Duncan Oakley, Billy Lowther, Colin Havey, Andy Watson and Chris Brooker (MC)

Thorncliffe Social Club in Sheffield has a large airy room that is surprisingly good for comedy. It was strange seeing the first act go on in daylight, but this was no handicap to the success of the night. However, I do wish they had oiled the door, as this did have an irritating squeak. This was FAF promotions​ opening night at this venue and judging from how good a night everyone had, not their last.

Chris Brooker was MC. He didn’t need to dip into any material, nor did he need to ask too many people what they did. Instead, the he just found material within the room. He gave a confident performance that was perfectly pitched to the audience and one that got a lot of laughs. In fact, it was hard to hear what he was saying at one point, because of all the laughter.

Andy Watson opened. He made a strong start and continued to make a strong impression with lots of physical comedy and a good routine. He received a stunning response to his friend falling out line and delivered a set that hung together very well, without putting a foot wrong. The audience loved every minute of his set.

Colin Havey​ had a cracking night. He received a laughter break within the first minute and gave a lovely performance. His delivery was good, his material was fine. He received consistent laughs and was very enjoyable. His greatest moment came off the back of an ad-lib he threw out, when Andy Watson accidentally leaned on the light switch for the room, this possibly deserved an applause break.

Billy Lowther opened with a silly joke that got a huge laugh, this laugh went on that long, that for two minutes, all he needed to do was stand there and look at the audience for the laugh to continue. His style is a mixture of dry wit and some stunningly dark one liners. This is a man who knows his strengths and plays to them in a way that produces mirth. He had a really good night and filled the entire room with laughter.

Duncan Oakley closed. He is an all rounder. He does musical comedy, visual gags, puns, one liners and some good routines. He was a bit of a change to the previous comics, but a change the audience enjoyed. He possibly lost a touch of momentum with a bit of banter with the room, but regained it almost instantly. He provided a strong close to a really good night.

Geoff Norcott, Harriet Dyer, Scott Walker, Jared Shooter and Barry Dodds (MC)

Tonight was a mix of Edinburgh Preview and general comedy night at The Lescar in Sheffield. I’m grateful to Jared Shooter for tipping me off about this night, as it was a good one. It was held in the back room of the Lescar Hotel, easy to find, a swine to park. It was a well organised night. The room itself, had a really high ceiling, tables at the front, sofas down one side and rows of seats towards the back. The bar was closed, which is usually a bonus, however, this did mean that people just left the room to order drinks, as this was definitely a crowd that liked a drink. Not in a rowdy way, just in a way that meant there were tables full of empties and towards the end, three people at a time were getting up for the loo. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, as the website advertised Geoff Norcott ‘plus more’ and it would have been a bigger attraction if I’d known who the ‘more’ were.
 
Barry Dodds was MC. He had a bit of an unlucky start, when just after he had said hello one chap carrying a tray of drinks managed to drop 3 pints. Naturally, he worked this for laughs and was well rewarded with them. He didn’t spend too much time on stage, but instead timed it well. Some MCs appear, then in the blink of an eye, they are introducing an act. Instead, Barry spent long enough getting the room warm, but not that long that he ran the risk of becoming a fixture. I was impressed with the quality of his compering and how easily he seemed to get laughs from the crowd. I also liked how he did the square thing for Jared in getting the front row filled up to aid his video recording of the gig.
 
Jared Shooter opened. He was filming his set for his entry to the BBC New Act Competition. As is the law with filming, things immediately went pear shaped when one chap on the front got up and legged it out of the room in the manner of someone who’s dinner is about to make a reappearance. Jared got good laughs by just by peering round the corner in the direction of the loo, until this chap popped back announcing he had a nosebleed. Although this got laughs, it did prove a false start. Jared has a good set, but one which involves a certain amount of audience interaction, which as first act wasn’t as forthcoming as it might have been. His screwfix line was, as ever, a banker and he did well with a far better closing than he’s previously had, but one which requires a touch of polish.
 
Scott Walker of the firm handshake was on second. He has a good presence, a confident delivery and good pacing. His material is decent, but he needs a killer line. I think with his competence in delivery a banker of a line to win the audience over will stand him in good stead and he could really rock a few venues. I enjoyed his set and his ad-lib to the nosebleed fellow was really nice.
 
