Che Que Bo, pronounced “Chee Kay Boe”, is the new name for the pub formerly known as The Goat. Situated on Argyle Street, slightly east of Kelvingrove Art Gallery, it has recently started a free weekly comedy night. Running from 8.30pm every Wednesday, it is hosted by Obie and always features half a dozen experienced open spots and a headliner.
A few times Obie told me that he’d “get me on sometime”, and on each occasion I would non-committally agree. There are plenty of people hungry for spots, people who still have enthusiasm for this hobby, without me just making up numbers or going through the motions. I spoke to Obie about my recent experiences – a couple of SCOTY heats, a Gong show, and an unexpectedly empty Halt gig – and how they have tainted my perception and enjoyment of comedy. He offered again to book me for this new venture of his. I resisted, which he sensed and responded to by calling me a “shitebag”, on the back of which I found myself scheduled to appear on the third night.
As with so many local gigs that have started up in the past two years, most of which have unfortunately folded, I endeavoured to support it from the off by turning up and enlarging the audience. The venue has a mezzanine, over the bar, and it is here that the comedy is staged – separate from the main thoroughfare, yet audible wherever you are in the room. It is the first time I have seen a set-up of this type, and so far it broadly seems to work.
The first week saw an audience of about twenty, entertained by headliner Viv Gee. The second week saw the mezzanine packed, the gig closed by (at the time of writing) newly-crowned Best New Comedian at the Scottish Variety Awards 2013, Anna Devitt. My gig featured Chris Henry as the last act.
It was a smaller crowd than the previous week, but more people drifted in and the numbers rose as the evening progressed. Geoff Gawler opened, before leaving to perform at another gig – this being the month of the Comedy Festival, there’s a lot of gigs running nightly. I was impressed by Jamie Rolland and Nev. Both have been on the circuit for a while now, but recently they started a double act known as King Rizzler and Zuma. This energetic and anarchic duo performed a partly-improvised skit at the Halt a fortnight ago. They did it again the night before this gig – only with more energy, more improvisation, more anarchy – then did solo turns at this gig. The night after this, they were back to the double act, only wearing robes and introduced as Brother Rizzler and Brother Zuma, and with the addition of Ray Zambino in a supporting role.
These guys have created that rare thing, in my jaded and cynical worldview – something worth seeing. Easily the funniest thing to grace the Halt’s stage in a long while, and full of invention and innovation – at least compared to the usual fare of stand-up comedy.
Aside from the creativity that has gone into these two related but markedly different skits, both Nev and Jamie did solo turns tonight. Nev’s solo style has changed since I last saw him, seeming to have more structure to it. Jamie has left behind the dozen masks and wigs of his old sets, and tonight appeared onstage wearing a white sheet over his head. He proceeded to explain that he is, in fact, the ghost of Jamie Rolland, and then fielded questions from the audience about what it is like to be dead. Inspired stuff, and inspiring too – I told Jamie outright that I wish I had thought of doing that. It is so simple, and yet there is so much scope for comedy, so much room to maneouvre.
I know that they plan to continue with the character stuff, happier with the reactions they get. Ross Main has previously told me that he enjoys playing Dogshit Johnson more than he was enjoying regular stand-up too, and so I think maybe I will make an effort to try something different myself. Whether this manifests itself as Jerry Generic, or becomes something from one of the other ideas on my mind, remains to be seen. I would definitely like to try a little character comedy though.
My set tonight was stuff from my previous gig at The Halt, with the addition of a few more new or untried one-liners and the resurrection of some of my older stuff. This has been out of my sets for so long that it is now new to some of the comedians who started after me, as evidenced by the unmitigated laughter that emanated from them when I mentioned chucking my last girlfriend. This is one of my favourite jokes, reliant on wordplay and completely subverting expectation.
Other jokes went less well, which I ad-libbed around. Obie told me later that it’s not always about what you say, but also about how you react. I was still largely reading through the list on the back of my hand, closer to memorising the order but not sufficiently so that I could stop referring to it. It’s just a case of getting back into practice, I think. It has been a long while – many months – since I gigged with anything approaching regularity, and it might be time to try and get back into it.
I forgot to do the line that struck me as soon as I first saw the name of the pub, the realisation that “Che Que Bo” is an “Okay” short of reading “Chequebook.” Never mind. The staff are friendly and very keen for the comedy to keep running, and Obie is experienced and regarded well enough that it might work in time. If you find yourself with a Wednesday evening to spare, it is worth nipping along to help establish it as a regular night of free comedy.
Similarly, if you see “King Rizzler and Zuma” or “Ghost” advertised on any local comedy bills, do yourself a favour and go and see them. Uncontrollable laughter generally ensues.