The Little Last Laugh – Sully O’Sullivan, Harry Stachini, Woulter Mejis, Steve Titley, Scott Bennett and Nina Gilligan (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at The Lescar for the Little Last Laugh, which is a beauty of a comedy night. The fair sized room filled up very quickly and it wasn’t long before the acts had to give up their seats for audience members and after that, it was standing room only. Despite it being warm with all of the people present, the atmosphere was as good as ever.

Nina Gilligan (MC)

Gilligan came to the stage looking happy, but with some steel under the smile. She utilised her past career as a teacher to keep the room in check and this was a nice touch, especially when people asked ‘miss’ if they could go to the toilet. Against that, I could have done without hearing ‘it’s your own time you’re wasting,’ as it’s an overused line, but in fairness, it did fit in well with the persona that Gilligan had adopted. The people she spoke to were a mixed bunch, with a Phd student studying ageing being the standout. There was a beautiful moment when Nina asked him to guess her age, forgetting that she’d just announced her age 2 minutes previously, only twigging on when he guessed it straight away. Last week when she was compering The Lescar she had taken love as a theme, even getting people involved in a game of blind date and that sounded really nice. Tonight, the theme was getting to know people and if an act is regularly compering a venue, then things like this help to keep it fresh. There were some very nice touches, such as finding volunteers willing for her to go through their bags or phone browser histories. Although this did eat up a bit of time, it worked fantastically in getting everyone onboard. The only slip that she had was in not announcing how many acts there were in the first section. Usually there is one, but tonight there were two and because the audience are used to the one and then a break, a lot of people got up to go to the toilet and Gilligan found herself having to fill time before enough people had come back to enable the show to resume without too many returning interruptions. This was more bad luck than anything else, as the rest of her compering was very enjoyable, being fun, light-hearted and bringing people into the show.

Sully O’Sullivan

Sully is a solid act that I don’t seem to see that often. He’s also a highly skilled compere and this came through very strongly in his set. He began with a couple of fast observations about the room that were instantly funny and this established his comedic credentials within the first 20 seconds. He also looked sharp as if he was ready for anything that the audience had to say and that nothing would faze him. This came to the fore when towards the latter part of his set he was talking about insults and in response to a question, received two answers simultaneously. He took them in turn, dealing with each one, getting laughs and keeping everything easily within his control. O’Sullivan talked a little bit about colonialism and by coincidence a month or so ago another act had discussed that in The Lescar, but where it then had felt like we were being lectured for the sins of the past upper classes, Sully’s was totally different in tone and a lot funnier. This was a well delivered and funny set that got the night off to a strong start.

Harry Stachini

Stachini was present to run out some new material and it was a pleasure to see him. He looked confident and his delivery seemed to be smoother than when I last watched him. The material itself was all new to me, although I did wonder if he chose to finish on a bit of established material as the missing girlfriend was so good it had the feel of a regular routine. Of the other routines, his relationship with his girlfriend was good, especially when it came to the pet rabbits, although I wasn’t so sure about the tired line, as that seemed to jar a little with his happy and upbeat character. The greatest line in what was a good set was about his partner’s reaction if he were to ever be on life support. There was a lot of good stuff in this short set.

Woulter Mejis

The Dutch Mejis had a very good night. He’s a tall chap and opened by referencing this fact, which earned him some big laughs from the off, especially for his height in English. From here he moved on to talking about trains, tying this material into the audience by asking a few people where they were from. Mejis is an intelligent act, well able to think on his feet and construct a callback, which was impressive. Perhaps the greatest ad-lib in his set was when he pretended to be from Leeds and to also be shorter than he was – this was very funny and was superb in context. The closing routine about the train ticket was one that built up very nicely and there were cries of disappointment when he announced that it was the end of his set.

Steve Titley

Wolverhampton born Titley had a couple of advantages for this gig. He had spent his student days in Sheffield and there was a lady sat near the front from Wolverhampton. Both of these were used as lead ins to material, which should have made them feel more relevant. However, a lot of his talk about protesting against Thatcher and his support for the Miners when he was a student was lost on audience members under forty. Whilst not quite the same, his material about it being acceptable to take the piss out of people with a West Midlands accent, was something that has been said a few times and so for a different reason, this didn’t quite hit home as it may have done. With the topics he spoke about there wasn’t a lot that people hadn’t heard someone else do a routine about and if he were to cover some less discussed things, then he would do better. Although Titley looked plausible and had good presence a lot of the funny was lost amongst the amount of words he used and if he were to edit down his set it would be an advantage. His actual delivery, extra words aside, was good and with a bit more work regarding the material he will be much improved.

Scott Bennett

The headliner was Scott Bennett, one of the most consistently superb acts that I see. Tonight he went on a bit later than planned to a warm audience and he still went down an absolute treat. People sat near me where slapping their thighs and were doubled over laughing. In a shrewd move, Bennett emphasised his father’s Yorkshireness in the early parts of his set and this hit home hard in Sheffield. From here he mixed in newer material with the more established pieces seamlessly in a set that flowed extremely well. The material is all honed to perfection and Bennett delivers it brilliantly, laying the emphasis on just the right word in a sentence to get the greatest impact. This was a fantastic set.

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The Blessington Carriage – Stevie Gray, Steve Rimmer, George Zach and Scott Gibson

Tonight I was at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. There was a huge audience there to see the show, which was wonderful. It’s not a massive room, so when you get big numbers the atmosphere is great. Spiky Mike had a good night chatting to a product designer, an aspirant musical performer and above all, Ted and his partner. These two had been together for a lot of years and Ted proved himself to be very quick witted in his responses to Mike’s questions. Before long, everyone was ready for our opening act.

