Guildhall Grantham – Tom Wrigglesworth, Roger Swift, Pat Draper and Jeff Innocent

Tonight I was in the Guildhall at Grantham for a Funhouse Gig. This place, for those who haven’t been yet, is a cross between a town hall and a stately home. It has high ceilings, huge oil paintings of long dead local worthies and more ornate plaster work than one can shake a stick at. Considering the gig was effectively in Downtown Abbey, it made me wish I’d put a tie on, or at the least some tweed. The crowd were largely middle age and middle class, but impeccably polite and well mannered, making this another lovely gig that the award winning Funhouse run. It was also a sell out, with chairs having to be sourced, with the room totally full and this was not a small room, either. Watching Spiky Mike compere was enjoyable and added to the night. He came pretty close to an applause break for an off the cuff comment about a make up counter and showed some good skills in managing to extricate himself from an exchange that was looking unpromising. He nicely set the room up for Tom Wrigglesworth.

Tom Wrigglesworth, who was on a double up, opened the night. I’ve seen him live before, but this was about three years ago and then he was trying some new material. Tonight I was seeing him only a month after his series on the wireless had ended. It was evident from the amount of love he received that there were a lot of fans in the room, who had also enjoyed this series. He began by discussing a speed awareness course he had been on, before moving to alternative ways of pronouncing Cockburn and recalcitrant printers before ending back with the speed awareness course. In between, we had a link that took us from international Jihadis to ebay feedback in one bound, which worked beautifully and a lengthy explanation of the ins and outs of Terry Waite’s kidnapping for the benefit of the youngest person in the room and a discussion of acronyms. These last two topics, Waite and acronyms neatly demonstrated the trust that the audience had for Wrigglesworth. Either of these explanations, which were not intrinsically funny, could have robbed him of momentum, but instead the room stayed with him and benefited from their trust. The material itself was tightly written, with not a single word in the actual set that didn’t add some value to it. Wrigglesworth has a great command of the English language and seemed to pick the correct words to squeeze the maximum value from each sentence. It was interesting to see how he handled coming off of the script when the town clock, located approximately 20 feet above his head, gonged out the time. This made no difference to him, he took it in his stride and showed an impressive dry wit, even setting up something in the way of an Easter Egg for whomever was performing when it chimed for the next hour. This was a great set.

After the intermission the award winning Roger Swift resumed. Roger had an interesting night, but possibly suffered from two factors, one of which was out of his control. The size of the room and to a lesser degree, the layout, made it tricky for everyone to see some of his props. The grate/great escape gag is wonderful, but the prop picture is about 6” x 4” and this may have been unclear to some people at the far ends, sat stage side. The other factor is that some of his gags can be a little bit niche. Having said that, I like Roger’s act and I like it a lot, his performance really sells it. He received groans and laughs in more or less equal measure, but the room warmed to him and enjoyed his act. The puns are good, but they are groan worthy, but this is something of a strength, as Swift delivers them with panache and his throwaway comments, where he breaks the 4th wall are a massive joy to see. However well a particular pun had fared and I’d say he had more hits than misses, he’d get an even bigger laugh for his remarks about how much or how long he’d spent on a prop. The more I see of Swift, the more I enjoy his work.

Next was Patrick Draper, who I only reviewed two nights ago. In order to be fair to his sanity, I won’t do a full review, as two in a week is too much for any act. However, I will say that whilst he has improved every time I’ve seen him, tonight he was simply fantastic. He received great laughs and the audience lapped him up. Following what Wrigglesworth had said about the town clock sounding the hour, it was with an air of inevitability that it did indeed boom out during a crucial section of Draper’s act. This didn’t throw him off, he simply made reference to it, received laughs and then went back to his set and even more laughs. Draper had a brilliant night.

Closing was Jeff Innocent. I’ve seen him once before, where he had headlined at Jongleurs on a Friday night to a largely drunken and indifferent crowd. He hadn’t had a great time that particular night, but in retrospect this was more due to the audience than any fault on his part. In Grantham he had a much better time of it and went down very well with the room. A lot of his material comes from his background, looks and build. I enjoyed most of this material, but wasn’t that keen on the drugs related jokes. This isn’t to say they weren’t funny – the rest of the audience, middle aged and middle class, remember, really liked them – it’s just a topic I struggle to warm to. His delivery was smooth and well timed and he played well to the crowd, picking the right people to talk to. It was a surprisingly intimate set that went down very well and closed the night off to everyone’s satisfaction.

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