Tonight I was in Newcastle under Lyme for the Funhouse gong show. There were a lot of regulars there whom Spiky Mike had spoken to a few times before, which made compering a bit more tricky than usual. However, he was lucky in having two trainee teachers sat at the front which gave him something to work with and then when their truck driving friend joined them later that helped a lot. Soon enough, though, the room was ready for our first contestant.
Kempkes didn’t have a great night. He opened with what was by implication, a rape joke and this wasn’t ideal. It was also too soon for the audience to judge how it fitted in with his comedy persona. This was followed by a decent enough first impression gag, but then the next couple of jokes (pescetarian and five a day) were both pretty hack. Kempkes managed to further alienate the audience by an old fashioned fat joke and he was voted off at the first vote. Whilst this set wasn’t fantastic, if he were to rewrite it and inject a bit of energy into his delivery, he would do better.
Copestake did well. Compared to the previous act he was immediately likeable and his first joke was a good one. The tall material was decent, with a nice bit of misdirection involved – it was also pleasant to see a touch of room work in a gong show. When he was shouting to add emphasis, he would probably be better served by moving the mic away from his mouth, as there was some overkill when he shouted down the microphone. His material on nicknames was good, although when it came to the teachers using them that was the archetypal pull back and reveal and I think he can do better than that. This was a good performance that earned him consistent laughs and Copestake easily made the final. Unfortunately he misjudged the one minute he had in the final, but he still finished a probable joint runner up. I liked what I saw.
Campbell was an act that I found hard to get engaged with. He performs as a character act, playing it as a loser who lives with his mum and hasn’t got a girlfriend and without much nuance over the five minutes, it didn’t draw me. If anything, I found it depressing. With a bit more balance I would probably have enjoyed his performance more. Having said that, his text conversation was good and the rest of the room liked him enough to vote him through to the final, where he carried on from where he had left off.
Carter had a great night. He opened with a couple of lookalike gags that despite this being a well worn trope, actually felt a bit of a cut above many similar vague celebrity resemblances. This gave him a strong start, which he built on with some solid material about a trip to see the Terracotta Army. The callback went down beautifully and he received the first applause break of the night. Throughout Carter’s set he was getting big laughs and my feeling was that rather than being there to specifically win the gong show, this was a skilled act who was perhaps more interested in being seen by Mike. Carter breezed through into the final, where he carried on the good work and finished as an impressive winner.
We resumed after the intermission with Nick Pettigrew, who was performing for the first time ever. He came to the stage chock-full of nervous energy and performed full of adrenalin, pacing about and jerking his arms. This was something that the audience responded to positively and it helped him with his performance. The material was a bit varied as you’d expect for a first ever attempt, but there was a lot to like, especially his routine about giving up. This was the stand out of his set. I thought Pettigrew had done enough to make the final, but he went off to a split vote at the final hurdle, which was a shame, as this was a very creditable first attempt.
Hamill started well with a great callback to Mike’s compering and his line about acting garnered him some applause. There was a nice pause on KFC, which helped sell the line, but I was a touch surprised when he didn’t go with bucket for that reveal as I was expecting, but in fairness his punchline was stronger. I thought he lost a bit of impetus when discussing walking down the aisle, but this was soon regained with applause for google. There were a lot of laughs during this set and Hamill made the final, where despite not having a great last minute, he was probably joint second.
Turner began well with a strong opening joke and he added to this with the topper and the next couple of gags which rolled from the back of it. Burslem has potential and there were some decent lines in this set, but unfortunately there were a couple too many pull back and reveals and this diluted their impact. With a slight rethink this set will be improved.
To close the middle section we had a bonus ten spot, which wasn’t part of the competition:
Topher made a deliberately slow start, which built up a lot of comedic tension. This worked well and he gained laughs for it. Tonight Topher was doing some new bits of material and the lines about his mum and dad being dead worked well in the context of his character props. Colour blind has potential and if he can get a few more jokes to run from it, then he will have a very good routine there. Topher’s pacing is spot on and if he can work on the material to keep the pace but so that the laughs come more quickly, then he will do very well indeed.
We began the final session with Bawden who started by talking about his upcoming 30th birthday and then moved into talking about his life as an Emo child. I found that this material didn’t really draw me in, nor did the performance. There were a couple of nice visual gags and a good line about wrist bands, but I didn’t think that this really rose above being amiable instead of funny. However, the audience disagreed and Bawden made the final.
Next was the Canadian, Brad Adams. I struggled a bit with his accent and found I was sometimes playing catch up. Just as I was getting used to it, his time was up. Brad gave us a mix of short jokes and one-liners. There were some good gags in here, such as last day and proctologist (which went over a lot of heads, sadly), but ambulance wasn’t that great. Brad did well, but did seem to run out of steam a bit before the end of his time, however, he had done enough to get through to the final.
The final act of the night was Jonathan Collins, a Gothic transvestite, which will inevitably bring Andrew O’Neill, a pro comedian who is also a Gothic transvestite to mind. Collins was a lively act who had a lot of energy. Perhaps, too much, as within 20 seconds of commencing his spot, he had left the stage and was shouting a punchline directly into someone’s face. He followed this up by sitting in the audience, perhaps on someone’s knee – it was hard to tell from where I was. The total combination of this did seem a bit in people’s faces and considering that Collins had only told one joke, he hadn’t really done enough to give the audience a reason to keep him on and he was an early gonging. Collins may have lasted longer if he had toned down the energy and had gone with a few quick jokes to get people onside.