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.