The Shiny Tap: Ian D Montfort, Edi Johnston, Ivan Brackenbury and Stevie Gray (MC)

Tonight I was in Little Eaton at the Shiny Tap for the Flat Cap comedy night. This is a lovely little venue with an audience that are up for comedy, albeit usually going for room work over material. It was great to see that it had sold out and just as importantly to me, I’d brought a friend with me. I really enjoyed watching him laugh and see these comedians for the first time.

Stevie Gray (MC)

This year Gray has been nominated by his peers in the best act category in the Midlands Comedy Awards and looking at his performance, I’m surprised that he wasn’t more strongly supported in the nominations for MC, too. His very tangible sense of enthusiasm transmits itself to the audience very well and they love him for it. What impressed me the most about Gray tonight was just how easily, ie how skilfully, he managed to stitch various audience stories and personalities together and form a comedy loving community from this group of individuals. Beyond this, he demonstrated a lot of sense in how he dealt with a chap whose trip to the bar and back, pausing to collect a few glasses from his mates, interfered with Johnston’s second section. Gray pointed out that this wasn’t on and then did what was required to reset the room. This was done very well.

Edi Johnston

Johnston was a nice addition to the bill. The idea was that he’d do a couple of five spots before both Ian D Montfort and Ivan Brackenbury took to the stage. This wasn’t a bad idea, as not many pro acts could follow either and a bonus ten spot wasn’t really enough to make a section all on its own. With his ukulele and upbeat songs, Johnston had a good night, the room liked him and he received good laughs.

Ian D Montfort

Montfort is a tremendous act. There is a lot of very clever and subtle comedy here. Every word and action adds a lot of value to the show. You get the impression that he is mentally 3-4 steps ahead of the audience in every interaction and has a ready answer for every response. Not only do I enjoy the comedy, but I really appreciate the construction of the whole performance.

Ivan Brackenbury

Brackenbury received huge laughs throughout. This is an act that is supremely well realised and his apparent lack of self-awareness is expertly portrayed. Also, there is always something new in this set. Most acts who had a bomb proof set would be loathe to change it, but Brackenbury isn’t afraid to strip out guaranteed bankers to keep it fresh. That makes seeing him even more rewarding.

The Blessington Carriage: Ben Aveling, Sarah Johnson, Mike Sheer, Raj Poojara, Ricky Balshaw, David Hoare and Liam Pickford

Tonight I was in Derby for the Funhouse Comedy night at the Blessington Carriage. It’s always nice to see good numbers here. Spiky Mike had loads of fun compering. Especially chatting to a young lad called Wilf, who became the source of much humour. Mike was hugely amused when Wilf revealed the sport that he was a referee of was fencing.

Ben Aveling

Opening the night was Aveling, who whilst not the finished article, is going in the right direction. There was a lot of promising stuff in this set, such as electric cars, which isn’t a topic covered by many comics and so felt fresh, as well hip hop daughter and the musical acting out. However, there are two jokes involving taking a dump pretty close together and it might be best to change the reveal for the second to a slightly different topic to make the point. Soup was well acted out, but needed more – possibly have the music change to something more discordant when his wife asks who’s used all of the Fairy Liquid, or something of this kind – as a stronger punchline would have been an improvement and in the same vein, the closing elephant joke wasn’t really big enough to end on. This sounds like a long list of things to think about, but as said, Aveling is going in the right direction and there was far more good than not in this performance.

Sarah Johnson

Johnson’s back to normal opening was good and the audience enjoyed her set. Personally I’d have preferred a bit more subtlety in the writing, as with most of the jokes, you could guess where she was going pretty quickly. Not the end of the world, though. Johnson worked the room well, received consistent laughter and it’s not hard to picture her making a good compere.

Mike Sheer

This was a tremendous performance and there was absolutely nothing to dislike in this set. A full list of everything that I liked about Sheer’s work would be very long. The material and performance were both spot on. His writing was clever, his ad libs were smart and it had a very nice level of polish to it all. I don’t know what level this Canadian gigs at in London, but a ten spot was all to short. Sheer is an act who is very obviously going places.

