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A Cider-splittingly Funny Evening at Bristol Comedy Garden

When I think of Magners, I usually think of idyllic summer evenings spent chatting with friends and sipping a couple of pints in a sun-drenched beer garden, so it’s rather apt the brand sponsored this year’s Bristol Comedy Garden, a four-day-long extravaganza of comedy, entertainment and great food and drink.

Bristol Comedy Garden first took over Queen Square one summer weekend in 2009, and since then this annual event has featured some of the biggest names in the business, including Russell Howard, Alan Davies, Ed Byrne, Angelos Epithemiou and Isy Suttie. This year, the Magners and Comedy Garden team joined forces with Bristol’s award-winning street food collective, BEATS, to provide comedy-goers with gourmet grub. We weren’t sure what we were looking forward to most: the food, the cider or the comedy. 

We visited on the Thursday evening and our first stop was, naturally, the Magners cider bar, where we sipped their refreshing and summery berry cider while being entertained by the resident magician, Colin. The tempting aromas emanating from the street-food stalls soon had us making our way over to browse the offering. It all looked so delicious that I think I joined at least three different queues before finally stopping at the amusingly titled Quakamole (I didn’t choose it just for the name, honest) and ordering an eight-hour-slow-roasted duck burger served with a sweet and sticky barbecue and hoisin sauce. 

A couple of ciders later, and it was time to make our way into the Big Top. It was Bristolian compere John Robins’ task to get the crowd warmed up, which proved to be no easy task as it soon became apparent the people at the back couldn’t hear his gags. There were also a few awkward moments when he desperately tried to find someone in the audience who had a job he could mock – he was unfortunate enough to pick out people who either worked in worthy NHS roles or marketing, which supplied little pun fodder, but watching his increasing exasperation provided enough amusement in itself to get the laughs rolling.

The first comedian to step up to the mic was the brilliant Sara Pascoe, who made smart, witty observations on everything from the intricacies of relationships to the No More Page 3 campaign. After a brief interval – and, yes, more cider – we headed back to our seats to see 8 Out of 10 Cats regular Rob Beckett take to the stage. After humorously introducing himself as a ‘grown-up toddler’, Rob based a lot of his set around the dreaded ‘meeting the parents’ scenario, which is something everyone can relate to. We also, of course, appreciated his food-based jokes, including one in which he described paella as ‘busy rice’ and ‘special fried rice that got well out of hand.’

The Thursday-night headliner was Rich Hall, who was his usual grouchy, cynical, straight-talking self. He never missed a beat when interacting with the crowd – indeed, he fared rather better than John Robins, striking comedy gold by picking out a sunglasses salesman (where was he earlier?) and even grabbing a guitar and performing a song about the poor guy. Rich did get a free pair of sunglasses from him though, so he can’t have been too put out. It was nice to see that Mr Hall had obviously done his research about the local area too, as he also sung a hilariously scathing song about nearby Severn Beach.  

Magners Bristol Comedy Garden put on a jolly good show in 2014 and, in our opinion, is up there with the best of Bristol’s events this summer, which is no mean feat in such a vibrant city that hosts all manner of festivals and fiestas. If you missed out on this particular weekender though, don’t worry, as Magners is getting into comedy in a big way and will be hosting an equally jam-packed event in Greenwich in September. 

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