Leicester is a city that specialises in providing dead monarch storage and closed roads heading home. Tonight I was at the Kayal in Leicester for the Funhouse gong show. The venue was upstairs in quite a nice restaurant. The room was a cracking example of art deco, looking like a cross between a period cinema and a location for Poirot. Luckily no one died tonight. Not quite. Spiky Mike had impressed me with a bill of 13 entrants to his gong show in Nottingham last week, but surpassed this with 14 tonight. The stand out names on the bill were Dan Nicholas and Jay islaam, but I’ve also seen both Houssem Rhaiem and Chris Sherwood put in good nights. The rest of the names, bar one, were people I wasn’t so familiar with. The formation was 4, 6, 4, with no virgin performers.
Opening was Paul Laight. He began well, giving short routines. This was nice and it also made sense tactically, as he was against a clock. He got good laughs for his dogging material and did have some nice hidden reveals to his stuff. His delivery was fine, but it just seemed to be missing a bit of spark. It’s possible he was having an off night, or could just benefit from more consistent stage time, but tonight, whilst competent, he struck me as needing something to lift his set a bit. He did get through to the final quite easily, though.
Chris Sherwood followed. He began with some visual aids to his material, which went down nicely, followed by a strong set with references to his mum and to Mansfield, which travelled surprisingly well. The audience were really going for this, which was nice to see. The energy did dip a touch during the WTF segment, but this was rescued by a lovely reveal. Sherwood got through to the final and had a nice night into the bargain.
Dan Nicholas was next. He’s got the combination of good material and also a really good performance. There is a lot of mileage in his facial expressions and general physicality on stage, these really help him put his stuff over. He’s confident on stage and was willing to engage with the audience drawing them into his set. No one dared let their attention wander, just incase he put them on the spot. He received good laughs and again was a finalist. This is someone with a lot of raw ability. He does engage in surrealism at times and this can split rooms, but Nicholas is certainly someone to look out for.
The final act of the first section was Shaun Turner. He has some nice material, but the majority of it concerns him having cerebral palsy and the various incidents and issues that arise as a result. Things such as this can form the basis of a nice set, but perhaps there would be a broader appeal in a set that encompassed more topics. There is only so much mileage one can get out of any particular area. This isn’t to say he’s bad, or had a bad night – he was a finalist, but I think a wider approach to material would prove a bonus to him.
Jake Pickford opened the middle section. He gave us two different approach’s, one being prop based and the other being a more traditional stand up. He had some nice observations and banter, but the majority of his set consisted of him getting items out of a bag and giving them to audience members. This was a bit gimmicky, but it did help see him through to the final, as I believe the judges were interested in seeing if he was going anywhere with it. However, he didn’t really take it to any climax or build upon it. This was a shame, as there were a few avenues he could have explored, but didn’t. Although I didn’t really enjoy this, as I felt passing stuff around from a bag wasn’t really comedy, the room had a good time.
Alex Leam opened with material involving the audience thinking he meant one thing, when he meant another all along. This can be a nice approach, but unfortunately he didn’t choose the strongest example to go with. His set was a bit of a slow burner with material that wasn’t that stand out. He didn’t get the time for his material to blossom as he was gonged off. If he had gone with more punchy material he might have stood a better chance.
Andrew Carberry was also an early gonging. He had a fast delivery, but didn’t really connect with the audience. Perhaps if he had spoken more slowly the room would have listened and given him time to with which to build.
Carmen Ali’s set was like a simile. She used the phrase a (something) is like a (something incongruous) a few times. A lot of this involved boyfriends and so on. This approach has been done a fairly often and unless it can somehow be made different it is hard to stand out. She didn’t proceed to the final.
Sam Wyatt had a good night. He began by miming to a song. This went down a treat, as the sight of a chap with the build of a lumberjack miming and dancing so well is really unexpected. He then did a bit of material, which was well received, before miming to another song, using an audience member as a stooge. The climax came from two really nice visual reveals, which got massive laughs from the room. I enjoyed his set, but I felt he could be in danger of being a novelty act, as his second mime didn’t really leave him anywhere to go. He certainly would have struggled to pick up the microphone and start telling jokes after the clothing reveals.
As Sam had pretty much ripped the roof off the gig, Taco, who was following was always going to have a hard time. He made an error in going with part of his usual 10 set. Whilst this may work well as a 10, it didn’t provide enough immediate laughs to keep the audience’s faith in him. This was a shame, as he had plenty of charm and a nice delivery, even though his material wasn’t the strongest.
Opening the final section was the eventual winner, Matt Adlington. Although Wyatt achieved the strongest laughs, Adlington was the only comedian to receive an applause break. He began with the perennial favourite of the bald and bearded – head on upside down. He had a throwaway line: ‘because I’m a winner,’ which is rapidly replacing ‘because that’s just how I roll’ as the throwaway line of choice. There was also a list of the implausible side effects of medication. Individually these are all bits that have been done a few times by different comics. This material didn’t strike me as being the most ground breaking, but Adlington does have a nice delivery, which helped sell his set. The audience liked him and he won, but I feel that if he were to reconsider his material he would be able to go further.
Houssem Rhaiem opened with a nice ad lib and then proceeded to have another nice night, getting good laughs along the way. He’s got a nice delivery, but would perhaps benefit from a tiny bit more interaction with the audience. He may well want to reconsider the plumber/porn gag, though, as that is a bit common currency and based upon the strength of his material, it’s obvious he can do better than that. He was a finalist, the second time in two outings for him this week, which is really nice to see.
Tonight Daniel Triscott demonstrated the law of diminishing returns. He had some nice charts, which unlike a lot of visual aids, were actually visible from the back of the room. These were well drawn and were a nice idea, but by the 5th sheet, the audience’s enthusiasm had diminished. There is always a danger with a visual heavy set that the audience will let their attention meander. This routine would perhaps work better if it was mixed more with stand up and other bits, before he then went back to a graph/chart that tied in or was a call back of some kind. This would reap a greater dividend.
Closing was Jay Isaam’s new character piece. This had only been written a few hours beforehand and it was possibly the first time it had been spoken aloud in the presence of others. He didn’t make it through to the final, but there is certainly a lot of room for development in this new creation. Jay’s voice did slip a bit back to his natural voice during delivery, but this is merely a slight teething problem. I’m looking forwards to seeing more.