As the name suggests, you would be forgiven for not hearing about this weekly event held downstairs in the cosy Artista Café. Tucked away down a side street somewhere in the blur between Brighton and Hove is a chance to experience the intimacy of stand-up on the frontline.
On this wet winter evening, our guide is seasoned south-coaster Josh Dillon, who leads us down into the dimly lit underbelly of the venue before we take the plunge into the depths of human depravity. Kicking off proceedings is Alaska-born Chelsea Hart who makes light work of Shire-born audience member Stuart who becomes a thread for the evening’s entertainers to pick at. A tip when visiting the SCC: avoid the front row if you don’t like the attention (although nowhere is truly safe in this intimate environment).
Next, we are treated to some revealing poetry from booze-filled-bag-for-life-carrying Marilyn Monroe impersonator and all-round reprobate Andy Barr before our MC ushers us to the bar for the first interval. A charming feature of Artista is the lack of green room, creating a chance for the comedic tormentors to be interrogated by their recent victims over a beer or smoke.
Any relaxed atmosphere created by the break is soon squeezed out of the room by the next man to take to the stage, Dave Bailey (pictured), who almost visibly gets off on stirring up tension as he dives into chastising parents who raise ‘fat kids’. He makes way for local lad James Ellis who hilariously pinpoints the benefits of letting your wife plan your life for you, before the filling of our sandwiched evening is topped by Ben Robson whose highlight comes from riffing on the question “So, who is your favourite celebrity paedophile?” – with, perhaps worryingly, plenty of audience participation.
A short break later and once more unto the breach we plunge only to be greeted by a linguistic and conversational masterclass from the great Sameena Zehra who tells us she has spent the week planning her husband’s funeral – “he’s not dead, it’s just what I do when he annoys me”. Our ‘headliner’ (although she questions the use of this word) effortlessly gathers up all the unspent energy in the room, kneads it in the palm of her hand before throwing us back into the Brighton rain feeling empowered by comedy.
Make no mistake, Secret Comedy Club is a mile away from the polished sets to be expected in a packed Brighton Dome. But what Artista have created here is an opportunity to see intimate and often improvised comedy, warts and all, performed by some very funny people. The surroundings will make you comfortable whilst the entertainment puts you on the edge of your seat, making Saturday nights at Artista an absolute must for any fan of raw stand-up.
Artista Café, Saturday 10th February 2018
Words by Samuel Irvine
Photo by Alexander Voodoo