Tonight I was at the Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. Originally this was booked as three acts and compere, but owing to a horrible crash shutting the M1, it was going to be touch and go whether or not Christian Reilly could make it and so Anthony J Brown was booked as a replacement. As it turned out, Reilly made it just in time to feature as a bonus headliner, which worked out very nicely for everyone in this appreciative audience.
Big Shaun (MC)
Looking relaxed and more confident, Shaun took to the stage and began chatting to people, seeing who did what and who had travelled the furthest. Usually most of the audience are from within twenty miles of Sheffield, but tonight Shaun discovered a work party of IT technicians who had travelled from India to do a month or so at their Sheffield office and no one was going to beat travelling from Bangalore, although Shaun did get a laugh for still asking. Big Shaun chatted to a girl who was an astrophysics PhD student and this led into some good stuff. I was a bit surprised that he didn’t mention Theresa May until the last section, as there is plenty of material to be had on her at the moment and it did feel odd for her troubles not to feature. This was decent compering that was well timed to keep things moving.
Houghton is an act that I always enjoy seeing on a bill. I really like his style, his material and the way he delivers it. Tonight was a largely new set, consisting of parts of his Edinburgh show that I saw previewed and material about boarding school. The end result, was strong, although it would have been nice if he could have ended on a killer routine. To open with, Houghton looked for posh people and this led very nicely into posh names. This made for a gentle, but entertaining opening, which not only gave him scope to show his performance skills, but also set the tone for the next twenty minutes. Boarding school was a good routine, with torches being well realised and then the later section about drinks followed this in a very coherent way. I wasn’t too sure about trying to get people singing a hymn, but the praying routine was fun, with his facial expressions helping to sell it. Houghton has quick wits and when someone’s phone rang during this section he immediately incorporated it into the routine. This was an enjoyable set from an act who is happy and very comfortable in his own skin. Houghton received a lot of laughter for his work.
Anthony J Brown
The dapper Brown came to the stage and made a deliberately slow start to the night, fiddling with the microphone, the stand and then pausing to take a sip of his drink just when you expected him to begin. This built up tension and he received laughs for it. Usually I’d question if the time taken was worth the number of laughs, but this is all part of his comedy persona and it helped to set the energy level for him. Brown’s style is one-liners, delivered slowly, with pauses whilst he caresses the microphone stand and it all came together nicely. The jokes were all pretty strong, although the slower paced delivery did perhaps give a few people time to guess the misdirection on the odd gag, but everything still landed well. I was especially impressed with the joke about Kerry Katona’s book, which I thought was an absolutely smashing joke, although in a couple of years the name may need updating. The routine about my home town, Mansfield, was very funny and struck a chord with the room, as Mansfield is close enough to Sheffield for it to resonate with folk. The poem was a good touch and the callbacks were very pleasing. This was a funny set that had the audience listening intently throughout.
Langford opened by referencing his voice, which is a wise move for anyone with an interesting accent. From here he gave the audience a powerful performance that featured American info-mercials, smashed eggs, dodgy hotels in Brum, questionable Christmas presents and paedo hunting. This material was all of a high quality and intelligently written, but what stood out was Langford’s committed delivery. He delivered this material with conviction and without overdoing it, a tiny bit of panache. Out of all of the topics he spoke about, the egg smashing test was the one that tickled me the most. There was one odd moment during the set when Langford held an enquiry into who in the audience was shushing whom and whilst this didn’t help him build momentum, it didn’t do him as much harm as it could have done. This was a well written set.
Arriving at The Lescar after a nightmare seven hour journey and then going onto the stage after a brief few minutes of setting up must have been a challenge, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching Reilly. He performed his set almost as if he was rested and full of energy, which was an achievement. Reilly is a musical comedian and is wonderfully creative with his material. Throughout his performance he managed to maintain a great consistency in quality. The Michael Jackson opening was good, his facial expressions on guitar chords was great, especially intrigue, Bon Jovi was examined from a logical perspective and there was something for everyone in his choice of songs. The Theresa May song was very timely, but I shouldn’t wonder if that now has a much shorter shelf life than a day ago. Even after the room had seen an extra act and time was marching on, Reilly still left the stage to shouts for an encore. This was a set that gave a very upbeat ending to what had been a great night of comedy.