Raj Poojara

I’d only seen Poojara once before and then he’d given a good performance at a gong show. It’s nice to see further improvement. His slow, measured delivery suited his material. The section on relationship advice was good, dry spell was great and ‘put in….’ was a cracking line. This was a good set with solid construction behind it.

Ricky Balshaw

Balshaw has recently been nominated by his peers for the Best New Act in the Midlands Comedy Awards and I can see why. His vivid descriptions and well realised material held the room easily. His delivery was very easy to get on board with and his vocal rhythm reminded me very much of Ian Peskett. Balshaw did create quite a bit of tension with his count of three section and in this nice polite room, I’m not sure the audience were as comfortable laughing at his material as what some others may be. He certainly deserved more for the quality of what he was doing than he received, which isn’t to say he did badly – he didn’t – I just wonder if he’d told the audience that they had his permission to laugh it might have encouraged them to relax a bit and to let go.

David Hoare

With his short songs, Hoare kept his performance fresh. He received applause for lock down activities and a nice level of misdirection kept people guessing where he was going. The social experiment at the end was fun. This was an entertaining set that the audience enjoyed.

Liam Pickford

The last time I’d seen Pickford it had been here in this venue and he’d been doing a ten spot and now he was headlining, so I was really looking forward to seeing how he’d developed and he’s doing very well. For a start, his visual look, a strong 50’s look, is very notable and this makes him interesting before he’s even begun. His material took in a lot, too. He had some material that was topical to Derby and then a mixture of slightly dark tinted jokes and routines that he tied in very well to individual members of the audience, as well as some quick witted ad libs. Whilst Pickford got big laughs for bath, toast deserved a lot more, as it was both clever and funny. The lessons learned running joke was excellent. On occasion I felt that he was making a larger point with his comedy and I liked that very much. There was a lot of craft evident in this performance and that was something else that I really appreciated and respected.

Canal House: Rachel Morton-Young, Colin Etches, Benny Shakes, Tim Turner, Oscar Roberts, Dylan Dodds, Chris Norton Walker and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the Nottingham Comedy Festival. It was absolutely wonderful to see this room sold out, with no spare seats and huge queues for the bar. Whilst small intimate gigs are nice, the energy you get with over 100 people in a room is totally different. I think it surprises a lot of acts that regularly gig in London to see so many people happy to pay to see a midweek new material night.

Fran Jenking (MC)

I’d not seen Fran for a couple of years and it’s always a pleasure to see him at work. He is a natural people person and manages to put everyone at ease very quickly. Folk are happy to chat with him and he has no trouble in discovering facts about the people sat within range of the stage. Fran’s well disciplined, too, and doesn’t make the night all about him. He warms everyone up and then brings the acts on, whilst keeping the evening on schedule, in-between getting some good laughs himself. Tonight was another example from him of good compering.

Rachel Morton-Young

RMY has been living in Holland for twenty years and demonstrating that Dutch isn’t a sexy language provided her opening material. This was all very easy to get behind and by the time she was acting out getting a fitting the whole audience was with her. She struck a rich cord when speaking about her children, and for me, these were the best jokes in what was a good set. RMY was full of beans and her energy seemed to fill the entire room. This was a set that seemed to pass too quickly and I think the room would have liked more.

Colin Etches

It was great to hear an act open with a strong ‘Ey up’, although it was probably only myself that noticed it. Etches began by discussing names, moved onto talking about dyspraxia, which is not a topic that I’ve seen anyone else do material on and he finished with biblical material. All of this was good stuff, albeit with the biblical stuff probably containing the strongest jokes. Etches’ delivery was possibly a tiny bit more forceful than needed and it might be worthwhile him exploring relaxing a little bit on stage, but I could be wrong. Either way, this was a good set.