After the first intermission it was Harriet Dyer. She was a bit of a change of pace to the preceding acts. She started off with a bit of a observational gag, which got a nice response, as a bit of silliness is entertaining. She got a decent response to the looking surprised reveal and a bigger one to the second igloo reveal. Her set was entertaining, but she did split the room a bit with her delivery. She never stays still, but rather than bounding from one side of the stage to the next, she appeared to be exercising and stretching on the spot. Along with the asides and throwaway comments, this gave her something of an unusual style, one which I found endearing, but which I think may have alienated some of the room. I’d estimate that the room was 60-40 in her favour after two minutes, but she did win a lot of the room round, so it probably ended up 80-20, with the 80% really enjoying her style.
 
After the second intermission it was the main event. It was Geoff Norcott with his preview of the The Book Of Moron. The night started at 2030 and he went on with an hour long preview at 2200, after 3 other acts and some good compering. I don’t think this was ideal. The hour was really good, but a lot of people had had a lot to drink and throughout his set people were constantly getting up to use the loo and also it was perhaps asking a lot for people to sit still for an hour at that time of night. It’s a tribute to his ability that he did as well as he did. He began by dealing with a couple who were talking, by heckling them in character. He’s really good at characterisation, bringing people to life in a way that is a positive bonus to his set. The Errol Flynn section seemed a bit convoluted and didn’t deliver as much as the set up promised, but the rest of the hour was thoroughly enjoyable. He had a fluency with his set that really sold the material and made it a good hour.

Edinburgh Preview – Mickey Sharma and Steve Bugeja

Tonight it was Mickey Sharma and Steve Bugeja at Nottingham’s Canal House for their Edinburgh Preview shows. The format was Mickey first, then Steve, with an intermission, but no interval during the sets. The crowd was smaller than I’d have liked, but it was pleasant and well mannered.
 
Mickey opened and warmed up the room with a spot of banter. He wasn’t helped by two sets of late arrivals and the noise of crockery from the kitchen, but soon settled down. His material was sexually explicit to a degree, nothing too strong, but it did seem strange to hear explicit jokes before 9pm, with daylight still streaming into the building. I think this was a bit of a handicap to his set, as if he’d gone on later in a club, the same material would have gone down a treat. A lot of his set was good solid stuff and his attempted delivery joke didn’t get the laughter it really should have. The ‘and that’s how I ended on a register’ reveal is one that although Mickey only uses it the once, is a bit overused by comedians, in my opinion. It’s become a bit of a stock phrase, like ‘that’s just how I roll’. He referred to his notes a couple of times, as he checked his progress in a routine that he is still trying out, but this didn’t interfere with what was a fluent performance and one that I felt was funnier than the room gave him credit for.
 
Steve Bugeja was previewing his ‘Day Release’ show. He’s a pleasant chap who reminded me of a young Steve Punt. As an icebreaker, he opened with a list of facts about himself. These set the scene quite nicely for a very affable routine, that achieved the double of being both structured and meandering. His delivery is at a conversation pace, but this is wonderful, as it gives you time to savour the various meanders to the story he is telling. Whilst he is getting on with the main story, he also goes down a number of paths in setting various scenes and these really add to the feel of the show. He could have perhaps improved the vanished truck stop part by saying that if he had died following the advice his passenger gave, it would have been of gullibility, as this would have been a nice checkback to his earlier part. His set ran for 53 minutes, but never felt in danger of outstaying its’ welcome. It was a charming set that held the room nicely.
 
The next gigs at the Canal House are the £1 night on the 8th of July and then another Edinburgh preview, with star of tv and radio, Nathan Caton on the 15th of July.
 

Comics reviewed: Benji Waterstones, Sean Turner, Ian Lane, Paul Savage, Robert Lane, Brennan Reece, Jo D’arcy, Rob Mulholland, Carl Jones, Davey Liddle, Athena Kublenu

Tonight it was English Comedian of the Year, quarter final held at The Atrium in Grantham, under Funhouse Comedy. This is a very pleasant venue, located upstairs in the function room. It has the look of a factory loft with big noisy aircon pipes running along the ceiling, but these were switched off during the gig. I wish the disco downstairs had been, too, as every so often this could be heard. There were only 4 people downstairs, but over 80 upstairs. It is lovely seeing extra chairs being put out at comedy gigs. The more people, the more atmosphere and the more atmosphere the more the comedians can work with and the more fun had by all. The playlist during the wait was a bit unlucky. Viva Las Vegas is fine, but Hey Jude, probably more suitable for Dignitas. There were 11 acts, 4, 4, 3 formation and doing 7 spots, which with 11 acts makes sense, but is a bit neither one nor the other when most acts work on 5/10/15/20 minutes.The whole room judged the acts by applause. This was a workable system, but did favour those who went on later. Out of the 11 acts, 8 were contenders for the 3 progression spots, with one stand out winner. It was an incredibly strong bill and one of the best nights I’ve seen so far, this year. Spiky Mike was compere.

