Patrick Draper, Roger Swift, David Tsonos, David Alfie Ward, Alexander Bennett and Mark Restuccia

Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands up and coming acts night at the Blessington Carriage in Derby. This is nicely located, with a cheap and secure car park just across the road. The room isn’t ideal for comedy, being narrow, which doesn’t favour the prop and visual comics, but it is also intimate. The venue could do with a bit of work, as the lights would flicker and the radiator next to me had an irritating hiss. Compere was Spiky Mike

Opening was Mark Restuccia, who had a good opening line, but whose animal material didn’t quite hit the mark. He had a nice line about a blind cat, but I’d question the inclusion of a joke that requires an explanation for half of the audience. His strongest material involved a housemate. The first reveal to his closing part of the Blackpool story wasn’t hard to guess, but the real joy was in the second reveal, which I felt he could have made much more of.

Alexander Bennett had a very good night. He opened well with a lively opening involving new laws and a lot of crowd work. His material was clever, well put together and enjoyable to see. He is someone to watch out for in the future.

David Alfie Ward was an interesting act. I’m not sure if he set the mood of the room for banter, or just got the mood of the room from the off, as it could have been either. He opened with some ad-libs and local references (I enjoyed the McLaren Weatherspoons one very much) and then more or less bantered successfully for the next 5 minutes or so. This was pretty decent and if he ever MC’s would raise him above the general, what’s your name, where are you from and what do you do there. His break into material wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, feeling a bit mechanical and one of his jokes fell a bit flat, but in a different room could have worked better. For a small room, he was quite loud and could have achieved a better delivery of the material side of his set just through speaking more quietly.

David Tsonos is a Canadian comic performing over here, to their loss and to our benefit. He began with working the room a bit, doing some ad-libs and check backs to things revealed during SM’s compering and it was hard to spot when he actually started doing material as there was no obvious flick of a switch. His performance was very much of the present with lots of audience interaction and everyone felt included in his set. He achieved a good balance between banter and material without putting a foot wrong. He also had the bad luck of asking a chap why he was taking notes, only to find it was a comedy reviewer. However, this far from put him off his stride and he even got material from it. This is a comedian who I would like to see more of.

Roger Swift, a prop comic, closed the second section. He has lots of knowingly awful gags that are delivered at great speed and with enough panache to get a good result. He did split the room a bit, with some people possibly thinking it was a bit silly, but the majority enjoyed the silliness. In a larger room, going on later he’d do well. I’m not sure there is 20 minutes in it, as the pace is frenetic, but for 10, it is good. I particularly enjoyed the cock running gag.

Headlining was Patrick Draper, a good reliable local act who I’ve seen a lot of. One of the benefits of paths often crossing is that you get a chance to see material evolve, get reworked and also you get to see an artist progress in skill. Draper’s delivery is improving every I see him and he has some cracking material to deliver. The number of reveals on his rejection letter is good and this went down a treat. The applause break for his flat mate material, which had a check back to the rejection letter was well deserved, as was the laughter that greeted the wall charts. A true joy to watch.

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Archie Kelly, Robyn Perkins, Peter Brush, Tom Little and Jon Pearson (MC)

Tonight was FAF promotions​ comedy night at the Moorlands Inn near Halifax. This pub is set in the middle of the Moors and immediately brought thoughts of The Slaughtered Lamb to mind. However, it is an extremely classy establishment. The chap running it has paid a lot of attention to detail and it is a lovely place. There was an extremely good atmosphere for the show, although there was a phone on the bar which rang and interrupted things, the manager personally went downstairs to unplug that extension.

Jon Pearson​ was the MC. I wouldn’t say he got the level from the off, more that he created the level, which is even more difficult to achieve. He’s an amiable and likeable fellow who had no trouble controlling the crowd. He had a few topical references that he threw in, but struck gold in talking to a couple late returning from the first intermission. During his compering after the second intermission he used a surprising amount of material, almost becoming another act in addition to being MC, but the audience lapped it up and he went down very well.

Opening the gig was Tom Little, who had a big build for his opening gag. I felt he was almost toying with the expectations of the room, as he built the gag before delivering a wonderful pay off. Some of his material skated the narrow line between brilliance and losing the room. His yoghurt joke was brilliant and to get so much out of it was wonderful to see, but his black, white and red joke, just skirted over into losing some of the room. His set was slightly marred by the upstairs landline ringing, but he had a good night.