Benny Shakes

Shakes has been gigging a lot in the last few months and it shows. Everything about him has improved, especially his stagecraft, which is something that can only really be learnt by doing it. The disabled toilet routine was solid and whilst not everyone could see him acting it out on stage (the legs in the air were a super touch, here), it was easily imagined. Shakes received a lot of laughter and got applause for arm.

Tim Turner

This was Turner’s first ever gig. He opened by giving shout outs to Fran and Benny, which was nice, but ate up valuable time in his five spot and wasn’t funny. From here he launched into a monologue about a namesake of his that had a magic gold fish. Unfortunately, this was all pretty light on jokes. His delivery gave me the impression that he’d watched a lot of American comics with Netflix specials. Whilst this performance wasn’t great, from here, the only way is up and if he ever gigs again, I’m sure he will have learnt from this. It’s nice that NCF give brand new comics a chance.

Oscar Roberts

Roberts looks confident and with his relaxed, self-deprecating style of delivery, he’s very easy to listen to and to just settle back and enjoy. His material has a nice coherent feel to it and the whole lot comes together in a very satisfying manner, instead of feeling like a group of jokes with no connection to each other. His routine about learning skills from older women was very good. This was a performance that received consistent laughter.

Dylan Dodds

This was a fast moving comprehensive performance that ticked a lot of boxes. Without looking rushed, Dodds managed to include wordplay, visual acting out, singing and audience work. That’s quite an achievement. The writing and construction was intelligent and pretty much everything landed well. The only thing that could have improved this set was perhaps a bigger ending, as Dodd’s had done so well he deserved a big finishing joke, but I suspect that he was probably against the clock and so tapped out on cue to keep the night running smoothly, as he certainly has the skill to provide one. This was a very good performance.

Chris Norton Walker

CNW was getting laughs before he even reached the stage and once he got there, he built up the comedy atmosphere to tremendous levels. This was a set that included some new material and that was lovely to see. There were some very strong jokes here, with my favourite being ‘island’. The rest of the audience agreed – the girl sat to my left spat some of her drink out, she was laughing so much. There was an odd shout out of ‘Herman’ that he dealt with admirably and returned to later, for a well realised callback. His use of Stephanie as a foil was playful and worked very well. This was an impressive performance.

The Barley Twist: Niall O’Dwyer, Lucy Holbrook, Gary Hyland, Ian Peskett, Griff, Mike Carter and Tommy Tomski (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham for the Nottingham Comedy Festival. Owing to prior commitments I’ve not had chance to see as much as I’d have liked this year, so I was very happy to be here. The room itself is in the cellar of the pub and that gives it a big advantage, as not only does it make it easier to build atmosphere, but also, only people who want to see the show are there. On the downside, the metal steps do make it hard for late comers to make a discreet entrance, but that’s only a small issue. To begin with there was a bit of noise bleed from the music upstairs, but this soon dissipated. Numbers were pretty decent for a festival and it was really nice to see Anthony Williams there, having made his way back up from London that day.

Tommy Tomski (MC)

This wasn’t an audience that required much compering and so Tommy demonstrated a light touch, chatting to a few people, but not dwelling overly long on anyone to the exclusion of others. His aces based gag was very nice. This was an example of a compere not really needing to do a lot and pitching it just right.

Niall O’Dwyer

Considering that he’s very inexperienced and has, so far, only had limited opportunities to gig due to being a pub landlord, O’Dwyer is streets ahead of what you realistically could expect. In fact, you come away with the strong impression that if he gigged more often he’d soon become a very bookable open ten. His material is good, with the trip abroad being a huge standout. His delivery draws you in, too, making you want to hear more. It wouldn’t hurt him to hold the mic a touch lower or to vary his tone a bit, but all of that will come with experience. I hope he gigs more, as I’d like to see just how far he can go.

Lucy Holbrook

There was a lot to like in Holbrook’s set. Her material was very relatable, concerning office work and the personalities found there. The construction was logical, with no jarring leaps of fancy, which definitely helped to keep it grounded in reality. Holbrook isn’t yet the finished article and could move forwards by including a callback to her earlier material about emails and doing a bit more to tie her performance into the audience, as that would be beneficial. This was an enjoyable set.

