Observations: Comedy in the frame at Frieze

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The Independent Culture

Lurking in the far corner of the Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park last weekend was quite the curiosity – Club Nutz, the self-proclaimed "smallest comedy club in the world", complete with DJ booth, a stage one-foot deep, bar, disco ball and dry ice. If you managed to ride the wave of browsers, beautiful artists and poseurs to booth G22 (in the middle of the younger Frame section of the fair), the 20-person sweatbox provided an entertaining breather – albeit a claustrophobic one – from the rest of the contemporary art fair.

Musical comedian Helen Arney, sketch duo Cardinal Burns and Hatty Ashdown were among the performers, and an open mic session was held daily, so punters could take the "stage" and tell a joke in exchange for a free drink.

Despite its billing as a comedy venue, Club Nutz also hosted such acts as Detroit DJs spinning techno records backwards, a viola recital, matinee film screenings and life drawing. Not a typical warm-up for a comic act.

"I sat onstage next to a collection of objects left over from the still life drawing/60s soul dance party session that was on just before my set," says Arney. "Some people carried on their drawings during my set and I was presented with the gift of art when my time was up. I felt as much like an exhibit as the artworks on sale; the room could only fit 20 people at once, but three times that many drifted in and out as people's attention span for my type of "art" waxed and waned."

The 12m x 12m venue was the brainchild of the American artists and curators Scott Reeder, his brother Tyson Reeder, and his wife Elysia Borowy-Reeder, who set up Club Nutz as a post-gallery hang-out in their home-town of Milwaukee before recreating it lovingly at Frieze.

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