This Machine Kills Wasps, with Message From The Ravens, Shelf, Selena Mersey, Sharlin Jahan and Mr Simon Topping

Note: this write up was done under the influence of my favourite narcotic – flu – so might not flow especially well. It’s just words thrown at an electronic page, because a feverish write-up is better than no write up at all.

I never get anxious before shows [1]. Still: my stomach did that familiar sinking thing when I received an email eight hours before showtime, from a Hannah, beginning with “I’m so sorry”…

This could either have been Hannah from Message From The Ravens, our headliners, cancelling; or from Hannah, Leila Navabi’s agent, cancelling on her behalf.

I clicked through, to find it was the latter. My stomach returned to its usual position.

While I was super sad Leila couldn’t make it, I was also super relieved. A headliner pulling out is even trickier when your night is a mix of music and comedy, and – by your own personal estimation – about 80% of the audience have bought tickets to see the band.

MFTR soundchecking

I had invited my nemesis and rival Brighton comedy promoter Mr Simon Topping along, and asked if he fancied being a super sub. This he did, and so I did a lineup shuffle, made sure the acts who needed to get back to London were in the first half [2] , and got back to my last minute practicing.

I had two sets written: one, silly songs, and two, serious songs. The plan was a) to gauge the mood of the room and decide accordingly, or b) get the spinny thing from Twister and write “silly” and “serious” over the various limbs.

My housemate’s boardgame could not be found, so the former won by default.

I arrived to find lovely Ravens keyboardist Hannah, who explained the band had flown over from Hastings early to “make a day of it”, aka eating loads of vegan burgers and wandering the lanes being awesome.

Their soundcheck done, and musical comedians arriving from various directions, it was suddenly showtime.

I had written a fairly long and occasionally funny intro explaining why This Machine Kills Wasps is and what to do about it, but cut 90% of it for time reasons, and allowed Simon to do his thing, laughing as I realised the tables were far too close together for his usual audience interaction schtick.

Improv always finds a way, and soon the time travelling royal aide had many useless gifts with which to wow the King.

These gifts are not worthy of the King.

Next up was Sharlin Jahan, the only act with zero musical aspect to her act, something I should have made clearer in my hosting.

As always, Sharlin amazes me with how quickly she can turn new material into gold, though material on asexuality probably needed a bit more honing lest it be misunderstood.


Closing the first half was Shelf, and what is there left to say about Shelf? They should be on televisions everywhere all the time, televisions you can’t turn off.

A bit on Instagram algorithms was the funniest thing in the world and makes u think too; laughter AND political insight? In this economy?!


An interval. A chance to talk to some of the people who came, including Rachel, who I don’t think I’d seen for a decade. And a nervous glance at the clock. And then back for the second half.

Selena Mersey – not her real name – is one of the funniest musical comedians on the circuit. I keep describing her as a “filthier Victoria Wood”, but there’s a lot more going on than that, as her new pronouns song indicates – like Shelf, she’s got a knack for making a political point, in everyday but clever language, with most of the audience perhaps unaware that she’s made a political point in the first place.


Also, she sings “motherfucker” in a very funny fashion.

Oooh heck, me next. I had been mentally editing my set in my head, as we were running a bit late and some of my songs were not going to make it. Certainly I didn’t have time for my planned rendition of a miner’s life.

I walked to the stage and awkwardly fiddled with the vocal mic while I decided which song to do first. I went with the one I had soundchecked: Magnetic Fields’ Time Enough For Rocking When We’re Old, which I messed up, but not excessively.

I announced a “jarring shift in tone” and sang The Fish Are All English, and finished with a feel good run through Half Man Half Biscuit’s With Goth On Our Side, which went down brilliantly, and left Dan in tears, I am told. Explaining beforehand that I was explicitly pro-goth helped, I think, as did a little bit of lyric editing.

Thus done, it was time to sit back, relax, and watch the magnificent Message From The Ravens do their thing.

[1] I feel I should get more nervous. This would make me better prepared, perhaps.

[2] More rail strikes, which I 💯 support, as with all efforts to challenge this extreme right government and its determination to condemn working people to eternal penury.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s