Gary Hyland

Hyland had good energy levels and was a lively stage presence. His delivery was engaging and this helped him sell lines that may otherwise have pushed the audience a bit too much, such as some of those concerning his mum. The material was good, with some very nice touches and he was an act who got stronger the longer he was on. There was plenty to enjoy here and the room certainly did.

Ian Peskett

Peskett was a nice addition to the bill, replacing an act who had to drop out. He did very well, with the lessons from drugs being an early standout and receiving applause for prison. It was great to see him doing some new material, too. The feedback routine went down very well and there’s nothing to stop him changing the locations to make them relevant to wherever he is that night.

Griff

Griff opened with room work and then gave the audience material concerning his day spent in Nottingham before moving onto more established stuff. Unfortunately he never really seemed to hit his stride. Given more writing and stage time, he’ll improve, though.

Mike Carter

Carter was only doing a fifteen spot, but he had the confidence and polish of someone who is used to doing twenties. His material was spot on and he delivered it extremely well. His whole performance was excellent. He tied what he was saying into the audience through breaking the 4th wall and not only was this all very funny, but it ensured that everyone was listening intently. The callback to the friend from earlier was cracking. The only suggestion I could make would be to possibly consider ‘indoctrinated’ as a replacement for trained, but that is a very minor suggestion. This was a smashing set by Carter.

It would have been nice if I’d been able to stay to see the show afterwards, which was Sam Serrano, but given how well they are doing, I’m sure they smashed it.

The New Barrack Tavern: David Eagle, Tegan Marlow, Hannah Weetman, Micky P Kerr and Stephanie Laing (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barack Tavern for the Funhouse comedy night. As always, this venue was a total pleasure to visit. Even though I knew it started at 7PM, the early hour still caught me out and I had to rush to get there. Unusually women outnumbered men on the bill and that made a nice change.

Stephanie Laing (MC)

It had been a while since I’d last seen Laing and so it was really nice to see her compering tonight’s show. The audience liked her from the off and bought into everything she was saying. She did everything right, including the admin, the rules, performing good material, talking to people and finding out stuff for the acts to work with and then finishing on material to get the room back into listening mode for the acts. She received big laughs and the room always seemed sorry when she left the stage, wanting to hear more from her.

David Eagle

Eagle gave the room a champion set. His opening song was so dark that if you’d seen it on paper, you’d just assume it couldn’t possibly work, as it would immediately alienate the audience. However, it not only worked, but he had everyone singing along and laughing their heads off. Laing’s compering had revealed a party of Australian female boxers in the audience and this led very naturally into Eagle’s material on Australia. This was an absolutely cracking performance. During the intermission he walked through the room on his way out and received an extra round of applause, such was the audience’s appreciation of him.

Tegan Marlow

We resumed after the intermission with Marlow who had some good routines. Mindfulness in particular was very enjoyable. Marlow’s already a good writer and she’s only going to get better with time. Her performance skills are spot on. Her physicality definitely adds a lot to her delivery. This was a good set from a promising act.

Hannah Weetman

With her down to earth material and low energy delivery, Weetman offers a nice contrast to many acts. The family party from hell, bedding and tattoo were all solid. The artwork was wonderfully visual and provided a very good closing routine to a good set. With more consistent gigging I can imagine Weetman doing well.

Micky P Kerr

The headliner was Micky P Kerr, whose relaxed confidence and swagger reminded me a bit of Andy Askins. Both give off the same vibe – they will be great and everyone can just relax and enjoy the ride. His performance mixed songs and material in a very nice balance. As the songs were pretty short it meant that punchlines were never far away and with the toppers, he had an impressive joke rate. There was absolutely oodles of stuff to enjoy in this set, such as Dylan, intelligence and above all the Bee Gees. Here he was helped by a lady claiming to know some of the more obscure words to Staying Alive against his assertion that no bugger does. Joyfully he walked into the audience with the mic stand and got the entire room to sing the first part with him and for her to do a solo. She gloriously failed to get the words out and this brought the house down. Kerr concluded his set to shouts for more. This was a definite feel good performance.

