Andrew Ryan (compere), Rich Morton and Jim Tavare

FAF promotions night at El Rosso in Mansfield. This is a nice light and airy venue, with a cultured crowd. It’s a friendly gig, where a bad heckle would be seen as bad form by the audience. On lights and sound was Stoney, who added a lot of attention to detail and professionalism to this side of things.

The compere was Andrew Ryan, whom Stoney had commented pre-gig about his being good. He wasn’t wrong. He struck a bit of a goldmine when he discovered that half the audience were staff members on their night off, a bonanza which he mined for the benefit of the room. He walked the line between teasing people and maximising the comedy from them. After the intermission he used material, rather than working the room and this was well received. He had one slip, which is an occupational hazard of compering – he momentarily forgot the name of the headliner, but even with this he got the most from the situation. He had a good night.

First act was Rich Morton, a musical act. He had a bit of a slow start. This was down to the rooms’ ethos – it’s a room where the audience don’t seem to get involved much and unfortunately a lot of his act involved audience interaction. This did hurt his reception, but in a more responsive room I can imagine him being a good strong act. Towards the end, he was getting the interaction and this made a world of difference.

The headliner was Jim Tavare. He’s done a lot of telly work, but was new to me. He’s got a mature set that is well thought out, but he’s flexible enough to do gags relating to material used by the compere and also by the first act. He had a fantastic night, mixing gags, musical gags and prop comedy seamlessly. In his dry delivery style, he reminded me a touch of Patrick Draper. Tavare is the kind of act that would storm it at any venue from miners’ welfares to closing in Glee. He has an inventiveness that I’ve only ever seen matched by the boy with tape on his face.

Ryan McDonnell, Discount Comedy Checkout, Jake Baker, Jake Lambert, Matt Redmond and Tom Lucy

Funhouse Comedy Derby at the Blessington Carriage. This is a bit of a sprawling pub and the function room is hidden away upstairs. It’s a bit of a spartan room, but not a bad place for a gig. Compere was Spiky Mike.

Opening was the 18 year old Tom Lucy who suffered a tad from going on first. He had a pretty good routine and plenty of non-verbal audience interaction – eye contact and nods to the audience, which gave him a nice presence in the room. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he develops as I felt he did well.

2nd on was Matt Redmond a comedy magician. I felt that he was better at magic than comedy. His skills as a magician were good, but his comedy was a series of Christmas cracker gags that only Tim Vine can pull off well. He may be better building his magic around a longer routine style gag with the punch line being emphasised by the culmination of a magic trick.

Jake Lambert opened after the intermission and totally smashed the gig. He had the happy combination of great material, confidence and great timing. The high point on a great set was the tale of his Uni housemate, this is one of the best routines I’ve heard recently. I also enjoyed how you couldn’t predict the direction he was going to go in. I understand he has been signed by Off the Kerb and I’m not surprised in the least.

Jake Baker was unfortunate in following such a strong act. He had decent material that was delivered well. Some of the dark material could have gone badly in a different room, but it worked and got laughs and there is certainly room for comedians doing dark risky material.

Discount Comedy Checkout are an improv group, similar to The noise next door, but without music. They are a talented group of individuals who managed to breathe life into the various scenarios suggested by the audience. The comedy was drawn in broad strokes, but was a success.

Headlining was Ryan McDonnell, who is an amiable Irishman. He had a relaxing feel good set that sent everyone out into the world happier than they had been. He covered a lot of areas, getting consistent good laughs and a gem of an answer from a member of the audience.

NCF – Paul Savage, Chris Norton Walker (comp), Ian Hall, Wayne Beese, Matt Hollins, Robyn Perkins and Aaron Twitchen

NCF Comedy​ night at Ye Olde Spa Inn in Derby. This is a small intimate venue, best suited to comedians who like to work with the room. Numbers were low, but I think it is the first gig there, so this will improve. The compere was Chris Norton Walker. I don’t generally review comperes, as you don’t get a true feel for their ability or talent. However, I’m going to make an exception, for an exceptional compere. Chris Norton Walker is the hardest working compere I have seen. He never missed an opportunity to inject atmosphere into the room, bringing everyone into the mix. He was very sharp with his comments, knowing the fine line between chatting to someone and the comedic time to move on. Without his efforts and natural charisma, it would have been a very different gig.

Opening was Aaron Twitchen who began by doing material, but he had enough stagecraft to sense that this was a more intimate gig and he swiftly changed tack and worked the room. He had some very nice touches and whilst he didn’t have anything like a bad night, I feel that he has a better night in him under different circumstances – I’m certainly interested in seeing him deliver his material as I felt he had something to say.

Robyn Perkins, an American comic was 2nd on the bill. Unlike many Americans, she didn’t spend her time doing a routine about being American and living in Britain, which was a nice change. She started off slowly, but had some lovely material about sexual mathematics that worked really well.

After the first intermission it was Matt Hollins. He had a better time than the last gig I saw him at, where he was trying new material, as this was more established stuff. However, I find him to be very hit and miss. Some of his stuff lands, but due to his low key approach, he doesn’t have the momentum to cover the misses easily.

Wayne Beese was, like Twitchen, a comic who could feel the mood of the room and swiftly jettisoned his prepared material and improvised with the room. He had a good dexterity and sense of the possible in what to say, to whom and when to move on. He kept control of a room that could be described as lively.

Ian Hall opened on a song, which I didn’t find that convincing an opening, but it did lead into some good material based on Ian’s through the ages. This worked fairly well with the visual aids and I think there is mileage in expanding it. I, personally, wasn’t too sure about the Elvis material, but enough people were laughing that in fairness it can’t be reviewed badly.

Paul Savage closed. He was very skilled at moving smoothly from material to room work and then back again. He had some good material that I felt went down very well and looked comfortable on stage. He reminded me a bit of big Jon Pearson in looking at home on the stage, ready for whatever the night could throw at him.

Fran Jenkins was unavoidably absent, which was a shame as I was interested in seeing him perform.

Adam Rowe, Jon Pearson, Rob Mulholland, Tom King and Brian Damage & Krysstal

Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands​ night at The Diamond. This is a good venue, but one that has suffered a bit from lack of numbers. However, tonight, numbers were good, which helped create a good atmosphere. Compering was Spiky Mike. Opening act was Adam Rowe, who was only opening as he was closing elsewhere. He effortlessly held the room from the moment he hit the stage, with no awkward links between material and had some really good stuff about an ex workmate. As with a lot of Scouse comics, he based a fair bit of his material on this, but had a broad appeal and so didn’t feel limited by this. Next up was Jon Pearson​ doing a ten spot, the only rationale for this, as he is, in my experience normally a good closer, is that he was being given a trial by Funhouse. He performed a good set, that received good laughs and was well received, with a few nice adlibs. It was a confident performance and again, demonstrated the sort of stage presence you’d expect. Next on was Rob Mulholland, who had it nailed from the opening, with his comments on how he looks and comes across. This was a really good opening, and with his fast delivery he established a presence. I wasn’t sure about his drugs material, initially, yet this proved to be his strongest material. The third of the ten spots was Tom King, who did a set largely based around his job. This went down well and he got strong laughs. I’m not sure if there is enough in it for twenty minutes and he may have to broaden out as 10 minutes of material based around work is probably ling enough. However, he has a good delivery and so I’m sure this wouldn’t be a problem. As it stands, it’s a good solid 10 minutes there. The closer was Brian Damage and Krysstal. The patter was stronger than the songs, but they did very well The audience work was extremely good, with some nice adlibs fitted in to the audience.