End of the Month review and thoughts on who has impressed me the most in September

This month I have seen 64 acts and these are the ones that have impressed me the most.

20 spots

Ben Briggs

Briggs is a wonderfully dark comedian who can split some rooms. However, the last two times I’ve seen him, he’s had absolute belters of gigs. The gig in Eastwood, last month, was to an audience who looked likely to appreciate darker humour, whereas last night the audience didn’t look to be Briggs’ natural constituency, yet he still pulled off a wonderful performance that they lapped up.

From the review:

After a spot of compering and material from Jon Pearson, it was Ben Briggs. I like Briggs – anything is possible when he is on stage. He made an immediate impact with a few lines he’d thought of on the way up the motorway. From this he gave us some relatively lighthearted material, before going gradually darker and darker. This was a true joy to watch. His set hung together extremely well, with no real gaps between topics. He did get brought to a grinding halt by the drunken lady, whom he was rather gentle with, but this was only a temporary hiccup and was handled graciously by him. This winner of a set was delivered superbly, with lots of visual and physical actions and movements. Everyone had received laughs, but Briggs got huge laughs. The darker he went the more this room went for him. This is the second time I’ve seen him recently and he’s had a fantastic gig both times. So far this year, I have seen two comedians who have had me laughing that hard I’ve hurt myself. Tom Binns was one and tonight Ben Briggs was the second.

Alfie Moore:

This comedian is pretty well known and is worth travelling to see.

From the night:

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.

10 spots

James Bran

I can’t say that I was familiar with this chap prior to seeing him in Ashby de la Zouch, but as he usually gigs down south this isn’t a huge surprise.

From my review of the night:

An essay on philosophy might ask how can a comedian who didn’t make you laugh the most, still be the one that you enjoyed the most? The answer to this would be that they were incredibly sharp, had good material, a great delivery and held the room in the palm of their hand. In other words, it was James Bran in Ashby. Bran delivers his lines in a way that most of us would converse if we were tucked up in bed and drifting off. This is actually very endearing and his diction isn’t a million miles away from Andrew Lawrence. Some comedians deliver material in a shouty way to add the emphasis. Bran doesn’t. He speaks quietly and draws people in, making them concentrate on what he is saying. Whilst he speaks slowly and quietly in a sleepy kind of way, this is deceptive, as his brain is actually very sharp indeed. He demonstrated this by making a knowing play of asking the same audience member the same questions that Woodward and Spiky Mike had, naturally to huge appreciation. Of his material, it all stands up and hangs together with nothing that shouldn’t be in there and some lovely lines, indeed. He deserved more for his Pirate crows nest than the room gave him, though. This is a comedian who I think we’ll hear a lot more about in the coming years.

Alex Hylton

Review of the gig:

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.

Gong show/open mic nights

Please note that although I saw these acts at gong shows, this does not reflect their actual level. These are both good acts who punch well above the average level found at gongs.

Tom Christian

Tom Christian opened the show with some new material. This is an act who is doing very well, winning a gong show two weeks ago in an impressive way. Tonight he was doing one liners and puns. In the last fortnight, I’ve seen both Gary Delaney and Phil Pagett, which sets the bar very high when it comes to punnage. Christian did very well with his work, being clever and funny in equal measure. Not everything landed, but the majority did. A few of the conceptual running gags were a tad laboured, but with a bit more consideration, these will work. This was a very strong set from a versatile artist.

and

The final act of the first section was Tom Christian. From his first moment on stage it was obvious he can do the business. He made a strong start with Meatloaf and then basically went from strength to strength. The only bit that was anything less than really good was ant powder, but even so, this was a lead in to other material that was, again, really good. During the final, where the acts had one minute to make a final impression, he was the only one who received an applause break. He was the winner in the applause off and demonstrated a very high level of skill tonight.

Dan Nicholas

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.

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