Tonight I was at the Roadhouse Comedy in Birmingham for the New Act/New Material night and all acts have been reviewed with this in mind. The Roadhouse is a lovely little gig, very friendly and is what I’d call a comedian’s gig. A lot of the audience are made up of comics from the area, rather than passers by. There are just two problems with the venue – a rock night 20 yards away and a biker’s bar upstairs, where they appear to be doing the riverdance.
The compere tonight was Thomas Rackham an act I’ve enjoyed before. He has a nice delivery, a grin that helps sell the jokes and some individually lovely lines (vibrating orange for one), but could do with some different topics for his material. Wanking, McDonalds and 5 a day are all well travelled areas and it is hard to stand out when other people have tackled these. He’s a comic of ability, so with material dealing with alternative topics, delivered in the way he does, I think he will achieve a lot more.
The opening act was Dave Pollard. I’ve seen Pollard before on a night where a rowdy table loused up everyone’s acts, so it was nice to see him under better conditions. I’m very happy to say that he had a really good night, getting an applause break within one minute. Not many opening acts can do that. The persona he chose was that of an angry man, balanced on the edge of reason. This helped push his routine, but is possibly a doubled edged blade in that not all rooms will go for it and in a different environment could work against him. I’d be interested in him considering other methods of delivery that may have a broader appeal. Pollard had some really good material (Immature ejaculation being a banker), a cracking touch with a bald cap and some promising props. The props could do with being A3 at a minimum and if he were to announce them, it would help, as they were hard to make out 15′ away. He had a very good night, finding a level with blue material that wasn’t crude, getting good laughs and showing what he can do, which tonight was excellent.
Siobhan Sadlier was the next act on. She delivered her material not from notes, but from her phone. This isn’t ideal. She lost her place and spent a long time finding it, which by the third time wasn’t entertaining. She gave us an unexpected twenty minute monologue delivered in a monotone, read from her phone, rather than delivered. This set was light on laughs, but there was nothing totally irredeemable in her night. As a new act she could improve by editing her set down to 8-10 minutes, ditching the phone (notes are far better if you need them) and reworking her material to include more jokes.
The third act of this section was Josh Pugh, doing new material. Josh is a good solid act, who injects a lot of fun just through his presence. He opened with a lovely line about his spot being about material that may not make it to Edinburgh. This immediately won the room round. He’s got a confident delivery, a good presence and eclectic material. This all adds up to a nice performance. As this was new material, not all of it was first class, the Drive in needs a bit of work, but groupon and chipped animals are really good.
After the intermission it was Jon Pearson trying out some new material and amended new material. He was doing a short notice 20, after having planned for a 10, so this was always going to be interesting. On the debit side, the machine take over and the jockey sections need work, but there is something there. On the credit side, the holiday is good, the exercise magazine good enough for a round of applause and the gym routine I really loved, as did the audience. This bit is gold. It was hard to concentrate at times on Jon’s set, as it sounded as if a riot was taking place in the bar upstairs, however, this was an excellent performance, with even the bits requiring work being entertaining.
The next person in was Ashley Wright doing his first ever set. He made a good start with a nice joke, but then his material took a bit of a dip. As a newcomer, he made a few first time errors, such as not delivering all of his material into the microphone and crouching as if he were walking up a tunnel, but this was more than made up for by a reasonable delivery and above all, presence. He held the room very nicely. This wasn’t out of charity from the room to a first timer, but just through him having stage presence. With better material and let’s be fair, who has knockout material first time up, here is a man who can do comedy.
Tom Sullivan followed. His set was an experimental set, that as with all new material nights was a work in progress. The material delivered still needs work. However, the man delivering it has a nice delivery and again, he was a comedian who held the room. Considering the delivery, with more workable material, Sullivan has the ability to do well.
Simon Wozniak opened the final section. By this stage, there were 20 people left in the room. He made 19 of these laugh, including his fellow comedians, which isn’t always easy. He gave us a set that touched on gambling, work, people’s kids on facebook and meal deals. This was delivered in a fast and vitriolic manner, which the room responded well to. As it stands, I was the one person in the room who was proving that enjoying comedy is subjective. However, anyone who can make 95% of a room laugh is doing something very well, so I hope he continues.
Frasco Fools were the penultimate act. They deliver short sketches some good, some better than good, none really bad. They have some nice touches with props and screams and they are a talented bunch. However, I’m not sure they really fit into the flow of a comedy night. No matter how good a group are, they will always be something of a square peg for a round hole. This is a shame, as these have definitely got something going for them.
Chris Sullivan closed, doing new material. Within a minute of him beginning I was relaxed and enjoying his work. He collected a series of fine laughs for his material and was an act that I wished had spent more time on stage, as I was really getting into his set. He had nice material, a good stage presence and above all was funny. He is someone I hope to see more of.