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.