You Must Be Stoking is a comedy night at The Stoke pub in Guildford, offering a showcase of up-and-comers on the comedy circuit on the first Wednesday of each month.
On Wednesday 6 November, we headed over after Frazer’s mum heard one of the comedians on Radio 2 and subsequent podcasts.
First of all, everyone should definitely get there early enough for dinner beforehand; the pizza from the wood-baked oven is absolutely delicious. Make a night of it.
Over in the function room, we soon met our compere, Paul Kerensa, who has written for Miranda and Not Going Out as well as many other things. We were initially a very tough crowd to warm up, with even a money prize of £1.03 not enough to move people into the front row.
However, Paul did his best and managed to extract some laughs, especially from parents in his discussion of babies. He was funniest when making fun of the audience and would probably have struggled in a whole set of his own, but was largely successful when popping up between acts.
Up next was the first of Tim Binns’ highly original characters, Ian D Montfort, a psychic from Sunderland. Although many were initially sceptical about his act after announcing he was a spirit medium, he mixes tricks and comedy very cleverly.
With successful card and dice tricks Ian showed off his psychic guise, but it was his scoffing comedy throughout that got the crowd roaring. His generic “psychic” predictions (“you know a straight male with a white iPhone…” etc) put together with his disparaging of the audience was absolutely hilarious, and Frazer became his go-to sceptic which made it even more entertaining for us. This was a very original and impressive act.
Second on the bill was Alex Clissold-Jones, a much younger comedian from Oxford (but not the university, as he kept pointing out). Unfortunately, he was quite awkward and struggled to get many laughs from the audience, something he acknowledged but he couldn’t warm himself to them further. Several people were even sure they’d heard his Amish joke before.
Onwards and upwards. Pierre Novellie, born in South Africa and resident of the Isle of Man and now London, was a charming and hilarious chap. With comparisons of life between SA and here, a translation of the famous Lion King song and other well-timed observations, he got the audience laughing again very quickly.
Finally, Tim Binns returned in a separate guise (and who could even guess they were the same person without already being aware?!), this time as hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury. With his awkward, inept and often politically incorrect puns and relations of songs to medical disorders, Ivan had the crowd in fits at times.
He even had celebrity endorsements – some definitely fake, but others even more hilariously real, as they clearly had no idea who they were being asked to talk about. The only problem with this act was that sometimes when the intro of a song was played underneath the setup of a joke, the payoff became predictable, but it was otherwise truly great and original comedy.
Overall, The Stoke pub are definitely onto something here, and this comedy night is a wonderful way to relax on a Wednesday evening. As with any comedy line-up it has the potential to be hit and miss, but it’s easy to just sit back and take it all in. If you’re remotely near Guildford and looking for something to do, check it out.