The audience at 41 Monkgate are excited for the show, and there’s a decent mix – parents with teenagers, couples on dates, and a few flying solo. They all give a hearty cheer as Richard Pulsworth and his crew of comedians take to the stage for this Great Yorkshire Fringe debut.
It Just So Happened has a simple, solid premise that promises fun: in the first half of the show – a live recording of the podcast – four comedians each deliver a five-minute lecture on a historical event that took place on this day in history (in this case, 28th July), and in the second half, they discuss the history of the town they’re in. A little bit Have I Got News For You, a little bit History of the World, with some local legends thrown in. It should be good.
Richard Pulsworth opens the show and steers it along in a cheery, affable manner, dispensing little anecdotes between the guests’ lectures and helping keep everyone on track. The guests – Alex Leam, Lisa Vernon, Tommy Tomski and John Rands – discuss a range of things including the Millennium Bug, the Saxons, the declaration of World War I, and the life of Jackie Kennedy. Whilst all are well-informed, the delivery falls a little flat across the board. Lisa Vernon’s lecture on Sutton Hoo is the best of the bunch; her obvious talent and passion for the subject coming across, paired with a few innuendos about Saxon helmets.
With York so rich in history, the second half of the show promises to be spoilt for choice on content, and it does come together better here; the panellists gel well together, and the interaction becomes much more like your usual panel show, ribbing and interruptions paired with fun facts that do shine a new light on a couple of pieces of York’s past.
However, the show overall lacks a great ‘laugh out loud’ moment, which is disappointing; peer podcasts like The Unbelievable Truth and All Killa No Filla prove that when you get a group of comedians together, they can usually make anything fun. Instead, It Just So Happens does exactly that – it just… happens. It is well-researched and the presentations are good, but it lacks the anarchy and the spontaneity that usually goes along with great live comedy. It gets chuckles round the room, but never more than that. Having said that, there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour, and I walked away with a few new factoids to share at the dinner table.