This afternoon I was at the Blundabus, for my first gig of the Nottingham Comedy Festival. The Blundabus was parked next to the Vat and Fiddle pub, which despite being within sight of the train station seemed to be in a section of possibly the most depressing industrial estate in the world. This wasn’t so much a location to attract the passing trade, so much as a place that people scurry by, heads down, on their way to somewhere more cheerful. This was a dreadful shame as the Blundabus itself is rather splendid. It is far more homely than a bus has any right to be. I’m not sure what came first, Rowling’s Knight Bus, or Bob Slayer’s Blundabus, but either could be modelled on the other. Although, that having been said, the red lighting of the Blundabus does give it the appearance of a mobile brothel, something that may cause a lot of confusion if he ever takes it to Amsterdam.
The opening act was Jason Neale, from Leicester. I think he suffered a bit from going on at 1630. Comedy festival or not, this was a miserable Saturday in a particularly depressing part of Nottingham and I think this really hurt his numbers. Although the small crowd was vocal in welcoming Neale, it did make it a tricky gig to play. The format of the show was that the audience filled in forms with five facts on, prior to the show and Neale would mine these for gold. This can work well, or it can be hard work – some of the facts will lend themselves to comedy and others will be all but impossible to work with. It all depends on what the audience writes, but it is a good way of getting some points to work from. The facts we received today did provide Neale with some material to bounce off, but a lot of them were pretty unplayable. With a larger selection to pick from he may have been able to discard the dud facts and weave more from the better facts. Today we were unfortunate. Whilst this approach is one that can work well, I think it is pretty chancy unless the proponent is either lightning fast at thinking on their feet or has an encyclopaedic general knowledge (see Tim Fitzhigham) to tie the facts into. Neale’s banter was good, but the real joy was from his anecdotes, such as the graffito on his sister’s car. I’d like to see more of these, as these were of a very good quality and really stood out. I’m convinced there is gold in Jason Neale, but today I didn’t see it. On a different night with different facts, or a different format, I believe I will see this gold.