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.


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