Peter Brush​ was first on after the intermission. I’ve got to confess that he is a comic I like. He does clever sets with well thought out jokes. Tonight was no exception. He settled the room quickly and everyone was listening, with no conversation, or chairs being moved. He got consistent good laughs all through his set. The hypochondria routine had a bit of a long set up, but was definitely worth it. He was a real highlight of the night.

Robyn Perkins made a welcome appearance, having travelled by bus all the way from London to perform. She has an infectious enthusiasm and some lovely material. She referenced the room, most especially including a chap on the front row in her jokes and was a joy to watch.

The headliner was Archie Kelly who is best known for playing Kenny Dalglish Snr in Phoenix Nights, but who frankly, should be better known for his stand up. I feel he did a lot longer than he was booked for just because everyone was having so much fun. He held the room, was great with the crowd and never put a foot wrong.

This was an extremely good night, with a good collection of comics in a venue that knocks spots off many.

Chris Norton-Walker (MC), Theresa Farlow, Neil Irving, Jonathan Prince, Jim Kelly, Simon Beckwith, Gaye Jones, Bambam Shaikh, Sam Potter, Chris Sherwood

FAF promotions free Hoofer’s got Talent night at Field Mill. This was downstairs, not upstairs, as that was hosting a Madonna tribute Act. Luckily, I only spent 5 minutes sat in the wrong room before I twigged on.

This was a challenging gig for all concerned. Stew “stoney ” Coleman did his part, personally going around the room, closing doors, turning screens off, moving seats about, which is always great. However, this was a very ill behaved crowd. People had no shame in just walking in front of the stage on their way to the bar, shouting out, shouting out stuff in reply to the original shout out and generally misbehaving. At times, it felt like having a couple of snipers would be a bonus. There was a late start, which was unavoidable and this didn’t help, but the major factor was the rowdy atmosphere and all acts bar a couple suffered from this.

MC was Chris Norton-Walker, who reaffirmed his ability, skill and hard work ethic tonight. He got the room under some form of order with a bit of difficulty (no one could have done more) and used his infectious charm to get the show on the road. This is a guy who could probably inject atmosphere into a vacuum and it was a joy to watch him work.

Theresa Farlow struggled as first act, the audience didn’t really give her a chance and she never really injected any personal authority into the room, despite some nice jokes.

Neil Irving had some reasonable material, but was largely undone by the room. He ended his part by lying down on the stage and more or less throwing in the towel. This got a big laugh.

Jonathan Prince was one of the acts on tonight’s bill that I was especially interested in seeing perform. He’s very charismatic and has presence, also he was one of the two acts that didn’t suffer much from the crowd. He has a good singing voice, but as he only had 5 minutes to get his material out, I felt he may have been better devoting his time to more material than a build up to the reveal. Some of his material was a tad lightweight, but he has a really good delivery and I feel he has real potential. Once his material catches up with his delivery he will be a man to watch.

Ending the first half was Jim Kelly, who had some nice comedy songs, which were short and too the point. However, he made the fatal mistake of engaging with the hecklers in conversation about Rasputin and this robbed him of all momentum. He didn’t so much stumble, with this self inflicted harm, as decide to dive into a mine shaft. This is a shame, as he could have achieved a lot more if he’d just carried on with his set.

Simon Beckwith had an interesting time. He left the stage and walked into the room to perform. This was a mistake, as it robbed him of his authority, although with the crowd, it didn’t take much. He had a very good reveal about a written warning, which didn’t get the result it should have done. He deserved more for that joke. I was interested in seeing where he was going to go. However, he took the mood of the room and as the remainder of his material involved the audience listening, he came off early. This was a shame, but I can understand his logic. I’d like to see him in a more amenable environment.

Gaye Jones wasn’t phased by the room and got some material out. However, much of this was to do with Rochdale and the reputation of girls from Rochdale. This was ok, but a bit hack, as you could have substituted anywhere for Rochdale, really. It wasn’t bad at all, just nothing we haven’t heard before about Rotherham, Shirebrook or someplace.

Bambam Shaikh (Jay Islaam) was up next. He was the other act I was especially interested in seeing. I’ve seen him before at the Admiral Rodney, where he had a good night, so I knew already he was strong. He had a great gig and is a reliable performer. The only thing muting his reception tonight was the crowd being a bit thin by the time he went on, otherwise he would have raised the roof. He has his act honed nicely and has a good sense of timing. He knows when to pause to let a gag sink in and whilst some of his material does require a level of knowledge, this doesn’t dilute his impact. He was the only other act not to get seriously messed about by the rowdiness and was again a joy to watch.