The Blessington Carriage: Henry Michael, Mark Bittlestone, Michael Kohlweg, Max Poole, Tadiwa Mahlunge, Kate Martin and Nathan Eagle

Tonight I was back in Derby and at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. Spiky Mike had a cracking night talking to the audience. He began by discovering a pair of bus drivers who were up for a laugh, especially Andy. However, he really had a lot of fun with Ned, who was 18 and on a gap year. It wasn’t long before the audience were ready for the opening act.

Henry Michael

HM began with some room work that he had pretty much thought of a few moments before getting to the stage. This wasn’t bad and showed some confidence, especially in a fairly new act. He followed this up with a few ad libs in response to an audience member and I got the impression that he is quick at thinking on his feet. A very useful skill and it would be interesting to see him trying his hand at compering. His material, though, was pretty disjointed, with no real theme or links between ideas. This isn’t the end of the world, but I think it possibly hurt any feeling of flow between jokes and there was no feeling of there being a bigger whole to his set. Reading trip advisor reviews is always entertaining, even if it isn’t cutting any new ground and an act being stood on stage with his phone out like that isn’t the strongest of looks, either. This sounds fairly negative, but in truth, I liked HM. It’s easy to see that there is both talent here and potential for the future. Given regular gigging he’ll become a strong act.

Mark Bittlestone

Bittlestone is likeable and easy to listen to, but tonight he was unlucky in an audience member that he based a key component of his set around. This person was very lively and happy to be the centre of attention and he rather took over proceedings instead of allowing Bittlestone to supply the funny. In fairness, his responses were funny, but they didn’t half wreak havoc with what Bittlestone was trying to do. He coped with it all graciously and it wasn’t hard to see the merit in the construction of this section. However, I don’t think we really got to see just what he could have achieved if he had picked someone else. I’d like to see Bittlestone again, because I’m pretty sure there’s a good act here.

Michael Kohlweg

Kohlweg has crystal clear diction and a rich voice – it’s no bad thing when everyone can make out what an act is saying. His performance was capable and his material good, with personal trainer being the standout routine. This gave him a few chances to work with the audience. He fielded a shout out admirably. I enjoyed his facial expression on month and start was a good line. On the downside, the school bully was a classic pull back and reveal and work was probably a line too far in the car routine. These couple of things aside, this was a good performance that went down well.

Max Poole

There was a lot to like in this set. There were quite a few subtle and clever lines present. He began with a topical opening and then followed up by a few jokes with a dark tinge to them, but soon diversified his approach. That gave this set quite an open feel, which was nice in itself. The joke about Dennis had quite a long build, but it served its purpose in sucking you in and the reveal landed extremely well. The names of the pupils were a joy. This was a performance that built up more momentum the further he got into it.

Tadiwa Mahlunge

Mahlunge opened by saying that he hoped he’d got his name right, which got a laugh, even though it is a well used line by comics with uncommon names. There was some decent stuff in this set, but I feel that quite a bit of the funny got lost amongst the volume of words that he spoke. Possibly cutting back on the overall number of words would have given the jokes more chance to be heard. This was particularly so with him regularly breaking the 4th wall. Dirty talk was the stand out routine from this set.

Kate Martin

This was an impressive performance. Martin looked at ease on the stage and had a good physicality that helped her delivery. It was very nice to see her get applause and the routine about the Apple phone was especially good. There was a lot of good material on display in this set. She might possibly have been unwise to go to the lively member of the audience to address some comments to, but she kept control of the conversation, so that actually worked out well. Kate Martin was the stand out ten of the evening and is definitely a bookable act.

