Cross Keys – Sean Morley, Tom King, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Wayne Beese, Luke Regan, Freddie Farrell, Andy’s Fowler and Hughes (MCs)

If you ever wondered what Dr Who’s parlour looks like, then the upstairs room at the Cross Keys provides the answer. There are enough random items dotted about to provide a bit of a distraction, but it does give the room a splendid feel and tonight went some way towards off-setting the small crowd. As this was a Fowl Humour gig, the two Andy’s each did a spot of compering.
Andy Fowler opened as MC. He kept the comedy side light, not bantering with the crowd or doing material, but instead went through the rules with enough panache to get laughs and set the night rolling.
In contrast, after the intermission, Andy Hughes took a different approach to compering and went for material to rebuild atmosphere. Hughes had some good stuff about his student days and this was all rather good fun, as well as being funny.
The opening act was Sean Morley, who demonstrated an impressive ability to hoover up material from the environment as he went along. He began by shaking the hand of every audience member. This obviously wouldn’t work in a big venue, but tonight it went over very well. This was followed by a polite reshuffle of the seating, with everyone being moved forwards. This all sounds very simple and more like admin than comedy, yet Morley received good laughs for this. With Frank Carson it was the way he told them, with Morley, it was all in how he did it. There was a late comer whom Morley had a lot of fun with, but whom he may have pushed a trifle too persistently, but this was far from disastrous. This was a very nice ad-libbed set, from a chap with a polite and dry style who obviously has a lot of talent.
Tom King was up next. King is a fine comedian who I’ve seen a couple of times and it doesn’t take much imagination to see him turning pro in a few years. He has that feel of quality about him. He’s got a good reliable set, that he sells to the audience with utter conviction, no matter how unusual the topic. This is a winning combination. Tonight, he gave us a set of two unbalanced halves. The half that relied upon material was as strong as you’d expect, soap getting a good response from a small audience, the same for his opening songs. However, he was knocked off his stride by the very ornateness of what to all intents and purposes is a Victorian Parlour. He became distracted by the various items dotted about the room – 6 clocks, soda siphon, lampshades made from bowler hats and so on. He mined this for material, improvising a set with these bits and bobs. Unfortunately, whilst keeping hold of the room, this didn’t really result in a huge laughter dividend. This was a bit disappointing as he is a good reliable act.
Jeanette Bird-Bradley followed. She began well with a nice routine based on cress and she adds real value to it with the emphasis she lays on the words ‘very bad man’. She then proceeded to use some material I’ve not heard from her before relating to pants. There is a good routine in this, but it requires editing. It was a little bit too wordy. There were some very nice lines and the end result wasn’t at all bad, but if she took a blue pencil to all of the words that don’t add mirth, then the final result would be a lot stronger and more punchy. The delivery was very pleasant and it’s nice to see an act two nights in a row use completely different material, especially one who is so new, so top marks on that.
After the intermission it was Wayne Beese. I’ve seen Beese twice before and he is what I’d call a natural compere. He has the ability to unearth the funnies from members of the audience and knows just what to ask to get the best result without spending too long on one person. Tonight I wasn’t sure which route he was going to take – banter or material. It’s quite possible Beese didn’t know himself till he began performing, but either way, when he went for banter it was a good call. It was remarkable how much he got from a small audience in the way of building blocks for comedy. He managed to ask the right questions to unearth two wonderful stories involving vomit, during the course of a really fun set. Beese is very genial and not aggressive, which probably helps. People are very willing to open up to him. If he ever decides to quit comedy, he should apply to the police as an interrogator. I can well imagine him asking a room full of suspects if they’ve ever had anything happen on a bank raid that was embarrassing and half of the suspects opening up to tell him all about it….
Luke Regan followed. He had some nice material – the Tog rating was a particularly good line, but he was perhaps a bit unlucky with his stuff on The Smiths. In a larger room, he would have had better odds of finding a fan which would have helped that bit. His delivery was confident and whilst it’s evident that he’s got potential, he is still a work in progress. He didn’t have a bad night, he did well, but it is early days in his career. I think in a year or so, he’ll be a much stronger act and I look forwards to seeing him again.
Freddie Farrell closed. I was very pleased to see him on the bill, as I had been looking forwards to seeing him at the Nott’s Comedy Festival. As he could no longer make this, tonight was obviously a nice bonus. Farrell is very polished, moving from section to section without any jarring pauses or erms or arrs. His delivery is really good and this helped him establish his presence effortlessly. He had some great material, the stand out for me being the material about his eldest, especially the football match.

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