End of the month review

This month I’ve seen 69 acts and these are the ones that have impressed me most over August.

The first three acts are more than capable of holding a room for 20 minutes and whilst Cowards is a professional comic, both Draper and Pagett have the ability to join him on the circuit.

Patrick Draper

Draper has consistently given good performances every time I’ve seen him. Also he has continued to improve, adding material to his set almost every gig. He’s not got a massive presence online and I’d argue falls into the category of acts that aren’t as well known as they should be.

My review from when I saw him:

The main event of the night was Patrick Draper’s Edinburgh Preview of his show – Totally Vacuous. Tonight he showed why he was in the final of the English Comedian of the year, giving a highly impressive performance. He is an act that just seems to get better every time I see him. There is a cracking running postcode gag, some enjoyable songs and a set that flowed very nicely with lovely visuals. The opening gag does work better when it is written on his hand, but this is a very minor quibble. Out of all of the Edinburgh Previews I have seen, his is the only one to get 5 applause breaks.

Tony Cowards

I’ve only seen Cowards once, but he gave a really good show. He was compering and made it look effortless. I’d like to see a full set from him, as he demonstrated something rather entertaining that night.

Review from the night: Cowards (sporting a beard) gave a sterling performance tonight. He swiftly identified a football team sat at the front and singled them out for his attention. With this, he exhausted any propensity for them to shout out and won them over to the night. he gave the room some groan inspiring, yet also incredibly funny puns. It was nice to hear the bog room fill with laughter from the off. A lot of comperes will warm a room up and get a few laughs, instead Cowards gave good entertainment value. He ran through the rules and stayed on long enough to do his job without threatening to dominate the night.

Phil Pagett

The third of the acts that have impressed me most this month is Mr Phil Pagett. I’ve seen him twice doing ten minute spots and it would be nice to see him do his twenty minute set. One liner comics are a minority on the circuit and Pagett stands out as being very nifty at it.

Review from the night: Opening after the first intermission was Phil Pagett, a very clever one liner expert who I think could go a long way. I’ve seen Pagett before at a gig in Derby, where he was one of the few acts who weren’t messed around by a drunken table. Tonight he demonstrated his talent to a more appreciative audience, getting a good laugh from his opening line and then carrying on from there. His puns came thick and fast with a high ratio of hits to them; probably 90% hit home hard. He got deeper laughs when he did a combination of puns on a subject and built up the momentum, rather than for the stand alone jokes. However, he gave the room an excellent time and showed how time is relative – his ten minutes seemed to fly by all too soon. Pagett is a man to watch for the future.

The remaining comics all performed at open mike nights and impressed me by their talents. These are people to watch develop over the next few years or so.

Phil Reid

Review of the night: Phil Reid followed, giving a very strong performance. He had a nice opening with the meaning of names, allowing him to reference people in the room and some lovely reveals on his own name. He had a slight dip when he discussed his second kid, but this was only slight. The second reveal on turning into his dad was excellent. He went with a spot of room work, which considering he opened with material gave a well rounded feel to his set. It didn’t surprise anyone when he was the eventual winner.

Michael Dryburgh

Reviews: Opening was Michael Dryburgh. He hit the ground running with a joke about working class, that had two laughs, one when he said it and then another 5 seconds later when the other half of the room got the joke. His material about his ex is a banker and there was real joy on the second reveal concerning his break up. He got consistent laughs from the room, including an applause break. He’s progressing very nicely with a pretty solid 10 and had a good night.

and

Michael Dryburgh was the third of the finalists and he demonstrated how well things are going for him at the moment. He is a comedian who has definitely moved up a gear. He received laughs for everything he said on a five minute slot that must have been tricky to edit his ten down into. It was lovely to watch him and the room really went with him, which as last act on a long night is something.

Thomas Rackham

There is one more act who opened, but who I have saved for last on the grounds that he had an outstanding night: Mr Thomas Rackham. It’s not often that you see someone smash a new material night with actual new material, but tonight he did this. His notion of a new computer game received strong laughs, the part about Hitler and cuddly animals even better laughs, the reworked milky legs section now flows smoothly, but above all he has struck gold with a development of an insult to his hair. In this he slid into darker material, but used in this context, I think it is more likely to result in an applause break than offence. One of his lines was so good, i was still laughing at it when he began the next joke. The improvement in the 6 days since I last saw Rackham is remarkable. He now has stand out material to match his delivery. A true highlight of the night.

Kind Bar Lincoln – charity gig – Fran Jenking, Steve Rimmer, Jed Salisbury and Tony Hayward (MC)

A charity gig in a town centre pub on a Saturday night; what could go wrong with that?

Tonight I was at the Kind Bar in Lincoln for a charity gig organised by Colin Hayward on behalf of Nepal. Charity gigs have something of a rum reputation in the comedy world, as they can range from full on professional gigs to a well meaning person in a pub asking the MC who has come by train why he hasn’t brought a stage and sound system with him. I went to this gig for three reasons, the bills on at Jongleurs and Glee didn’t really grab me tonight, it’s for a good cause and these gigs have a way of throwing up pleasant surprises in the way of acts.

Lincoln didn’t take as long to get to as I expected, but as I don’t go there often I didn’t know any side streets to cache my car, so spent £5 to park. Getting from the car park to the venue involved enough bridges, stairs, subways and water hazards to give me expectations of emerging in the Aztec zone on the Crystal maze. However, the Kind Bar was easy enough to find.