Nathan Eagle

This was a tremendous performance. Even though he’s based in Gosport, I’m amazed that I’d never heard of Eagle until tonight. This was a set that combined excellent writing, great performance skills and a very likeable stage presence. I can’t think of many rooms that he wouldn’t suit. It was lovely seeing him playing with the energy, building up momentum and really delivering the goods. The kung fu routine was an absolute belter. I’ll be amazed if I don’t see him on more bills. There was absolutely nothing in this set that I didn’t enjoy.

ROFL – Derby: Glenn Wool, Freddy Quinne, Markus Birdman and Carl Jones (MC)

Tonight I was in Derby at ROFL Comedy Club. The club is located in central Derby and it is a fairly large room, but with a lovely basement atmosphere. Everything was well laid out and there was a nice welcoming vibe to the club. Hence it was no surprise to see that it is already attracting return visitors.

Carl Jones (MC)

Jones has been the resident compere here for a while and that was a good booking. Not only is he totally chilled and easy for people to talk to, but he also has tons of local knowledge and even without making it all about Derby, he knew plenty about the general area not to be thrown by anything said to him. He’s a very amiable presence and he’s not afraid to tackle anyone talking when they should be listening. Tonight he had quite a few interesting people to work with. On the front row we had some forensic scientists and then a prize four, who were respectively from Holland (he worked for Lego), The Philippines, Latvia and Watford. It was great to see Carl at work, especially when he was linking things mentioned by the various audience members.

Glenn Wool

The Canadian, Glenn Wool, with his powerful voice opened the show. He would go from whispering to shouting in the same sentence and this certainly mixed things up a bit. History was a cracking routine. The best line was died, which was both clever and very funny and really deserved applause. Wool was the recipient of two shout outs. Neither unpleasant and both hit and runs, rather than anyone making a point. He could have perhaps moved on a little bit more quickly than what he did with them, but it was still entertaining seeing him responding.

Freddy Quinne

This was a powerhouse of a set from a comedian who is very obviously keen to continue developing. I really do like that in an act. He was immediately funny, working with a few things that Carl had said during his compering. It wasn’t that far into his performance that one chap sat on the front row, who probably misheard Freddy, tried to correct him over his use of a word. There was nothing offensive being said, so I think that he somehow got the wrong end of the stick. Freddy treated this playfully and used this guy as a foil, seeing how dark he could go and whether he’d still laugh. It was wonderful seeing the fellow struggling not to laugh and then letting go and laughing. There was one joke in particular where Freddy announced that if he laughed, then he was definitely going to hell and so everyone was waiting to see his response. He couldn’t help but laugh and when Freddy announced this to the room, it received a big round of applause. My favourite line of Freddy’s, though, was a wonderful ad lib concerning the news and twitter. That was brilliant. I hugely enjoyed this performance.

Markus Birdman

Birdman was a very relaxing presence. Sat comfortably on a stool, glass in hand, visually he reminded me of Dave Allen. His set was very well written and his delivery polished, with nice little bows on some of the big hitters. His list of people provided a great framework for a string of jokes and gave them all a feeling of being part of a bigger whole. Birdman’s performance made for a very nice closing to what had been a lovely gig.

Acts that have impressed me the most: October 2021

This has simply been an amazing month for comedy. Between one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve ever been to, a keenly fought semi final of the British Comedian of the Year and probably the best individual performance that I’ve ever seen, the standard of act has been superb. Given the amount of talent that there is, I’m gobsmacked that more people don’t come out to see live comedy. What else can you do for a tenner that is more fun?

As ever, some acts that have impressed me the most, or had a honourable mention, are time-barred for a while to give others a bit of space. Also, owing to the sheer quality of act this month, many have received honourable mentions that would probably otherwise have been on the next tier.

Andy Askins

A powerhouse of an act.

From the night:

Askins was simply superb. He carries himself in such a manner that even before he’d picked up the mic, I think everyone had high expectations from him. They weren’t to be disappointed, either. This was a barnstormer of a performance, with strong writing, a dry delivery and absolutely nothing to dislike. Askins received the first applause during his set and then seemed to be either getting, or on the verge of getting more, all the way throughout. He went through with almost everyone voting for him.