Stevie Gray

Gray is one of the people I like to see most on the comedy circuit. He’s friendly, funny and always manages to brighten rooms up just by being there. Audiences instinctively seem to realise that he hasn’t got a bad bone in his body. Tonight he took to the stage full of beans and regaled the room with some true (properly true) stories of things that have occurred in his life. These are all good fun stories. I think that a few could be tweaked a bit for added comic effect, such as catching the ending of a film, or the big name actually taking part in the quiz, but it’s entirely possible that altering them will hurt the rhythm of delivery and their essential authenticity. The new routine about the birth of his son was full of charm and had some great lines in it. This was an upbeat set that left the room in a happy mood.

Stevie Gray is doing is show in Leicester next week:

https://comedy-festival.co.uk/event/stevie-gray-arctic-monkeys-midlife-crisis/

Steve Rimmer

Rimmer does a fair bit of compering and it showed tonight on a few occasions when he added to the energy in the room by asking for people to give a cheer if. This worked in building energy, but I did think that he could have used the time to get more material out. The material itself was pretty good. Rimmer is the only bomb disposal comedian in the country and although this was mentioned tonight, he showed variety in his approach by doing jokes about a tough gig (very good), bands on arms (the rubber gag was nice), being well built, a steam room (this didn’t get everyone onboard), swimming with dolphins and above all washing powder. He hit a real roll on that topic and hoovered up a lot of laughs for it. There was a moment when Steve spoke to a largish chap and acted the beta male to him and this was a bit odd as Rimmer looks like he wouldn’t be out of place in a Viking shield wall, so that didn’t quite ring as true as it might. This was an entertaining set that got some good laughs.

George Zach

I last saw Zach a year or so ago and he’s come on very nicely in that time. His Greek accent gives him a really interesting intonation and this adds a lot to what is already a polished delivery. Zach doesn’t raise his voice. He’s very quietly spoken and whilst he’s not a quick fire gag machine, the laughs come consistently and they are powerful. He spoke about daytime telly, which was good, but when he moved onto funerals he moved into a higher gear and there were some huge laughs. When discussing Countdown, Zach was the recipient of a question from Mike and after demonstrating the inaccuracy of his spelling, George received a lot of applause. The routine about the cleaner from Doncaster was strong, but it would have been better if the cleaner had come from the local shit town of wherever he is gigging, as this would add extra emphasis. The routine about heroic firsts was interesting, but didn’t quite grab me as much as the rest of Zach’s material. This was an impressive performance.

Scott Gibson

Gibson began very well with some observations about the room and he got some fast laughs for this. He then moved onto talking about how Fat lives matter. This was solid material that everyone was with him for – he received applause for the doctor’s visit. Organ donation and couple of other jokes were a bit too dark for the room, though. However, strangling was a great routine. The standout material, and this formed the bulk of his set, concerned giving a stool sample. Whilst this wasn’t as tightly written as some routines, there was a lot of enjoyment in following Gibson’s vivid descriptions and painstaking detail of the best way to do this. This was a very well thought out routine. Gibson’s delivery was warm, but forceful and he would raise his voice to emphasise the reveals or the salient points and in this room, he probably didn’t need the microphone. This was a good set that the audience enjoyed a lot.

Bluey’s – Pat Monahan – Goals (Work in Progress)

Tonight I was in Alfreton at Bluey’s for a comedy night. This is a cracking venue that has recently upgraded the lights and sound system. There was a big crowd present to see the bundle of energy that is Pat Monahan.

Owing to accidents on the motorway, the start was unavoidably delayed and Mr Bluey started what became a running joke, based on Monahan’s recent appearance on the One Show, that of him being held up due to his Irish passport. Within two minutes of Pat arriving, he was on stage performing, which was impressive, as most people would have needed a bit of time to centre themselves first.

The first half of the night involved Monahan chatting to people, asking questions that led back to material and then working their responses into his material. He is superb at this, having both a good memory and very sharp wits. The topic was dogs and there were some big laughs in how Monahan discovered what breeds people had, made a joke about it, added their information to his routine and then returned to it ten or twenty minutes later for a belter of a callback. When he wasn’t doing this, he was attempting to give away parts of pub furniture, chatting to people near the stage to discover who had comedy value (as Pat’s great at this, he found comedy in everyone) and then assigning characters and backstories to people. There was a huge laugh when he was chatting to what appeared to be a couple, only to be told by the lady that they were both friends and he asked, ‘does he know?’ Naturally with room work like this, the act can only chat to the people near the stage or in good light and sometimes that can leave the other half of the room feeling left out, but Monahan avoided that through not staying with any one person for too long and by being such an obviously warm people person. It was good to see that despite all of the interactions, even with people taking to google to check facts for him, that he stayed in control of everything and it didn’t degenerate into any kind of free for all.

After the intermission Pat worked on material for his upcoming show, Goals. This already looks promising. He began well by discussing an idea he had that might work on Dragon’s Den. This was all very relatable. When he moved on to talk about his notions for dealing with unsuccessful Apprentice candidates, there was an applause break. Although Love Island is a mystery to me, it was very easy to get onboard with what Monahan was talking about and laugh. The same could be said about Avocados – the bathroom routine was a standout. A lot of this section concerned marrying up and there were a lot of laughs in this, especially when Pat was discussing his own schooldays. The framework to the show was wide enough to give Monahan plenty of latitude to talk to people and venture along any number of apparent digressions before returning to what he was saying. To be honest, with Pat Monahan, it doesn’t really matter what the topic of his show is, he is always going to be good comedy value, because of his quick witted performance.

This was a very enjoyable night that was hugely appreciated by everyone.