The acts were all present, a microphone stand was sourced and we were ready to go apart from for one crucial aspect – there wasn’t an audience. Well there was one of sorts. 5 comedians, the organiser, a reviewer and associated driver’s and spouses, but not one single civilian. The bar was busy, there were lots of people, but they were all at the bottom end, having a night out. These people weren’t noisy in a nasty way, they were just on a circuit of pubs and were having one here before moving on. They were noisy, though and it was a constant fight against this backdrop. Every so often there would be the sort of noise that made you think a stag had been hoisted aloft by his friends or that a conga line was about to wend its’ way by the stage. All night everyone had to make a conscious effort not to turn around to see what the latest bedlam was all about. The compere was Tony Hayward.

Hayward was both organiser and compere and it is very much to his credit that he tried to do a nice thing. He worked hard at trying to get some order in the room, but between the anvil of a Saturday night and the hammer of being in Lincoln town centre, he was on a hiding to nothing. He did manage to lower the noise slightly, but with constant traffic in and out of the pub, this was rather like emptying a bath with a tennis racket. On a similar theme, the smoking area of the pub, which like the Golden Fleece was located adjacent to the stage, was closed off during performances. However, new comers weren’t aware of this and so a few walked by the stage before being turned back. It’s impossible to review his work as a compere tonight, as it was just crowd control of a totally indifferent changing set of revellers. I doubt anyone could have done much with the crowd in there this evening. The opening act was Fran Jenking.

I say opening act, Fran was actually second up. The chap who kicked off proceedings was a representative of the charity the night was in aid of. He helped build the mood by demonstrating how the cause was worthy by a ten minute slide show of scenes of devastation, poverty and destitution. This wasn’t exactly the sort of build up an opening act would have asked for, all things being equal. By this time everyone involved knew the night was ridiculous. It was essentially five comics playing to each other and friends and a floating pool of civllians, but never more than two. Jenking made the best of it. He referenced how ludicrous it was to good laughs and he gave us a very enjoyable 15 minutes. He mostly bantered his way through his set, with sprinklings of material, a lot of it new. Some of this was of a high order – kids and relationships were both good. I’ve only seen Jenking twice, but he is a likeable chap and he’s not afraid to go off piste with his work. I’d love to watch him compere, as I’ve a very strong feeling that there is an excellent MC there. As it was, tonight, he gave an enjoyable performance and made the best of a bad job.

Steve Rimmer, the bomb disposal comedian, opened after the intermission. He wasn’t meant to be going on in this spot, but the act that was, a new act, bailed after getting an attack of the nerves. I’d not seen Rimmer before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. He began with injecting some energy into the room, before putting his head down and launching into his set. This relied on a lot of visuals projected onto a screen and could be split into two parts: a routine based around his job and material based on photoshop. Of this, the works based material was very much the A side. He had a recurring knob gag that worked well the first two times, but which would benefit from a twist on the third and fourth outings as this would add value to it. He demonstrated what I’d consider to be an interesting middle ten section that would work well on quite a few bills. It would shake up the format of a night of comics with a microphone and add a bit of a change of tack to a night. Rimmer got laughs tonight and despite the audience (lack of) he did well. I’ve only got two concerns with his act. One is how can he develop it further. Work based material is ok, but it’s hard to get more than five minutes of good material from any job. The other is that by being so reliant on visuals a longer spot could stray into the territory of the works’ wag giving a humorous presentation at a team building event. Rimmer delivered his material well and this material was decent, but I’m curious as to how he can develop his act.

Jed Salisbury followed Rimmer and showed the pleasant surprises that nights like this can throw your way. He’s got a big presence and has a voice that carries. He gave his performance from the floor of the room, rather than the stage and didn’t suffer for it. Salisbury opened with some solid jokes getting a good laugh and building some momentum. His delivery was a bit fast, at times he veered towards sounding as if he was auditioning for a job as an auctioneer, but I think that may be a reaction to the audience tonight. Either way, he’d have gotten a better response by going at a more natural pace. His set had some very nice touches indeed. His buffet section was really enjoyable, as was his closing routine. Salisbury demonstrated a fair bit of talent tonight and he is someone who I’d very much like to see again.

I missed the closer, Kevin Connerley as I had to leave early owing to work.

Eastwood – Barry Dodds, Phil Pagett, Ben Briggs and Dan Thomas

Tonight I was in Eastwood for Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands​ night as part of the DH Lawrence festival. This is a venue I’d not been to before, but seemed to be a cross between a snooker club and a pub. It’s the only room I’ve been in with 3 darts boards, anyway. The room had a nice layout, the only concern being the main door to the outside world being next to the stage, meaning any late comer would walk by the performer. The night had a nice bonus in free parking and pretty decent numbers. Compere was Spiky Mike​ and the opening act was Barry Dodds.

