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.