Diane Spencer

A cracking act who should be better known.

From the night:

Spencer was the replacement for an act who was stuck down south without petrol and I was massively pleased to see her at the gig. She’s a cracking comedian and hit the ground running. Her material was well suited to the night, but I’m very confident that even as opening act, she could have been far more explicit and easily taken the audience with her. There was a long laugh on toilet, possibly elongated slightly as more people got it and it wasn’t long before she was getting applause. Spencer’s intonation on ‘no’ really delivered the joke. This was a performance where everything came together and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

Jacob Nussey

He’s not been gigging for long and much of that has been during Covid. However, he’s coming on very fast.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Nussey, who you would never have guessed has only been going a short while. This was a fully pro line up otherwise and although only doing a 10-15 spot, he didn’t look out of place on it. Nussey matches good writing with a soft, almost understated delivery and those occasions where he breaks the 4th wall are golden. He has a good work rate, too, with the punchlines coming without many delays. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t get signed up by an agent before the end of the year.

Lindsey Santoro

Probably one of the hottest acts on the circuit.

From the night:

In this fast moving set Santoro managed to smash the gig. Her writing is excellent and her delivery even better. She received huge laughs throughout her performance. There was absolutely nothing anyone could have found wanting in what she did. She went through with a landslide as joint winner with Andy Askins. If it wasn’t for Covid, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hadn’t turned pro. Santoro has the talent for it in buckets.

Simon Lomas

On reflection, there’s no probably about this performance. This is the best I’ve seen. Everything landed and got huge laughs. It was amazing to see. I was still laughing this morning.

From the night:

This was quite probably the best performance I’ve seen all year. Lomas simply hoovered up laughs and the multiple toppers on left hand side actually had me laughing so hard it hurt my sides. Lomas has some incredibly strong jokes and he is the master of the pause between lines. The amount of comedic tension he can create is amazing. The audience loved him and it felt like he was on the verge of applause for every gag. This was a fantastic set.

Honourable Mentions:

Darran Griffiths, Eric Rushton, Justin Moorhouse, Peter Brush, Stephen Bailey,

The Assembly Rooms: Chris Washington, Simon Lomas, Ant Dewson and Stevie Gray (MC)

Tonight I was close to home at the Assembly Rooms in Bolsover. If anything, audience numbers were slightly larger than for the opening gig. It was great to see Shaggy was back, as he is a wonderfully charismatic cheerleader. This is a very nice gig in front of an appreciative audience, but there are a few things that are noticeable. It’s a big room and unless an act is swift on their feet, or stood close to the stage, getting there before the applause has finished isn’t easy and they also like an early night. Quite a few people seemed to have taxis booked for ten minutes before the show ended and it’s not like it overran or anything.

Stevie Gray (MC)

Gray looks very comfortable on stage and has formed a solid rapport with this audience. It’s hard to imagine the gig really working half as well without him there. He’s certainly got a cracking feel for the audience and their expectations. His line about it being Halloween every day in Shirebrook was especially appreciated by everyone.

Chris Washington

Washington is going up in the world and looking at this set, I’m not surprised. He’d got some very original Covid related material that felt refreshing. The stuff on darts in particular was good. This was a well written set where the punchlines came pretty regularly and with no lulls. He did have to deal with a shout out, which he handled well and he was soon back into the swing again. This was a very good opening set.

Simon Lomas

This was quite probably the best performance I’ve seen all year. Lomas simply hoovered up laughs and the multiple toppers on left hand side actually had me laughing so hard it hurt my sides. Lomas has some incredibly strong jokes and he is the master of the pause between lines. The amount of comedic tension he can create is amazing. The audience loved him and it felt like he was on the verge of applause for every gag. This was a fantastic set.

Ant Dewson

Dewson is a musical act, who plays the keyboard and sings funny songs. There were some very good songs in his repertoire. The Hammond singalong was a brave move that worked out well, but the real joy was his tribute to a celebrity. The Saville song was a brilliant joke. It would have been nice to see a few routines between songs as this would have added more for those not into musical comedy. However, this was a performance that gave a satisfying closure to the show and one that the audience definitely appreciated.

