End of year round up

The stats are:

92 gigs attended out of 140 nights when I was free

 
approx. 350 individual reviews of which 310 were male and 40 female

 
Most seen comic was Jon Pearson (16 times) followed by Thomas Rackham (7 times)

 
Out of 92 gigs, only 4 were compered by ladies (Laura Lexx, Laura Monmoth, Jo D’arcy and Frantique Doyle) which is a shocking statistic

 
Furthest – a delightful Teknicolour Smoof gig in Telford

 
Closest – Create Theatre in Mansfield and more or less on my doorstep

 

This has been my first year as a reviewer (almost, as I started in February) and I’ve been very impressed by the comedy talent that I have seen. This year I’ve seen some big names such as Noble, Carr (Alan) and Bridges and also some people who were doing their first ever gigs. One of the most surprising things has been the sheer quality of comedy that is out there. I’ve been to many a gong or open mic where there have been acts who have been great. I count myself lucky to have seen a few people who, in the fullness of time, will become household names. At the other end of the scale, I’ve only seen one person (who shall remain nameless) who I believe is totally wasting everyone’s time, including their own. I’m also amazed at just how reasonably priced a damn good nights’ entertainment is, but also extremely disappointed at how few people go to live comedy.

My awards for upcoming talent went to Billy Lowther for the funniest 10 spot (£50 postal order), Wayne Beese for up and coming MC (£50 postal order) and Chris Stiles for most improved gong show entrant (£25 postal order). I was pleased to be able to give something back and I’m looking forward to seeing how these progress in the coming year.

From who I’ve seen this year my fantasy line up would probably be a combination of:

Jon Pearson – he’s really at home on stage

Phil Pagett – brilliant one liners

Rivka Uttley – delivers her routine with wonderful conviction

Peter Brush – a really clever use of words

Billy Lowther – extremely funny

Ben Briggs – I’ve hurt myself laughing at him

The best gig is a difficult one to choose, as I’ve seen so many excellent gigs. However, if pushed I’d perhaps select FAF Promotions at Bentinck Miner’s Welfare, where Tom Binns did all of his characters. A close second would be Funhouse’s gong show at the Maze in November, which mixed car crash acts with extremely good ones.

The worst gig and in fact the only gig I left before it finished was a charity night that was almost a tick list of why charity gigs are bad ideas. The evening included: city centre pub on a Saturday night, loads of disinterested drinkers wondering what the hell was going off, enough conversation to make it hard to follow routines, a talk (with slide show) about the deprivation in Nepal at the top of the night and so on….

During the coming year I’m hoping to see acts continue to hone their existing material and just as importantly, develop new material. I’d like to see more female acts on the circuit, especially compering.

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End of the month review – December

This month has been a rather frustrating month, comedy wise. I was hoping to get to a lot of gigs, but owing to my shift patterns and other commitments, I’ve only seen 36 Acts. These have varied in talent from Kevin Bridges, who was mostly on auto-pilot to a lad doing his first ever performance and who was really up for it.

 

The ones who have captured my attention this month are:

MC’s

The Nightingale Bros

I saw these at the Teknicolour Smoof night in Telford and they were extremely good.

From the night:

Paul and Andy Nightingale compered this gig together. I’ve seen joint comperes before, but never a pair who work so well together. They have the sort of chemistry, timing and trust that only comes from having known each other for so long. This enabled them to not only banter with the room and each other, but also for one of them to go off on a tangent and the other to not look worried where he was heading. It was also extremely funny to see one corpsing whilst his brother was working. When the people on stage are loving what each other are doing it really helps to build a good atmosphere. As it was, they added a massive feel good sensation to the night. In fact, they were responsible for one of the highlights – this was when some later comers walked in through a side door and they both began to sing happy birthday to them, with half of the audience joining in – much to the bemusement of the interlopers. During the second section, they both appeared dressed as Santas, which was a nice seasonal touch. The final section involved a couple of members of the audience doing jokes. Generally getting the audience on stage is as wise as looking down a hose to see why no water is coming out, yet they chose their people well and it didn’t explode in their faces. They did the rules, kept it tight, were very funny and impressed me muchly.

Ten Spots

Masai Graham

Wonderfully dark and although he could perhaps split a few rooms, the people who loved his bleaker jokes will love them in a big big way.

From the night:

Masai Graham closed the middle section. He is probably the act I’ve heard the most about, but hadn’t actually seen in person. He has a massive reputation amongst the younger acts of the West Midlands circuit and having seen him, I can fully understand why. He was doing mostly new material, so not everything was as polished as if he had been doing his usual set, but even so it was great. He started with the darkest joke of the night, got a massive laugh and continued in this vein. He knows his material is dark, but he also knows the audience will go with him and this comes across strongly in his delivery and the jokes land all the better for it. I thoroughly enjoyed his set and thought he was extremely impressive.

Sean Morley

Rather unconventional and there is a possible question mark regarding how many venues this would work in, but he is still very entertaining and I suspect has many rabbits he can pull out of his hat.

Next was Sean Morley. I’ve seen Morley before at the Cross Keys where he moved the audience about the room and then declared it a non gig. I’ve also heard him on the Radio 2 new comedian awards, where he did a similar stunt in declaring the night over. I enjoyed both airings, but was curious as to what he would be doing in Leicester – would it be a conventional routine, or would it be something similar, and if so would it suffer from the law of diminishing returns? How many times can a comedian turn a gig inside out and still receive laughs?
Morley began as soon as he was announced by McGuckin, but not by walking onto the stage as one may expect, but from his seat in the audience. He pretended that he was just an audience member and cheered and whooped, hollering for Sean Morley, demanding he get to the stage. This worked surprisingly well considering that half of the room knew who he was and in a larger, more anonymous setting, would be even funnier. Morley then took to the stage where he found a number of problems with the room’s ambience. This resulted in McGuckin dashing about, righting these issues. The end result was a room in total darkness – very unorthodox (I have heard of a gig in darkness in Copenhagen, where the MC stripped off, much to everyone’s surprise when the lights went back on). Naturally, Morley then declared the gig to be unplayable and that sadly he wouldn’t be able to continue. This was far funnier than it sounds on paper. The mirth of this is in Morley’s performance in getting from saying hello to saying sorry, but bye.
He is very erudite and has an excellent command of the English language. His demeanour whilst taking complete control of the room is that of the world’s most polite and remorselessly efficient public executioner. One who has just realised that if he can get everyone moving that little bit more quickly, he can have an early weekend (Come along you chaps! These executions won’t do themselves! Buck up! Some of us have a weekend to look forwards to. Not you lot, obviously, but I do…). The end result of this was that the law of diminishing returns did not kick in at all. It was hugely enjoyable and entertaining and I suspect that being as creative and verbally cultivated as he is, this will continue for a long time. I certainly hope so, although there is a lingering question of how long a set it can be done for.
Other thoughts:
Phil Pagett – very likely to be the next Gary Delaney. I’ve seen both Delaney and Pagett this month. I’ve previously recommended Pagett, so hesitate to do so again so soon, but the similarities between both in style and talent were remarkable. The only major difference was Delaney’s visible joy when a joke hit home and Pagett’s more deadpan demeanour.
Dave Rivers – he continues to do good performances that are solid and entertaining. He’s a man to watch for the future.
Rob Mulholland (MC) – Rob began the night as a conventional MC and whilst undoubtedly competent wasn’t spectacular. However, part way through a switch was flicked and he went into splendidly loopy mode, walking on top of chairs, straddling audience members and giving the audience the time of their lives. I’m not sure this would work in every venue, but it was massively entertaining and worth the price of admission alone.

