Brighton Fringe 2021
This worldwide hit show brings together some of the fringes best stand up comedians and encourage them to share their thoughts on sex, sexuality and relationships. Provocative, funny, rude and brash, this is adult humour for a willing audience.
Shaggers has been a consistent hit at worldwide fringe shows for several years. The premise is simple, take an experienced MC and comic, bring in the top talent and let them rip on the subject of sex, sexuality and relationships.
The show title clearly states what the show is about, the blurb confirms it. This simple formula draws in a willing audience. Put simply, advertise an adult comedy show about sex, and the chances are that you will attract suitably broad-minded people.
Nik Coppin runs Shaggers. Clearly, Nik is an established comic with the necessary skills to host a potentially raunchy and robust show. On top of this, he has a full-on, energetic and charismatic personality. You get the impression that there is very little Nik couldn’t handle.
The MC’s first job is to build the room’s energy, to get the audience pumping. In the process, he signposts what is coming up. His skilled crowd work soon gets the banter flowing. Nik isn’t afraid to be challenging and provocative, and he handles the audience’s responses with ease. He is quick-witted, managing to be funny, blunt, brash as required. He is working the room into the state he wants them to be in. There is a strong feeling that all of us are riding on the same roller-coaster. This is not his first rodeo.
By the time the first act comes on, everyone knows what is happening, and everything is ok because it is fully in line with our expectations.
The first act up is Robyn Perkins. She is a fast-talking, wise-cracking, bundle of energy. Her set is sharp, with the jokes and stories hitting their marks. The room laughs and joins in, Robyn is an experienced and clever comedian, and she takes our responses in her stride. Her bold and brash Americaness fits the material perfectly. It’s an excellent opening set, more in line with a headliner than an opening act.
And so the theme of the evening continues.
Then it’s back to Nik, with one of the easiest MC’ing jobs he’ll get. The audience is up for it, the energy is good, everyone is having a good time. Next up is Dan Jones.
Dan is very different in style and form, he’s much quieter. He offers a mix of observational comedy, the odd surreal gag and a solidly constructed set. The highlight was a child/beard routine that was clever, well-structured and delivered. There was a tinge of dark comedy to some of the gags, reinforcing the ‘adult’ theme. Again, the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
Now the Hype Man was back to introduce us to a Shaggers virgin, Donna Landy. Donna is starting out in stand up comedy. She clearly has strong presentational skills but the material, and some of the delivery, will take a while to develop into a confidant and assured set. While she didn’t quite hit the highs of the previous acts, the audience seemed happy enough to enjoy the interlude. Stand up comedy is not an easy art form, but this is how comedians are made.
And, in a flash, Nik is back, and we are off again. Showing all of his expertise, our cheeky host is quick to bring the room back to the boil. Now, we are on to the last act of the evening, Donal Vaughan.
Donal is a Shaggers regular, and what a treat he was. A Zoologist by training and a comic by inclination, he introduces us to a penis fixated world. He’s funny, rude, clever and sharp. Some jokes were subtle, while others smacked you over the head. His descriptions were sharply observed, detailed and well-constructed. He builds gag on gag sequences that skillfully develop an excellent set.
As Nik closes the show, I find myself disappointed because I wanted it to go on longer.
Within the performing art world, stand up comedy is often seen as a poor relation. A cheap, tawdry, sideshow of low cultural worth. This does it a disservice, it is so much more than that. People can look down on a show like this with an air of prurient superiority, and to do that would be wrong.
The first goal of stand up comedy is to make people laugh. Those that stand up for stand up try to link stand up to higher ideals; a counter-culture, a force of change, shining a light on society and the self etc, etc. While all these things are true, the first rule still applies; above all, it should be funny. Sometimes, all that needs is a good dick joke.
Fringe comedy compilation shows are generally popular. You get to see a range of comics for the price of a ticket while they get exposure to new audiences. They can be hit and miss affairs, we don’t all like the same things. Shaggers is different. Here the adult theme dictates the material. And, as such, it requires a broad-minded audience.
I think it is this relationship that makes the show work so well. Unlike other compilation shows, the audience here knows that this is going to be rude, brash, in your face. They expect references to sexual acts, bodily fluids and peccadilloes, so are not shocked by them. These references were present, but there was more to it than that.
This isn’t old fashioned end of the pier smut. Over the course of the show, we learned more about sexuality, gender identity, self-identity and sex than we expected. The show is all the better for it.
It’s easy to see why this brash and open format has struck a chord with audiences everywhere. I, for one, would be delighted to see it again. And, if I was feeling brave I may go to a late evening showing, where is suspect a well-lubricated audience would be even more up for it.