New Barrack Tavern – Rich Wilson, Phil Carr, Eric Rushton, Jayde Adams and Jake Baker (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield for the Funhouse comedy night at the New Barrack Tavern. As always, this was a superb night. Kev and Steph are very welcoming and their love of comedy seems to enthuse the audience and as a result, everyone there is very up for a night of laughter. This was a sold out gig, with only a few empty chairs due to people who, despite having booked tickets, didn’t show up. It was pretty hot there and it must have been hotter still on stage. All of the acts received big laughs tonight and that was great to see.

Jake Baker

Baker got a lot of things right. He got people to turn their phones off, he did the rules, told folk to take their empty glasses back to the bar and plugged the next night. He was an affable, low key presence who in a friendly room like this didn’t need a lot of authority to get everyone in line. Baker was a bit unlucky in the front row, with two civil servants, an auditor (for a building society) and a dental technician. None of these had a lot of comedy potential, but he did manage to create an agreeable running joke about kitkats off the back of an off the cuff comment by one of the civil servants. There was one lady who was surprised by the don’t heckle announcement. She actually thought it was part of the night, for which Baker soundly showed her the error of her ways. This was pleasant compering and Baker ran the night well, but he wasn’t a presence that enthused the audience as much as he might have done.

Rich Wilson

Wilson was lively, jolly and exciting to watch. He built up loads of momentum and without being shouty or forceful, delivered his material with a real joie de vivre. He came to the stage 30 seconds after Baker had to explain to a lady that heckling wasn’t actually part of a night and Wilson immediately threw the heckle gauntlet down in a friendly and upbeat manner. This was then followed by material that concerned him getting older and the trials and travails of his age and position in life. For comedians over forty, this is a fairly well travelled area and whilst parts of it were a variation on a theme that a few people in there had heard before, Wilson did it extremely well, getting huge laughs and applause. There were some strong lines in here, especially sundries. The stand out routine of this set concerned a job that Wilson had taken a few years ago. He began this and then paused, noticing a lady sat on the second row who had her arms folded. He checked if she was ok with what he was saying and she replied, ‘it’s not upsetting, you’re incredibly funny.’ Wilson sat back against the wall and with the air of a man who might just take the rest of the week off, announced, ‘that, ladies and gents, is how you heckle.’ That got a massive laugh. Rich resumed the story, but after a few more lines, that lady put her hand up again and asked him to explain what ‘noshed’ meant. This all resulted in an applause break. This was a real crowd pleaser of a set that everyone enjoyed.

Phil Carr

We resumed after the intermission with Phil Carr, a deadpan act with well written dark material. The last time I saw him in the New Barrack Tavern was about fifteen months ago when he had come a close second in a gong show and so it’s nice to see him progressing. Carr opened with a good dark joke and continued with some tightly written edgy routines. These were all delivered at a moderate pace in a deliberate fashion. This delivery worked very well with the material. The vast majority of the room was onboard. There were quite a few people snorting with laughter. There was one woman who didn’t care for the darkness and so she got up and went into the bar area. Without missing a beat, Carr made a bonus of this by announcing that this was the first time it had happened to him, but as his dad was from Sheffield, he would be proud that it had occurred there. This got a big laugh. Carr had a good night and finished his set to the sound of applause and cheers.

Eric Rushton

Resplendent in tracksuit and medal, Rushton was a huge change in tone and style. He’s an act whom it’s easy to see the quality in, even if he’s not fully got it all nailed down yet. He switches between high and low status very adeptly, one moment talking about his insecurities and then the next lording it over the audience and I like the energy this approach brings to his performance. There was a great moment when he asked a lady in the audience to rate his looks out of ten and she replied with, ‘no use asking me, I’m a lesbian.’ The writing was original and refreshing, with the plot twist line being a solid gag. Although I don’t think Rushton is the completed article yet, he’s well on his way in developing a unique style and he will become formidable.

Jayde Adams

I shouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t Adams’ breakthrough year. The topics that Jayde discussed were her native Bristol, her size and celebrity. Bristol was very entertaining and hearing her strong Somerset accent was refreshing up here. The reactions to the earthquake were a mix of the loopy and parochial, all made very funny. Not being skinny was pitched at just the right level and there were a lot of laughs in it. I wasn’t totally with the celebrity material, not because it wasn’t good, but simply because beyond the names of the people mentioned, I didn’t have much of an idea about them otherwise – everyone else was fully onboard. What made Adams stand out so much was her personality. Sometimes acts are on autopilot, or are subdued, but there was no mistaking that Jayde was present, happy to be there and bags of fun to have in the building. She injected no end of personality into her performance and I think she managed to build a rapport with everyone there. It’s not hard to imagine a full show from her being a real experience. This was a champion performance that ended with a few people giving her a standing ovation and a few cries of more. This is someone who is going places.

Acts that have impressed me the most – January

This has been a fantastic month of comedy. I’ve seen 61 acts and have had a brilliant time. The highlight was seeing Scott Bennett on top form, the low light was some coked up fuckwits interrupting what was shaping up to be an excellent night.

These are the acts that have impressed me the most:

Doug Carter

I wouldn’t be surprised if Carter doesn’t end up making a living out of comedy. He’s definitely got something about him and with enough stage time and continued writing he’s going to do well.

From the night:

Carter is a great new act and he’s always a joy to see on bills. He’s got bags of presence, a delivery that is earnest and brings everyone onboard wanting to hear what he is saying. The material is improving with every performance. Tonight Bear Cash got a huge laugh, partly because it sounds so odd, but also from Carter’s look of ‘what the heck?’ as he delivered it. Tonight Carter was the winner by a landslide and I can see him going far in this industry.

James Cook

A performance that was superbly crafted.