Hoofers -Andy Watson, Steve Rimmer, Phil Reid, Gary Delaney and Laura Lexx (MC)

 

If one were to look up sod’s law in the dictionary, the definition should reference an evening with no comedy being followed by one where there are four possible shows to go to. As it was, I picked Hoofers at Field Mill (FAF Promotions), as it is a good night, there was a good bill and also it is five minutes from home. As is the tradition, this was the Christmas Special, so the backdrop was covered in tinsel and the playlist featured Noddy Holder. There was a nice sized crowd in tonight, partly drawn by the seasonal goodwill, but mostly attracted by the headline act, Gary Delaney. The MC was Laura Lexx.
 
Unbelievably, I have only seen three female comperes at venues I’ve been to in the course of a year (Jo D’Arcy and Laura Monmoth being the others). I’ve no idea why they should be so thin on the ground, as it isn’t a gender specific job. I know that Stoney doesn’t give a monkey’s what gender someone is. Like every other promoter worth their salt, he’s only concerned about whether an act can do the job. It’s an odd one, as I feel I should have seen many more. When Lexx came bounding out, I did initially question what level of authority she would have. I wouldn’t say that Hoofers is an unruly room, but the audience do seem to require impressing before they take an act seriously. In the end, Lexx gained her authority not from an overwhelming presence, or audience members fearing being singled out, but simply through charm and laughter. She is very fast speaking, not in any way garbled, but more I suspect because her brain is working at approximately 5,000 mph and her voice will only do 400 mph. You get the impression that whilst on stage her brain is working three times faster than anyone else’s in the room. One can tell that in the time it took her to spot an opening for banter and ask two chaps about their marriage (and a very funny line it was in context, too), that she had also essayed the likely responses, got an idea of three likely comebacks and already worked in a call back to something else. It was as if she was three steps ahead of the audience. This was splendiferous. There were some lovely throwaway lines and I suspect some material that worked its way into the compering. If the section on gaining weight after proposal wasn’t material, it was extremely impressive thinking on her feet. If it was material, it fitted in organically, without any of the crowbarring that some comperes resort to when they want to include material. During the second session she did overrun by quite a margin, but this wasn’t deliberate bad time keeping. Lexx was getting big laughs and building a lot of momentum up and I believe she was going with the flow in a room that was extremely pleased to experience her. She had a fantastic night.
 
The opening act was Andy Watson, whom I last saw at a lovely gig in Thorncliffe. His style was a natural match for the atmosphere of the room. He made a good start and never really looked back, giving the audience a mixture of material, performance and room work. He demonstrated the value of acts watching comperes talk to the punters, as he had a bit of audience interaction that referenced a job that a member on the front row did. Stuff like this helps nights flow smoothly and also make it feel like the comedy is of the here and now. His lap dancing stayed just on the right side of being disturbing, getting big laughs. In fact, his physicality definitely brings a lot of joy to his set. It’s hard not to get fully involved in Watson’s routines when he’s throwing himself about on stage as he does. This set was given a nice boost by a couple of topical references to Egypt and VW, that pleased me no end. I like it when an a comedian with a good routine doesn’t let it go stale and includes little improvements here and there. This was a great opening to our night.
 
After the intermission it was Steve Rimmer, the world’s only bomb disposal expert comedian. He made a fast start with lots of cheering. This helped to build up the atmosphere and energy levels, which made his opening about the armed forces work even better. Effectively he built the room up, moved onto a more somber topic and then hit them with a belter of a gag about a hard gig. This got a massive laugh. Rimmer’s set is something different. It breaks up the pattern of people with microphones telling jokes. He uses visual aids and this is nicely different. Like Watson, he also demonstrated the value of listening to the information garnered by Lexx, using it for a good throwaway line to an electrician in the room. Rimmer is quite skilled at doing accents, which brings an extra bonus to his section on them. His running knob gag went down extremely well, building up a lot of momentum by its final outing. His call back to the Sauna was great, but didn’t get the response I felt it should have done. However, you can’t please everyone and whilst I wasn’t keen on the facebook material, the rest of the room really liked it. I felt the Yewtree and phone section a bit in need of improvement, but this did lead into what I felt was an extremely strong section on treating wanking as a part of everyday life – there is a lot of value in this and it could well be expanded. This was a good set that I and the audience enjoyed.
 
Following Rimmer it was Phil Reid. I’ve seen Reid four times this year and enjoyed it every time. This was also the third time he was performing at this specific venue – the last time he was here it was to win the Hoofers’ got Talent contest. This could prove tricky for some comedians, as not everyone creates new material quickly. I know that Reid is a hard working comic, who doesn’t rest on what he has, but I was still very interested in how he would do. He began with a wonderfully drawn out set piece involving Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. This could have died due to the time it took up, but it was kept very much alive by Reid’s facial expressions and actions on stage and in fact, the very length of the build up made it work all the better. This reached the climax, received a good laugh and an applause break. Reid then did a section comprising new material that went down well before getting to the set piece finale. This involved masks and ventriloquism of a good standard. I know his lips must have been moving,but it wasn’t obvious. This part of the set involves audience participation and a good audience member can raise it to a very high level and even if there is a misfortune involved in picking a volunteer, it is hard for it to misfire. The room fully bought into this and enjoyed it immensely. There is a lot of scope in this section to go very near the knuckle indeed with the volunteer. Reid, as ever, had a good night and again, I look forwards to seeing him perform the next time.
 
Headlining was Gary Delaney. Football jokes at a stadium gave him a nice, pleasing, opening and basically I could sum his night up as: told jokes, got big laughs, went home. However, there is much more to it than this. Doing one liners is very hard. It’s hard to build up momentum, or the feel of an actual set when each joke is effectively an orphan, left to win or lose on its own. I think the most I’ve seen anyone do in building up an individual section of one-liners is 3 jokes on the same topic, all linked. This can make it difficult for the one liner experts to capitalise on anything they have said before. Another problem faced by experts of this style is that audiences can be laughed out. After belly laughing for 5 minutes or so, audiences need to catch their breath and that’s not easy, nor conducive to a set. Delaney’s jokes are often very simple observations, but it takes a genius to spot them in the first place. He’s no slouch when it comes to thinking on his feet either, getting a terrific ad lib in, after a phone beeped during him doing a mime joke. Beyond great material, he also has fantastic timing. There will be a joke, a laughter pause and then just at the right moment, another gag. His joy in delivering them is infectious and a charm in itself. In summary: Delaney told great jokes, the audience loved him and then we all went home.