Sam Potter also made the mistake of leaving the stage. This can work in an intimate gig, but not in a rowdy one. Some of her reveals were a bit easy to guess, but still enjoyable However, not many of her observations seemed to land heavily. Partly this was because a lot of the room were chatting amongst themselves or shouting out, but also because they were a bit lightweight. There was a lot of truth in her observations and some cleverness, but sadly not a lot of humour.

Closing was Chris Sherwood who again, was an act I was more interested in seeing. He does dark material. Some comedians, I feel can do it and make a good job, such as Nicola James, but I’ve not seen many comedians do this well, apart from Ben Briggs who is very much on my radar. Chris had had time to weigh up the room and came on with a good attitude of not giving a monkey’s for the hecklers. He showed a lot of guts in this. He did some political jokes, which didn’t land well, but this was partly because they required the audience to listen and this audience wasn’t really one for that. He had better luck with his references to television. Some of this was mixed, as people hadn’t seen the programmes, but the references that did hit, hit well.

John Scott, Tim Fitzhigham, Jack Campbell and George Egg

Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands Admiral Rodney gig in Southwell. This is the first time I’ve been and this gig hasn’t been sold out. There weren’t many empty seats, but as they were all at the front, it seemed emptier than what it really was. This gig attracts a nice polite crowd and very few heckles or shout outs. Tonight was no exception. The room is quite long and narrow, so by necessity, the stage is in the middle. The downside to this is that acts have a 180 degree audience and so can look as if they are watching a tennis match as they swing from side to side.

The opening act was George Egg, a prop comic with loads of visual gags. It’s important to get a good seat with a view for his set, as otherwise you are in danger of missing some good material. A lot of his opening parts are silent, but work well due to this, as the audience are watching intently, seeing what he is going to pull out of his case next. He is great working with an audience, getting people clapping and chanting his name. In my experience not many people opening a gig can get members of the audience to admit they drove or walked there, let alone the response he was getting. He had a really good night and was well received. As an opening act, getting the room going this man is ideal and I’m sure he’d work as a closer, too. Luckily there was an intermission, as anyone following him would suffer from the change of pace.

Jack Campbell was next. He did well, working with the room, melding his material to the response from the room. He had decent material that went down well. He didn’t need to shout or swear for emphasis, instead he’d just raise his voice for the added emphasis where it did the most good.

Tim Fitzhigham, who does an excellent show on the Home Service ended the 2nd portion. He had a frenetic pace with massive amounts of energy being emitted. I’d estimate that 80% of his set was ad-libbed, with 20% being planned in advance and this went down a storm. He is extremely well read and just as importantly, he was able to make his general knowledge and observation relatable to the room. He’d take an earlier comment made in the room and add a wonderful anecdote or observation to it. I don’t know how he would fare opening a cold room, but he could get material from anything in almost any room. From what I’ve seen tonight, I think he could do a 1 man show very easily.

The closer was John Scott who opened strongly and carried on strongly. He managed to get 3 reveals on one joke each with a bigger laugh. He had a lot of material about being Scottish, which played well, but for me the treat was his political material. He wasn’t banging a drum for any particular party, but instead had some perceptive and well thought out observations that not only got laughs, but played surprisingly well in an area that has more sympathy with the Tories than Labour. He moved around with his material quite a bit, which kept it fresh and ended with a nice closer

Graham Milton, Pete Otway, Phil Pagett, Stu Woodings, Thomas Rackham, Dave Pollard – Pat Draper MC

NCF Comedy​ night at the Olde Spa in Derby – this had more people than last time, but owing to the size of the room, it may be in danger of outgrowing the venue. I like the room, as it has an intimate feel, but I’m not too sure of the venue. One of the barmaids walked in and did a glass collection part way through a set, which is something you don’t normally get at experienced venues. In fact, it took the compere, Patrick Draper, Comedian​ by surprise, as he was stood next to the door and would have stopped her if he had known. This was a good gig, but all of the reviews of individual comics have to take into account a table that was extremely disruptive. They weren’t nasty or obnoxious, but just persistently shouted out and talked amongst themselves. Another note, is that I wish comedians wouldn’t say they’re going to tell us a bit about themselves, as 3, maybe 4 of the chaps performing tonight used that phrase and it would add to the variety if a few others were used.