From the night:

Cook is one of the most technically adept acts I’ve seen. He teaches comedy and it shows in his set, as he had everything spot on. His opening jokes were strong and were tied into the night (a person who looked like Dick Cheney and an undertaker sat in the audience). Cook’s pacing was great, with jokes not only coming at the right interval for the energy level in the room, but he neither spoke too quickly, nor too slowly and there were no lulls. Also, whilst there were plenty of jokes to each topic, nothing was taken to the point where it felt as if it had outstayed its welcome. There was a very subtle element of physicality to Cook’s delivery, as he would adjust his facial expression to accent the feeling he was imparting, or he would point or gesture with his hands. Nothing dramatic, but more than enough to add to what he was saying without distracting people. Similarly, Cook’s use of his voice with where he laid the stress on certain words in sentences made it clear what the key words in each routine were. This was all excellent. There was a lot of laughter during this performance. This was an impressive set.

Scott Bennett

The best I’ve seen of Bennett. This is going to be hard to top for performance of the year.

From the night:

I’ve seen a lot of Scott Bennett over the years and he’s one of my very favourite acts. Tonight, though, he surpassed himself. This was the best I’ve seen him and it was simply magnificent. What makes it even more remarkable was that a lot of it was fairly new material that he is perfecting. The tumble-drier was a great opening, 03.50 drinks great, drunk cooking has loads of promise, although it does need either a big ending or a strong link into something else, holidays with kids really came to life and above all the printer was massively funny. Even Kestrel for the crappy brand of lager was the perfect choice. Bennett has changed a few things in his delivery. For a start, he is using his wife’s name in his set and this gives it an added air of realism, familiarity and ultimately relatability; it’s no longer funny in the abstract as in ‘my wife said’. This is a small thing to change, but a big improvement. Above all, though, his going berserk over the malevolence of the printer ramped the laughter up sky high. The passion with which he delivered this routine was incredible. The use of the C-bomb (first time ever) and other strategic Fs pushed this routine massively. There were not just huge laughs during this set, but gigantic laughs. The closing routine tied everything together and was the perfect ending to a brilliant set.

Simon Lomas

A low energy act opening at a night where the lively audience is 90% comedy virgins and there are four coked up fuckwits on the second row could have been difficult. However, Lomas did brilliantly.

From the night:

Lomas is the best up and coming act in the country and tonight he demonstrated his talents. I’d not seen him open in front of an audience containing a disruptive element before and he handled it beautifully. As Simon walked to the stage someone shouted out ‘that’s my jumper you’re wearing’ to which Lomas replied, ‘yes, your mum gave it to me.’ This received a big laugh and it showed everyone that despite not looking dangerous, Lomas wasn’t afraid of biting back. From here he began his set and it was all that I expected: extremely well written, delivered with beautiful timing and with lots of laughter and applause after every joke. One of the four arseholes shouted things out a couple of times, so Simon carried out his threat of restarting a joke from the beginning. There was a lovely moment where he then asked one of these people which joke of his they had just got. This all received loads of big laughs and Lomas handled the audience wonderfully. It’s always a pleasure to see an act of this quality.

Honourable Mentions:

Becki Heaviside, Celya AB, David Tsonos, Hayley Ellis, Omar Issa, Pete Selwood,

The Blessington Carriage – Sunjai Arif, Tom Taylor, Celya AB, Scott Bennett and Omid Singh

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. Numbers weren’t huge, but for a cold January night, they weren’t bad at all. Spiky Mike was fortunate in having some first timers sat on the front row and these provided plenty of mirth during his compering. Rosie the expert picture hanger was a lot of fun, as were Holly and Ollie. Mike was unlucky in not talking to Thomas during his compering, as it came out later in the show that he did jousting and he could have had a lot of fun with that. As it was, the room were swiftly warmed up and ready for our opening act.

Sunjai Arif

Arif came to the stage oozing energy, which he milked before dropping the levels and talking about his t-shirt. This involved a fairly long set up about drugs and the pay off wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t really worth the amount of time spent on it. The comment about Portsmouth being rough was difficult to picture. Unless an area down south has a rough reputation, such as Millwall, it’s not that easy for people to get onboard with it up here. Excuse me was good, cupcake went down really well and the closing callback was solid. However, the jokes about Jihad, whilst entertaining, are something of a staple for acts with beards and Muslim backgrounds and they are getting overused. Whilst the material didn’t draw me in, Arif had a very likeable persona and a fun delivery.

Tom Taylor

Taylor was trying new material tonight. He’s a great act who is always interesting to see and this was no exception. Whilst not everything worked so well, which is to be expected for new material, there was a heck of a lot of good stuff. The vehicle song was fun, goldfish was even better and bullet was superb. Sentences was a cracking line. The telephone call has potential and I could imagine with a number change it maybe working well as a callback. This was a good set.

Celya AB

There was a lot to like about Celya AB. She was a warm presence, skilled at working the room, quick to recover from the odd slip and she really sold her material well. The material itself was a bit patchy at times, with some good lines, but a few that weren’t quite there. Unconditional was decent, the wedding good and Winehouse was brilliant. However, a few bits were a tad wordy and whilst the University of Wolverhampton will play well in Birmingham, Nottingham Trent would have been a far better fit for Derby. Celya isn’t yet the finished article, but she’ll get there and she’s worth keeping an eye on for the future.

Scott Bennett

I’ve seen a lot of Scott Bennett over the years and he’s one of my very favourite acts. Tonight, though, he surpassed himself. This was the best I’ve seen him and it was simply magnificent. What makes it even more remarkable was that a lot of it was fairly new material that he is perfecting. The tumble-drier was a great opening, 03.50 drinks great, drunk cooking has loads of promise, although it does need either a big ending or a strong link into something else, holidays with kids really came to life and above all the printer was massively funny. Even Kestrel for the crappy brand of lager was the perfect choice. Bennett has changed a few things in his delivery. For a start, he is using his wife’s name in his set and this gives it an added air of realism, familiarity and ultimately relatability; it’s no longer funny in the abstract as in ‘my wife said’. This is a small thing to change, but a big improvement. Above all, though, his going berserk over the malevolence of the printer ramped the laughter up sky high. The passion with which he delivered this routine was incredible. The use of the C-bomb (first time ever) and other strategic Fs pushed this routine massively. There were not just huge laughs during this set, but gigantic laughs. The closing routine tied everything together and was the perfect ending to a brilliant set.