Kevin Bridges and Karl Spain (supporting)

 

Tonight I was in Nottingham to see Kevin Bridges who is touring with his show: A whole different story. This was at the Royal Concert Hall, which looked to be sold out at £25 a ticket. I had a central seat, albeit one right at the back of the stalls. Prior to Bridges, it was Karl Spain, who was supporting.
 
Spain has one of the hardest and easiest jobs in comedy – that of supporting a big star. This is hard, because the audience haven’t paid to see you and in all honesty, have probably never heard of you and are just marking time until the big guy comes on. However, it is also easy, because you are actually performing in front of a crowd who have paid good money to see comedy and are out to laugh and enjoy themselves. A far cry from performing to a group of drunken stags and hens on a Saturday night. Spain did 30 minutes, beginning with a bit of room work, using the front row and late comers. Due to the size of the room (2000 people, over 3 levels) it is hard to do much more. He received laughs, but his remarks were fairly broad and pedestrian – no surprise when you have so many people to try to appeal to. Spain wasn’t a huge presence, but he didn’t really have to do much work to keep the room happy. The audience’s natural state was well disposed towards comedy, which at £25 a person was no surprise. He had some nice gentle stories and this made for a pleasant and relaxed start. Oddly, he began with what I thought was his stand out line, that about his gym membership and Gerry Adams. This was a beautiful little joke that got a really big laugh.
 
There was a short 20 minute break after Spain, before Bridges began. Over the show a fair amount of ground was covered. Diet, moving to a more salubrious area, the difficulty of having a Glaswegian accent, art, technology and then sleepovers. Some of these were great, some merely good, none particularly bad. There was a set piece that almost, but not quite became a running gag, involving the artist Diego Rivera, where Bridges would recite a number of facts about him. This could have been entertaining, but I felt it a bit of a stunt. It was similar to when someone recites every name for a car and then finishes to an applause break, which is awarded more for the effort than the actual comedy value of the recital. There were a few shout outs, but not many and not enough to be irritating. These gave him a chance to ad lib responses, most of which involved a call back (such as the lost audience member who was a postman), which demonstrated Bridges to be very sharp and on the ball.
 
As is usual with these big theatre gigs, Bridges would have had to work very hard to lose the room. Naturally he was in no danger of even coming close, but it did grant him a lot more leeway than a comedian usually gets. His show lasted over a hour, without another break and after 50 minutes the room did reach a tipping point as regards concentration. Being sat at the back, I could see plenty of bright rectangles, as a lot of the audience checked the time on their phones. A couple sat directly in front of me got up and vanished, never to return. I felt that whilst the show was well delivered and had some very nice routines, it would have benefitted from being a bit more tightly edited in places. The big routine about sleeping over (house rice) was a bit flabby and overlong. A shorter, more condensed version would have hit harder and this could be said about much of the night.
 The highlight of the show, was the encore. Bridges held a Q&A session, where he demonstrated that he is fast on his feet mentally and able to work quickly with things he was asked. This was more impressive than any amount of regurgitated data about a Mexican artist. This had a wonderful feel of the here and now, which live comedy should have. There was a similar peak when he ad libbed during routines. This was an entertaining night, but it could have been a great night with tighter routines.

Canal House – Lucy Thompson, Sean Moran, Dave Cheddarton, Calum Tingham, Andy Gleeks, Liam Webber, Dave Rivers and Rob Mulholland (MC)

 

Tonight I was at my favourite gig of the month – the Midlands Comedy Award nominated NCF £1 night at the Canal House in Nottingham. This was the Christmas Special, which was perhaps a bit early in the month for it to feel that festive, despite the tree, tinsel, fairy lights and Star Trekkin being on the play list. Tonight wasn’t the busiest that I’ve seen it, which was a shame, as this is a great comedy night. It was nice to see some familiar faces in the audience, such as Ben Macphearson, but a few extra people would have helped with the energy levels. The compere was Rob Mulholland.
 
Although I’ve seen Mulholland gig a few times (and if you haven’t – why not?), I’ve never seen him MC. I suspected he’d be rather good at it. He has an irrepressible air of mischief about him, similar to a school boy who’s been given a whoopee cushion by an uncle. He began with a room that was fairly cold. He did the basics, asking people what they do and so on – as I’ve stated in other reviews, I wish comperes would move on from this and ask other questions, even asking what people want for Christmas would be a nice change. Mulholland got enough back from the audience to work with and slid in some nice contemporary references to relationship status’ and received nice laughs. He was honest enough to admit to no longer being interested and moving on when a lady seemed to drag things out a bit and this got a good laugh, too. After he did the rules, he offered a heckle amnesty and received the wonderful heckle of being told he looked like a moist David Tennant; cue a round of applause for the heckler. This was all entertaining, but to me Mulholland seemed to be operating in a bit of a straitjacket. Luckily during the second session, the gloves came off and he was able to let his personality run wild. Mulholland went on safari around part of the room, striding from chair to chair, looking like a 6’7 BFG, stood on chairs. This was splendidly loopy and the room came to life in a big way. His legs look about 5′ long and it was reminiscent of Cleese doing a silly walk, but on a chair, precariously balanced. This really suited his style and suddenly anything seemed possible. Including straddling an audience member and getting massive laughs for doing so. He did use a fair bit of material, but I think this was mostly to keep a room that was, tonight, predisposed to being quiet, laughing. Mulholland’s compering can be split into two halves. The conventional half, was decent, but the section when he just decided to go wild was fantastic. The more splendidly loopy Mulholland went, the more I enjoyed his work. I doubt many people will forget the sight of him striding about on chairs in a hurry.
 
Opening was Lucy Thompson, who has been nominated for the Midlands Comedy Awards breakthrough act of 2015. Tonight wasn’t really her night. Despite Mulholland’s work, the room seemed to settle back to being cold as she walked to the stage. This was a shame, as she’s a good comedian. Thompson made a bit of a slow start and the audience never really seemed to get behind her until towards the end of her set when she was discussing weddings and days it is permitted to have a drink. Thompson is a reliable, funny comedian with decent material and a nice delivery, so I’m not sure why she didn’t have a good night. I’ve seen her do these routines on comedy nights and new material nights and get a lot of love from the audience, so I don’t think any fault is on her side of things. For whatever reason and it may just have been the running order, she didn’t have the sort of night I’d have expected or hoped. Thompson didn’t die, she got laughs and on another night will do as well as she normally does.
 