Ashby – British Comedian of the Year semi-final, Rahul Kohli, Preet Singh, Andy Askins, Luke Toulson, Lily Phillips, Alf, Darran Griffiths, Carey Marx, Lindsey Santoro

TLDR – Joint winners Andy Askins and Lindsey Santoro by a landslide, strong support for Rahul Kohli and Luke Toulson and Darran Griffiths unlucky not to get more votes.

Tonight, I was at the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy hosted semi of the British Comedian of the Year. This competition is brilliant. It offers £10,001 to the winner and has attracted some very impressive line ups. I don’t know why more acts don’t go in for it, as even if they don’t win, a good performance can get them a lot of attention and raise their profile no end.

Spiky Mike had a nice night being dealt a good hand by the people he chatted to. He had a few chances to use his general knowledge to good effect, particularly when speaking to the couple who had moved from Ravenshead, the nicest place in Notts, to Ashby and believed that they had upgraded.

Rahul Kohli

Kohli had drawn the short straw and opened the evening. Given his loud and forceful delivery, he probably didn’t need the mic. He began with some superb and topical opening jokes concerning Newcastle Utd and never really looked back. Although he was far more sweary than is the norm for this venue, his performance was so strong, it didn’t seem to matter and he gave one heck of a show. To be so well remembered when it came to the end of the night is high tribute to how well Kohli did.

Preet Singh

Singh was possibly unlucky in having to follow Rahul, as his set suffered in comparison. Where one had felt like a force in the room, the other was more subdued and with weaker material. In fairness, translating was very good, but the topper on appropriation still doesn’t make the best use of the set up. Singh didn’t do badly, but wasn’t strong enough this year to be a contender.

Andy Askins

Askins was simply superb. He carries himself in such a manner that even before he’d picked up the mic, I think everyone had high expectations from him. They weren’t to be disappointed, either. This was a barnstormer of a performance, with strong writing, a dry delivery and absolutely nothing to dislike. Askins received the first applause during his set and then seemed to be either getting, or on the verge of getting more, all the way throughout. He went through with almost everyone voting for him.

Luke Toulson

Toulson occupied the sweet spot after the first intermission, but I think that he’d have done well anywhere in the running order. He was quite softly spoken and he was shrewd to incorporate some of the people that Spiky Mike had chatted to into his set. This made what he was saying feel relevant and special for the night. There was laughter throughout Toulson’s set.

Lily Phillips

Phillips’ set rolled along pleasantly enough and there were quite a few decent jokes. However, I think that her material was perhaps more relatable or of interest to the women in the room and this may have hurt her when it came to the vote.

Alf

Alf was the only one-liner act on the bill. He combined puns with prop gags and his standard was pretty good. Argentina, instructor and especially calculator, were all standouts. It was quite easy to admire his joke writing. However, his delivery possibly needed more, as there never felt like there was an edge to it and that was unfortunate.

Darran Griffiths

Griffiths hit the ground running with material about banter. He had plenty of energy, looked happy to be there and his enthusiasm felt infectious. There was plenty of good material in this set. The routine about IVF had some depth and was very well written. Although this is the first time I’ve seen Griffiths, I felt that he was impressive and I’d like to see more. He was surprisingly overlooked by a fair few when it came to the votes.

Carey Marx

The sardonic Marx got stronger the longer he was on. If the sets had been over a longer period, then it would have suited him more. There was a lovely sense of logic to his material that held a strong appeal. It was nice to seem him get applause for his work.

Lindsey Santoro

In this fast moving set Santoro managed to smash the gig. Her writing is excellent and her delivery even better. She received huge laughs throughout her performance. There was absolutely nothing anyone could have found wanting in what she did. She went through with a landslide as joint winner with Andy Askins. If it wasn’t for Covid, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hadn’t turned pro. Santoro has the talent for it in buckets.