Benji Waterstones opened. He had some interesting observations and unlike an act I saw a month ago, his were not only accurate, but also incredibly funny. He was a quiet act, with low levels of energy who got strong laughs from his material. He received a good laugh for his use of the word plums and had a cracking check back to his club card stuff. A talented comic who was lovely to watch.

Sean Turner was second up. He had an off beat style that involved a lot of audience interaction and may have benefitted from going on later. He has possibly the broadest Geordie accent apart from Oz and did a number of short routines. Whilst there were no real surprise reveals, he had a good sense of timing and whilst not going through he didn’t have a bad night.

Ian Lane was third in. He started with an impression of Canary Wharf, which wasn’t perhaps the strongest start, but did lead to a great lighthouse gag, referencing one of the revelations discovered during the compering of Spiky Mike. This being such a fresh allusion got a powerful response from the room. He followed this up with a mixture of jokes, prop gags and banter with a few audience members, giving a well rounded feel to his set. During the banter he got a response from an audience member that momentarily upstaged his original question, but he succeeded in trumping this with his own come back. He was a strong contender for progression.

Paul Savage closed the first session. He has a relaxed presence and delivered a number of well structured observations. These were good, but didn’t seem to get the response they should have. I think he was unlucky with the running order. The first three comics had all done gags and short routines, whereas Paul’s observations were just a bit longer and the audience were used to shorter build ups and perhaps a bit jarred by the change in pace. I may perhaps be wrong with this diagnosis, but he didn’t get the consistent feedback his material deserved, although this did get better as he went along. His car routine went down well and the physical comedy he showed with his sidestep on the word ‘but’ was particualrly well received.

Opening after the intermission was Robert Lane. He opened with an impression of Liam Neeson in Taken – the special set of skills speech. The room enjoyed this more than I did. This is the 3rd time in 8 days I’ve heard a comedian use this exact speech and it is perhaps getting used too often for my taste. This was followed up by a strong joke about how he used to feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body, till his mum gave birth to him. This is a very strong joke. In fact it is that strong, it was used, more or less hourly, two years ago on Radio 4 to advertise a comedy season on Radio 4 Extra. However, it was new enough to the audience not to make much difference. Robert did one liners, most of these worked very well, some not so well, but with one liners, if one misses, then another is along in 20 seconds, so that is all to the good. He closed with two impressions, but perhaps spent too long on them for the return.

Brennan Reece was next. He hit the audience with a lot of energy and made an immediate impact. He had a very clever set and with his skill at drawing mental pictures he went down a storm. He was the first of the entrants to receive an applause break. This was then topped by a second applause break. His material, delivery and demeaner reaped a well deserved massive response and he was the eventual winner, to no one’s surprise.

The impressive Jo D’Arcy had the tricky act of following Brennan. Luckily she has a sure touch with an audience and was helped a bit by one of the audience having admitted to being a teacher. This gave her a delicious lead into her material about teaching. The room responded well to her presence and gave her a lot of appreciation as she went through a strong set. Although she didn’t progress, it was a close run thing.

Rob Mulholland closed the second part. I’ve found him to be consistently funny and tonight was no exception. The reaction from the audience was a touch quiet to begin with. He hit them with solid material and seemed to get little back. However, this turned around part way through when he used some darker material and received some loving groans. Following this, he went from strength to strength and ended up with 2 applause breaks, also. He judged the 7 minutes very well. He progressed to the next round.

Final section was opened by Carl Jones, who is a conversationalist in style. His first joke seemed to have a long build, but got a good laugh for the reveal, then a bigger laugh for the second reveal. His embarassing bodies section went down very well, being eminently accessible to the audience and he never put a foot wrong. He also progressed to the next round.

