Tonight I was at Jay Islaam’s Mock the Flock night in Birmingham. Luckily I was in a car share with Jon Pearson, which made the journey a lot more fun. The last time I was here was only a week previously, when the room had hosted the Midlands Comedy Awards. Numbers were down on that evening, but for a midweek free night, there was enough people for an audience. Although I’m not sure that Thor, apparently his real name, was the ideal audience member. Our compere, Jay Islaam, had to repeatedly engage Thor and restrain his natural impulse to hold the limelight. Towards the end of the night, frankly, I was hoping that Thor would be sent to Asgard just to give us a bit of a rest. Jay’s compering ticked a lot of boxes, but was no less fun for that. He had no trouble in chatting to the audience and they were happy to chat back to him, leaving no awkward pauses or silences. Jay was affable and asked open question and his work helped to create a nice feel good atmosphere for the show.
The opening act was Jon Pearson, who was largely trying new material. He opened with his gym routine, which is a cast iron banker. Once he had established his credentials, as it were, he then began with new material. This was of a very high order, despite being a work in progress. Leaving cards and office attire were excellent with the ‘unexpected item in bagging area’ working extremely well in a different context to that which one would usually expect. The rest of the new material wasn’t quite so stage ready, but certainly shows a lot of promise. There are some acts, such as Thomas Rackham, who have a reputation for writing a lot of new material. Jon Pearson should also be known for not resting on his laurels. He is well on his way to crafting his third distinct twenty minute set within a year or so and I feel he has pulled something of a rabbit out of the hat with this.
Next on was Eric Rushton who I have seen previously at a Funhouse gong show (The Kayal). He began in the same way by de-constructing his opening joke prior to delivery and as before, this worked very well. His coming or going gag was a groaner, but all the more funny for it. There were a number of very nice lines, with some good call backs and the overall feel was of an intelligent and well constructed set, so it was no surprise that he received good strong laughs. On the downside, I did feel that his delivery wasn’t quite as engaging as it could have been, as he seemed a trifle aloof on stage. This is a minor quibble and he had a good night.
Following was Chris Noonan, whose photogenic reveal was a bit predictable, but the development of this was very pleasant and went down well. He spoke about a number of topics and these would profit from some links, as it made his set feel a tad disjointed as he flitted from one topic to another. I especially enjoyed his take on the problems of identical twins, as this was both novel and funny. Noonan only did a short set and it was one that I wish had been longer.
Resuming after the intermission was Joe Bowley, who is in effect a one man variety act. His set contained, magic, jokes, a prop, an impression and a song. All within 7 minutes or so. To begin with, the pick a card felt a bit plodding, but this went down very well and the green pepper stunt reinforced the joy of this. The impression was decent and the Bieber Fever joke dark and funny enough to warrant it. The song would probably have benefited from only being played once, as the amount of time taken in the present form wasn’t really justified by the pay off – the song itself was fine and Bowley’s voice is surprisingly good. This was an eclectic set, but one that could be improved by a running joke, or a common theme, as either would hold it together and make it into more than the sum of its’ parts.
Closing was Tony Cowards who was trying new material out. He suffered from two issues tonight: a fairly small audience that didn’t really have the critical mass for a one liner expert and the fact that a lot of his reveals seemed to go over the heads of some people. This was a real shame, as his material was first class. He would throw out a one liner that I’d say was a 9 or a 10 and get the response back as if it were a 7. His Taipei reveal was the joke of the night and whilst it relies on people having some general knowledge, it easily deserved better than he received. I was still laughing at this two jokes later. I’ve seen Cowards before at a FAF Comedy night and so some of his material was familiar, but even so, I wasn’t sure which bits were totally new and being tried out for the first time. Everything seemed to be of a very high order. Cowards has a good reputation on the comedy circuit, but considering the strength of his material, he should really be better known to the wider public.