Thorncliffe – Cokey Falkow, Phil Reid, Bambam Shaikh, Ian Cognito and Gareth Berliner (MC)

I’ve made it a rule to write up my review as soon as I get in; however, by the time I got in last night I had a thumping headache and simply wouldn’t have been able to do anyone justice. Hence a write up this morning.
Last night I was in Thorncliffe, near Sheffield for FAF Promotions gig there. The line up was very impressive, with Cokey Falkow, Bambam Shaikh, Phil Reid and a certain Ian Cognito headlining. This is also a very nice room to be in, with a crowd well disposed to comedy. At first glance, a sports and social club in a tough district of Sheffield doesn’t sound that promising a venue, but the crowd are lovely. They are really into having a laugh and are far from a constant battle to hold – I wish all audiences were like this. Last night it was the Halloween Special, so the room was decorated in some style, the stage cobwebbed, a smoke machine used, with appropriate lighting and sounds, courtesy of Stoney on electrics. The net result was a very nice atmosphere, which was a bonus to our MC, Mr Gareth Berliner.
Berliner had a good night last night. I’m not sure why or how, but even before he’d said a word, the audience were loving him. This is unusual, as a lot of places are more reticent with their appreciation, waiting to see what a MC has to offer before giving them love. Instead, Berliner had it as soon as he stepped onto the stage. With this, he got off to a flying start. He had a cracking line about the posh undead and then proceeded to rib various members of the audience. The crowd were pretty close knit, with everyone knowing everyone else by name and the more he poked fun at someone, the more the room loved him. He wasn’t brutal or crude, but instead offered up his view of various personages and I think some of these will find themselves with new nicknames for the next few months. During each of his stints, Berliner did well. His second session was notable for some really good material about a heart monitor. This was all very entertaining.
The opening act was Cokey Falkow, a suitably dark act for the night. I’ve seen Falkow before at a Funhouse gig, where although he had split the room slightly, he had made a huge impression on me. Tonight he got really good laughs from improv and simply being himself. All he had to do was look at a certain section of the audience in a particular way and the laughs rolled. There aren’t many comedians who can achieve this. His material went down well, but didn’t seem to make the same impact, which was a shame, as it was really enjoyable. However, this is a bit like saying a Porsche isn’t as good as a Ferrari – both are still pretty damn good. Falkow doesn’t just deliver his material, instead he gives it more panache and this helps send it further. The end result was a great set, reminiscent of Tony Law, but to my mind, better and not so cult. He didn’t split the room, either, although 3-4 chaps didn’t seem to listen, but as they didn’t listen to anyone this doesn’t count. The darker he went the more the room laughed.
After the intermission it was Phil Reid. The last time I saw Reid he was in the process of winning a talent night in fine style. Seeing his name on the bill was reassuring, as I know he has bags of talent. He is also a lot lighter in tone than the other acts and so would provide some contrast. He began with a galloping stream of horse puns that should have left him hoarse. This generated good laughs and he proceeded to hit the room with a solid set that hung together very well indeed. A lot of it concerned children and births and this was very relatable to a lot of the room. Reid is sharp – he overheard an audience member discussing an imminent birth and used this to draw the audience in – a very nice and clever touch. His delivery is joyfully enthusiastic, with a big grin. It’s a churlish audience that doesn’t respond well to his style. Thorncliffe were far from churlish and they loved him.
Following was Bambam Shaikh. I like seeing Bambam, not only because I think he is very funny, but also because it’s always interesting to see how he is received. When Bambam stepped out, I felt the temperature in the room drop by a few degrees. I wasn’t totally surprised by this, as the audience was shocked by seeing something no one expected. I sensed that the audience initially had no idea what to make of Bambam – I felt they were worried that they were about to be made to feel uncomfortable. I believe this is part of what makes Bambam such a good act. He raises the tension, then breaks it by getting huge laughs. Naturally, there is a risk that the audience will laugh for the wrong reasons, or not get the satire behind the jokes, but tonight the audience laughed well. I love the Christianity opening joke – it’s a joy to see who gets it last in the room. Bambam’s set is well thought out and covers a lot of ground. He gets really good laughs when he deliberately lets the character slip for a moment – this also breaks some tension with the laughter. Also, the man behind Bambam, Jay, has a great sense of knowing just how long to stretch a pause out for. The crowd were really into his performance, rewarding him with 2 applause breaks.
Chatting to Jay afterwards, he told me the funniest story I’ve heard all week – after one gig, he was approached by a chap offering him work – a booking for Bambam at an EDL event…
The headliner was Ian Cognito, an act I’d heard of (who hasn’t?), but not seen before. Stoney had been singing his praises on the car share up to the gig, telling me how strong he was. I’d no reason to doubt him and this made me very curious about what I should see. Cognito walked onto the stage with swagger and confidence. I’ve seen confident acts before – one chap I’ve seen walked onto the stage as if he owned the venue and then proceeded to alienate the room. However, Cognito came on not looking as if he owned the place, but more like he also owned every member of the audience and was coming round for tea. This gave him tremendous presence. He didn’t bother with the microphone, he delivered his lines just using his powerful voice. The only time he touched a microphone was to bellow down it to great effect. At one point Cognito delivered his material, stood on two chairs, which was awesome. I’ve never seen a comic dominate a room so completely. There were some people who broke out into chatter every so often and he addressed them, but was surprisingly gentle in this. I think everyone in the room expected him to destroy them so thoroughly that they’d need professional assistance for the next 5 years, he certainly has it in him to do so. However, Cognito could be surprisingly tender, too. He seemed to be able to go from shouting to a much more subtle and nuanced delivery at the drop of a hat. A top notch performance. Cognito also has a good sense of what is achievable. He knew that the room was with him when he did a stunt with the stool of a girl who had left to get a drink. He also tied his material into what the acts had said previously with some lovely references. The material itself was hugely enjoyable, although the gag about Belfast deserved a lot more love. The material about Jeremy Thorpe went down surprisingly well considering there were probably only 5 people in the room who could have said who he was before the night. I really enjoyed Ian Cognito, he smashed this room. The audience loved him, too – seven applause breaks. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen an audience member buy a pint for an act mid-set and pass it over to him. Incredible.

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