I’ve seen Dodds once before when he was compering at the Lescar in Sheffield. I’ve also read a lot about him in Chris Brooker’s excellent gig – this made it all the more embarrassing when I forgot that I’d seen him. Mea culpa. In Sheffield he made a promising start, which was spoilt by a chap dropping a tray of pint glasses right in front of him. Tonight he began with no distractions. He began quickly, too, with words coming out fast, not too fast, but enough to set a good pace. It was nice to see the room settle so quickly and for them to be hanging on his word. As a Geordie transplanted to Nottingham he had plenty of local references and this added to his appeal. He was speaking to the room of things which they had in common, rather than feeling like he had parachuted in. His material was nicely constructed and went very well. I did feel that the energy level dropped a bit during the university section, albeit not by much. The ghost segment is pleasant and the Manc accent used during one of the reveals is a very cracking addition that helps sell it. The housemate routine is splendid and got big laughs, but this was surpassed by his camping material. This was extremely good and there is an Edinburgh show in this that I want to see. There was one rather annoying interruption during his set, when a chap came in through a side door and walked through the audience to see if his wife wanted a drink before he eventually sat down. Dodds took this in his stride, got a couple of laughs out of it, but I felt it was poor form on the part of the newcomer. Dodds received 3 applause breaks and left the room very pleased with a very enjoyable opening set.

Opening after the first intermission was Phil Pagett, a very clever one liner expert who I think could go a long way. I’ve seen Pagett before at a gig in Derby, where he was one of the few acts who weren’t messed around by a drunken table. Tonight he demonstrated his talent to a more appreciative audience, getting a good laugh from his opening line and then carrying on from there. His puns came thick and fast with a high ratio of hits to them; probably 90% hit home hard. He got deeper laughs when he did a combination of puns on a subject and built up the momentum, rather than for the stand alone jokes. However, he gave the room an excellent time and showed how time is relative – his ten minutes seemed to fly by all too soon. Pagett is a man to watch for the future.

Next was Ben Briggs, an act I’ve long had an interest in. I’ve only seen him do short new material nights prior to this and it was obvious that he has three things about him: a willingness to tackle difficult areas, the ability to split a room when doing so and a heck of a lot of talent for making the people who go with him laugh. There are a few comedians who touch on dark material, but most only dip their toes in it and shy away from anything that may alienate the audience. Others will say something dark for shock value and have no real routine beyond that. Briggs is different. He embraces areas other comedians leave alone and that is refreshing. Even more refreshing is that he can get so much out of it. He deals with this area with a panache that really sets him apart from anyone else I’ve seen tackle it. He does have the ability to split a room, as does anyone going dark. Not everyone will want to hear Charlie Hebbo, or a plane crash used on stage, but this is a shame, as Briggs isn’t being unpleasant or negative in his choice, quite the opposite. He is also very funny with it. One of the areas he explored tonight was facebook, a topic I had considered to be fairly well travelled, but he found something different to discuss and made the entire room laugh with it. Briggs does some wonderful physical actions that complement his jokes and add to the value of his performance, although he does have a tendency to look to the left of the stage as he delivers material. He got 2 applause breaks tonight and I would argue had the gig of the night. I really enjoyed his set and the rest of the audience were very complimentary about it, too.

Dan Thomas closed the night. He was a worthy closer, adding a lot of energy to the final section. This is the first time I’d seen him and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Tonight he used the audience interacting with him a lot, mining this for leads into his material. This is a tactic that can be risky if the room is cold or drunk, but tonight it worked a treat. He’d ask a question, get a response, riff with it, before blending it into the next section. He had the ability to not get bogged down, nor to concentrate too much on one group as I’ve seen before with another comedian. This meant that everyone felt involved in his set and it really drew the audience in, making it feel rather inclusive and as if we were all part of something. He had some wonderful material about boulders, which he acted out to my joy, Rainbow and baby monitors. He gave a nice end to the night and was thoroughly enjoyable.

It’s not often that you attend a comedy night where all of the performers have a really good night. Often there is one that for whatever reason, the room fails to embrace. This wasn’t a night like that. This was a night where everyone was hugely appreciated by the audience and it was a lovely night to have gone to.

Bentinck – Tony Cowards (Mc), Big Lou, Harry Stachini, Billy Lowther and Wes Zaharuk

Tonight I was at Bentinck Miner’s Welfare for FAF promotions​ gig there. The venue is what you’d expect of a miner’s welfare – a big room, parquet flooring and a decent sort of crowd. I wasn’t expecting not one but two Stannah stairlifts or the hook a cuddly toy machine, but they added to the charm of the venue. There was a fair sized crowd in, the tables were laid out properly all facing the stage and the bar staff knew their business. They didn’t collect empties during sets and closed the bar. FaF run some very nice nights and they have a professional approach taking care of these details and they also manage to get some really good comics. On a side note, it was nice to see local talent in the shape of Chris Richmond there supporting the night. The MC was Mr Tony Cowards.

Cowards (sporting a beard) gave a sterling performance tonight. He swiftly identified a football team sat at the front and singled them out for his attention. With this, he exhausted any propensity for them to shout out and won them over to the night. he gave the room some groan inspiring, yet also incredibly funny puns. It was nice to hear the bog room fill with laughter from the off. A lot of comperes will warm a room up and get a few laughs, instead Cowards gave good entertainment value. He ran through the rules and stayed on long enough to do his job without threatening to dominate the night.

Big Lou Jones opened and made an immediate impression with a stream of good gags delivered at a quick pace. His material felt very relevant and struck a chord with a lot of the audience, helping it hit home. The laughs seemed to come easily and regularly to a comic who held the room. Aside from the gags, he had a fair bit of material on lookalikes. This is something a lot of comics use and can be a bit strained by the 7th tenuous link. However, he had a good routine based on him looking like a notorious Manchester resident that went down nicely. He gave a good performance and was a real crowd pleaser. The gossip during the intermission amongst the audience was about how funny he’d been, which was great to hear.

