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.