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No more nooks and grannies

Vinny Lawrenson Woods finds out how far people will go for a laugh. Does the Grafton grab you?

Published on December 2nd 2008.

No more nooks and grannies

AS much a part of Liverpool’s cloth as its famed wit, it’s perhaps fitting that the legendary Grafton has made way for Liverpool’s latest and largest comedy club, The Olympia Laughter Lounge.

Now part of an “Olympia Complex”, which sounds like a psychological condition, but isn't, The Olympia Laughter Lounge opened its doors a couple of weeks ago with help of partners Tongue in Cheek Comedy - agents who are also responsible for the Capital of Comedy nights at the Slaughter House on Fenwick Street.

Chaponda was on another level. His brilliant storytelling skills and infectious smile drew us into his world and we were left wanting more

The venue is unrecognisable from its grab-a-granny days: Tables and chairs face a stage which now takes prominence over the once infamous club dance floor. Overactive hormones, thyroids, and drink-fuelled rendezvous have been replaced on the weekend bill by an impressive list of local, national and internationally renowned comedians.

Local comic Chris Cairns quickly showed the audience why he’s such a popular performer and compère. Heckled in the first 10 seconds of his set, his detractor quickly discovered his mistake. Cairns' put-downs left his would-be foe ducking for cover from a continuous tirade. His razor sharp observations and piercing comments were timed to perfection and left the audience not only receptive for what was to follow, but in awe.

Although a little larger than your average comedy club in these parts, the Grafton, sorry, Laughter Lounge layout still creates a real intimacy between the performers and audience. Even the chatty and friendly bar staff added to the banter.

North London comedian Markus Birdman was first up and, having previously lived in Liverpool, had plenty of local insight to impart, making him a winner with the full house crowd. The themes were a bit random and at times very close to the wire, but his intelligent delivery was sharp and he always kept the crowd on his side.

Lloyd Langford, 25 and from South Wales, performed a relaxed and laid back set that went off on tangents with the odd surreal moment. With topics from Dubai to clapping dogs and pornography, the audience laughed easily as Langford, totally comfortable on stage, guided them through a variety of hilarious situations

It wouldn't be the Grafton without a disco, but before the Saturday night fever began, there was ample time for the headliner, Daliso Chaponda. Originally from Malawi, Chaponda started his career in Canada, a hotbed for stand-ups, before moving to the UK. Although the support acts were all well and good, Chaponda was on another level. His brilliant storytelling skills and infectious smile drew us into his world and we were left wanting more. Chaponda's talent for writing and performance, his cynicism and insights into topical issues will surely propel him much, much further.

On a particularly cold night, the venue did feel the chill, and the choice of drinks at the bar was not as varied as you would hope, but these were small issues and the exceptional night of entertainment was to warm to. Open to 2am and offering meals (you have to prebook them), the Laughter Lounge offers a real alternative to a weekend night out just on the beer.

For over 80 years The Grafton ballroom has always been successful at reinventing itself and its latest incarnation is no different. With comedy circuit acts of this quality willing to travel out of town, to Liverpool in favour of lucrative London gigs, it could be that the city now has a very special prospect on its hands. Well worth travelling just out of town for.

Olympia Laughter Lounge, every Friday and Saturday, Olympia Complex, West Derby Road, Liverpool 6. Tickets £10. 0151 263 6633

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Paula HarringtonDecember 2nd 2008.

I think Scouse was talking about the weekend when John Bishop headlined - the second act who talked about Purple Aki or Perps was Stephen Porter who is a great local act.For half price vouchers for this weekend email me on paula@tongueincheekcomedy.com or see the website http://www.olympialaughterlounge.com for Christmas listings and menus

Muscle boundDecember 2nd 2008.

Silky is a very funny man, as is Nige, who I think you are referring to as stunningly hilarious here. But is it right to take the piss out of Purple Aki? Nor sure.

scouse in the houseDecember 2nd 2008.

We actually went there a couple of weeks ago, compere was brilliant - first act ok, second act was VERY funny and the last one was stunningly hilarious.Had to explain who purple aki was though to my friends who weren't from liverpool!well worth a trip

paula harringtonDecember 2nd 2008.

Tonight only we have free tickets for The Olympia Laughter Lounge. email theliverpoololympia@hotmail.com for tickets.

DigDecember 2nd 2008.

Emailed you for some vouchers. Much obliged Paula.

dormouseDecember 2nd 2008.

When you go to the pictures and those boring ads come on. Why do normal people laugh at dull slapstick and corny humour just because its on a bigscreen? They would ignore it on their tellies.Ignore this, its the same principle.

Akinwale ArobiekeDecember 2nd 2008.

I've got day release this weekend so I'll be visiting The Olympia Laughter Lounge. Apparently comedy will be good for my rehabilitation and to ease my bad temper. I see Stanley McHale is performing. I like his humour in The Liverpool Echo. Nice biceps too.

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