Davey Liddle had an unlucky night. He’s good comic, with strong material and good pacing, but tonight he seemed to stutter a bit with pacing for 7 minutes. He began extremely well, setting a fast pace. His Jaguar routine is a banker, he got an applause break for the take away stuff, with consistent laughs for everything else. He had reached that stage, were every time he finished speaking the room laughed and was looking like a real contender for the next round. Then at about the 6.20 mark, he seemed to reach the end of what he had planned to say in 7 minutes and took just that bit too long to mentally calculate which parts of his repertoire could fill the remaining time. This broke his momentum and was a really disappointing finish to what had been a powerful set.

Athena Kublenu was the final act. The hair reveal wasn’t too unexpected, but the rest of her set was very good and hung together nicely. The room enjoyed her material and she delivered it smoothly, getting her best response to the ovaries line.

This was an incredibly good night, with some very talented people taking part.

The Cookie, Ian Hall, Bruce Edhouse, Lindsey Carroll, Jason Neale, Chris Norton Walker, Ishi Khan-Jackson, Jo D’arcy, Daniel Nicholas and Phil Jarvis

Tonight was Club Smashing at the Cookie in Leicester. A venue easy to find, as there was a large group (plural: Giggle of?) of comedians stood outside. The actual comedy takes place in the cellar/bomb shelter below the club, a place with good acoustics and a nice atmosphere. As this is totally separate to the pub area upstairs, only those people interested in the comedy are there and there are no interuptions, which is a massive bonus. Tonight was a night for not only new material, but also one where comedians can try experimental avante garde material that isn’t mainstream. £3 entrance was a bargain price. The night did get off to a rum start, when it was discovered that one of the microphone’s wasn’t working. I felt this should have been sorted out long before the night started. On the plus side, this gave Ian Hall and Bruce Edhouse a chance to improvise whilst it was looked into, which was good fun in itself.
The audience consisted largely of local comedians, their friends and other people on the Leicester circuit. Whilst this was nice, it also made the gig feel a bit exclusive to someone from outside the area. There were a lot of injokes and references that only people in the know would get, which would have been missed by anyone who had walked in from off the street. This gave it something of the atmosphere of a works’ do for the local circuit. The other problem with this is that for anyone there trying new material, they have a friendly, rather than a neutral audience and it must make it harder for them to judge its’ value.
Compering were Lindsey Carroll and Jason Neale, as characters, Meaty and Simon le Bon. Although this was an experimental night, I wasn’t totally sold on the characters, but I was impressed by the people behind them. Lindsey, had the voice of an extra in a Guy Ritchie film and the language to match. She received good laughs for this and finished with a great song. Jason Neale wasn’t given much to do, very much playing second fiddle. However, he made the most of the few lines he did have, with a great sense of timing for saying yes, no and 777. He was able to transmit mirth by facial expression which isn’t easy. I’d like to see both of these do a set, as I felt they had talent beyond what I saw.
Chris Norton Walker was first act and was trying some new material about being a failed actor. In the basement, he appeared to be roughly the size of King Kong and his personality filled the room in proportion. He has great comic instincts and got laughs from just mugging for the camera of a lady at the front. The actor routine gave him a wonderful chance to go through programmes he may appear in and various roles he has actually had. Although the St Crispin’s Day speach wasn’t intrinsically funny, he still got mirth from it. He did a thoroughly good set and received lots of laughs.
Ishi Khan-Jackson was doing a new character act, NaanE Swami. She has a cheerfulness about her that the audience picks up on and can’t help but like. At first she stood a bit too far forwards and was outside the stage lighting, stood in the gloom. A large proportion of her act was ad-libbed, but all the better for it. Her stage of relationship contraception routine was good, but I feel she could have gotten a bigger laugh if after coil she had gone a bit darker and used ‘anal’ as the final one. Her set was very enjoyable and went down well.
Bruce Edhouse was on after the intermission. He’s an amiable chap who comes across well. He did a few sketches with some people from the audience (local comics on a night off I think). The coffee house one had shades of the Two Ronnies, which is a compliment, as one could readily picture Barker doing the play on words. The sketch with Ian Hall needed a bigger finish, but it was an entertaining set and I can see why these two work well together.
Jo D’Arcy was trying new material. Like CWN, she dominated the room. She is great with audience interaction and makes everyone feel they are invited into the fun. She did some stuff about online dating, which as a topic, seems to be in every comedian’s armoury at the moment. However, she didn’t spend too long on it and instead it opened the door to some really nice material about her previous career. The Spanish gag is a solid banker and I really liked it. Her asides are great and really add value to her set.
Daniel Nicholas closed the second session. He’s an interesting act and one who may sometimes possibly split a room. Some people won’t get his humour, but those who do will like him a lot. His sets are a tad surreal and he has the expression on his face of a man who is wondering if this is really happening or if he is dreaming it. This is no drawback, as it compliments his routine nicely. He got good laughs from the off just out of saying Hi before getting 2 volunteers onto the stage to join a microphone stand in an entertaining nonsense game. He built up some good comic tension with said microphone stand before finishing. A good surreal set.
Ian Hall opened the last session as A Leicester Crowley, a character piece. I like Ian. He gives the impression of being game for a laugh and certainly lives a role once he is in it. He made a nice use of words in this guise, playing a bit with the emphasis of various syllables. I enjoyed the first part of his poltergeist routine, but felt the second part was a bit expected. He had a strange end to his set when the comperes came back on stage. I wasn’t sure if he was overrunning or not, however, it did make the ending feel a bit anticlimatic.
Phil Jarvis closed. He was trying out a few characters. He spent a lot of time asking people if they read Wire magazine before asking Matt Hollins, who said he wrote for it. This led to an injoke for the local scene. His set showed creativity and talent and certainly lived up to the remit of the night being for new and different things.

