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.

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