Factually Inaccurate #6: Athena Kugblenu, Monica Gaga, Suchandrika Chakrabarti, Dan Willis, and Charlie Vero-Martin

What a show! With every month I feel like we get slightly closer to what we want the night to be, which is good, given our remit is EXTREMELY WOOLLY and, like most humans and animals in society, we really have no clue what we’re doing.

As host, I tried a different tack to normal and tried some actual jokes. It seemed to work so expect to see more of that in future.

Our first act was a last-minute addition to the bill, so we didn’t even have a photo of him being terrorised by an owl. Dan Willis is God King of sketch group The Free Mondays, who played our sister night Next Level Sketch earlier in the year. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched solo sketch before, but Dan’s timing when interacting with his own recorded voice was impeccable; a high-tightrope act, because if you fuck up once, the whole thing would unravel like a ball of comedy yarn.

He did not fuck up. He nailed it. I think my favourite sketch was the one about buying sunglasses, which featured another high-tightrope, with Dan expertly walking along the line of funny with the gaping void of “extremely offensive” threatening but failing to suck him down at any moment.

Suchandrika Chabrabarti was next up, and I forgot how to pronounce her name when introducing her to the stage, a genuine please-let-the-ground-swallow-me-up moment. I have a very unreliable brain and have, for example, introduced the sketch group “Shelf” as “Sketch” before, to general confusion, but this was Next Level embarrassing.

Oh well. She was extremely kind funny about it, flawlessly opening her set with a joke about it, and then effortlessly moving through the gears of charm, stories and audience interaction. That’s a car metaphor, by the way. I know all about cars.

Suchandrika had taken the “comedy lecture” brief seriously, and left us all both amused and informed. I like how she takes something pretty topical – in this case, statues, and what they represent, and whether we should be chucking them all into the harbour – and puts her own twist on it.

So we discovered there are more statues of mythical creatures than there are of actual women, and that a gorilla with shit dental hygiene is better represented than every woman of colour ever.

Remember I said I know all about cars? Our next act was a guy called Mr Gears, here to teach us all about road safety. I’m not really sure why we booked him as his set seemed better suited to a primary school assembly, and indeed at one point he did call us “particularly hairy children”.

Mr Gears had a few technical problems – never work with powerpoint slides, they’ll only let you down – but his lecture, sponsored by the AA, Shell, and ExxonMobil, contained much useful advice for people trying to avoid becoming a victim of road safety.

Full disclosure: it was me. I was Mr Gears. And I think he might be the best character I’ve tried at this night thus far, tying for first place with the tragic but hopeful Wimpy employee Tim Burgers-Lee.

Closing out our first half was Athena Kugblenu, a brilliant, thoughtful comedian and writer who came on stage with a story about her union jack cycling helmet (something Mr Gears would have hated). Athena has a huge talent for boiling down big themes and heavy topics into extremely funny and revealing sets. The best comedians, even when lying, are telling the truth, and here some of the greater truths touched on were about class, relationships, and owning the fact you own a conservatory.

The interval! Time to go for a wee and/or apologise to Suchandrika.

We started off the second half with a genuine Queen of the Hoopla stage: Monica Gaga, or Monico Gaga, as one of the more glaring typos in our fanzine had it.

Monica is an improv legend and also an extremely brilliant, funny and enthusiastic host, so the energy in the room, already high, doubled within seconds of her being on stage. She took us on an interactive relationship journey, in her audacious attempt to date every single person in the room.

She walked along the South Bank with Rebecca, visited the V&A (where there are no dinosaurs) with Euan, and rounded things off with a lovely meal at Pizza Hut in Woking with my mum. Note: not Pizza Express.

Next up is the person I described in my introduction as “Factually Inaccurate’s own chaos element”, Maddi Sainsbury. Owner of Chekhov’s mandolin, Schrödinger’s stylophone, and a rather winning cardigan, Maddi took us down the many rabbit holes of online fan fiction, a world that brought back warm and fuzzy memories of when the internet wasn’t predominantly association with misinformation, consumerism, and despair.

From left to right: Stylophone, owl, Maddi

Our headliner tonight was a very special guest from the mists of time. Dante Alighieri looks pretty good for an eight hundred year old Florentine, and my god the moves: he bounces and bounds around the stage, a relentless font of facts and charm.


Would it destroy the illusion to explain that Dante was being played by writer, improviser and character comedian Charlie Vero-Martin? If so, please ignore this paragraph, and also the fact that she is a Factually Inaccurate returning champion, playing our very first show back in June in the guise of Scandinavian marine biologist Professor Von Plattfuss.

Such things did we learn, including the misery of exile, the comforting nature of potted plants, and which circle of hell has the coolest people to hang out with – important information if you’re still figuring out which deadly sin to focus on for the rest of your time on this mortal coil.

And that was it. That was the show. We finished, unusually, on time, which meant we could all go downstairs and have a drink and a chat with some fabulously brilliant comedians. Which, secretly, might have been the reason why we started this night in the first place?

J xxx

Thanks so much to Jamie Clarke on tech and to my fellow producer Maddi Sainsbury. Our next and final night of 2021 is on Monday 13th December and tickets are available here.

Published by jamesofwalsh

My past blogs haunt the internet like ghost ships on a digital sea.

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