Patrick Draper – MC – he had his work cut out tonight with the disruptive table. Before he’d even begun the ground rules, he was being heckled and having this table join in. He worked hard, he put down the worst of the hecklers about 7 times, but this guy wouldn’t take the hint. Draper was wise enough not to get too aggressive with this element and it is largely thanks to his work that the night succeeded. I’ve seen a lot of comperes and I think almost everyone, even Chris Norton-Walker, would have struggled to do any better.

First up was Dave Pollard who had a nice line in blue jokes. Some of his material fell a touch flat, but some did pretty well. I think he was a victim of going on too early. His material was probably too blue for opening with. I’ve seen the talented Bethany Black not get as strong a response as she should under the same circumstances.

Thomas Rackham concluded the first part. He has a nice charm, with a good set. Some of his reveals were foreseeable, but no less funny for this. I enjoyed his set and suspect he didn’t do as well as he might due to the bad mannered table. Their shout outs robbed him of momentum.

Stu Woodings was one of the acts I was especially interested in seeing. I’ve seen him before, where he delivered an above average set on a below average night, so wanted to see what he could do on a better night. This night wasn’t better, due to the awkward table, but Woodings was still good to watch. His Frozen reference fell a bit flat and he may need to update his comic relief routine to whichever charity is doing the rounds and I think his ants nest gag needs a bit more work, but these are minor details and more constructive than destructive. I liked how he did a few ad-libs to ‘the table’ and got away without a big discussion with them. I particularly enjoyed the Paint it matt song, this was really good. His keyboard gag was also good and I felt deserved more reaction than he got.

Phil Pagett had a good night. He’s a one liner expert with some lovely reveals. His style played well in the room and was very entertaining. His quick fire delivery matched the attention span of the pain in the arse table, but everyone enjoyed his work.

The headline act was Pete Otway. He has a good presence in the room and a fast paced delivery and lots of audience interaction. I’m not sure I’d like to see him open a gig, as often an audience won’t respond to anything at first, but going on later works really well with his style. His weigh gain/loss stuff is very good, but his closing part about the Australian copper was a tad predictable. He did well, but yet again, the noisy table did rob him of momentum.

To me, the most impressive of the comedians was Graham Milton. He is similar in style to Andrew Lawrence with lots of clever routines and unexpected reveals. He’d start a gag leading in one direction, but then take you somewhere else and with good results. He only did a 10 spot, but I have confirmed that he has 20 minutes of material and this is something that I’d like to see. He held the room, including the painful table, in his grasp.

That Pair, Stoney, Tom Mayhew, Michael Dryburgh, Alasdair Beckett-King and Ivor Dembina

The Green Room at Welwyn Garden City – a nice soft friendly room with a lot of potential, although there was a bit too much heckling for my taste. Not nasty heckling, but surplus to requirements, non-the-less. They would benefit from closing the bar whilst the acts are on, as it spoils the moment when you hear the barmaid ask for £8.55. Compere was Jonathan Prince who is a very likable and charismatic chap, but who still has a bit to learn about compering. He did a short warm up set and didn’t cover the basics, such as heckle me, but no one else and turn your phones off.

Opening were That Pair, a double act. They worked well together, being nicely choreographed and were a good choice to open with. Some of their banter seemed a touch forced and I wasn’t too sure about the musical numbers, but they were well received.

Next up was Stew “stoney ” Coleman​ who I have seen before a while ago. He has improved a lot since then in his delivery. This has occurred through both gaining more experience and also through doing his set in a deadpan style. Although it is more cracked deadpan, than strict deadpan, because he broke the mould and smiled a few times. Every time this occurred he got a great laugh and there is a lot of mileage in this. I was also impressed with him having a couple of running gags involving ‘this half of the room’ and ticks and crosses. He had a good night and was a joy to watch.

Tom Mayhew closed the first half. He has a self-deprecating style and had some nice one liners and some good ad-libs. His strongest material, for me, involved buses. He did spend too long with a heckler when he may have been better off carrying on with his set, but he did show maturity in not being thrown by this. He would benefit from not standing side on and favouring one side of the audience over the other.

Michael Dryburgh had an amiable and enjoyable set with some reliable bankers including his ex-girlfriend and a wonderful ad-lib about Steve. His set was solid with lots of referencing earlier material, which works well. With the combination of good material and a convincing delivery he does well.

Alasdair Beckett-King had a fantastic night. He was doing new material, but I’m damned if I could spot the experimental stuff. To me it looked like a mature well honed set. He began with a routine about John the Baptist and took us through an intelligent, polished, well joined up set with a belter of a closing. He didn’t put a foot wrong and left me wondering why he’s not better known. A real highlight.