Sean Moran did a nice routine based around families and being a dad. A lot of this material struck a chord with the audience. His delivery was at a conversational level and was rather low key. This did suit the domestic nature of his material. Although only two lines seemed to land heavily with the room (gang of lads and shed) and in truth nothing of his set was especially memorable, he did build up an enjoyable set. It was a bit like an episode of the Detectorists – you may not be belly laughing and you may be hard put to remember any of the jokes, but it was still very pleasant to see and the night was quietly improved by having seen it.
 
After the first intermission it was Dave Cheddarton, a late addition to the roster. This is a character act that I believe has a lot of potential if handled correctly. Tonight we saw new material being trialled and perhaps one way of delivering it being eliminated. Cheddarton (a legendary [in his own kitchen] figure in the comedy industry) began with a brief rundown of his career. He gave us a deliberate mangling of the names of acts of the 1980s, which got a few scattered laughs, before going onto a Q&A. This evoked questions such as asking his opinion on the legacy of the Goons, an explanation of why people see McIntyre (I’m interested in that, too) and an opinion on Carlin. Hollins, the man behind Cheddarton, played him straight tonight and this may have been a tactical error, as it became apparent very quickly that the room hadn’t realised he was a character act and were taking it very seriously, putting Hollins on the spot. Perhaps if he had been more ridiculous at the top, this wouldn’t have happened. The deliberate mangling of names mentioned earlier, could have been more exaggerated perhaps, with Alexei SaylesRon and Rik Mailorder, etc. This would have alerted the room to the fact that this was a spoof. Similarly, a running joke, such as whenever a comedian is named, from Charlie Chaplin, to Carlin, by way of McIntyre, Cheddarton could have immediately said, ‘I gave him his big break when he applied as an open spot at my club in Chiswick!’. Rather than being played straight, being OTT could possibly improve the delivery of what I think is still a splendid concept. Hollins was trying a new character act tonight, one that is going to take some settling down and whilst it didn’t work as planned, that is what new material nights are for and I’m glad he performed.
 
Calum Tingham is an act I’ve seen a couple of times at gong and new act nights. He’s relaxed on stage and has a decent presence, but is still being let down by his material. This is nothing that can’t be improved. He had a section on tinder, which is a subject well covered. He received some laughs for his take on it, but did better with his turtle joke. The coffee shop felt a bit strained, though. The changes from topic to topic were very abrupt with no segway into a new routine. This gave his set a bit of a jarring feel. He didn’t have a great night, but he didn’t have a particularly bad night either and the only way he’ll get better is to carry on writing new material and trying it out at nights like this. I’ll be interested to see how he gets on with it.
 
Andy Gleeks had a mixed night. He began by referencing his Northern Irish accent, which lead naturally into material based on his ancestry and home town, with a good local reference to a rough part of Nottingham thrown in for great effect. This lead neatly into him saying about being in England due to meeting a girl and so into material on birth and so on into a nice closing section on loo roll. It wasn’t always obvious where he was going, apart from when he made it deliberately so with the loo roll. A lot of his jokes required a modicum of general knowledge, which I liked, as they made the reveals feel a bit more special. However, to me, he fell down on two jokes, both for the same reason. He had a bit about witnessing birth being akin to witnessing your favourite pub burn down, which is a joke all over the internet and he had a well known bit of material about unpopular housemates and if you don’t have one, then it’s you. The inclusion of these two well known sections took the shine off of what had been an enjoyable set.
 
Liam Gardiner Webber had a splendid night. He was doing new material, some of which was only from that afternoon. He began with Shakespeare, three performances from three different plays. One delivered with full on acting, one a daft, but very funny gag and one bonkers and funny. This was a good start. He then moved on to a routine based on the USSR, which I especially enjoyed. A more forceful comic than Webber, Sean Morley, perhaps, would have insisted that everyone in the room stand for the Soviet national anthem and this would probably send an already good joke through the roof when the reveal landed. The end of this section would have been hard to carry on from for a lot of comedians, but Webber did well to jump back into the set, where he gave us dogs in space (that works well when said like Pigs in Space from the Muppet Show). This was also good fun. This material is eclectic, but worked very well for Webber, as he is a fantastic performer. He totally commits to his performance and this adds a wonderful level of conviction to his delivery. I enjoyed his set.
 
Closing was Dave Rivers, who when I last saw him, was putting in a very strong performance in a comedian of the year heat. He had a bit of a tricky start and was perhaps lucky to remain unscathed after a couple of unfavourable references to Nottingham, as these could have gone either way. His material is of a very high quality and I’ve yet to see him have a bad show. He had some new sections which worked well (wings, etc) and his established material, which he focussed on as headliner, has been improved through an enhanced delivery. His facial expressions when showing how his dad copes with takeaway food added a lot of value to the routine. This is a comedian I’d like to see a lot more of, especially a new character piece that he is trying in January that sounds very promising.

Teknicolour Smoof – Dinsdale, Monmoth, Anderson, Swift, Brown, Milton, Miyagi, Pollard, Graham, Hylton, Farrell, Pagett, Pearson and Nightingale Bros (MC)

 

Last night I was at Roger Swift’s Teknicolour Smoof gig at the Crown Inn of Telford. This gig has a splendidly quirky name, that tickles me every time I see it. This is also a gig I’ve wanted to go to for a long time, but due to the fact that it is located in Middle-Earth or some place, I’ve not been. It seems miles away from home. In fact, I was only able to attend it due to a car share with Jon Pearson. I’d never been to Telford prior to this. I was aware that it was a new town, somewhere between Birmingham and Wales, but beyond that, the place was a mystery. I was pleasantly surprised by the venue. The Crown Inn isn’t a new pub. It was actually built in 1835 and has a lovely solid feel to it. The audience (sold out at £2 a ticket for Curry and 15 comics) were friendly and apart from some late arrivals, well behaved and really up for the night. The landlord, pint in hand, declared the night open. He was quite good value in himself, not quite compering, but with him knowing everyone by name and being able to make a few funny comments whilst he thanked people for coming, he certainly added a bit to the night. The Comperes were the Nightingale Brothers.
 
Paul and Andy Nightingale compered this gig together. I’ve seen joint comperes before, but never a pair who work so well together. They have the sort of chemistry, timing and trust that only comes from having known each other for so long. This enabled them to not only banter with the room and each other, but also for one of them to go off on a tangent and the other to not look worried where he was heading. It was also extremely funny to see one corpsing whilst his brother was working. When the people on stage are loving what each other are doing it really helps to build a good atmosphere. As it was, they added a massive feel good sensation to the night. In fact, they were responsible for one of the highlights – this was when some later comers walked in through a side door and they both began to sing happy birthday to them, with half of the audience joining in – much to the bemusement of the interlopers. During the second section, they both appeared dressed as Santas, which was a nice seasonal touch. The final section involved a couple of members of the audience doing jokes. Generally getting the audience on stage is as wise as looking down a hose to see why no water is coming out, yet they chose their people well and it didn’t explode in their faces. They did the rules, kept it tight, were very funny and impressed me muchly.
 
