The more time I’ve spent in stand up comedy since starting out in February last year, the more fascinated I’ve become by the people who do it and come to it. This curiosity led to me not only wanting to get out of London, but to experience it somewhere completely different. I was lucky enough to travel to Amsterdam to see Hannah Gadsby in November last year, who performed to a riotous sell-out crowd and it drove me to my usual default ‘ask the universe’ technique of putting something on Twitter to see if anyone knew any good nights I could do. Within minutes Lynne Parker had connected me to Roxy JC, who not only oversees Amsterdam’s Funny Women: Time of the Month but also That Comedy Thing a Thursday (and, due to demand, now Friday) night open mic with a big loyal audience and my favourite comedy luxury item – an actual stage. I made my bid for it and was given a 10-minute set.
Alexander Nasse, the MC (and co-founder) affectionately teased at the start about how Amsterdam audiences were notoriously low-key, but with a healthy quota of Brits escaped from the UK, if there were pockets of what I flattered myself with as ‘quiet appreciation’ they were more than balanced out. The audience was incredibly respectful, attentive and supportive, giving everyone an easy time – even on the jokes that were still notebook-new. It was a perfect environment for newer comics that Alex and Roxy clearly take a lot of pride in helping to develop – including a guy on his second gig, who was treated with so much care that the nervousness burnt away within seconds. To be honest, I was a bit envious Alex didn’t know me well enough to give me the kind of personal, anecdote heavy intros he gave some of the resident regulars, but he still managed to hype me up to a bonkers level, just because I had travelled so far to be there.
The other acts
Having spent close to a year on the London open mic circuit witnessing very clear trends of storytelling riffing on the specific communal experience that is living in the city, it was really fun to be an outsider looking in at how Amsterdam comics leaned into lampooning their own set of tropes and in-jokes. I’m not sure if it’s the appeal and curation skills of the night, or just reflective of the circuit in general but there was a real international slant to the line-up – with comedians from Estonia, Australia and the US alongside those batting for the home team. The talent level, as someone coming in new with no idea how well my set would translate, was scarily amazing, but I didn’t have much time to worry about it as I was too busy enjoying the show which had enough of the elements I knew to feel reassuringly familiar. The performers I met were passionate and enthusiastic about their material, and quick to praise others. The subject of ‘bringer’ nights came up, ‘Do people really make you bring somebody just to perform?!’ implying maybe that bringer nights are mainly confined to London – there is hope for us all (and our long-suffering partners and mates).
That Comedy Thing
Alexander and Roxy, who co-produce the night, are clearly crazy about good comedy, and it shows in every single decision they made putting the night together – from the stage set up, to the support and love they offered all the acts before, during and after the show. It felt like really safe space that I would recommend to anyone wanting to road test their sets on a more international audience – by the time I took to the stage, the only concern I had was how well the nation of cyclists would take a particular story of mine that I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist telling, for better or worse. And I got two free drinks in the bargain.
Due to a lack of leave I flew out late afternoon and was back at Stansted by 9am the next day – Greta might not approve, but with flights for £35, it is surprisingly easy to access a new city and a new audience if you have 12 hours and the stamina for Easyjet.
That Comedy Thing currently runs two shows in Amsterdam, at Fox & Solo in Amsterdam West and Oosterbar in Amsterdam East. The West show is an open mic, you can apply via a Facebook group: English Comedy Spots in The Netherlands (like I did!) or by just showing up if you happen to be in town as they always have a few walk-in spots on the same night. Fine out more here!