Roadhouse: Rob Kemp (MC), Danny Beek, Tom Christian, Paul Savage, Rich Burley, Trevor Never, Dave Tomlinson, Josh Pugh, Jon Pearson and Sam Pressdee

This was at the Roadhouse in Birmingham. It resembles the living room of a brothel, albeit one located in the middle of a rock concert. The numbers weren’t great and acts outnumbered punters, but the place as a nice feel to it. It feels like a place for comedians, despite the appalling noise coming from the concert next door. Tonight was a new material night and so all comics have been reviewed with this in mind.
Rob Kemp was MC and achieved something almost unique in comedy gigs, in that he got it started on time. This doesn’t often happen, normally thing seem to run 15 minutes late. He more or less worked his way around the room saying hello to people and had a lovely touch with getting one of the acts to pop onto the stage to tell everyone the ground rules This made everyone feel included in the gig, rather than it just being acts and audience. He had a bit of a scattergun approach with material, but this was nice and worked well. He was enjoyable to watch and seemed to inject cheerfulness just by being himself, really.
Tom Christian opened with a surprisingly soft and mild voice. His reverse Tourette’s was very good and just as he was settling, newcomers arrived who messed up his momentum. They then compounded this, by having their phone ring and then linger in answering it. I’d have preferred him to have his new material written on a bit of paper, rather than for him to consult his phone every so often, as again, this was a detriment to his rhythm. His set was new material and some bits hit harder than others, but he received a good response.
Josh Pugh was the second act on, again doing new material. He was one of the people who had attracted me to go down south for this gig. His material was a mixture of one-liners and short routines and it didn’t disappoint. The reverse Susan Boyle was good, Groupon was really good, but the punchball material didn’t seem to go far and the babe station bit perhaps needs more work. However, this was new material being tried out and the hits far outnumbered the misses. I thought he was very impressive.
Third up was Paul Savage. This was very new material, first time spoken material. He has a good presence on stage and is very likeable. The videogame routine was good, but some of the rest of his new material was very much a work in progress. It certainly shows potential and there is the basis of a good set that just requires a spot of honing.
After the first intermission, it was character act Trevor Never. This is a new character, who is a Yorkshireman upset about the lack of provision of space for Crown Green Bowling. Personally, it didn’t appeal to me, but in fairness, everyone else enjoyed it and he received good laughs. He was very convincing in the role and pulled it off in a way that was technically excellent and whilst it wasn’t my cup of tea, there is mileage in it.
We then had a new act, Rich Burley. He had a habit of swinging from side to side, which at first I found a tad irritating, but after a minute, I was lost in the entertainment of his act. I liked his Primark joke and his Peaky Blinders stuff. His slip with using the word playstation instead of police station actually has the makings of a good little sub routine. Some of his local references puzzled me, as an outsider and may not travel well if he gigs further afield. I also thought that whilst his Liam Neeson special skill set impression was nice, it is a tad overused by comics at the moment. With more stage time, he will have a good strong 6-7 minutes with this material.
Dave Tomlinson was doing new material – one liners. It’s not often that new material gets an applause break, but he managed it. The Marianne Faithful joke split the room a tad, with the only people getting it being those of a certain age. The ex-wives running joke was lovely. I was sorry to see him finish when he did, as he was doing extremely well.
Jon Pearson was trying new material that will be in his Edinburgh show. Some of this I saw last week in Nottingham. It is, naturally, still a work in progress. The part about naming kids worked well, the grouting is a banker, but the butchery needs more of a punchline to it. He has a similar stage presence to Paul Savage.
The final section consisted of two acts, Sam Pressdee and Danny Beeks.
Danny Beeks was doing new material based on the events in the news. This gave it a feeling of the now, which was rather nice. He could do with working on his delivery a tad, as he reminded me a touch of a deputy headmaster making an announcement about running in corridors. With a bit more energy he may achieve more with the same routine. However, in fairness, it can’t be easy to deliver comedy when someone is rocking out at volume 11 thirty feet away with just a couple of flimsy doors between you.
Sam Pressdee – on the positive side, she was confident and had a certain amount of charm that took her so far. However, on the negative side – she had no material beyond an anecdote concerning Russell Brand and a squat she was involved in. At first I thought she was running a slow burning set, building up to something, but it never arrived. Looking around the room, people were talking to themselves and fidgeting. This wasn’t really comedy. Her finale was getting her chest out; the point of which I’m still wondering at. I’m not sure if it was feminist empowerment, a treat for the audience or just how she finishes most conversations.

