Hoofers – Steve Haze, Harry Stachini, Dave Pollard, Brian Damage and Krysstal with Nick Banks as MC

Tonight I was at FAF Promotions Hoofer’s gig at Field Mill, which on a wet and miserable night was joyfully close to home. This was the Halloween special, made so by Stoney having a halloween play list, which did help to set the atmosphere. The numbers were pretty decent, with extra chairs and tables being needed – always a pleasure to see. There were a couple of pre-gig upsets with the MC being stuck in Japan due to flight delay. Into the breach stepped Mr Nick Banks at very short notice.
It’s always interesting seeing someone for the first time and tonight Banks proved to be both interesting and very entertaining, getting a laugh from his opening words. The fact that this was a Halloween Special gave him a chance to ask the audience what was the scariest thing that had happened to them. I liked this. I liked this a lot. It was a wonderful change to people being asked what they did for a living. This can get repetitive and although as a reviewer, I do see a lot of comedy, plenty of gigs attract a loyal audience and it must be a bit samey for them when every month they get asked who does what. Anyway, this generated some nice responses and the audience seemed to appreciate it, too. There were some late comers, who although they only numbered 6, did seem to make more noise than Brian Blessed treading on a bit of lego. This didn’t put Banks off, who was in the midst of getting great laughs for a wonderfully dark story about a hot dog. He then finished his first session with the rules and it’s always nice to see these being mentioned. For me, one of the highlights of the night was Banks’ story about a chap playing pin finger and getting his comeuppance from a friend of his. This generated a huge laugh and was fantastic, it was even better than his fast as lightning and off the cuff response about the raffle number. Banks had a good night and proved to be a very enjoyable MC, getting strong and persistent laughs.
The opening act was Steve Haze, another act that I was unfamiliar with until tonight. His set consisted of a large number of gags weaved into some anecdotes. Some of these gags were of a certain vintage and were quite possibly known to the audience. However, this didn’t seem to make any difference as he received consistent good laughs for his material, although the big build for the golf joke seemed disproportionate for the strength of the reveal. He got a great response to his part about his dad’s stutter, which was well deserved. There wasn’t a lot of audience interaction, which suited his style, however, when he had a faux recognition of one lady, this did land heavily.
Following the intermission it was Harry Stachini. I’ve seen him before at another FaF night, where he had done well. It seems that during the intervening two months he has improved a lot and I already thought he was good. He opened with referencing some of Banks’ material, which tied his opening section into the night and provided some lovely continuity. Stachini’s material was really good, but what raised it even higher was the feeling that there was a real story and thread running through it all. There were numerous cracking bits in it, too, with Wonderwall and an extremely well drawn drinking challenge being true standouts. There were some very well realised accents that I think add depth to the routine and also a rather spiffing call back. Stachini’s delivery was a bit fast, but I don’t actually think this hurt him, instead it helped him build momentum. He used a lady on the front row as a foil for his material and his asides to her went down very nicely with the entire room. I feel he may have overrun a touch, but considering how splendidly he was doing, I doubt anyone minded in the least. This was a superb performance from a man who has a definite future in comedy.
Dave Pollard had the difficult job of following Stachini. I’ve seen Pollard a couple of times before and the last time I had seen him, it had been at the Roadhouse, where he had been trying some new material. He had a great night that night and I was curious as to how he would fare tonight. I’ve a feeling that rooms either get Pollard’s style, or they don’t and those that get him, will get him in a big way. Tonight they got him in a big big way. Pollard’s style is that of a man on the edge of reason, consumed with rage. The mere sight of this man boiling with anger had the room laughing. This laughter was doubled when he put his headpiece on. Strangely, the room didn’t go quite so much for his material to begin with, as immature ejaculation and conviction and appeal deserved much bigger laughs than they received. This was rectified with the section on alphabets, as this got a massive response. I did think a lady on the front row was in danger of doing herself an injury, she was laughing that much. Pollard’s delivery and material really hit the jackpot tonight. My only comment would be for him to rejig his running order a bit, as the closing routine wasn’t as strong as it could have been – perhaps closing with the alphabet, instead, may be better.
Brian Damage and Krysstal closed. As with all the acts on tonight’s bill, the room really warmed to them. They gave us a mixture of puns and music with some songs. I enjoyed the routines more than the songs, although it must be said that one of them is a real belter. Krysstal has mastered the ability of getting laughs through just standing there and using her facial expressions. She proved to have a strong solo spot with some great material about her gran’s shop. Together they are a solid act who got good laughs and finished the night of with a flourish.

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