No Such Thing As A Fish: Live in Reading

Growing up I enjoyed a good laugh; I would forego the wildlife documentary on BBC1 in favour of Live At The Apollo on BBC2. I’d shelter from the Glastonbury summer rain in the comedy tent before the beer tent and with my friends I’d charge around the Thames Valley in pursuit hearing Bill Bailey tickle the comedic ivories again and again. So, it’s no surprise that I watched QI; a comedy panel show that hides educational facts under the veil of comedic laughs. A bit like your Mum hiding broccoli under a pile of cheesy mash. Or something like that.

Anorexia, however, didn’t like QI. It doesn’t do humour and comedy and it steals your ability to laugh. TV descended to nothing more than background noise, something to fill the silence of living on your own while eating dinner. It, therefore, seemed pointless to watch anything that required more than 2 seconds on my limited attention, especially a programme I couldn’t draw enjoyment as I now lacked the ability to engage with its main function – laughing. So, I stopped watching and instead started cleaning my house. Or baking Yorkshire puddings. Or buying recipe magazines.

My dwindling TV viewing coincided with a good friend badgering me in to the world of Podcasts. We have a shared love of film and he’d constantly ask me if I listened to Wittertainment, and after the usual weekly “you really should start listening to it, that and Fighting Talk” I thought “what the heck…” and went in search of the magical world of the spoken world.

Wittertainment became a firm favourite in my life (and drove me to seek out numerous films I’d have never discovered otherwise) but often I was left waiting for the next episode, in need of something to fill monotony of driving to the shops, walking around the isles or simply lying on a bed waiting for the time to pass until my mind freed up and said it was OK to eat. So, I turned to Google for inspiration. I went hunting other podcasts. In came Farming Today, The Food Programme and The Football Ramble. Then I stumbled across No Such Thing As A Fish – a weekly podcast from the QI elves. My mind was intrigued, that small tiny reference to QI felt like I’d found something old, forgotten, yellowed with age hidden under a pile of papers in a corner my mind, pulled out by pure chance. I gave it a go, and instantly started laughing. It was everything the TV show was and more. My subscription confirmed.

209 episodes later, I’m still completely hooked, and it has grown into so much more than four people simply chatting about their favourite facts from the last seven days. It’s spawned: books, its own television show, a vinyl record and even live tours. I wanted to see them live but they were always too far away for my mind to accept. A comedy club in the side streets of deepest London, a single attraction in a Literary festival day, or the other side of the planet in Australia! And then I stumbled across a small snippet of information on Twitter – tickets for the show in Reading were nearly sold out. What…? Show in Reading? A quick Google search confirmed what I’d heard, they were coming to Reading! Ticket. Booked.

I’ve never been a live podcast recording, or any other form of podcast recording for that matter, so I truly had no idea what to expect. I simply turned up early, found my seat and waited, like the rest of the sold-out audience for 4 complete strangers, you idolise like friends, to arrive on stage and hide some facts under a layer of cheesy laughter filled mash. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The evening was split into two sections. The first an hour of what is essentially factual stand up loosely tied to their working lives on QI and the podcast. Each team member presenting their own tales with each easily creasing you up laughing as highly polished, comedic styled stories were delivered with professional timing and performance. Yet, however slick and funny the spotlight story was I could never quite shake the feeling that this was a tour and the true improvisation of the others heckles and remarks may not be as spontaneous as they appeared. They never looked like they were waiting for a scripted cue but there was always a slight look in their eye to say “and here we go again…”

The second half was the recording of a podcast (which will soon be released). Sadly, it was prefixed with a suggestion that audience members might like to try to spot themselves in the recording so, as they put it, “…if you’ve got a weird laugh, tonight’s your night to shine!” Which cued a woman a few rows behind me to force a false and highly annoying bray, much louder than anything she’d previously released, purely in the search of future podcast fame; somewhat spoiling my enjoyment as it felt like nails on a blackboard every time she laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Equally, while having a few moments of side splitting hilarity (accumulating in the teams MC – Dan Schreiber – virtually passing out through oxygen starved laughter at one point) the lack of rehearsal polish meant in parts it just didn’t feel as comedic as it could. It was the true moments of off the cuff timing that brought it back to life, but my mind would wander from time to time away from the four people on stage and the facts that formed their chat.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t laughed so much, or so hard, in a very long time. Since listening to a previous Fish podcast I expect. It’s just that watching a podcast just isn’t as enjoyable as listening to one because you lose the ability to multitask. You’re just sitting there unable to dip in and out of the conversation as it were; instead forced to silently listen throughout, unable to mentally breathe and refocus. I’m still a huge fan and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening that reignited my mind to the pleasure drawn from simply being made to laugh in a live setting – so much so, that I went and saw Lucy Porter live the very next night. If you listen to podcasts I cannot recommend No Such Thing As A Fish enough, but when it comes to converting those voices into your head into an evening’s live entertainment, I’d prefer to leave the podcast on my phone.

Posted on by 5WC in Opinion, Stage First Edition

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