in full flow. And when you like Norcott’s set, you’ll walk away from the theatre believing that Coke is better for you than water. Our applause was as thunderous as we could make it under the circumstances, and I for one could have had much more from him and Tonkinson if time had allowed.
What a great night, and what a laugh we’d had – and well done to the theatre to get Spaced Out Comedy up and running too. When the lights are down, and the laughs keep coming as quickly and as hard as they did tonight, we audience members soon forgot there weren’t many of us in.
For two hours, we laughed lots. And for two hours, thanks to this show, things seemed a bit more normal. There’s a few more Spaced-Out Comedy shows coming up over the next few weeks, and I’ll certainly be back for more.