Scott Bennett, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Patrick Morris, Jon Pearson, Chris Stiles, Carl Jones, Patrick Casey, Jisnu Soni and Jo D’arcy (MC)

NCF £1 new material / new acts night at Canal House tonight. This is my favourite gig, as it has a lovely vibe and whilst there are nights with more established acts, this offers a wonderful chance for acts to try new stuff and for new acts to gain stage time. It was a smaller crowd than usual tonight, but a well behaved one, if mute to begin with.

MC was Jo D’Arcy​, who is delightful, having a big personality that fills the room. She avoided the pitfalls of many MCs by not taking a census of the audience and instead picked on people at random. Her opening victim was on the back row, which was a very shrewd choice, as it ensured that everyone perked up, as obviously there was no hiding place. She did well to perk up a crowd whose default position was mute and really added to the evening.

Opening was Jisnu Soni, who didn’t seem to make much of an impression on the room. He got a good laugh for his routine about meals, but could have done better if he had perhaps engaged the room a bit more.

Patrick Casey made a strong start and impressed me with a fair bit of very current material from recent news. This definitely made his routine relevant and up to date and this also helped grab the audience. He wasn’t helped by a late arriving audience member walking right in front of him, but he did get laughs from it. His delivery is possibly a touch fast, but this is an extremely minor quibble. The police texting material was very strong and he wasn’t afraid of talking to the audience. He would have made a nice opener.

Carl Jones was doing new material. I’ve seen him before and liked what I saw. He has a nice style and of his new material, the now and then sexting stuff has potential, however the 50 year olds kissing seemed a big build for a small payoff. However, this is the night to try stuff like that out. His discussion about his dad texting in fullstops was good, but he may consider changing the celeb to Stephen Hawking, as although he is overused he does seem to fit the joke better. He was very enjoyable and I look forwards to seeing the final result of his work.

Chris Stiles had a really good night. I’ve seen him four times and this was by far his best night yet. He opened with some established material, but got a better result than previously with it. The Clairvoyant material is good and went down well. The pilot from Barnsley worked extremely well and the down to earthness of him sounding like someone’s dad was a joy. He had a bigger presence that previously, as he made more eye contact with the room and the room responded to this. His pacing had improved, too and I feel he has made a definite step forwards.

Jon Pearson​ was trying new material, too. This was a work in progress, but shows a lot of potential and I’ve got a lot of confidence in his ability to make the most out of it. The Polish reference fell a bit flat, but that is easily reworked. Sexy cats got a nice reception, as did his material about his friend. The bathroom renovation part was extremely good. He has no trouble holding a room at all.

Patrick Morris was also doing new material. He got a lot of good laughs for his hip hop section and his fast paced delivery worked well. He had a good night.

Jeanette Bird-Bradley was doing her second performance and delivered it with confidence. If she is going to play to bigger venues, she will need to consider enlarging her artwork, as it will be harder for people to see it and she should also consider showing it to the left of the stage, centre, then the right, as when she held it up, it was difficult to see from where I was sat. She got laughs, but not a lot of her material landed heavily. She may do better to build momentum if she were to edit her set down a touch and pick up the pace.