Omid Singh

Closing was the American Omid Singh. He had some good intelligently written material. His set was cleverly constructed and there was plenty to enjoy about it. The plane journey was the stand out routine, the Trump impression pretty good and he dealt well with discovering a jouster with English Heritage sat on the front row – probably a first for him. However, the routine about the bag and the train, whilst well written, was at heart another man with a beard and Muslim ancestry bomb joke. Arif had used a similar basis for a joke earlier and this diluted the impact of Singh’s joke. His delivery was quiet and conversational and it was good, although after the excitement and the high of Bennett’s set, it did feel a tiny bit pedestrian in comparison. With a different running order, this wouldn’t have been an issue. I enjoyed Singh and in a lot of ways he was impressive, but I don’t think I got the full benefit of his ability.

The Kayal – Hector Walker, Andrew Thompson, Steffan Evans, Jem Braithwaite, Col Howarth, Mark Granger, Rory Jones, Oscar Roberts, Doug Carter, Sean McBurney and Jimmy Alan

Tonight I was at The Kayal in Leicester for the Funhouse gong show. This was a packed out room with a lovely varied audience, which included Neal Sullivan. Spiky Mike had a great time chatting to people, discovering an exam invigilator, a couple of young students and a 71 year old who explained his youthful looks as being due to daily sex with his wife, which she then confirmed to a round of applause from everyone.

Hector Walker

I’ve seen Walker a couple of times and he’s not yet found his feet as a comedian. Tonight he opened with material about Leicester getting a bad press and followed this up with the tale of a meal in Weatherspoon’s and then stuff on Coventry being the city of culture. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of jokes and he got a bit tongue tied, which wreaked further havoc with him building up momentum.

Andrew Thompson

Thompson had original material that was well thought out and delivered slowly. The material was almost anti-comedy in nature, but it was powerful enough to not only draw everyone in, but to get big laughs. This was a very good set from someone who stood out and easily made the final.

Steffan Evans

Evans’ strongest area is his persona. He’s bubbly, enthusiastic and full of energy. This added a lot to what he was saying. The material wasn’t bad, but a lot of it felt similar to things that other people have said a few times on other stages. If he could strengthen this side of things he’d do well. Dead bird was a nice quick joke. Evans made the final.

Jem Braithwaite

Braithwaite has unique material that he delivers very well, leaning forwards, with a fascinating intonation and sometimes in rhyming couplets. Tonight was a mixture of new and old material, with the newer stuff working well, especially the callbacks. However, the audience wasn’t fully onboard and he was a late gonging.

Col Howarth

Howarth was similar to Evans, a bright and bubbly personality which most of the audience will remember them for, even if they might struggle to remember their material, or which of them said a particular line. To begin with, he seemed to be Mc’ing the room, mixing room work with bits of material that he tied into the exchanges, but he swiftly moved on to material. He did quick jokes and some of these were good, some a bit predictable. I was very surprised when he commented about how he was the oldest act on the bill, as he looks younger than he is and Thompson has a good 15 years on him and I think a few people did a mental, ‘hang on,’ when he said it. Howarth wasn’t bad, but he didn’t really stand out, despite making the final.

Mark Granger

Granger didn’t have a great night. He did a couple of poems. One about death, which was grim and without punchlines and then one about dog shit, which we never really got into as he was gonged off at the first opportunity. There is room for alternative material in comedy, but there has to be some laughs in it to make people want to hear more.

Rory Jones

Jones is an act whom I’m interested in seeing how he develops. He’s beginning to put together sets of one-liners and he’s got ability. Tonight, he tried out some newer material and there were a few groaners present, as well as superb jokes such as stunner. If he could cut out some of the groaners he would go further, faster, as you can see it is coming together for him. He made the final and did pretty well.

Oscar Roberts

Roberts has an endearing presence and some strong material. His opening, if he were to drop the preamble would be three times as good, as it would be extremely punchy and funny, giving him a big laugh within 20 seconds of picking up the mic. He received the first applause break of the night, something which looked like it came as a bit of a surprise to him, but he rolled well with it and got another laugh for his response to it. The PE teacher was a huge change in tone and is probably better in a longer set, where it has time to be worked in. Power-walk and National Trust were both solid lines. Roberts made the final and was arguably tied for second place.

Doug Carter

Carter is a great new act and he’s always a joy to see on bills. He’s got bags of presence, a delivery that is earnest and brings everyone onboard wanting to hear what he is saying. The material is improving with every performance. Tonight Bear Cash got a huge laugh, partly because it sounds so odd, but also from Carter’s look of ‘what the heck?’ as he delivered it. Tonight Carter was the winner by a landslide and I can see him going far in this industry.

Sean McBurney

McBurney is already a solid joke writer. Tonight the vast majority of his gags were very good; if he could include a couple of toppers then they would be even better. He did lose people a bit with some of the darker jokes, but even here, they were well crafted jokes. McBurney does need to work on his delivery, though, as he a bit fast running out of steam before the vote, yet even then, I thought he’d get through on the basis of the consistent laughter he’d generated. With more stage time he’ll get used to pacing himself, building a bigger connect with the audience and then he’ll look more at ease on stage.

Jimmy Alan

Looking smart for the occasion, Alan started well, with some panto based comments, which culminated in a fantastic joke. However, he then had a couple of good jokes where the sympathy was all with his wife and just at the crucial moment of a vote this lack of audience appeal was enough to see him off. This was a shame, because he was shaping up to be a strong contestant.