The opening act was Dave Dinsdale. He had a nice night and received good laughs for his local references, These included Dudley, West Brom, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Aston Villa. As it was, this did very well in Telford, but this half of his set, performed 20 miles further in any direction, wouldn’t play so well. He finished with a selection of one liners. These were lapped up by the audience, although I feel with a few of them, the audience had gotten to the reveal before he did.
 
Laura Monmoth was next, opening by referencing how she was the token female act. I liked her start. She suffered a bit from having performed there only a few months previously and this was perhaps aggravated by her telling the room that they had heard her material already. I think she possibly put a cap on the audience’s expectations by this. Her material went down well, with her getting a great laugh for the Trans Team and an even bigger one for inviting the entire room to tell her to f off – the only time it wouldn’t be a hate crime. I loved the topical Lenny Henry/Ainsley Harriott reference, as did the room. Her closing routine about an unfortunate misunderstanding regarding 4B was great. This was an enjoyable set, but it felt a bit like a number of separate routines, which I think robbed Monmoth of a lot of momentum.
 
Marshal B Anderson of Chesterfield (just down the road from me) was next. He delivered his material, hunched forwards, at a fast pace. He got through a lot of topics in his set, but he may benefit from slowing the pace of delivery slightly, as I think his jokes would hit home harder for it. The material was good, although the description of Christmas was more of a truism than being particularly funny. The stand out routine was about the DHL Santa – this was great and earned him a deserved applause break. The big ending was a seasonal poem, that was also good, but perhaps a bit too lengthy for the return.
 
Roger Swift closed the first section. Observing Swift pacing about pre-gig, as he worried about everyone turning up, was a sight to behold. He had the look of a man who should have had steam coming out of both ears. Luckily he had relaxed by now and hit the ground running with loads of energy. Swift’s set is a joy to see. He delivers prop gags and puns with élan. The gags go from genius to terrible, but work because of his delivery. I especially love his asides as he throws a prop to the floor (‘spent 45 minutes gluing that’) and these add no end to his set. As ever, he split the room a bit, but the vast majority were with him and a couple of people were laughing that hard, I worried for their health. Luckily there was an intermission, as it would have been very hard to follow Swift.
 
Following the awards (Dave Pollard – performer of the year and Jon Pearson facetious facebook stalker of the year), it was Ryan Brown who was trying some new material. Although he stumbled over a couple of bits of this new material (no problem with that) he received no end of applause breaks and laughter. The room really went for his one liners in a big way. My personal favourite was about the 3 Musketeers. I felt his persona on stage had a bit of an old fashioned feel, but his set was good, the room loved it and he had a really good night.
 
Graham Milton offered a change of pace. I wasn’t sure if he would be doing new material tonight or not, as the last time I saw him he was trying out a few new routines. As it stood, he broke out his best set and this is very good indeed. He’s got a solid set that he delivers at a perfect pace with a world weary resignation. The room warmed to him very quickly and rewarded him with consistent laughs and as ever, I enjoyed seeing this talented comedian.
 
Ronan Miyagi was next, doing new material. He was introduced as a first time performer and opened along these lines. One of the opening gags was a high risk cock gag that could have split the room, but he did well with it. Miyagi only did a short set and the character has potential, but does require some work regarding just how to pitch him for best effect.
 
Smoof Performer of the Year, Dave Pollard followed, with the room voting for the naughty version. The last time I saw Pollard he was at Hoofers in Mansfield (10 minutes from my house, as opposed to next door to Wales) and he had a really good gig. Tonight was very similar in result, although he did split the room slightly. However, the vast majority of his jokes landed and received good laughs. His man on the edge delivery sells his material well and as ever, the visual prop gag worked a treat.
 
Masai Graham closed the middle section. He is probably the act I’ve heard the most about, but hadn’t actually seen in person. He has a massive reputation amongst the younger acts of the West Midlands circuit and having seen him, I can fully understand why. He was doing mostly new material, so not everything was as polished as if he had been doing his usual set, but even so it was great. He started with the darkest joke of the night, got a massive laugh and continued in this vein. He knows his material is dark, but he also knows the audience will go with him and this comes across strongly in his delivery and the jokes land all the better for it. I thoroughly enjoyed his set and thought he was extremely impressive.
 
Alex Hylton opened the final section and treated us to some new material. This is the second time I’ve seen Hylton and I’m already looking forwards to the third time. He opened by referencing the rooms décor, which immediately struck a chord with the audience and formed a bond. He then went on to discuss his rather unique voice. This received good laughs and he was building up a nice set that had a natural flow to it. At this point there was a drunken heckle from a late arrival. Hylton put them down, showing a lot of maturity in his manner and then completed a rather nice set. Hylton is surprisingly young given how talented he is. This is a man with a good future in comedy.
 
Freddie Farrell continued the night. He began by addressing the heckler. He savaged the heckler in a way that was funny, enjoyable, but possibly a bit strong. Farrell had a good night, the room laughed when they should have done, but having seen him before, I felt he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is. I think demolishing the heckler upset his natural rhythm a bit. However, he’s an experienced and skilled act and I doubt if anyone else noticed. His material on the toilet mishap was lovely.
 
Phil Pagett, a brilliant one liner followed. I like seeing Pagett, he reminds me of Delaney, and given time, has the ability to be just as good. His material is extremely strong. Tonight he was trying new material and apart from a bit of a miss on the bus joke, everything landed. Pagett always dresses up for the occasion, which I appreciate and it helps him stand out and gives him a nice air of professionalism. His delivery is polished, but not to the point that it feels he is on auto-pilot. He’s very much still in the room. The length of his pause before he said ‘darling’ was exactly the right length. He received consistent big laughs and his flap jack pun was probably the line of the night.
 
Closing was Jon Pearson. He gave the room a set based around his experience at the gym. This went down extremely well. His delivery was spot on and although I think he suffered from going on after the audience had seen 14 other comedians and were ready for home, he had a great gig.
 
This was a lovely night.

The Nott’s Comedy Review Awards for 2015

Nott’s Comedy Review is doing 3 awards this year, all with prize money in the form of a Postal Order. The categories are: The most improved gong show entrant (£25 postal order), the funniest ten spot (£50) and MC of the year (£50).
 
As the professional acts are up for most awards going, I wanted to concentrate more on the up and coming acts, as these aren’t always recognised for their ability. Hence I have sadly had to exclude professional acts (acts who regularly get paid for their work) from my considerations.
 
