Compered by Danny McLoughlin, a performer whose amiability and confidence balances out a razor-sharp wit, the show started with a brilliant set from Gary Delaney, best known to some for his numerous appearances on Mock the Week.
Delaney opened the night with an impressive set of rapid-fire one liners and wastes absolutely no time between gags, making a swift bee-line for each punchline and pausing solely for the benefit of a laughing audience to catch up.
The quick-fire jokes ranged from the absurd (writing to a newspaper’s agony aunt weekly with thinly-veiled logic puzzles) to the gleefully dark (“A young woman recently described me as ‘a looker’. Well, ‘voyeur’ was the word she used…”), and Delaney rarely misses a beat, slowing the pace solely to deliver equally funny and self-aware asides.
The next act to take the stage was Liam Webber, whose manic energy immediately filled the intimate venue as he pitched a film about Nixon sending dogs into space, recreating a massacre on Sesame Street.
Webber’s frenetic pacing propelled his act from one absurdist situation to the next, each surreal scenario filled with unique voices that rendered the routine something akin to a madcap one-man play. Webber bid the audience farewell soon after he bounded onto the stage, and he exited to well-earned applause.
Following Webber’s inimitable and unpredictable performance was John Hastings, a Canadian stand-up who’s won and been nominated for countless comedy awards, and played some of the biggest comedy festivals in both Canada and the US.
With his brief but brilliant set as part of the Group Therapy Comedy Club, Hastings showed us why; a confident blend of observational and self-deprecating humour endeared the comic to his audience, before he ramped up the volume and exasperation for rants about protest-sex with Donald Trump, and a good Brexit bash.
His abrasiveness, interspersed quieter moments of set-up and explanation gave the Canadian comic’s performance a thoroughly engaging rhythm that earned laughs and applause equally.
The night ended on a high and there’s a promise of a return from Group Therapy – guaranteed to be brilliant night, and definitely not to be missed.
Group Therapy Comedy took place at Rough Trade on Thursday 4 May 2017
The next Group Therapy Comedy is on Thursday 6 June 2017 at Rough Trade