After the intermission it was Harry Stachini who resumed. I wouldn’t say that Miner’s Welfares are stuck in the 1970s, but I would suggest that the audience there, who weren’t comedy regulars, had an idea of what they thought a comic should look like. Big Lou fitted that bill, but I don’t think they were expecting Stachini, a very young, but also talented comic. As a result, it seemed that he had to work harder than by rights he needed to. He had a nice delivery, some good material and whilst it got laughs and I enjoyed it, the room didn’t seem to embrace him as much as what he deserved. This was a shame as he gave a good performance. I’d not say that he had a bad night, far from it – he got laughs and good ones.

Billy Lowther closed the middle section. He made a big impact with his opening gambit and the laughs rolled around the room. He gave a fantastic performance which the room lapped up. He seemed to be constantly on the verge of getting an applause break, as he delivered his set with perfect pace and timing. He has a really solid set and I can’t wait to see him perform a longer version. This is a comic who can tear the roof off of gigs and tonight I’d say that he had the best night of anyone present.

Wes Zaharuk, a Canadian prop comedian closed the show. I’ve seen him before and I will admit there was a certain amount of joy in listening to the audience discussing the show so far and knowing that Zaharuk was up next. Whatever the crowd were expecting it wouldn’t be this. I’m happy to say that Zaharuk did not disappoint. Like Lou and Lowther he stormed the gig. The audience were fully invested in his set, watching to see just what he did next. There was a deep satisfaction in seeing a room all laughing and hoping their friends would be on stage assisting, rather than themselves. He received constant laughs and ended the night on a high. He’s a very strong closer, upping the energy in a room and adding variety to a gig.

Beerhouse – Frantique Doyle (MC), Jim Kelly, Jon Pearson, Matt Hollins, Neil Irving, Stoney and Pete Teckman

Tonight I was at the Beerhouse in Market Harborough for a free night of comedy. Free doesn’t mean rubbish. This is something I sometimes struggle to explain to people. A free comedy night is an opportunity for new acts to get stage time and for existing acts to give new material an airing. However, it does sometimes result in an audience that has invested nothing in the night and couldn’t care less that someone on a stage is trying to entertain. I’ve not been to the Beerhouse before, but I can only assume that none of the previous nights have been quite like tonights. They must have been better, they could hardly be worse. The pub doesn’t have a music licence, which already gives it the atmosphere of a Weatherspoons. Lots of conversation, too much conversation, but no undercurrent of people out for a good night. The comedy was in the main room of the pub, a pub that used to be a community centre and still had the feel of one. The audience were all sat and stood facing 12 different ways, rather than at the stage. The management of the pub seemed completely nonplussed about the comedy night. They kept the bar open during acts, loudly explaining the differing alcohol levels in product, collected glasses, walked past the stage carrying kegs and even shouting for last orders part way through a set. Whilst 90% of the room didn’t seem to be aware there was a night of entertainment on in the background there was a table of drunks who wanted to be part of everything. One of these even came into the Green Room area during the intermission to resume a conversation started with her by a comic, making everyone consider a drawbridge and portcullis set up a possible advantage. The atmosphere in the room was like a factory reset switch. No matter how funny a comedian was, the audience then immediately reset back to default and it only felt in danger of becoming a gig during three acts. As this wasn’t the first night held here, I am presuming the other nights were a lot better, as I don’t think anyone would have held a second night if the results were the same. The compere was Frantique Doyle.

This room required the hand of a firm and experienced MC who could grab their attention and hold it (Walker, Quinne, Cook or Brooker). Doyle was the wrong person for this gig. I felt that she is not yet experienced enough as a compere for a gig like this. However, it is from the difficult gigs that people learn and develop, so not all is lost. She wasn’t helped by the seating arrangements or by the lack of music. Faf Promotions have a rather nice intro music where the lights flash in time and the music builds to a crescendo, informing all but the most obtuse that it is show time. There was none of this build up here. When Doyle picked up the microphone most of the room were busy talking. Unfortunately she didn’t make a strong start and was largely ignored. She tried to work some material into her work, but this fell on deaf ears. The lack of participation in a vote for a new name for female masturbation (possibly run out too early in the night) showed how much of a up hill struggle it was to get attention in there. She did a bit of work involving people catching ping pong balls, but whilst this may work at a team building event to break the ice, it didn’t do much here. I would suggest that she would have been better cutting her losses and bringing an act on sooner than she did, as there were more people talking when she finished the warm up than when she started. However, she can learn and improve from this – don’t try material unless it is overwhelmingly relevant to the room, do banter but with more than the table most visibly drunk and wanting to join in, talk to the people at the bar and involve them, drop the ping pong balls and use things that build momentum, big the acts up to the audience letting them know that they are in for a good night and learn when to come off and bring the acts on.

Jim Kelly walked out to almost complete indifference from a room of people busy chatting amongst themselves. This is the second time I’ve seen him and both times it has been at car crash gigs. Not his fault, but I’d love to see what he can do at a normal gig. He made a strong start and I hoped he was going to win the room round, but inertia overtook the crowd, which was a shame as he has some nice material. He covered online dating, but this overdone topic was luckily short. The Robin stuff was good and the Chinese burn material delivered in his accent is really nice, but his section on acting whilst pleasant just needs a bit more of a punch to it. He did well considering the audience.