The most improved Gong Show entrant goes to Chris Stiles from Yorkshire. I saw his act at the beginning of the year and it has improved greatly. It is now no longer a monologue delivered in a monotone, but is engaging, has some stand out material and has simply come on in leaps and bounds. He wins a postal order for £25
 
The funniest ten spot was more difficult to decide on, as there are so many non-professional acts who have a splendid ten minute set. The winner, out of a strong field is: Billy Lowther from Hull. His ten minutes is absolutely fantastic – it flows naturally, he delivers it at a perfect pace, his timing is impeccable, the material is incredibly strong and it is a joy not only see personally, but to watch an audience enjoy. He wins a postal order for £50
 
The MC of the year was another tricky one to decide on. I’ve seen some absolutely fantastic professional comics MC this year and once they are removed from the equation the stand out winner was Wayne Beese of Dudley. Beese is a natural compere. He doesn’t have to press anyone to talk to him, people just seem to want to open up and confide in him. He’s also got a good sense of when to move on, so doesn’t get bogged down in a zero sum game. In addition and in no means least, he isn’t afraid to do something other than ask people what they do for a living. He wins a postal order for £50.
 
I shall be in touch with the winners to enquire as to what address to post their prizes to. Hopefully we can avoid the last posting date for Christmas and these will arrive in time to be spent on something nice in the sales.
 
To anyone who hasn’t won an award – I don’t think any less of thee, if I’d seen you on another night, or perhaps seen the winners on nights where they didn’t do so well, then the results may well have been different. All I can say is better luck next year.
 
Most improved gong show entrant – Chris Stiles
Funniest ten spot – Billy Lowther
MC of the year – Wayne Beese

Manhattan 34 – Josh Pugh, Sean Morley, Tom King Anthony Pollard, President Obonjo, Chris Norton Walker and Jack Campbell

 

Last night I was in Leicester at Manhattan 34 for the Comedy and Cocktails night. I like this little cellar of a club as it has a nice feel and also as it’s not a huge room only a few people in it gives a good atmosphere. The last time I was there, it was packed out and the feeling was immense. Last night it was surprisingly quiet, but it still felt like a proper comedy venue. We had seven acts on the bill, being introduced by Dave McGuckin. The opening act was Josh Pugh.
 
I’ve seen Pugh, winner of the Nott’s Comedy Comedian of the year award, quite a lot this year, mostly at new material nights and it is always enjoyable seeing him. This time, he walked to the stage carrying a little stool, which was a bit of a puzzle. He placed the stool down and then promptly ignored it, opening with some nice offbeat observations. His set covered a lot of ground and was very wide-ranging in scope. It was also a very pacy set with no one routine lasting much more than a minute or so. This kept the laughs coming quickly and consistently. The mystery of the stool was solved when it was used for a delightfully over-engineered scenario that worked all the better for being so overdone. This was a lovely set.
 
Next was Sean Morley. I’ve seen Morley before at the Cross Keys where he moved the audience about the room and then declared it a non gig. I’ve also heard him on the Radio 2 new comedian awards, where he did a similar stunt in declaring the night over. I enjoyed both airings, but was curious as to what he would be doing in Leicester – would it be a conventional routine, or would it be something similar, and if so would it suffer from the law of diminishing returns? How many times can a comedian turn a gig inside out and still receive laughs?
 
Morley began as soon as he was announced by McGuckin, but not by walking onto the stage as one may expect, but from his seat in the audience. He pretended that he was just an audience member and cheered and whooped, hollering for Sean Morley, demanding he get to the stage. This worked surprisingly well considering that half of the room knew who he was and in a larger, more anonymous setting, would be even funnier. Morley then took to the stage where he found a number of problems with the room’s ambience. This resulted in McGuckin dashing about, righting these issues. The end result was a room in total darkness – very unorthodox (I have heard of a gig in darkness in Copenhagen, where the MC stripped off, much to everyone’s surprise when the lights went back on). Naturally, Morley then declared the gig to be unplayable and that sadly he wouldn’t be able to continue. This was far funnier than it sounds on paper. The mirth of this is in Morley’s performance in getting from saying hello to saying sorry, but bye.
 
He is very erudite and has an excellent command of the English language. His demeanour whilst taking complete control of the room is that of the world’s most polite and remorselessly efficient public executioner. One who has just realised that if he can get everyone moving that little bit more quickly, he can have an early weekend (Come along you chaps! These executions won’t do themselves! Buck up! Some of us have a weekend to look forwards to. Not you lot, obviously, but I do…). The end result of this was that the law of diminishing returns did not kick in at all. It was hugely enjoyable and entertaining and I suspect that being as creative and verbally cultivated as he is, this will continue for a long time. I certainly hope so, although there is a lingering question of how long a set it can be done for.
After the intermission it was Tom King, who was trying out some new material. I’ve seen King four times now and I’ve enjoyed it every time. He’s got good material and a convincing delivery. Tonight was a work in progress where he was trying out three jokes that although the topics are different (geometry of crapping, a song and a dream), the actual mechanisms are the same in construction. Loads and loads of detail, then the reveal. They all worked well and received good laughs, although to my mind the length of time spent on adding the lashings of detail lowers the overall time for mirth in a set. With a few punch lines added in the midst of the detail any one of these would work very well, although the dream is probably the superior one. He finished his set with some established material that resulted in 3 big laughs in under 30 seconds. I like seeing Tom King’s name on a bill – I know I’m in for a nice set and one that will be interesting, whichever way he decides to take that night.
 
Next was the debut five, an act who was a comedy virgin prior to that point. Last night it was Anthony Pollard, who was making his beginning in comedy. I’ve seen a few debut spots and Pollard is by far the strongest I’ve watched in that particular venue. He began with the importance of where the emphasis is placed in the words of a sentence. This was a good beginning and although by the 3rd or 4th word the audience were somewhat in front of him this did not diminish the laughter or the appeal of his wording. His delivery was such that it continued to be funny. The surreal non link into home invasion worked a treat as did the call back at the end of his set. He would benefit from a bit more audience interaction (looking at the audience a little bit more and so on), but for a first time, that is an extremely minor quibble. This was a confident performance and one that suggests that Pollard should definitely continue in comedy. His material was good and the delivery of his lines was fine – if he hadn’t been introduced as a virgin performer, then I doubt anyone would have guessed it was his first outing.
 
Closing the middle section was President Obonjo, an act that I had not seen before. He gave us a set of two halves. Half in character and then concluding as himself. He began as the President, in medalled uniform. He has a very forceful delivery which ensures that he has no shortage of authority – anything less and the whole act would deflate. The room stood at his command, gave him an ovation on demand and had a good time without having to be ordered to do so. There was a lot of fun when he occasionally broke character and I personally enjoyed the fact that a little bit of general knowledge helped his jokes hit home. There was a nice running gag about ‘outside London’ and this was all very pleasurable. This is an act where there is a huge potential for satire and current affairs to play a part. With an audience fully versed in world affairs I can easily see the President having a phenomenal night. I did think there was a missed opportunity for a good visual gag when he took off his uniform to continue his set as himself.  Of the two halves, this wasn’t quite so jolly. There were nice sections where he discussed the President taking over his life and wife, but unfortunately there wasn’t the same level of charm.
 
