There are some gigs where being 30 minutes door to door is a selling point, and then there are those gigs that you’d don’t mind a 100 mile round trip for. Tonight I was at Funhouse’s gig in Kirton-in-Lindsey, also known as Kirton-in-the-Sticks. This is one of those rather charming nights where there is a country pub and something that’s been in short supply at a few gigs recently – an audience who are really up for a good night and appreciate the acts. Also, having Alfie Moore on the bill was a big inducement for me to spend two hours in a car getting paranoid about having gone from the national speed limit to 50, without having noticed the sign.
The audience was smaller than last time I was here, but there was easily enough people for a gig and a good one at that. The age range was broad and the atmosphere was eager. Compere was Spiky Mike and the opening act was Alfie Moore.
Alfie Moore is a comedian who is the performer and writer of what, to me, is one of the most consistently funny series on the Wireless – It’s a fair cop. Listening to this little gem of a programme has brightened up many a journey this Summer and I hope for an early return to the airwaves. Whilst Moore may be known for this show, I have seen him perform before, ironically, ten minutes from my house, so I knew we were in safe hands from the opening.
He started well, making an instant connect with the audience. Even a deliberate groaner of a gag about Jonathan Ross garnered lots of appreciation. Personally, I was interested in how much of a crossover there would be between his wireless show and his live show. I didn’t believe there would be a greatest hits scenario, but as a lot of his radio material was excellent, there is an obvious temptation to go down this road. Moore didn’t take this way out. He used some of the stuff from his shows, but sparingly and more as a framework to build a very nice set around. There is obviously no famine when he comes to selecting material to use. The entire set had a great natural flow to it, with call backs, some audience work and a belter of a closer. I would argue that his closer was worth the admittance price alone and judging from the audience reaction to this and the entire set, he will be well remembered in Kirton.
Following the intermission, there were three ten spots. The first of these was Sammy Dobson. She began fast, with a lot of words per minute, throwing energy out. She has quite an engaging persona and this helps her performance a lot. She did lose momentum a couple of times (Stolen joy and during the visual props section), but never for long. She has some nice touches and didn’t have a bad night. I’ll be interested in seeing her a bit later along her career, as with a bit more experience she’ll be stronger. At the moment, she had the feel of a work in progress – someone with talent and ability, who will get there, but isn’t quite there, yet.
Following was Alex Hylton, who was a surprise bonus to the night, not having been on the bill. He gave a very enjoyable performance and behind Alfie Moore was the act I most appreciated. His set had a nice balanced feel to it. He began by referencing the room. This immediately made an impact and it also made it clear that he wasn’t just reciting his performance – it gave him a real presence. The ad libs and audience work really gave his set a feel of the here and now. Frankly, I adore this kind of approach – it is miles away from someone merely monologuing whilst they are probably trying to remember if they got the mince out the freezer. He was on a bit of thin ice with some of the audience interaction, because as he missed Spiky Mike’s compering he did ask a few people questions they had been asked already, but this didn’t become a case of deja-vu and is something to learn from. His closing routine was very strong and one bit of new material that didn’t quite hit the mark (references) shows a lot of promise. When Hylton began, he did split the room with some of his more genital based material, but come the end of his set, the audience were lapping him up. This was a strong middle ten from a very talented comedian.
The third of the three 10s was John Whale. He began with a nice opening gambit, before going on to list euphemisms for being drunk. This list received an applause break, mostly for effort as it is a very long list, before he got to the reveal, which in the end was pretty decent and worth the set up. This was similar to his bus material, a fairly long set up, but for a decent pay off. The material regarding the horse stood out for being noticeably stronger than the rest and was great fun to listen to. Whale has a good delivery. In contrast to some acts, who are afraid of silence, he doesn’t mind short pauses. His pace is well moderated, he doesn’t swear much, but when he does, it works fantastically to add emphasis.
Closing was Steve Royle. There have been occasions where I have been in a room where I have been the only person enjoying a comedian. Usually, these are those sorts of gigs where people have paid good money to sit and be miserable. I find reviews like that easy enough to write up. What I do find more difficult is when it comes to writing a review of a comedian who I didn’t really enjoy, but whom everyone else did. Tonight Steve Royle had an excellent night and the audience were fully with him, laughing heartily. He has a style of delivery that isn’t that removed from Peter Kay and Dave Spikey. He repeats a lot of words and phrases and talks to the audience in a manner that a friend or neighbour would. Royle doesn’t deal with politics or other ‘issues’. Instead, his material is instantly recognisable to audiences over thirty – expensive UK holidays, advice from mum’s and continental quilts (that last one works just as well if you do it in a garlic bread style). This was really appreciated by the audience. However, to me, in a very definite minority, it left me cold. Apart from one reference to twitter, this was a set that could have been delivered in any year from around 1980 onwards. This is similar to how I feel about the work of Kay and Dave Spikey. However, as stated, I was in a tiny minority on this and whilst he isn’t for me the audience thoroughly enjoyed him.