Jon Pearson was polishing up some new material. His stage presence earned him silence from the room and he had a gig, although he did have to go at a very very fast pace to hold their attention. Something not helped by the omnipresent glass collectors. The audience was largely silent when they should have been and gave consistent laughs when they should have done. His gym material is golden and the accents he throws in are a real bonus. He had a good night. Standard.

After the first interval and evacuation of the Green Room to avoid a drunken woman, Matt Hollins went on. I’ve seen Hollins 4 times now, but always at new act/new material nights and I’d like to see him do a full set, rather than bits and bobs. He began with material, but within a few minutes he abandoned this in favour of banter, as it was obvious that the room wasn’t listening to material. He did very well with this and it was enjoyable. The comedians in the green room were all very appreciative of him taking the piss out of a couple of drunks who were proving a pain and I’d say most of the room liked seeing this, too. He had a good night and showed he has a greater sharpness to him than I’ve hitherto seen before. It was nice not to hear downbeat material from him, as I’ve seen this at the other nights he’s been on. I believe he can do better than that – the sharpness I saw tonight is ample evidence that he can be quick on his feet mentally. I’d still like to see him do a full set, though.

Neil Irving followed Hollins, but had the bad luck for the microphone to die as soon as he touched it. The same as Kelly, I’ve only seen him on bizarre nights, too and would like to see him on a normal night. Irving tried to get material out, but the room responded with total indifference and essentially he was playing to four people in a room of thirty five. This is no reflection on him, it was just the type of gig it was.

Stoney opened after the second intermission, with a very very long pause. He stood on the raised dais saying nothing for over a minute. This grabbed everyone’s attention with the crowd shushing each other. From this he went on to have a good gig, using some nice ad libs and new material. His set wasn’t helped by staff walking by with a keg during a visual gag, but he did well all the same and got good laughs.

Closing was Pete Teckman. He hit the room with a lot of energy and had some nice material about football and a sex talk from his dad. Along with Pearson and Stoney he had a gig, but even then his set was messed up a bit by the bar shouting for last orders over him.

Hoofers – Michael Dryburgh, Lucy Thompson, Paul Henry, Eddie Harris, Richard Caine, James Wallace, Ian Smith, Elaine Ashton, Phil Reid, Pat Robinson, Chris Stiles, Steve Jones and James Cook (MC)

Tonight I was at the Hoofers Comedy Club​ for the 5 minute slot challenge night. The audience had a curious gender split in that it was 90% male. Naturally the room had filled from the back, having a good crowd, but an empty front row. This was a mobile crowd with a lot of people moving about whilst acts were on, yet also it was one that whilst it laughed, consistently laughed less than one would have expected. The format was 5 minute slots and voting by cheering, with the advantage going to those favoured by running order. The MC was James Cook.

Cook was alternatively dry and sarcastic, with a natural hold over the room. Only a fool would want to heckle someone as sharp witted as Cook and there were no challengers. He received a genuine applause break for his talent and entertained the room nicely. His facial expressions added to his delivery and I found him a joy to watch. He was a definite bonus to the night and someone who I want to see more of.

Opening was Steve Jones, who gave us not so much one liners, but 2-3 liners. The audience liked some of these more than others, but he didn’t do badly. His set under ran by about a minute, which with only 5 minutes to play with wasn’t ideal. His material was fine, but he could perhaps improve his delivery, as it was a tad flat. A more buoyant delivery with the same material may yield more.

Next up was Chris Stiles, an act I’ve seen improve nicely over the last few months. He made a strong start, his psychic material is good and his pilot routine a real banker. The Nazi pope was a nice try and the milk section shows a lot of promise, but the reveal needs work. Stiles is strongest in dealing with topics that people can relate to, he delivers material on this in a way that is authentic and gets the audience’s attention. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he develops, as he definitely has ability.

Pat Robinson was on third. She opened with being an Essex girl, with a couple of jokes that were all over the place in the mid 90’s. Not bad lines, but nothing no one over 30 hasn’t heard before, or at the least a variation on them. She was on firmer ground when talking about short waiters and portion sizes. Her delivery was well paced.

Phil Reid followed, giving a very strong performance. He had a nice opening with the meaning of names, allowing him to reference people in the room and some lovely reveals on his own name. He had a slight dip when he discussed his second kid, but this was only slight. The second reveal on turning into his dad was excellent. He went with a spot of room work, which considering he opened with material gave a well rounded feel to his set. It didn’t surprise anyone when he was the eventual winner.

Elaine Ashton closed the first section. She was the only performer to delivery their material from the floor, which didn’t seem to hinder her at all. She started well, the postman joke was well received. Of the rest, some of her material worked better than other bits. Her delivery is fine, but I feel she may achieve more by swearing less and keeping the swearing back for added emphasis where it works best. She made a strong showing with the audience and didn’t have a bad night at all.

Ian Smith made a confident start, giving us a nice decoy over his voice. The material on drugs was reasonable, but may not work in every room. His routine about sign language was stronger, getting nice laughs.

James Wallace gave the audience one-liners, which were good in places, but needed work in others. He took a low energy approach, but his material wasn’t really dry enough to get the most benefit from this. The huge long list of Sky channels was ok, but took too long for the quality of reveal. He finished on a good joke.

Richard Caine didn’t seem to use his full allotment of time up. His section on Wayne Rooney was a bit predictable, but the audience laughed all the same. His part on different gender reactions to engagements was nice, but the real joy was in his sex talk material.

