Canal House – Charmian Hughes, Jon Pearson, Ed Patrick, Ryan Mather, Damian Kingsley, Stevie Gray, Scott Bennett and Matt Hollins (MC)

Tonight I was at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. As I’ve previously said, this is my favourite night of the comedy calendar. Mostly this is because you never quite know what you will get. There is usually a good mix of acts, including some from out of area and often someone will surprise you with a really strong showing. There is also a nice balance between established acts trying new material and also new acts, just starting out. There were 30 people or so in tonight, which whilst that would fill some gigs, seemed a little low for this room. Tonight’s compere was Matt Hollins.
 
Hollins is an act who has impressed me the last few times I’ve seen him. He’s been sharper and more focussed than previously, so I was curious as to how he would make out as MC, as this is a different skill set. The answer to this is that he suffers from a couple of disadvantages, but neither are anything that can’t be overcome. On the plus side, he looks smart in a suit and does have an air of authority about him and his material is good. This all helps. On the other hand, Hollins has a low energy, downbeat approach. This doesn’t assist him in injecting energy or atmosphere into a room. Also, his banter is a weak partner to his material, with him not having the fast responses, or ready made lines for the interaction that his banter provoked. He could make a virtue of his downbeat manner by referencing it in a large way, suggesting jobs that he was too dynamic for and so on. If done extremely well, this could help him compere, with the less energy he used the more the audience getting into it. Considering that Hollins is a lot stronger on material he could perhaps play to this strength during his compering. I’m not usually a fan of this, as I feel it eats material rapidly and sometimes the crowbarring in can be pretty obvious. In this case, I mean asking leading questions where Hollins can ambush the audience with material. A lot of comperes ask audience members what job they do. This is something that I feel is overdone. I’d like to see more variety, such as what’s your favourite film/animal/Christmas present. Asking something along these lines, where he will probably find 2-3 usual answers, would give Hollins the chance to have prepared material ready and this would make a big difference. As it stands, he didn’t have a bad night, but he could have had a better night and with a few tweaks, he could have had a great night.
 
The opening act was Charmian Hughes. She made a good start and had some interesting material about comedic bravery, plus lots of enthusiasm about her ex. However, there was no feeling of connection between her and the audience. Should she have just referenced the fact that 30 people were in the room with her, it would have helped tie her in.
 
Jon Pearson was next, doing some new material. This is the 3rd time I’ve seen Pearson in 9 days and this is no hardship, as he’s a really strong comedian. He immediately demonstrated his ability with some great ad libs to a shout out about Watford. This was followed by a selection of new material. Relationships was good, cuteness started slowly, but then suddenly came alive in a big way with the dog mating and the Karma Sutra was really good. This was the first time any of these routines had been performed and they all have great prospects, albeit cuteness needs another look at the beginning.
 
Ed Patrick opened after the first intermission. He wasn’t helped by 5 late comers arriving, but despite this he didn’t do badly. The reveal on the aggressive driver was a bit predictable, but the Communist stag do more than made up for this. The finger section was perhaps a bit overlong, but still enjoyable, whilst the closing section on Attenborough was a bit weak. The delivery was convincing and this wasn’t a bad set.
 
Ryan Mather was next, on his second gig. I saw Mather last week at a gong show, where although I wasn’t that impressed, personally, he did make the final. Tonight it was the same material, which in such a new act is to be expected, so this is no criticism. His delivery isn’t bad, although he does burn up a lot of calories moving about the stage. He had a nice reference to the previous comic, which went down well. Mather received consistent laughs during his set. To progress he’ll need more stage time to develop his style and also more material, as his anecdote will only take him so far.
 
Damian Kingsley had a good night. Resigning from non-jobs is a fantastic premise and there is a lot of fun to be had with this. His routine was very pleasant with a lot of laughs, including some lovely touches. His delivery was confident and strong, helping to sell the material. I enjoyed his set and considering I wasn’t familiar with Kinglsey prior to tonight, I hope our paths cross again.
 
Stevie Gray, who resumed after the second intermission, injected some welcome energy into the room. He immediately made his presence felt with a high energy approach. This was very shrewd on his part, as his first routine required audience interaction and he created the requisite atmosphere swiftly. He received a small applause break for a wonderful ad lib about egalitarianism before moving onto a pirate song. For this he required another audience member, picking me. It was interesting being up on the stage, seeing things from the view of the comic – 25 shadows and 5 faces. This song went down well and then he moved onto a political song, which was really strong, getting good laughs. Gray has a real stage presence and he is also confident enough to involve the audience. Despite having only seen him last Monday, I enjoyed seeing him again tonight. His section had a joyous enthusiastic feel to it.
 
Scott Bennett, an extremely strong act, closed, doing new material. He has a relaxed presence on stage, but this conceals a razor sharp comedian. For every audience interaction, Bennett has an extremely fast comeback. This was a joy to watch. Of the new material, paint balling and showers are both good, although I really liked his opening material about emissions. The wedding section was great, as was being home alone. The running gag about his hair was fantastic and really added value. Tonight was a wonderful night and Bennett really added to it.
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