Salford welcomed, not one, but two rising talents on the comedy circuit in Tom Allen and Suzi Ruffell last night. With the Lowry Studio packed out the room wasn’t quite big enough for the two of them, but that in no way compromised the quality.
Knock about banter I think best describes the start of the show, with both comics making off the cuff jokes in tandem. It is clear from the outset that both possess a quick wit, and their obvious friendship helps the audience warm to them almost immediately.
With Ruffell leaving the stage momentarily, Allen introduces her to perform her solo set by starting a Mexican wave style of applause originating from the back corner. With the performance dynamic shifted, Ruffell is able to fully show off her hilarious personality.
Ruffell is from a working class family in Portsmouth, an upbringing which floods her act with fantastic material. Her charm echoes that of Danny Dyer and Micky Flanagan, but pigeon holing her like this is an injustice as she is far more versatile.
She tells stories of her family getting through tough times, but always with a refreshing positive outlook. Her buoyant attitude to life rubs off on the audience, and is a welcome contrast to the despairing outlook many comics take.
Energy and wholehearted commitment is never stifled in Ruffell’s performance; her illustration of characters is fantastic and, alongside funny quips, make excellent anecdotes.
One anecdote stood out. An encounter on Ruffell’s doorstep with a Jehovah’s Witness was always going to end up in a fiery encounter for a gay woman despite her best intentions to remain polite. It says something about Ruffell’s character however, that she managed to turn this into a humorous routine.
Ruffell is the new face of working class comedy, her humour is down to earth and instantly relatable. Her story about her free bar incident fully highlights this.
Coming out after the interval, suited and booted, Tom Allen’s confidence resonates brightly. As it should, this was very much his audience.
The camp comic started by cleverly twisting the things straight people tend to say when first meeting a gay person.
Allen is a naturally funny stand up, his presence on stage exudes humour and every time he opens his mouth he has the audience cracking up
His dry, yet camp style of delivery is fresh and new. His jokes, quick and sometimes subtle, match his persona brilliantly.
His set centres around one particular occasion at a party when he became trapped in a bathroom, but a shiny new bathroom at least. He dips in and out of this one anecdote throughout his set, which helped him wring out the humour from the dire situation.
Allen commands a room expertly and, despite his exquisite word choice in jokes, it’s his physical humour that gets the biggest laughs. Exploiting awkward humour by putting a leg up on a chair, or leaning on a table that’s slightly too low, has the audience in stitches.
Referencing previous routines from earlier in a show is common for comedians, but Allen’s throwback to past jokes goes above and beyond as he did this for Ruffell’s gags as well. It was impressive, not only because it showed he paid attention during the earlier set, but also because it helps establish both comics as a team.
Although Allen stated that he has little innuendo in his show compared to other gay comedians, there is still a degree of naughtiness. His constant assurances that his benign statements are not innuendos in fact create the innuendo to waves of laughter.
The show is a superb mix of styles with both comics bouncing off each other extremely well. The variation in material is also impressive, as it would be far easier for both comedians to simply fulfil their stereotypes.
Ruffell and Allen provide plenty of side-splitting laughs in a show that will please everyone.