Closing was Ivor Dembina. He was probably not the best act to close, as he is very low energy. He had some nice touches with a joke about Origami and did put a heckler down quite effectively, but then inexplicably returned to them. A lot of his routines had a long build up, but then petered out. He might have benefitted from a shorter set with more focus.

Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons​ at the Guildhall in Derby (front row seat, which was nice). It’s quite a classy venue, but doesn’t hold as many seats as you’d think. As with a comic of such experience, you’d expect a smooth and polished performance and this is what you got. There were a few irregularities with smoking floor lights, but this just became an opportunity for some rather nice ad-libs. He had no trouble picking up where he left off from with his routine. His style live is the same as on Mock The Week​ – very dry and knowing with a wonderful rhythm of speech that adds a lot to the merriment. The first half was a routine about life in general, which worked fine, but the gold was in the second part, where we got observational humour about politics and the state of ourselves and the nation. I’m not sure how much of that will survive the results of the Election tomorrow, as we may have had enough of politics come Friday. There were plenty of references to earlier material and occurrences that kept the audience on their toes and provided for a good sound finale.

Lee Kyle, Jon Pearson (Compere), Jared Shooter, Sam Potter, Danny Davies , Alexander Jackson, Ian Seaburn, Chris Styles and Tom King

FAF promotions​  new material night in Sutton, a small room, with enough intimacy for the acts to work with the audience.

The compere was Jon Pearson​ who has already impressed with his stand up. He has good material and a good delivery, but his strongest attribute is presence. He seems extremely comfortable on stage and so it was always going to be interesting to see how he made out as compere, especially since Chris Norton Walker has set the bar high. The answer was extremely well. He homed in on the audience most likely to provide fun and atmosphere and made merry with them, without making the rest of the room feel left out, which isn’t always easy. He had a gem of an improvised family tree for them, which he worked up during an intermission and when this group got noisy during his between acts warm up, he did the square thing for the next act in restoring the atmosphere rather than just bringing on the comic. A commanding performance.

Opening Act was Tom King, who I’ve seen before. He was good then and he was good now. He did a spot of his established material to warm up, before doing some (new to me) material I hadn’t heard about the cannibal restaurant. This went down very well and suited the room, as he gave a chance for the audience to ask for items from the menu.

Chris Styles did a nice monologue with a dry delivery, which in his Doncaster accent worked well. It was a tad predictable in that you could guess how it would all end, but the enjoyment was in the getting there. He could perhaps benefit from seeing Peter Brush who is excellent at keeping the final destination of routines hidden and from more audience interaction.

Nicola James was pleasant, but seemed a bit underpowered. Her serial killer material was the highlight of her set and could be expanded, possibly becoming darker. I’d be interested in seeing her after she has had a few more gigs, as she didn’t have a bad night by any means, but didn’t seem to do as well as what she might have done.

After the first intermission Ian Seaburn performed. He had a good stage presence and delivery, but his material seemed a bit thin. I have a feeling he ran over schedule and could have tightened up his set, by knocking 5 minutes off and getting his material out in a shorter time, with more laughs per minute. He would benefit from setting his phone onto vibrate so he knows when he has finished, rather than to look at his watch, as he seemed to do this an awful lot. He has enough presence that with better material, he could have achieved more.

Next up was Alexander Jackson who had a good tight set, with a convincing delivery. At one point he seemed to forget the next part, but whether this was real or just a device – it got a lot of laughs – he had garnered enough good will from the audience to get away with it. He had a good night.

Danny Davies was polished, with a decent set and a very nice ad lib that went down well. He also had enough audience awareness to stop his set becoming a monologue.

In the final section, Sam Potter went first. Her set was a slow burner, with a confident delivery. It didn’t land many belly laughs, but was very amiable. A bit like a good episode of Last of the Summer Wine – no one injured themselves laughing, but everyone quietly enjoyed it.

Jared Shooter had a good night He’s got a lot of stage presence, is happy to interact with the audience and ad lib. He also has enough charm that if he’s going off on a tangent that isn’t working well, the audience don’t mind when he admits it and enjoys the fact he has done so. He has some great material, but would benefit from more of a natural ending to his set.

Headlining was Lee Kyle, who has an easy going personality. He held the room from the off, with plenty of references to jokes made about the room and check backs to Jon’s compering. None of his material missed the mark and he hit the room with a lot of energy, which is great for a closer. His set was quite fluid and one had the feeling he could have branched out in any direction he chose.  He was a joy to watch.