Hoofers – Simon Lomas, John Halton, The Spirit Co-Medium, Ivan Brackenbury and Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

From the beginnings this inaugural night had the makings of a great gig and it is lovely to see live comedy in my home town. The room was well laid out, with rows of chairs and only the odd table, with people having good sight lines of the stage. It was a gig that had sold so many tickets it had been moved to the large function room and even then it had sold out. There were 146 people present who were there to enjoy the comedy, including Mark Dukes, who had come up from London. Unfortunately there were also four coked up fuckwits on the second row who were disruptive, chatting amongst themselves, shouting out and then getting even more obnoxious. I believe that in the intermission, the manager of the bar had a word with them and they promised to calm down. However, even with Stoney getting up from the sounds desk to tell them to behave (with Matt Stellingwerf walking over to add his support) they continued to be disruptive. When they threatened one of the acts with violence, the gig understandably came to an end, amidst scenes of other members of the audience squaring up to the miscreants. This venue had security staff present and if they had made themselves prominent this may have been avoided. 146 people had a lot of laughs tonight. The comedians all did extremely well, but all it takes is a small, but persistent and nasty element to compromise what could and should have been a great night. Luckily a lot of the audience could see past these four arseholes and were full of praise for the acts and will be coming back for the next night. This is a night with loads of potential and there is no reason why the next show won’t be stellar.

Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

I saw Stellingwerf compering in Sheffield a couple of weeks ago and he’d done very well then. Tonight he was equally as skilled. The audience took a moment to settle, being mostly comedy virgins, but after silencing a couple of people who shouted out to him, he hit the room with strong material (All Blacks) that was immediately funny. Stellingwerf chatted to a few people (I liked his use of the word ‘champ’, something nicely different and warm), particularly DJ, but because the opening act was deadpan, he sensibly didn’t do too much room work and did his best to get people used to listening to material. For his second session, Stellingwerf used some good material, such as Proclaimers and the clap. Wigan was ok, but he’d have gotten a bigger laugh if he’d gone with the local shit town of Chesterfield, instead. The crowd were pretty lively, but Stellingwerf settled them down every time he was on stage and was a positive influence on the night.

Simon Lomas

Lomas is the best up and coming act in the country and tonight he demonstrated his talents. I’d not seen him open in front of an audience containing a disruptive element before and he handled it beautifully. As Simon walked to the stage someone shouted out ‘that’s my jumper you’re wearing’ to which Lomas replied, ‘yes, your mum gave it to me.’ This received a big laugh and it showed everyone that despite not looking dangerous, Lomas wasn’t afraid of biting back. From here he began his set and it was all that I expected: extremely well written, delivered with beautiful timing and with lots of laughter and applause after every joke. One of the four arseholes shouted things out a couple of times, so Simon carried out his threat of restarting a joke from the beginning. There was a lovely moment where he then asked one of these people which joke of his they had just got. This all received loads of big laughs and Lomas handled the audience wonderfully. It’s always a pleasure to see an act of this quality.

John Halton

This was the first time I’d seen Halton and he did well. He opened with an inbreeding joke about his home location and lookalike gags, which are well travelled areas. However, they both got laughs and quickly established that he was funny. Using a footballer lookalike at a gig held at a stadium was a shrewd move. Revolution was clever and might have gone over a few people’s heads. When Halton was talking about his Granddad he hit a rich seam of comedy and there were some strong lines here. Tinder is a topic that has been done a few times, but Halton’s writing was strong enough for it to work well. The topper on his Christmas present was great. To close, Halton had a volunteer come on stage to help deliver a visual display showing how the yearly AGM of HIT would pan out. If he could find a ‘S’ to put before the name of his business there would be an added joke there. Perhaps, Standard, Sheffield (if gigging there, etc) or Super might work. The graphs were all easy to see and this worked well. There was perhaps room for a callback to the earlier material about his Granddad and channel 173 on one of them. If Halton could add a bit more intonation to some of the words he said, it would be an advantage. This was a good set from someone, who with more consistent gigging, should do well.

The Spirit Co-Medium

Next was the superbly creative Tom Binns, playing perhaps my favourite of his creations, the spirit Co-Medium. There is just so much to like about this character. The writing is hugely impressive. There isn’t a single word that doesn’t add value to the set and he plays the audience like a fiddle, knowing their expectations and subverting the whole cold reading/medium industry. With every audience interaction Binns is three steps ahead and I’d not be surprised if he hadn’t worked out great responses for every eventuality. This was a superb performance. The coked up fuckwits who had been quiet during Halton’s set came to life during this performance and Binns paused to ask them if they wanted to listen or leave. When they settled down, he resumed. However, it was only a temporary improvement and as they were still interrupting set ups and ruining jokes, he finished a bit earlier than planned. I hoped that this would prove a lesson to the disruptive four.

Ivan Brackenbury

We began the final section with Ivan Brackenbury, the hospital radio DJ. I saw him last week in Southwell and he’d been fantastic then. Tonight he was just as superb, including new material in this show, which was great. It was lovely watching the audience and seeing people listening to the set ups, hearing the song and then getting the gag. This was all top notch and Binns really brings the character to life. However, the four arseholes were still talking loudly and being disruptive. Brackenbury turned the volume up a bit, but they increased their volume. Eventually, Binns paused and asked them if they wanted to listen to the show, or talk, pointing out that there were 140 people who had paid to hear the show and not them. He got applause and cheers for this and with people not off their heads, this would have worked. When he suggested that if they wanted to talk they go outside and do it, he was met by a threat of violence and no one should have that and so the gig understandably ended there and then. This had been a great performance, marred by a small number of fuckwits.

