It was with healthy scepticism that I entered Vinopolis on Friday night (28 November) for its monthly Laughter Lounge event.
Would the wine museum be able to flog tickets for their new comedy night and dish up some class acts in the process?
I was told on the door they’d sold 400 tickets – wine and comedy clearly proving a popular mix for the punters.
Vinopolis managing director Rupert Ellwood told me he was targeting comedy lovers with the aim of converting them into wine lovers rather than vice versa.
Vinopolis, with its exposed-brick walls, served as an ideal venue, both spatially and acoustically. Our compere for the night was Devon-born Jack Black look-alike Charlie Baker, who said he was waiting for Black to die to fill the (rather large) gap in the comedy market.
Baker, a finalist at the Edinburgh Fringe comedy circuit, came on with some rather good gags about Devonshire meat pasties.
The first act, East Londoner Eddy Brimson, was the least funny of the 3-strong line up. His twitchy delivery and gimp mask jokes jarred.
Next up was Carl Donnelly, a camp-but-straight kooky kid sporting a mass of brown curls and oversized glasses: ‘I’m not a character act, this really is me’.
Winner of Leicester Comedian of the Year 2007, Donnelly’s style was laid-back and witty, sprinkled with hilarious observational anecdotes from everyday life, from the tag-team sandwich artists at Subway to lettuce-throwing kids on a bus.
Finally gay Asian GP-turned-comic Paul Sinha took to the stage. He said his parents were less than thrilled when he gave up medicine to become a clown.
And then when he told them he was gay, they set about arranging him a husband.
Articulate, confrontational and controversial, Sinha commanded the stage, his passionate delivery gathering pace until the final curtain.
Judging by the audience reaction, a good few wine lovers have been converted to comedy.
But the wine offering was disappointingly sparse. With 400 tickets sold, it was an ideal opportunity for Vinopolis to turn the comedy crowd onto wine, and my guest and I felt they’d missed a trick.
Written by Lucy Shaw