It seems that everyone knows comedy shows which allow comedians to workshop new material exist, but they’re often hard to find.
Perhaps being what they are it would be antithetical for journalists to comment on the unfinished material and thus, why go? Investigating Lolitics, Trebuchet found that laughs abound where comedians take risks.
Located above the Black Heart (something of a highlight on any Camden worthy’s rock pilgrimage) once a month, Lolitics creates a left leaning podium for comedians to trial new grooves before an audience of comedy adventurers: people who prefer a spontaneous vibe that is genuinely spontaneous. As opposed to the rehearsed mannerisms of so many arena performers who recite the same pauses, stutters and moments of epipany several months after the real inspiration has fled.
At comedy nights like Lolitics it’s real. The pauses, the forgetfulness, the agony of a shit analogy, the rambling incoherence, the club-footed punchline. Every comedian’s nightmare line up for their chance to turn bedroom gold into public shit. However (and happily more often) there are moments of elation when something works and it’s a moment shared.
Lolitics presents elemental comedy at it’s most reactive, current, and conspiratorial. Comedians work material from that day’s paper, television, and radio in ways that would be less relevant in rehearsed tour material. Will Theresa May’s jaundiced repetition of ‘Strong and Stable’ be funny in a few months? Is it funny now? The most unique aspect of the night is that the audience is right there with the comedian. If a joke falls flat the audience isn’t holding onto ‘what a waste of money’, so much as rapt by a peek behind the curtain at how great material is worked and reworked to land properly. Who would have thought that a lefty comedy night would be so communal?
The host of the evening Chris Coltrane has a great comic sensibility and has managed for over five years to foster a place where various levels of comics can learn from each other, build epic sets, and see which social observations hit home. It’s an admirable achievement in light of the UK media kingmakers’ roles to laud only the most anodyne and mediocre. In person he comes across as an abrasive and intransigent zealot, although on stage his easy charisma and winning energy more than makes up for our rather spikey conversation. Maybe those contradictory qualities are what it takes to run a comedy night, perhaps even to do stand up in the first place.
Lolitics is why people live in London, to watch and learn. Once the Netflix Americana performances have lost their lustre, here is the real deal. Targeted by the Daily Mail as banning irony and as being a ‘safe space’ (worn almost as a badge of honour), investigating current events in a rapid context has drawn audiences for over five years. It hardly fits the usual concept of safe spaces, i.e. a place where it’s critics claim nothing can be challenged except the individual’s right to espouse whatever bullshit they read that week and to act entitled on someone else’s behalf without contest. Shouldn’t we fight for a contested general space, where people talk freely and you can call out the purveyor of logical fallacy or rank hypocrisy on its terms? Controversially, the assumption is that outside the safe space people toe the line or worse still, that dissenting views are marginal at best. Who wants that? People should expect to be safe wherever they are, and a physical marginalisation isn’t going to make people feel safer outside of it.
Lolitics is not a safe space. It’s where the commentators run through new ideas and the audience watches the craft unfold without shopworn cues. That said, there is a sense of shared sensibilities that grates a bit. Yes I’m a polite Guardian reader and will dutifully be energetically supportive, even when the homilies are exhausted, but what we need is an activated audience and combative performers. Following Trump’s election the post-mortem of the left has isolated a key organ of failure – namely the Left’s bubble of agreement and acceptance that doesn’t reflect the wider population or the existence of interests of those outside the party (https://www.trebuchet-magazine.com/democratic-party/).
On the night I attended no one took even a feathered swing at the Left and sometimes the good natured support for the comedians drifted into the hinterland of ‘Well of course we’re right, moral and rational (and everyone else lives in a cave, eating their children, while a TV variety show ameliorates their violent powerlesseness)’. It is overwhelmingly mean-spirited of me to criticise Lolitics for not reforming leftist politics in the UK or that a ‘new material’ night doesn’t attack . But the change has to start somewhere.
In the final estimation, for a fiver it’s an insane bargain for seeing current, reactive and quality comedy in the heart of London. Tell everyone you know, listen to Chris Coltrane’s podcast for a free taste and go vote.
DATE: 3rd Tuesday of every month (next date: June 20th, and then we’re away until September!)
TIME: Show starts 8pm, doors open 7.30pm (get there early to get a seat!)
WHERE: Upstairs at the Black Heart, 3 Greenland Place, Camden, London.
PRICE: £5 (all tickets on the door)