Eddie Harris deserved his space in the final. He made a nice start and his material on asthma is solid; his list of groups and the charity tin were very good and I liked them a lot, but for some reason he failed to get the response from the room that his material deserved. He has a nice delivery, some solid material, but tonight, although he was a finalist, his jokes deserved more than the audience seemed to give him.

Paul Henry had a decent night, although he did hold the microphone a touch too far from his mouth. The giver joke was nice and the Koran was clever, however, by far his strongest material involved The Karate Kid. This went down very well with the audience.

Lucy Thompson was an act I was very interested in seeing again. I saw her about a year ago and enjoyed what she had, so I was curious as to how she was getting on. Tonight she had a nice start, but similar to Eddie, she seemed to consistently get less from the room than her material warranted. Guess Who deserved a bigger laugh than it got and she deserved kudos for finding something different to say about internet dating. a topic I thought I’d heard everything about in the last few months. Her set was well constructed and enjoyable.

Michael Dryburgh was the third of the finalists and he demonstrated how well things are going for him at the moment. He is a comedian who has definitely moved up a gear. He received laughs for everything he said on a five minute slot that must have been tricky to edit his ten down into. It was lovely to watch him and the room really went with him, which as last act on a long night is something.

Roadhouse – Russ Mulligan, Dotty Winters, Mr Andy, Rev King, Mike Lord, Stu Woodings, Martin Huburn, Hannah Silvester, Thomas Rackham and Rob Kemp (MC)

Tonight I was at my final visit to the Roadhouse Comedy​ night for a while, due to work. This is a venue I’m really keen on. I wish it wasn’t a 170 mile round trip, but this is a cracking place as you never know what you will get. The host tonight was Rob Kemp.

I like watching Kemp host, as not only does he run a tight ship on the time keeping side, he is also highly likeable and enthusiastic. Tonight he had a fun one. When he hit the odd misstep with the banter, he had enough charm to carry on through it, and truth told, the occasional misfires were all enjoyable, as he is so evidently enjoying life it’s churlish not to join in with him.

Russ Mulligan was trying new material. At first I thought he was taking off Harry Hill, due to his collar, but instead he gave us a self-deprecating set. He wasn’t helped by his voice being a tad unclear and I wasn’t sold on his material nor the persona he adopted. However, he got laughs from the room and these were consistent.

Dotty Winters was, like everyone else tonight, trying some new material. The stuff on toddlers and feminism was nice, but just seemed to lack that spark to take it beyond nice. The Homeopathy and Fibonacci jokes were both wonderful and deserved a lot better than they received. The cape provided a strong finish to what had been an enjoyable set.

Mr Andy opened after the first intermission. He made good use of his phone, but didn’t overdo it, as this could easily have strayed into gimmick. The section on his sense of smell was great and can be reworked an infinite number of ways. Mr Andy gave the room a clever set that hung together nicely with a few call backs and showed himself to be a comedian of talent.

Rev King, a character act, followed. This was a Cockney priest who added energy and livliness to the room. I thought his material was stronger in some places than others. I can imagine the good Rev going down very well in some locations, but perhaps not so well in all venues.  On balance it was a nice set and something a bit different with a nice running gag about names.

Mike Lord was the final act of the middle section. His set was well though out and ticked a number of boxes, but for some reason it didn’t seem to work that well in the room as one would have thought. Partly this was due to some of the topics chosen: Online dating and parent’s on facebook. Both of these are welltrodden areas and a routine on either of these has to be beyond excellent to stand out. It perhaps didn’t help that Lord acknowledged the misses with a touch of banter, he may have been better just carrying on. This was an unusual set, as it should have worked better, but just didn’t seem to on the night.

Stu Woodings opened the final section with a very short run out of some new material about zorbing and being non-confrontational. This was obviously a work in progress, but looks to have some nice potential in it. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he develops this idea.

Martin Huburn did new material about football and Frank Spencer. The room really liked the various movie characters played by Frank Spencer, although perhaps Taken was a movie too far. I enjoyed it, but feel it could be improved with a twist at the end.

Hannah Silvester closed the show with a mixture of old and new material. She has a fast delivery, almost gushing words at the audience. This style suits her material and works rather well. Her set covered a lot of ground, but the material hung together pretty well and she received nice laughs from a tired audience throughout. The questions asked by her kids were something of a highlight. She had a good night.

There is one more act who opened, but who I have saved for last on the grounds that he had an outstanding night: Mr Thomas Rackham. It’s not often that you see someone smash a new material night with actual new material, but tonight he did this. His notion of a new computer game received strong laughs, the part about Hitler and cuddly animals even better laughs, the reworked milky legs section now flows smoothly, but above all he has struck gold with a development of an insult to his hair. In this he slid into darker material, but used in this context, I think it is more likely to result in an applause break than offence. One of his lines was so good, i was still laughing at it when he began the next joke. The improvement in the 6 days since I last saw Rackham is remarkable. He now has stand out material to match his delivery. A true highlight of the night.

Canal House – Patrick Draper (Edin Preview), Frasco Fools, Jack Boyles, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Rosie Francis, Callum Tingham, Michael Dryburgh and Wayne Beese MC

Tonight I was at the Canal House for the Nottingham Comedy Festival​ £1 night. This had been brought forwards a week due to NCF decamping to Edinburgh for the festival. The room had a new layout, which excited me a lot more than it should have done, but which I still liked. A lot. There was a really good crowd there tonight, although they were a bit cold to begin with. MC was Wayne Beese.

