Tonight I was in Chesterfield for the opening night of Stage Dive Comedy, at Real Time Live, a possibly converted factory. This is a rock venue with a lot of similarities to the Roadhouse in Birmingham, although without the biker’s bar upstairs. The room was laid out with chairs surrounding tables, but all facing more or less towards the stage. The stage is rather big and there is probably enough room on it for a panto, if push came to shove. The comedians reached the microphone by walking through a gap between two banners, with lots of dry ice and flashing lights. This resembled stars in their eyes to a degree. The venue was more or less packed out, which was good, however, I feel that instead of hard rock, the playlist could have been a bit lighter after the 5 minute calls, as befitting a comedy night.
The MC tonight was Jared Shooter. He was playing to a room where he knew all but 8-9 people. This can work both ways. On one hand, he knows all of the in jokes and his references to the ‘Rainbow Room’ will automatically mean something to most of the audience. On the other hand, if you rely on material as compere, this can eat up routines very quickly. Shooter uses a lot of material, Siri was pretty strong, but his banter wasn’t especially sharp or incisive. He’d chat to someone, but not really follow it up with anything particularly witty, although in fairness he did have a lovely line when he found a lady was a carer for her brother. This was a shame, but hopefully he’ll get faster at thinking on his feet when receiving answers from the audience. On the plus side, Shooter did the rules, which a surprising amount of MC’s fail to do and he has a lot of charm and enthusiasm and this is a nice bonus. Audiences want to like him and this gives him a lot of leeway. On the debit side, apart from the banter, he wasn’t as disciplined regarding time-keeping as he could have been. His sections went on a bit longer than was necessary, not being as punchy as they could have been. With his charm and enthusiasm, Shooter could be a strong MC, but he isn’t there yet.
The opening act was Jon Pearson, who had jiggled his set about tonight. I’ve seen him a lot of times and I’m used to the various components in his expanding repertoire, but tonight he changed the order and this is where experience comes in useful – there was no jarring links or leaps, it all felt very natural. He received good laughs for some references to Mansfield and gave a very nice set to an audience that appreciated him. He did lose the room slightly a couple of times, but never for long and this was towards the end of an extended bumper 35 minutes set.
After the first intermission it was Josh Smith. At first there was a bit of feedback on the sound system, making him sound as though he was speaking through a fish tank, but luckily this was soon resolved. Smith has a quiet, almost understated delivery. This drew the audience in, with them listening to him. This is a very nice style, but may not work in a rowdier environment. He didn’t have many huge laughs, but instead built up lots of little laughs until the end, when he hit home with a nice call back. It may be to his advantage to just start a bit stronger to establish himself and to add a bit more punch around the 10 minute mark when the energy dips a touch. The end result of this was a nice and pleasant feel good set.
The closing act was Seymour Mace, a comedian who I have heard nice things of, but hadn’t actually seen. He has a big stage presence and had to do nothing beyond walking onto the stage to establish his credentials. He received an early applause break for some improv and went on to have a set hugely appreciated by the audience. He has lots of energy and a real eye for the surreal. This is combined with a performance, rather than a delivery, that puts his material over incredibly strongly. His material is sound, with the Hulk section a real stand out. There is a lot of joy in his style and I thoroughly enjoyed his set.