The final section was opened by Chris Norton Walker, the first act I’ve seen receive an applause break just for walking into a room. I adore him being present at gigs, as the man is a portable atmosphere generator and he seems to just make everyone that bit happier just by being there (this is similar to Pat Monahan’s joy for life). Every gig I’ve seen him at has been a weird or unusual one and tonight was no exception. He delivered his entire set from the centre of a group hug. This was highly surreal, but also very amusing and gave him ample scope for some good ad-libs. I’m not sure it would work in every room, but Norton Walker definitely got it right when he decided to use it last night. He was doing new material, some of it was very good, although I felt the reveal on alternative life style was foreseeable (perhaps with a different relative it would be more of a surprise and might still work), but still no less fun for it. This was a pleasing set from a strong performer.
 
The closing act was Jack Campbell. The last time I saw him he was doing a rather nice middle 10 at a Funhouse gig. He is observational in nature and whilst his chosen topics aren’t especially challenging (netflix and relationship breakdowns, etc) to the intellect, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t fun. The gratification comes from how he looks at the mundane and then makes it funny. I found his set to be very agreeable and considering that I felt the room had reached a tipping point, time wise, he did very well to get such good laughs. This is even more so when one considers he was performing in a cellar whilst the room above sounded as if it were being smashed up. Despite this distraction he held the room well and gave us a funny and pleasant send off into the night.

November – end of month review

This has been a busy month due to the Nott’s Comedy Festival, organised by Helen Stead and Elliott Bower and I took a week off of work to attend as many shows as I could. Owing to schedules colliding and the impossibility of getting from one venue to another within the requisite time I didn’t see as many acts as I’d have liked. The festival was still hugely enjoyable, though. The Gong Shows have been very good this month. One in particular, at the Maze (Funhouse) stands out as it had three acts that were compulsive viewing. One for all the right reasons (Adele Cliff) and two for all the wrong reasons. Below are the acts who have impressed me the most this month:

Mc

Carl Jones

Jones is very relaxed and non-confrontational as a compere. He wins the audience over just by being warm and a good egg. Like some of the best MC’s I’ve seen, audiences talk to him because they want to, not because he makes them. This little difference makes for a friendly feel to the top of a gig. I’ll grant that this approach may not work for a bear pit of an audience, but I’m pretty sure he’d manage to get something positive even out of that scenario.

From the gig (Canal House – new comedian of the year award):

It was very nice seeing the former winner of this award, Carl Jones, return to the Canal House to compere this event. He has a good stage presence and appears unflappable. I also appreciated the fact that he didn’t need to ask location and occupations of any of the audience members – he went down the topical route of enquiring about Bonfire Night. A welcome change. This rewarded him nicely with a series of revelations involving a friend who had gone AWOL on Bonfire Night and a lady in Derby. A fact that got more than a few call backs, which really added to the mirth. He did a longer section in his second session, using material, but this was very well received and was a good shop window for his own show on Saturday night.

Comedian with the best show of the Nottingham Comedy Festival – Bob Slayer

This was a difficult one to decide on. Pat Monahan and Jim Smallman both had wonderful feel good shows. Scott Bennett’s was fantastically accessible and delivered superbly. Pearson is a favourite of mine and was really enjoyable. However, upon reflection, the accolade must go to Bob Slayer. Although I understand he is tying with Ian Cognito and Bambam Shaikh for who is barred from the most venues, I saw a fantastic performer who I could probably spend hours listening to.

From the gig:

The final act of the night at the Blundabus was Bob Slayer. He wasn’t on the original bill, but was taking up the reins following a couple of cancellations. Considering the strength of his performance, I’m happy that it worked this way.
There are some people who attract attention. They walk into a room and everyone turns to look. Slayer is one of these people. I’m not sure if it is charisma, presence or just how he carries himself, but Slayer would stand out in most rooms. His delivery is little short of compelling and he has a wonderfully infectious laugh, sort of like Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons. This all adds to the atmosphere.
Slayer is also one of those people whom things happen to and genuinely fascinating things, too. This makes for a wonderful armoury of material. He doesn’t do puns or spend hours crafting away at a routine, but instead he just needs to recount a tale of his doings for the laughs to roll. Slayer does suffer from a number of weaknesses, though. One is pacing. Tonight he was billed for a hour and ran for two. Not quite Ken Dodd territory, but murder if you have to be somewhere and are entranced by the story. To keep it near to two hours, he didn’t take us to Cheltenham and I feel he could have ran for a lot longer without running dry or losing the room. In fairness, this is probably the quickest that two hours have ever passed in my life. The other weakness is that of focus. Ross Noble has done a tour titled TanGentleman and this is a label that could fit to Bob Slayer. All it took was for someone to mention a place or a thing and he had a fantastic tale to tell based on this. This did lead to some great stories, though and I feel it would take 6 hours or more to hear all that Slayer has to tell and even then it would probably just be the highlights.
Tonight he began with an explanation about a legal loophole regarding the status of the Blundabus, which was both funny and educational. This was then followed by a statistically near impossible coincidence. How many fans of Hereford Town can there be in the world? The answer outside Herefordshire is not many. I daresay you could stand in a room of 1000 people and not find one. Yet tonight Slayer stumbled over one in a much smaller room, which whilst it undermined his immediate point did lead him off on a lovely tangent. The actual show was about Slayer being a jockey and it’s a true romp of a tale. The actual story itself could have been told in 10 minutes if it had been edited down to its bare essentials, but it works far, far, far better when Slayer tells it with anecdotes, tangents, sidestories and sidetracks aplenty. I thoroughly enjoyed his show and despite 2 hours having passed it was all splendiferous. I’d like to see more of Bob Slayer and I feel he has a lot to offer, especially as a guest speaker, but he may have to get a firmer grasp of time keeping.

Gongs

Adele Cliff

Cliff gave a very strong performance in the Funhouse gong show at the Maze, showing talent, good delivery and great material:

Adele Cliff was the only lady on the bill. 13 comics and all male bar one. I feel this is a shame as having a Y chromosome isn’t a prerequisite of being funny. Cliff delivers one-liners and at quite a pace. Some of these were great, some cringe worthy in a good way and most were very clever – what they all had in common, though, was that they worked well and were lapped up by the room. Three applause breaks, count ’em! Cliff even managed to get life out of the ‘walks into a bar’ gag. I thought this had been done to death, but she came out with a great line and then before the laughter had finished, she topped this with an even funnier walks into a bar joke. Cliff went through to the final, where she was a worthy winner of the night.

Roger Swift

Swift is a comic who can split audiences and that is a shame. I thoroughly enjoy his comedy and revel in how splendiferously daft the puns are. He delivers his reveals with tons of energy and pace and I find him extremely funny.