The New Barrack Tavern – Aaron Wood, Joseph Dalton, Leon Brown, Becky Heaviside, Mickey McKay, Greg Husband, Omar Issa, Roger Poulter, Lee Watson, Harry Chalmers-Morris, Dan Baines, Erika Ehler, Jimbo, Anna Spark

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Comedy night. This is a lovely pub and I’ve never had anything less than a great night here. The room was pretty full, too, which was great. Present in the audience were Lou and Wayne B (Last Laugh) and my best friend, Bill and Donna. Spiky Mike had a cracking time compering, discovering a lady who was happy to be from local shit town, Rotherham and another lady whose given profession was that of ‘undertaker’ upon being challenged, this changed to hairdressing before she finally confessed to being a supply teacher. No one was doing dry January, which received a big cheer and Mike’s new bit of material comparing Theresa May to a hopeless sportsman went down well. There were 14 acts on the bill tonight, with a wide sweep of styles amongst them. Ten made it through to the final and whilst a couple of these were a bit generous, the judges were pretty much spot on. There was a lot of talent in this room tonight.

Aaron Wood

Wood opened the night by talking about anal sex (with a pretty standard punchline about who received it). Apart from an ironic cheer, this got nothing. He then went on to give the audience some one-liners about a new lady in his life, but it was too early on in the night for this material and apart from laughter coming from the green room, it didn’t get a lot. In fact at the first vote it was touch and go whether he went. However, after that he did a routine about being taken too soon and this was a total contrast to his earlier material. It was witty with unexpected reveals. This was good stuff. It could have perhaps been improved if he had changed the order a bit so as to reveal the lady was Glaswegian earlier, as that would have made it more punchy. That aside, this was a very good routine and it saw him through to the final.

Joseph Dalton

I last saw Dalton in Stoke and he’d not had a stellar gig there. Tonight he continued this pattern. He opened with material on Easy Jet and things being optional extras. This topic has been done to death over several years and it’s hard to sound original unless the material is really good. This wasn’t. It was then followed by some material about God opening coffins and this was too odd for the audience and off he went.

Leon Brown

Brown opened with a joke about a donation that he made to a homeless man and not only was this a bit bleak, but it was too soon in his set for the room to have really grasped his persona. As all of the sympathy was with the homeless man, it didn’t endear Brown to the audience. This was followed by a disparaging quote and as the source of it was his mum, it didn’t feel like anything no one hadn’t heard of a version of before. Attention spans was shaping up to be more interesting, but there just weren’t enough jokes in it to keep the judges with him and as a vote came up, Brown was off.

Becky Heaviside

Becky Heaviside had a great gig and easily made the final. Her delivery and well written material drew the audience in and she was the first act of the night that had everyone onside. She also had a very nice visual habit of pulling the mic away from her mouth when she was swapping character in her routines and this worked very well. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was ‘sadder than that’ which is a pretty common line. However, with her eye for a nice turn of phrase and well measured delivery I really enjoyed her set and I’d like to see her perform again.

Mickey McKay

I saw McKay a few months ago and whilst he reminded me of a young Tony Cowards, not everything came together and he was much more of a work in progress. However, tonight, he was great. He received a laugh for his opening joke and never really looked back. He kept the one-liners coming, not rushing the delivery, but just letting them arrive at their own pace with pauses for the laughter. He was the only act to receive a shout out – when he said about being single and a star wars fan, he received a ‘yes!’ from a lady in the audience and his well timed response of ‘fuck you,’ which was said with a grin, went down nicely. The gag about kick boxing was extremely good and the joke about Birmingham train station was solid, but if he were to just swap Brum for wherever the local shit town is to his performance, it would land twice as hard. McKay continued the good work in the final, where he delivered a punchy 60 seconds and made it through to the cheer off, arguably in second place.

Greg Husband

Husband is possibly the first folk music comedian I’ve seen and he added a wonderful element of difference to the night. He sang songs, accompanied by guitar (later squeeze box) and these stood out on a diverse bill. The songs were self-deprecating and pretty raw with how they painted him. However, instead of being depressing, Husband was very funny and received a hell of a lot of laughs. He’s got talent and it will be interesting to see how he develops as a comedian. Tonight he not only made the final, but was in the cheer off for top spot.

Omar Issa

Issa opened well with a rhetorical question about how to follow a folk music comedian and this showed not only that he was aware of what was happening on stage, but also a certain generosity of spirit, which was well received. What jumped out the most from this set was the quality of the writing. Issa has spent a lot of time working on this set and it has a great logic to it. There is nothing discordant about any of the routines, they don’t segue into something odd, but instead they all hang together very nicely. There was also a refreshing newness about his chosen topics, too, with Fusion Foods being a standout. There were a few ways that he could have taken this, but the familiar and the odd, exaggerated for comic effect worked extremely well. The delivery was also solid, with Issa changing pace and adding emphasis at just the right moments in his set. Issa was a well deserved winner tonight and I think I’ll be seeing a lot more of him in future.

Roger Poulter

Poulter gave the audience one-liners. Some were groaners, some were Christmas Cracker style jokes and a couple were really good. The fortune teller gag was excellent and if the rest were as good as this he’d have lasted much longer. Audience’s will tolerate the odd groaner (more so if it is clever), but they are there to laugh and if the groans outweigh the laughs, it becomes tricky. Poulter banged the gags out one after the other, but his lack of a connect with the audience was fatal. Poulter didn’t really look at the audience or form any kind of connection with them and if he were to at least acknowledge the roomful of people or find a way to make them want to invest in him as being worth their time he would do far better.