Beese didn’t have the easiest job as the room didn’t really seem to want to be warmed up at first. He’d come out with a nice pleasant gambit and get little back. However, he persevered and did succeed, getting decent laughs, but then had the opposite problem with a couple who thought the night was more interactive than it really was. However, he dealt with them quite nicely, inviting them onto the stage to play a game after the first intermission. Whilst this game didn’t add momentum, it did generate some decent laughs and was fun. This could have been a risky move considering that the couple were a bit too involved in shouting out, but it paid off. Beese had a cracking anecdote about clothes and fire that got a really strong laugh and it was nice to see him.

Opening was Michael Dryburgh, who I coincidently saw last night in Leicester. He made a small error with his first sentence, revealing a punchline before the build, but swiftly jettisoned the approach he was taking and moved to different material. This was a lot smoother than it might have been with a different comedian, but did force him to rejig his act on the spot. He went down well with his set, getting decent laughs and showing that he is coming on nicely as an act. However, if he were a record, last night would have been the A side and the rejigged set tonight, the B side. He couldn’t see the audience due to the lighting, but if he were to look 2′ lower, he would connect with the audience better, even though they don’t know he still can’t see them and this would help push his set further. This isn’t a criticism, as he connected nicely, more a suggestion for improvement.

Second on was Callum Tingham. This is the third time I’ve seen him and I’ll concentrate on the good first. He is confident and has a good delivery. However, his material is letting him down. A lot of it didn’t seem to really work or lead onto anything. He may want to try different styles of presenting comedy, as what he is doing presently isn’t really working for him in my opinion. However, I am sure that he will find his comedy voice.

The third act was the enjoyable Rosie Francis. She looked relaxed and happy on stage, getting a good laugh from the off with her Ron Weasley gag. Her set hung together nicely, moving from topic to topic with no sudden lurches or change in pace. She even survived and flourished after killing an empty seat and is definitely onto something with the different classes of death.

Opening after the intermission was Jeanette Bird-Bradley, who is a pretty new act, being on her third outing. Considering her inexperience she gave a surprisingly strong performance, holding the room nicely. Her material was decent and the same can be said for her delivery. There’s room for some refinement in the material, but that’s no surprise for a third attempt. She’s a comic who did very well tonight.

Next was Jack Boyles, who was doing new material and trying a new direction for his comedy. Rather than give us a downbeat set, Boyles offered up a routine based on current affairs and one that was probably written at most, 10 days ago. This is a challenging approach, as it relies on not only the audience watching the news, but also them finding his take on it entertaining. He succeeded in places, but not in all. I’d say he probably had a 60% hit rate, which isn’t bad and is something that can be improved on. It was a nice change of style and the laughs for the hits were good.

Closing the second section were the Frasco Fools. They demonstrated an impressive range of characters and sketches, getting laughs. They are undoubtedly good at what they do, but I’m not sure the best home for it is on a comedy bill, as it is such a change in tempo.

The main event of the night was Patrick Draper’s Edinburgh Preview of his show – Totally Vacuous. Tonight he showed why he was in the final of the English Comedian of the year, giving a highly impressive performance. He is an act that just seems to get better every time I see him. There is a cracking running postcode gag, some enjoyable songs and a set that flowed very nicely with lovely visuals. The opening gag does work better when it is written on his hand, but this is a very minor quibble. Out of all of the Edinburgh Previews I have seen, his is the only one to get 5 applause breaks.

Manhattan – Jason Neale, Unmighty Meaty, Thomas Rackham, Mike Yeoman, Danny Clives, Michael Dryburgh and Dave McGuckin (MC)

Tonight it was Comedy And Cocktails at Manhattan34​ a cellar gig in Leicester. This was a new material gig, with bucket at the end (nice to see notes in it). The room was pretty full, with a fairly young audience. The music coming from upstairs was irritating and also totally pointless, as there were 25 people down for the comedy and about 3 people upstairs listening to Dire Straits.

Dave McGuckin was compering. He did a short warm up, that could have been a few minutes longer perhaps. In this particular venue, a very long warm up would have been counter-productive, so I’m thinking he erred on the side of caution. He had some nice stuff about Tinder, but really this is a subject that has been done to death and I wish he’d used something else. He was nice mannered and ran the night well enough to be a positive influence.

Opening was Michael Dryburgh. He hit the ground running with a joke about working class, that had two laughs, one when he said it and then another 5 seconds later when the other half of the room got the joke. His material about his ex is a banker and there was real joy on the second reveal concerning his break up. He got consistent laughs from the room, including an applause break. He’s progressing very nicely with a pretty solid 10 and had a good night.

Danny Clives was second on the bill. He also had a good night, with the audience enjoying his set. I found it to contain some really nice material and some bits that I, personally, wasn’t that keen on. That’s not to say these bits are bad, they just aren’t as good as the other bits. The audience really went for his short stories, but to me, the best parts were the one liner throw away comments that he’d put out – these are really good, especially the shy members line.

Mike Yeoman was the Debut 5 – this is a new and really rather nice innovation where a 5 minute slot is given to someone who hasn’t done comedy before. Yeoman made a promising start. His material concerning H&S was reasonable, but could do with a bit more work. The debate was worth the set up, but the click bait was a tad predictable, however, if he can add a better twist he would have something there. He had a good confident delivery and by no means was bad.

Thomas Rackham closed the first section. He began well with using his clothing to ease into his set. He had some nice visual material and as ever gave an enjoyable delivery, getting lots of laughs. The energy drink material is sound, the jogging section is really good, although milky legs needs a tweak. He’s an enjoyable act who is doing well.