Review from the Kayal:

Roger Swift was the final act of the night. He is an entertaining prop comedian who delivers very fast puns, some awful, some dreadful, but all with enough chutzpah to make them work. Swift does split rooms a bit, but I find that the longer he is on, the more audiences warm to him. Tonight the room liked him more the longer he was on stage. If he could somehow bring in audiences from the off he would be a really strong act. I have a lot of time for Swift, as I like what he does and I find him to be really funny. His material is gloriously daft, but also extremely good fun. Tonight he made the final.

Special Mention

Dave Cheddarton – a new character act by Matt Hollins. Although this is in the early stages of development I feel Hollins could be onto a real winner here. The only question is will he get the most out of this character? Time will tell, but I really hope so. From the night:

Following was Dave Cheddarton, a character act. Dave is a comedy industry figure who was big in the late 70’s and has now moved on to managing and booking. This is a character who has fantastic potential and can be taken in almost any direction Hollins wants to go. If this is developed correctly, the material will almost write itself and could be extremely funny. There is scope for a lot of injokes and also for an almost unlimited amount of comedy industry cluelessness. I’m very interested in seeing how Hollins develops this character as he has massive potential and if handled right, will do Hollins’ career a lot of good.

Blessington Carriage – Andy Field, Adam Jamal, Liam Pickford, Dean Mavros, Paul Imrie and Doug Segal

 

Tonight I was in the Blessington Carriage in Derby for the Funhouse gig. This is a lovely night, with a loyal audience who are well disposed to comedy. This makes for a nice atmosphere and also a somewhat forgiving one, as the room grants comedians a fair bit of leeway when sets go astray. The audience are also fully onboard with the ongoing joke about engineering, which makes it feel nicely inclusive. As ever, the MC was Spiky Mike and tonight our opening act was Andy Field.
 
Field nicely demonstrated the room’s propensity for still going with comedians who aren’t having their best night. Despite much of his material dying, they bought into him personally as a comedian and enjoyed his set, giving him a lot of affection. He began with a few observations about the room and then went into two character based routines. The Robocop joke required an explanation for half of the room, whilst most of the Oscar Wilde material went over everyone’s heads. If a gag requires an explanation then it requires a reconsideration, if two require it, then there is a problem. Field then moved away from material to discussing Isis and their not being representative of the Muslim faith and what the likely result of bombing Syria would be. Both of these had an air of being conceived whilst browsing Facebook, possibly this afternoon. Not inaccurate observations, but just not necessarily that funny, either. He was on better ground when he was discussing the hottest sex of your life, which went down really well. His closing section about voices in his room was interesting and could be made into something really good. He received a good laugh for admitting that there wasn’t really a punch line to that material, which seemed to sum up his night.

Whilst Field’s set was a bit of a mess, he still gave the room an enjoyable time. There was a lot of joy in his performance. He was happy to break the 4th wall, although admitting the night isn’t going as planned quite so often may not work in front of another audience. However, tonight, it helped the room relate to him and gave his set a fun feel, despite the material not succeeding.
 
Adam Jamal was next. He’s a Canadian comic and like many Canadians who have come over here, he had a polished and smooth delivery. Whilst this was fine, his material wasn’t as strong as I’d have liked. A lot of it was London-centric, which may play well in that there London, but not so well in the North. I doubt anyone in the audience had a clue how the ethnic mix of Tottenham changes as one moves east or the significance of the Edgeware Road. His references to Derby and beer failed when he used Leicester as a foil – Nottingham, as the actual local rival would have worked, though. This was a comic who will be stronger once he has been over here longer and has material that is more relatable to a greater proportion of the clubs.
 
Liam Pickford made a low energy start, getting what even he described as a ‘luke warm’ response to his material about the size of his head. I wasn’t especially impressed by the beginning of his set. It seemed to lack energy and mirth. He then moved on to a lengthy section about Southern Fried Chicken that didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast and I was beginning to lose whatever confidence I had left in him. He then did the pay off to the chicken, which was good and I perked up. It was at this point that his run of material was derailed by an audience member shouting out. This could have been fatal. However, in Pickford’s case it was as if a switch had been flicked on and his comedy engine had roared into life. He ditched his material and started chatting to the audience, getting great laughs for his banter and improvising a lot of material. it was fantastic to watch as he worked the room, finding observations, generating lots of really good material quickly as he went and building up a lot of momentum. The closest act I can compere him to at this stage is Johnny Vegas. Pickford would chat to someone, insult them, get a huge laugh, turn the material into a call back and get an even bigger laugh and then move on to someone else. This had an organic feel, rather than contrived and he demonstrated great skill at thinking on his feet. This was incredibly funny and extremely impressive to watch. I thoroughly enjoyed his set.
 
Next was Dean Mavros, who didn’t seem to build much momentum. Whilst Pickford had ad-libbed a lovely set, Mavros gave the impression of a comedian who was sticking rigidly to his routine, without deviation. I found a fair bit of his material weak and whilst the riot shield reveal wasn’t totally predictable, the type of reveal it would be, was. I feel Mavros was something of a work in progress and will be stronger in time. Having said that, he still received laughs and certainly didn’t die.
 
Paul Imrie, a previous and multiple gong show winner in this venue made a conventional start by referencing who he looked like. This was a couple of ‘fat versions of’. These were accurate, received laughs, but were a bit generic – a lot of comedians start their sets with this. He had a great response to the first shout of his set (it’s a nice name!), but he could have done without another member of the audience deciding to join in with his set. There was a lady sat on the front row who shouted out bits and bobs throughout the night. She wasn’t nasty or even unpleasant and in honesty she seemed quite jolly and well-meaning, but she did make life that bit harder for the comedians. Imrie’s material flowed nicely with no jarring links between segments, but it did seem to lack that spark that would have raised it a bit higher. The payday loans section was good, but would possibly work better if it were more concise. Imrie was able to add accents to his various sections and these were a definite bonus.
 
The headlining act was Doug Segal who was both interesting and funny in equal measure. He began his set with tape on his face, but unlike Sam Wills, he didn’t stay mute. He used his phone to do the talking for him, using the same software as Lost Voice Guy. This was only a temporary measure, lasting only until his first big reveal and then he carried on as normal, with his natural voice. Segal uses props, but these are of a decent size and are pretty straight forwards, adding to the entertainment rather than being distracting.
 
His material is a mix of magic and mind reading, the total adding up to more than the sum of its’ parts. It was also evident he had his wits about him, throwing in a couple of references to Spiky Mike’s compering and people’s occupations. This helped the room warm to him and build atmosphere. Segal carried a lot of authority and held the room nicely, which was good as his set involved a lot of audience participation – it was unthinkable that people wouldn’t play along. The main part of his set consisted of being able to predict words chosen from books. In this he could superficially be compared to Ian d Montfort, especially as they both use 50 Shades, but any comparison is misleading. Whilst the mechanics are similar, it is the delivery and exploitation that makes it what it is. Segal got a great reaction to his Hollywood ending and big laughs throughout. This was a longer than average set, but it worked well for it, as he built his act up nicely to a big ending. This was a very strong performance.