Lee Watson

Watson has potential, but at the moment is a work in progress. His biggest problem was a lack of concision. His set ups and sometimes the reveals, were that wordy that the funny got lost amongst the talking. He wasn’t helped by a long pause after a (sadly guessable) reveal, where it wasn’t clear if he had lost his way or was pausing for affect. The material about LGBTQ+ was unique, interesting and a lot more fun. With more stage time Watson will improve.

Harry Chalmers-Morris

Chalmers-Morris could become a good act. He’s only 19, looks younger and has an engaging stage persona. His material was pretty well thought out, too, with some nice lines. ID was a great one. Chalmers-Morris made a shrewd use of the local shit town. Chalmers-Morris made the final and although he didn’t win, there was plenty to enjoy in his set.

Dan Baines

I last saw Baines in Stoke, where he had done pretty well. Tonight he continued from where he left off with a good set that saw him through to the final. Baines has a solid stage presence and this helped him in his performance. A lot of the material concerned his build, but he had a lot more to offer and spoke about his tastes in life. Slap in the face was a great line and morbidly was even better. I was impressed when he tied some material into the supply teacher discovered during Mike’s compering. This was a good move and made his performance feel very much of the here and now. There was regular laughter during this set.

Erika Ehler

The Canadian Ehler delivered her material in a slow calm and deadpan manner. The topics included Amanda Knox and drama school and these were all interesting, making the audience curious to see where she was going. The laughs came consistently during Ehler’s set and she made a good impression on everyone. I expected her to be better supported during the final, but this time she didn’t make the cheer off.

Jimbo

This was the fourth time that I’ve seen Jimbo and tonight he received laughs for the right reasons. Aged 75 and dressed like an extra from Last of the Summer Wine, he stood out on a bill that was notable for its diversity of style. The jokes largely concerned the troubles of getting old and these went down very well, with him making the final without any trouble.

Anna Spark

The Australian Anna Spark had some superb lines and ideas, such as haunted, which was a fantastic premise. However, she did split the room with her shock material approach. Spark suffered from her material all being either overly sexual or overly dark. Whilst a fair number of lines were strong, it all began to feel pretty much of a muchness and that it was shock for the sake of shocking. If it had led further, ie, into something that wasn’t sexual or dark then it would have drawn more people in. In fairness, she made the final, there were some great lines, but I’m not sure how many people would have wanted much more of what became fairly samey sounding material.

The Saracen’s Head – Ivo Graham, Chris Kehoe, James Cook and Ivan Brackenbury

Tonight I was in Southwell at The Saracen’s Head for the Funhouse comedy night. This was another packed show and Spiky Mike was on form with his compering. He had some fun with vegan sausage rolls, but really got into his stride chatting to Les, a train driver from Doncaster. The undertaker he discovered during his second session added to the list of interesting professions present.

Ivo Graham

Graham was unfortunate enough to arrive later than expected at the venue and owing to the double ups, he ended up going on stage more or less as soon as he had taken his coat off. This lack of time to relax and get himself settled and mentally focussed had an adverse effect on his performance. Graham started off well, riffing off of Mike’s introduction, getting laughs for his comments about the location of the double and establishing his persona. However, when he came to talk about holidaying with his parents he got parts of the routine in the wrong order and his attempts to get back on track weren’t quite snappy enough to keep everyone with him. The routines about losing his virginity and then breastfeeding were ok, but I don’t think he delivered them with as much panache as he would have done if he hadn’t erred in his earlier routine, although the annihilation jokes were good. The closing routine about Go Ape was sound. However, the biggest laugh during this set came for a well timed and relevant callback shouted out by Les in the audience, which got a huge laugh. Graham didn’t do badly, he got laughs, entertained everyone and you could see the quality behind it all, but owing to having to jump straight in, I don’t think he did half as well as he could have done.

Chris Kehoe

Kehoe is a very talented act. His intelligent material had a great logic to it; he is imaginative in how he takes a set of facts or a scenario and builds arresting comedy around it and his command of the English language allows you to enjoy every perfectly chosen word in his set ups. In addition to this, his performance, with things such as the small nod to acknowledge the glass being dropped (prior to a great ad-lib that tied it into his material) added a lot to what he was saying. This was a superb set that had everyone laughing, gained applause and was a joy to listen to. I enjoyed Kehoe the first time I saw him and thought he had improved further tonight. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how he develops.

James Cook

Cook is one of the most technically adept acts I’ve seen. He teaches comedy and it shows in his set, as he had everything spot on. His opening jokes were strong and were tied into the night (a person who looked like Dick Cheney and an undertaker sat in the audience). Cook’s pacing was great, with jokes not only coming at the right interval for the energy level in the room, but he neither spoke too quickly, nor too slowly and there were no lulls. Also, whilst there were plenty of jokes to each topic, nothing was taken to the point where it felt as if it had outstayed its welcome. There was a very subtle element of physicality to Cook’s delivery, as he would adjust his facial expression to accent the feeling he was imparting, or he would point or gesture with his hands. Nothing dramatic, but more than enough to add to what he was saying without distracting people. Similarly, Cook’s use of his voice with where he laid the stress on certain words in sentences made it clear what the key words in each routine were. This was all excellent. There was a lot of laughter during this performance. This was an impressive set.

Ivan Brackenbury

Brackenbury was very fast in generating belly laughs. Within 30 seconds of commencing he had people laughing their heads off. The format of him being a hapless hospital radio DJ who unknowingly plays inappropriate songs is very strong. Brackenbury had a superb eye for the funny and in this very punchy performance, the laughs came thick and fast. For those less clued up on their music, Brackenbury would repeat the relevant lines or song titles so that everyone could get the gag. There was a brilliant moment when in discussing what the heck a ‘Milf Farms’ is, a lady in the audience said ‘yes’ at a personally awkward moment, and Brackenbury briefly broke the 4th wall to talk to her. There was so much laughter that I was surprised that there wasn’t a standing ovation.