Tonight I was in Derby for the Funhouse Comedy Clubs- East Midlands gig at the Blessington Carriage. Despite having been there a few times before, tonight I had a real problem finding it. The one way system seemed to take a perverse pleasure in spitting me back out the way I had come in; either that or there are 3 Top Chef restaurants in Derby. The Blessington Carriage has been closed for renovations and I was rather hoping they had fixed the dodgy electrics, but sadly the lights continue to flicker. The venue was packed out tonight, apart from a small row of chairs at the front. Also present was Caimh McDonnell, who unfortunately wasn’t doing a set, but who had come with his friend Mr Delaney, and Derby based comedian, Billy Mcguire – it’s always nice to see local talent supporting comedy nights. To begin with there was rather a lot of noise from downstairs, but this was soon drowned out by laughter. Compere was Spiky Mike, who was having the time of his life with the story of Cameron and the pig. I have a feeling that Mike hasn’t stopped laughing since he heard the news and this translated into a very nice warm up. The opening act was Ryan Dalton.
Dalton began by referencing his appearance as being ‘visually tricky’, which was a nice gambit. At 6’7 he had a fair bit to say over this. He then moved on to material relating to his time spent working in a theme park. This was decent and went down well, but was not especially stand out. He was on better ground when discussing accents, this was very good, as was his section on a tricky holiday (especially the lizard). He’s got a good delivery and was a fair opener. The room enjoyed his set and he received consistent laughs.
Following Dalton was Gary Delaney. Delaney was doing 3 separate stints on the stage tonight, interspersed with the other acts.This was a warm up for an episode of Mock the Week, which was being recorded the next day. It was a case of him trying stuff out on likely news stories and so on. Delaney has bags of charm and his glee at seeing a pun hit home hard was wonderful to watch – he’d dance a little jig on stage. It was really nice to see him there with a clip board and reams of paper, ticking gags, or putting a line through them as appropriate. The standard he set himself was incredibly high. He crossed out many a pun that 90% of other comedians would have been satisfied with. He opened with a nice gag and received an applause break for that one line. This more or less set the tone for all 3 of his sets. Recently I’ve been spoilt by seeing a couple of very nice one liner comedians, most notably Phil Pagett, and I was wondering if Delaney was still the gaffer. I can say that he is, although that is more a comment on his strength, than on any perceived weaknesses in others. A lot of the material that he tested was more or less unbroadcastable for legal reasons, which gave his work an illicit thrill. It must be said that Cameron and the pig is the gift that keeps on giving. All of his work tonight was a total joy to watch.
Robbie Ormrod resumed after the first intermission. He began with a small routine on cheering, which whilst it injected some energy into the room, I wasn’t that keen on personally. Whilst there was nothing wrong with it per se, I feel that unless audience interaction like this is a set up for something particularly strong, it just takes up time that could be used better. However, as said, this was just a small part of his night. Ormrod is a comedian who isn’t afraid of the audience. He doesn’t mind them throwing stuff out, as it is all grist to his mill. I suspect that he either does a fair amount of compering, or there is a rather talented compere lurking there, as he looks to have impressive skills in this line. At one point he had a personal narrator and a member of the audience heckling another. This sounds tricky, but in truth, he never looked even close to losing control of the room. His material was quite eclectic, which added to his appeal, but perhaps his strongest attribute is his delivery. Some comics shout, some go at a fast pace and some add pauses in an effort to put emphasis where it is needed. Instead, Ormrod just moderated his tone of voice. This is pretty simple in concept, but is something a lot of comedians don’t seem to master so well. This was a well rounded performance that was well appreciated.
Following the second Delaney stint was Andy Stedman, who can’t have been too chuffed at going on after Delaney had took the roof off (again). Stedman does a lot of musical comedy. This is something that, I’m not too keen on, mostly because the amount of time spent on set ups means that reveals are a bit too spread out for me. However, the rest of the room were very keen. He began with a reworking of a song that at first seemed to be more clever and ingenious than funny, but which suddenly came to life when he mentioned the beard. This was especially entertaining and given current fashion, highly relevant. His closing song involved a couple of members of the audience, which tied it in rather well, giving the room a nice feel good set.
Closing the night, after the 3rd instalment of Delaney was John Whale. I last saw him 8 days ago up in Kirton-in-Lindsey and whilst I like to have a longer gap between seeing acts, it was no hardship to see him again so soon. Naturally his set hasn’t altered too dramatically over 8 days, but he has updated sections of it to include material relating to current events. This is very good, as sets can go stale and it gave it an air of immediacy. As he was doing a longer set, he included some extra material relating to Josef Fritzl. This shows great potential, as in places it was extremely strong, but every so often, mostly when referring back to Ms Kelly, it would just lose a bit of momentum. If this could be made a tad more punchy, then this would make a most excellent routine. It’s good as it stands, but as stated, just seems to need a bit more in places. Tonight Whale’s delivery was slightly different to what I saw previously. I’ve commented on him knowing the value of a pause, whereas tonight he didn’t seem to pause so much. I’m not sure if his set was stronger for this or not, either way he had a good night. There were just two little things that he could have done differently – his checking of the time was a tad clumsy, although he made the best of it and I felt his checking of his hand could have been handled better. Having said that, he did well and I enjoyed seeing him again, even though it was such a short time in-between.
Oh, and if getting lost on my way in wasn’t bad enough, there was a diversion on the way home. One of those little joys where the chaps doing it put out two signs and you spend the next 15 minutes convinced you’re going to end up in a farm yard.