Issue 316
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On a scale of one to Lee Evans, how sweaty would you get if you had to do stand up? Some people thrive off it though — and we're not talking about the packed out stadium sorts — we're talking about the people who do it for the love, tickling tums with the funs on the small stages, of the backrooms, in the pub corners. Could you do it? Learning stand up is said to be incredible both for professional and personal confidence. Get lessons, then get practice, or just leave the gut-jiggling entirely to other folks at the following spots. 


It turns out you can teach laughs. No one is making guarantees on your post-lesson chortle count but there is a process with bullet points, handouts and everything. Find Your Funny with comedian James Cook's seven-week programme where you'll develop a short routine. It finishes with an optional showcase at the Hare & Hounds, where Frank Skinner, Sarah Millican and Josie Long have all appeared. No pressure then. Starting April 27, book by April 1 and it's £90.
MAC also deals in teaching stand up, with two-hour sessions led by Karen Bayley over twelve weeks. Term begins on April 20 and it's £104 for a spot.
Or, a more general look at improv is an option, with a ten-weeker by comedic sorts, Fat Penguin, starting April 1 (£180) in Stirchley-town. The team also offers taster sessions at Moseley's Pat Kav on Mondays so you can work out what you're getting yourself into. The first session is free.


Now you know what you're doing, the open mic circuit awaits. The Holly Bush in Cradley Heath has a strong rep for laughs, with a mix of the established and the rather newer standing up on Thursdays. Every fortnight, the gig is open to anyone and everyone but do get in touch in advance if you want a spot. Closer to town, The Gunmakers' Arms has events like this one on Monday (Feb 17) and invites newbies to pitch for a slot.
As your LOL-ometer reaches new levels of mercury and you get to know the scene, it's time to consider new material nights, like the ones organised by Useful Idiot Company. The line-ups for the free to attend eves are organised by the company, with jokes landing (or not) for the very first time at Loki Edgbaston on Mondays (more) and The Good Intent on Tuesdays (more). Project Mayhem also puts on a rotating stand-up night, next at Boston Tea Party, Harborne on Feb 16.


And if you're at the watching rather than doing stage, let us point you in the direction of one of the many comedy nights for the viewing around Brum. You'll find Kamikaze Club curated laughs at 1000 Trades on Feb 19, which based on the success of their first night in the JQ is highly worthy of a stop-in. From 8pm, the now monthly event is free, though contributions to the bucket collection will no doubt go down well with the ents.
For well-priced, ticketed viewing, Comedy in the Attic (£5) is a new bi-monthlyish bit of Stirchville cheer at Attic Brew Co by The Laughing Sole. Their previous night sold out weeks ahead so get on it if you want to see Chris Day (April 9). In Stirchley proper, Artefact's got a night of funny on Feb 20 and it's £5 for a seat. Or back in town, Cherrybomb (£8) at Cherry Reds gets huge creds for atmosphere and comic quality. Will sell out.


The man behind Brum's latest Michelin-star is launching an Argentinean steakhouse, and frankly, we're all over it like Yoda on Luke at the Dagobah swamp. Aktar Islam has made countless visits to South America over the course of a decade with a focus, of course, on Argentinean and asado cookery. What you're looking at is the Galician prime rib, just one of the parilla-cooked rare cuts on offer. Other big hitters on the menu include truffle mushroom tagliatelle and morcilla — a Spanish blood sausage. Set to open within the next four weeks, we've teamed up with the Brindleyplace restaurant, to offer a free table for two — food only — every night across April and May. For your chance to win, just subscribe to the Pulperia mailing list here. Winners will be picked at random and the 50 tables will be awarded at the end of March. 


Illegal raving explodes against a disenfranchised generation of miners in Wasteland, set in 1994 as Grimethorpe Colliery ceased to exist. Get deep into a stage full of warehouse parties complete with a festival-worthy soundscore and all the lights, before being brought back to the grim realities of what was among the poorest regions in the country. Set in a period of huge political upheaval, expect vivid storytelling through top-notch dance, plus archive film footage, a brass band and lots of highs and lows. Wasteland is the follow-up to award-winning Coal, by contemporary dance boss, Gary Clarke, who is getting a serious rep for weaving together popular and political culture through movement. On Feb 27 and 28 at DanceXchange in Birmingham Hippodrome, have a look-see here. Then get your tickets (from £8, rising to £14) here.


Steam open the poetry mussels and slurp out the flesh, spoken word sortie, Verve Festival is back at the Patrick Studio for its fourth year. Packing an almost dizzying agenda of poetry and verse, event organiser Cynthia Miller, has done our job for us and selected the highlights. Spoken word Super Night is not 'Supper' spelled wrong. It's Verve's lively festival opener (February 20) to which four of the UK's best spoken word events are sending their star poet. Meanwhile, in a Verve exclusive commission, award-winning Yomi Sode (pictured), explores how art responds to cultural biases in our digital age. Part-performance, part-speech, part-theatre, the event is set to be something else. Plus there's workshops, open mic slots and no-end to the poetry, until February 23, when the festival finishes. Tickets from £6.50, up to £40 for a full-on festival pass.
Venue: Ruga Bistro, 10 Pershore Street (Ground Floor), B5 4RU; facebook
Choice: Stewed beef brisket (£10.90) Chooser: Front of house

Ruga (rü-gə), noun: An anatomical fold of the gastric mucous membranes.
Hmmm. Gonna go out on a limb here and say Ruga Bistro, trickily located beneath the ever-popular Asia Asia Foodhall, hasn't knowingly named itself after your stomach flaps. That would have been an error, and from our experience at this bright, polite and refreshingly, well, fresh Chinese, errors are not their MO. Honestly? This place is wonderful. We'd heard good things from people we trust and now we're telling you, there are few Brum Chinese restaurants offering such delicate dishes, free of cloying sweetness and cheek-clamping flavour enhancers. This chef cares. He backs himself. On starters, look no further than the battered prawns with cashew nuts. On paper, shouldn't work. At Ruga? Works its absolute knockers off. Star of the show, although not unanimously agreed upon — we liked it most and we're writing this bloody thing — was stewed beef brisket. Rich, without being heavy (how the hell does chef do that?) this was like a Chinese version of beef massaman, but that description does a disservice to its uniquely warming and homely hit, the meat cosying up to the creamy, flocculent potato. Sizzling sautéed lamb with cumin seeds came highly recommended by the front of house and was a steal at £9.90, while king prawn with garlic (£12.90) featured fleshly, plump, perfectly cooked shellfish wallowing like well-fed Westerners in a warm jacuzzi of garlic. 
Sample menu 
The world's leading authority on Australian wine is at Millennium Point with Loki on March 6. From absolute classics, to a wine by Ian Botham, around fifty of Matthew Jukes' current fave drops will be available. Tickets (£15)
Spring dates are available for Carpe Aqua, your evening invite to Moseley Baths with candlelight and ethereal sort of tunes. While parts of the pool could do with being a degree or two closer to the Caribbean, it's a beaut experience to surprise with.

Baked cheese night. Say no more.
See Robert Webb at Glee on April 22. Tickets are £18 or get entry and Webb's new book, Come Again, on which the show is based, for £27 smackers.

What's your blood type? Find out with the NHS blood donation service from today through to Saturday at the Bullring, then maybe go on to casually save some lives? You're right, you are amazing. More

"They pillaged lands with guns as though they were Gods,
Speaking through rounds of bullets"

Yomi Sode, Untitled (2019)

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen
PICTURES: Joe Armitage (DanceXchange)

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