Front row fear at The Comedy Store

As I arrived at the Rose Theatre, my heart sank. “Right at the front, in the centre,” the usher told me as I handed over my ticket. Of course a front seat for any usual event would be ideal – coveted even. But I was here for the theatre’s monthly Comedy Store show.

It’s common knowledge that the front row seat at a comedy show pretty much guarantees being picked on by the comedian. I was also a clear target since I was attending the theatre all on my lonesome. To make matters worse I was also planning on reviewing the show.

Let’s be honest, sitting alone at the front of a theatre furiously scribbling in a notebook is asking for trouble.

So what did I do? Did I stick it out like the professional journalist I so aspire to be?


I grabbed my stuff and quickly shuffled to a seat several rows further back, tucked safely in the main body of the audience. And boy was I glad; within the first five minutes the host, Steven Grant, had picked on several victims and given them a good roasting, much to the glee of the rest of the audience.

The poor front row didn’t fare much better as the evening progressed.

Despite the rather small audience, all of the featured comedians were well-received. There is always a danger that a show with more than one act can mean that no comedian is able to build up a rapport with the audience, but this certainly didn’t feel like an issue.

Not that there is anything wrong with good old-fashioned stand-up, but I was particularly sad to see Stefano Paolini leave the stage, as his combination of childhood reminisces, Robert De Niro impressions and beat-boxing made for a really fresh set.

The over-arching theme of the evening seemed to be cultural identities and differences, picked up by all the acts at some point. The raucous Dave Fulton’s observations on the British drinking culture from an American perspective went down particularly well, as well as Stefano Paolini’s stories of cultural confusion as an Italian brought up in Brixton and Mark Maier’s suggestion that perhaps Germans aren’t quite ready for the steak bake.

Comedy usually makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening and this was no exception – I left with a big smile and slightly achy ribs. I would certainly go to another Comedy Store event, although next time I’ll definitely be booking a ticket safely at the back.

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