As a deeply profound coward, there is not a chance in hell I would ever consider doing stand-up comedy. The combination of being up on a hot stage and struggling to get strangers to laugh is probably one of the most challenging things in the world to do. Now, before I get any brain surgeons emailing me to tell me I’m talking crap – may I suggest they take a trip down to The Frog and Bucket on a Monday for their legendary Beat the Frog night, to try it for themselves…
The premise for Beat the Frog is simple, yet delicately cruel for the gaggle of newbie comics who aim to ‘Beat the Frog’ and manage to stay on stage in front of the packed out venue for 5 minutes. 3 audience members are given big green cards which they are told to raise if they do not like a particular act. If all 3 cards go up within the 5 minutes – you’re off! If not, you’re entered into the clap-off at the end to determine the winner. As I said, simple yet cruel. Added to the line-up of amateurs and newbies, are usually 2 ‘established’ acts and the brilliant compere Dan Nightingale.
The night is a combination of genius and chaos, with Dan trying (and mostly succeeding) in keeping it all together. The audience interaction is key, and when it all goes tits-up on stage for one of the acts, there can be a blend of both support and absolute awkwardness emanating around the room. Personally, I love the awkward silences when someone is dying on stage, but with 7 out of 11 acts making it to the final on Monday, I was denied much of this.
The show started with Tom Meikle and Tom Lawrinson to get the ball rolling before the Beat the Frog acts began. For an activity that could easily reduce a grown convicted criminal to tears, it must have taken either loads of booze, supreme arrogance or blissful ignorance for these people to get up and try, but try they did. It might have been the cider, but my personal favourite of the night was ‘Scary Dave’, who managed to make asking someone if he knows a bloke called ‘Ashtray’ from Salford seem like absolute genius.
Beat the Frog has been going for years, and I even remember trying to impress a lovely Spanish girl I’d met by taking her on a dark, cold September evening. She told me she loved it, but she did turn out to be a habitual liar, whereas I was lucky enough to go on the night that legend Jason Manford decided to try out some of his new material. It was brilliant! As somewhere where many famous names have started their careers (including Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas, Jack Whitehall and John Bishop), Beat the Frog is a night where even if you aren’t lucky enough to catch someone like Manford, you may be seeing a potential future superstar MEN Arena filler.
To add the proverbial cherry on top of the night, the Frog and Bucket offer a range of great food and drink offers to keep you lubricated while someone spouts the 6th Donald Trump joke of the night. You can get a bottle of house wine for £11.95, a bottle of Carsberg for a dazzling £1.90 as well as what turned out to be a range of delicious 9 inch pizzas for only £5. (I ended up having 2). When you consider that the entrance is only £3 (or FREE for students) – you can see that for about £20, you can have probably the most enjoyable 3 hours available anywhere in Manchester on a Monday night.
The Frog and Bucket, 102 Oldham St, Manchester, M4 1LJ
0161 236 9805