Scott Bennett​ was doing new material, too. Bennett and Pearson on the same bill! Two rising acts with bags of talent. Bennett has a lot of stage craft, he’s very aware of the value of a pause, of a look to the audience as the reveal unfolds and when to banter and when to return to material. That is excellent. Of the new stuff, karate worked well, the collander check back was great and the poems wonderful. He’s a good comic and once he’s finished honing this material he will have something as strong as his Toby Carvery set, which I think everyone enjoys.

Andy Baines, Ashley Gibson, Aston Gallagher, Callum Tingham, Chris Stiles, Danny Clives, Davey Rivers, Erika Benning, Harry Sanders, Liam Webber, Niall O’Sullivan, Rob Stevenson and Sean Hollywood

Tonight was Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands​ Gong Show at All bar One in Derby. This is an open air venue, with a bit of a roof and heaters, with enough folliage to make it quite pleasant. The stage is bigger than some venues I’ve been in and has plenty of room. There was a nice crowd, quite sizable and it wasn’t packed out by any entrant having bussed in everyone they knew. The format was 2 minutes or so guaranteed time and then the rest was subject to a vote by 5 members of the audience. Tonight there were a number of interesting acts (Davey Rivers for one), some with potential, but no one with the immediate quality of Rivka Uttley​ who I’ve seen stand out at a gong show before. The acts have been reviewed with the fact it was a gong show in mind. Compere was Spiky Mike​

Andy Baines had a confident start, drawing good verbal pictures. He was happy to reference the room and work with the audience, which was nice, but his school loo routine was a long build up for a low powered reveal.

Ashley Gibson​ was an act I was interested in seeing. He opened and possibly suffered a bit from the running order, as he seemed to struggle to gain the room. He did one liners, but some of these, like the joke about a hole and people are looking into it are a bit old. Perhaps if he had come at it with tons of energy, he may have gotten better results. He was confident on stage and perhaps if he tried a different approach, such as prop comedy, he may find his comedy voice.

Aston Gallagher had his first ever gig. He got some nice applause for his ebola material, but perhaps didn’t need to spend time explaining what Skegness was like. The material about sponsoring a dog who can speak is a well travelled path and he did run out of steam before the end, but to his credit, he carried on and got laughs from that.

Callum Tingham wasted a bit of time explaining Tinder, as most non-users know the score with it. His material was a touch weak, but as it is a gong show, this is not unexpected. To counter balance this, he did have a nice delivery.

Chris Stiles delivered a monologue, but had improved since I last saw him. It wasn’t a bad routine, although it was low on jokes, the entertainment was in the journey to the reveal. He would benefit from more audience interaction, not that he need banter with everyone, but more an acknowledgement of other people being in the room. I think he would get a good response from that and all it would take is perhaps a few nods, winks, ‘that guy knows’ sort of thing. The material about the clairvoyant was the stand out part.

Danny Clives was an interesting comic. He had a slow start and seemed to be underpowered. I didn’t enjoy his set for the first 4 and a half mnutes of the 5. However, this is no reflection on him, as 25 other people in the room did enjoy it. He got better the longer he was on and got decent laughs for his material. I’d like to see him again, as he did grow on me towards the end and like I say, although he didn’t impress me from the off, he did almost everyone else.

Davey Rivers was one of the stand out acts of the night. He made a good start and had some very good room work. He was confident and seemed a bit of a cut above the rest of the entrants in style, confidence and maturity as an act. He got good laughs from good material, but what impressed me most was his pacing. He had this exactly right. I thought he was a real contender for winning, but it din’t happen for him tonight.

Erika Benning was enjoyable to watch. She had nice material that was well put together and offered a change in pace to the previous comics up. She was confident and this showed in her ability to banter with the room and throwing out some nice ad libs. She had a habit of calling the audience ‘team’ which was really endearing and made it feel quite inclusive. She narrowly won.

Harry Sanders was a nice act to watch he made a slow start, but did well with where he placed emphasis on words. He didn’t have to shout or swear for emphasis, he just used the way he would stress various syllables of a word. He had some wonderful material about cannibals hunting, but his section on toasties didn’t really seem to go anywhere. He was another act who got stronger the longer he was on. He came second after a narrow series of votes.