Lindsey Warnes Carroll opened the final section with her character ‘Unmighty Meaty’ – her act demonstrates a high level of creativity and she got good laughs, although the room was split a bit over it 80/20 in her favour. To be honest, it’s not a character act that appeals to me, but the talent that lies behind it is impressive and I’d love to see her try something else. However, this was well received by the majority of the room.

Closing was the comedian who had influenced me most in making the trip to Leicester – Jason Neale. I’ve seen him before in a character piece, where he was underused, but got great laughs from very little, so I was curious as to what he could do. I wasn’t to be left wanting. He gave us a short Edinburgh Preview, showing a strong, but relaxed delivery. This is a comic who has real presence on stage and can use this to his advantage. His material flowed nicely and although he seemed to meander in the topic, this gave his set a very nice easy listening feel to it. However, he showed that he could also change tempo easily and shout. Neale is an act who has a lot of potential and with a lot of gigging could get to be very good indeed.

Roadhouse Laura Monmoth (MC), Chris Norton Walker, Dean Smith, Nicholas Steinberg, Paul Mutagejja, Colin Hayward, Liam Mitchell, Betty Costello-Singleton, Moses Hassan, Natasha Bisby, Rob Jones and Roger Swift

Tonight I was at the Birmingham Roadhouse Comedy​ new act/new material night. Host was Laura Monmoth​.

Laura had a relaxed, conversational and open approach to compering this gig. With only 8 civilians and 11 acts in the room, anything else may have been considered overkill. She was a bit unlucky with the people she chatted to, as none of them gave her much to work with. She did suggest a few ideas to them that were quite creative, so I think she may have been better off ignoring them and exploiting these ideas herself. Laura worked hard and was a good host, but I think that she needs a different room to show her full potential, as she has a lot more in her than was needed tonight.

Opening was Chris Norton Walker, a man of infectious enthusiasm and who can inject atmosphere into a thermos flask. He is also a chap who I generally catch at odd gigs. Tonight he started well, but was partially derailed by an audience reaction to his material. He stayed in control of the room and worked the reaction for comedy, but it did get in the way of him doing new material. He was still a joy to see and as ever, very funny.

Dean Smith was on second. He began well, but lost momentum setting up his microphone. He had that much trouble with the microphone stand that it began to look like part of his act. He had some nice one liners, but a lot of his set was lost due to an indistinct voice and noise coming from the rock night 20′ away. If he projected his voice more, then he would have had a better night.

Nicholas Steinberg was a different act. I’m not sure if he is working on a comedy persona or is a retro comedian. I say this, because if you had given him a frilly shirt, kipper tie and cigar, he could have been on The Comedians, circa 1972. The most modern reference in his set was from the mid 90s (Scousers saying hey, hey, repeatedly, allegedly), but most (Mother in aw jokes) could have been delivered at any point from 1970 onwards. He had enough Tommy Cooper material to head towards being a tribute act. If you are looking at doing a 70’s night, then he will be of interest to you.

Paul Mutagejja closed the first section. He’s an act I’ve seen and enjoyed before. He made a great start, referencing the room, added lots of energy and brightened the place up considerably. He’s got nice material and got a good result from an on the spot pun. He spent a lot of time getting rounds of applause for various people and items. This helped create a good atmosphere, but it may have taken up time that could have been spent on material. However, his material went down well due to him creating a good atmosphere, so this is something that will vary on the night. The end result was a very pleasant feel good set.

Colin Hayward opened the second session. He’s got a good stage presence and a nice way with banter. Although  he did a short set,it is easy to see that he has potential and is strong working with an audience.

Liam Mitchell had a very good night. He reminds me of Peter Brush in his style. Intelligent material, delivered with nuance and not a knob joke in sight. He has a quiet delivery, but he held this room nicely and his timing was impeccable. I’ve seen him before and this was a lot better than his previous performance. In fairness on that occasion, he was on late, on the hottest night of the year and in a room with no aircon. Tonight he was a stand out act.

Betty Costello-Singleton was on her second gig. She had four nices. Nice material, nice delivery, nice stage presence and is a nice person. The 4th isn’t strictly necessary for comedy, but is still very pleasant. Her set stood up well and it wasn’t obvious that she was a relative newcomer. From what I saw tonight, she has a future in comedy.

Moses Hassan (Nassah) was on his 3rd gig. He specialises in dark material, some of which is quite clever and very funny. As with most people who go dark he split the room a bit, but he never relied on dark just to get a reaction, it was always as part of a wider joke. His set was enjoyable and I’m looking forwards to seeing how he develops. I would suggest he hold the microphone in the future, as he did sometimes move a bit away from it.

Natasha Bisby opened the 3rd session and might have been doing new material. Her delivery was confident, but the material was as strong as the delivery She touched on minions, online dating and onesies. Online dating has been done to death, the other two are less well travelled topics, but her material will need a bit of work to match up to her delivery.

Rob Jones made a sweeping start before embarking on a low energy subdued set. However, although this doesn’t sound like an immediate winner, he did have a good night, despite acts outnumbering civilians 3 to 1 by now. His tutorial on ties got strong laughs, but the real joy was in the various one liners and throw away comments, these were all very funny.

Closing was Roger Swift who was work shopping his Edinburgh introduction. This was ludicrously and gloriously silly and provided fantastic fun.