Liam Webber had an enjoyable routine with a different style to the other entrants. He wasn’t quite surreal, but one could imagine him floating off on a tangent. He seemed to be inhabited by four different characters at a time, with his hands making two more. I was quite surprised when he didn’t make the final cut.

Niall O’Sullivan had a reasonable delivery and his material was better than some, but not a lot of it landed heavily. He seemed to get less back from the audience than a lot of acts that weren’t as proficient as him. Possibly this was due to the fact that he is Irish and was doing material about Catholicism and since Dave Allen, every comedian from Ireland has done something on this.

Rob Stevenson is one of those chaps with bags of charisma and tonight this carried him a lot further than his material warranted. He had a nice line in banter and wasn’t afraid of engaging the room, but ultimately his lack of material told in the end. He has a good stage presence and if he can get some material and weld that to his charisma and touch with banter, he could achieve a hell of a lot more.

Sean Hollywood seemed confident enough and had some decent material about Harry Potter and some nice short stories, but his routine about a taxi and an ambulance seemed to peter out.

Wayne Deakin, Stephen Carlin, Jon Pearson, Rob Mulholland and Rivka Uttley

Funhouse Comedy Gig in Kirton in Lindsey, a nice country pub, pretty much off the beaten track. The room had a mixed age group, but was mostly over 40 and probably had 50-60 people in. A polite group of people, with little to zilch chance of a nast echo. The room had a low ceiling, which made it resemble a cellar and had a strange lay out in that the stage was next to the bar, 80% of the audience to the left of the stage and 20% to the front and far right of the stage. The bar was closed during performances. MC was Spiky Mike and the format was 20 opener, 3 middle 10s and 20 closer.
 
Opening was Stephen Carlin, who had a slow walk to the stage, getting there a few seconds after the applause had ended. He began with a routine about heroin, which got laughs, but did seem to get a muted response. This may be because it was too early in the night for it. He got a better response to his material on drinking, which may have been more relatable for the room. He had a nice reference to Doncaster, which got a laugh, but his brief foray into Jimmy Saville took him into material that is already well trodden. There was a bit of a jar in the routine when he discussed Gay marriage, which was odd, as this wasn’t moving into a new topic, but just continuing his topic from another direction and so should have been smoother. It was like seeing a WORD in capitals in the middle of a sentence. He got consistent laughs and went down well. Constructive advice: seemed to lose a bit of momentum at the 3/4 mark and could perhaps consider looking at that part.
 
After the intermission, Jon Pearson was the first of the ten spots up. He delivered his set off stage, stood on the floor, as he was a 6’6 chap in a 5’10 room. He started strongly and went through a smooth set that hung together well. He knew when to pause for the room to laugh, which was just as well, as he got better laughs than the opener, with a big round of applause when he finished. Constructive advice: the jokes in binary gag went over the heads of a few people, jokes in Klingon or something may be more accessible to audiences, instead?
 
Rob Mulholland was the second ten spot. He received nice applause for his Jarvis Cocker reference and with his big wide grin has a lot of charm. He momentarily lost some sympathy from the audience when he discussed weed, but very swiftly regained it when he used it as a springboard into some very good material. His suicide material is very strong and the memory loss gag was a gift that kept on giving. Constructive advice: pacing – fast, which is good, but just a tad slower may work better.
 
Rivka Uttley was the final 10 spot. She had a slow start and I was concerned that her set would be hurt by following two strong acts. However, she had the entire room listening to her, which was great. She held the room entirely. She began with some material about her cat, which was better in some places than others, before discussing dating. Her nice face line is a wonderful banker. She is similar to Millican in that she can say the crudest things in the sweetest way and reap a dividend in the form of laughter. She had a slow pace, but this really suited her material and delivery and she knew when to drop a quick aside in to get a laugh.
Constructive advice: the cat material is good, but some of it could be improved a bit.
 
The headliner was the Australian comic, Wayne Deakin. He has an easy going charm and won the room from the off. He has an unusual structure, where he started with material, did some banter, then closed with material, whereas most comics feel their way with banter before working into the material. This worked well enough and the banter was particularly enjoyable. A lot of his material was of the foreigner looking in variety, which is a bit of a staple of foreign comics. I, personally, don’t care much for a travellogue/letter back home discussing how an outsider sees us, but the room did. He got good laughs for his observations and his line about a boss 10,000 miles away set up a wonderful reveal. He had a good night from start to finish.