End of month review – February

This month I have seen 48 acts, with some outstanding comedians amongst them. Highlights have included the excellent Peter Brush, Pippa Evans who confounded my expectations, Tom Glover whom I was unfamiliar with, putting in a perfectly pitched performance and on a smaller scale two open mic comics (Alex Leam and Chris Noonan) showing lots of improvement and making me very interested in how they will develop in the future. These are the acts who have impressed me the most this month:

Peter Brush

I have to confess that Brush is probably my favourite comedian, as his writing is incredibly strong. Great, intelligent well written material is something to cherish.

The review from the night:

The show, Awkward Jokesmith, was billed as being a work in progress, with extracts from his Edinburgh show of last year. This suited me, as I really enjoyed Older than the Oldest dog that ever lived and so to see sections of this supporting newer material sounded really promising. At the beginning of the show, probably within the first minute, Brush had to deal with a chap who wanted to go and fetch a drink. Upstairs, only a fool or an attention seeker would interrupt Vegas, but Brush, who hasn’t that force of personality (who has, apart from possibly Ian Cognito?) had to maintain his authority and not allow his show to become derailed by people wandering in and out at will. I’ve never seen him have to deal with a member of the audience who wasn’t sat listening before, but he dealt with him efficiently and gained a nice laugh for it. As disruption goes, this was pretty minor and it was all friendly enough.

Brush is a low energy performer, who uses intelligent, well crafted material. The joy isn’t so much in the delivery, which is perfectly fine and suits his material, but in the actual material itself. Brush doesn’t explain his reveals and references, he wisely lets the audience think for themselves. The joke about the spider being a great example of the audience twigging on in their own time as the more astute members got it a bit more swiftly than the rest. When one has to do a bit of mental work to get jokes and tie ins, it makes them feel more appreciable than any cheap knob gag ever can. The show contained new material in the middle, being bookended by established material either side. This worked very well. The established sections went nicely and gained good laughs, especially my personal favourite, the tale of his trouble finding a barber. This routine is a real stand out in what is a lovely show. The new material was well received with almost everything showing promise. For this, Brush did have to refer to his notes a few times, but with new material in a show billed as containing such, this was far from a problem.

Pippa Evans

I was extremely impressed by her versatility as a performer and how she simultaneously dominated the room and made it feel very inclusive.

The review from the night:

The opening act was Pippa Evans, who I was a little bit wary of to begin with. Although I’d never seen her before, I have seen musical comedians and found many not to be my cup of tea. I’ve also seen lady musical comedians and found them to be even less my cup of tea simply because so many of their songs are just so angry. To me, too many of songs start nicely and lovingly in the first verse, but by verse two all hell has broken loose and they are singing of their hatred for their boyfriend. With this in mind, I felt wary, but open minded. Evans opened by testing the mic through shouting ‘I’m bleeding!’. This was followed by a song involving a nice trip out with her boyfriend that by verse two had devolved into a very unpleasant journey. This was not looking good. However, at this point, which was about 3 minutes in, it all suddenly became a lot more fun. Evans began to do some accents, came out with a winner of a joke about Greggs and then a fantastic song about the ‘White Wine Witch’, which landed massively well with the room – although I wouldn’t have objected to her using someone else’s hat to pretend to be sick into, rather than mine. This was suddenly looking a lot better than it had done during the first song. This was all followed by some really good audience work, a technically excellent, as well as funny song about a parking ticket. By now, I was fully won over to Evans and was having a splendid time – the rest of the room were all loving her set too. The finale approached genius in how she managed to extract material from Spiky Mike’s compering and her own audience work and not only work it into a song, but to make it pretty damn hilarious to boot. This ended up as an incredibly strong performance.

Jon Pearson

This was Pearson’s second one man show (albeit with support this time) and I was very impressed not only with his stage presence, which is great, but also with his work rate. This is a comedian who is producing new material at a good rate.

The review from the night:

Following the intermission it was time for the main event, Mr Jon Pearson himself. A man who looks even bigger on a theatre stage than he does in a small pub, which shouldn’t even be possible. He began extremely well with the gym routine and then followed it with 40 minutes of material that he had developed over the course of the year. To write 40 minutes of mostly first class material in a year is remarkable. I only saw him last week and I could see even within a week that he had been improving this, with the odd word or phrase that hadn’t been there previously. The barcode is getting better every time I hear it and this may well become my favourite bit. One part broke the mood a bit was the section about past girlfriends. This is a good routine and works well, but when it is part of a larger show, it momentarily breaks the upbeat tone of the rest of the show. After 40 minutes of great material and great laughs, Pearson finished with 5 minutes of older material, which gave a good end to the night. I’ve a lot of time for this comic, as I can see him going a long way.

Pat Draper

Draper is an act who doesn’t have a huge online presence, which is a shame. Every time I see him he has improved his set and his delivery.

The review from the night:

Opening was Pat Draper, who in the last few weeks I have seen more often than close members of my family – this is no hardship, as he is funnier than them and also doesn’t keep asking me tricky questions about when an Elton John CD will be returned. The nice thing about seeing a lot of Draper on stage is that not only has his act not paled through familiarity, but I also enjoy knowing just where the big reveals are and can watch the audience knowing that they are being built up and are about to be laughing hard. It was also great to see him in a big theatre gig. I saw him in the Grantham Guildhall a fortnight ago, which had similar numbers, but it was even nicer seeing him on a big stage like this. Draper’s material went down a treat, with the post code running gag getting a great response, everyone singing along to Slayer and the big call backs at the end of the set all going down a treat. I’m of the opinion that this is a comedian who could probably play any venue, as there is something in his set that appeals to pretty much everyone. He looked comfortable on stage and gave the audience a belting start before the new acts came on.

Sally-Anne Hayward (MC)

Weekend club audiences can make life more difficult for acts than it should be. Hayward set the tone from the beginning and this really helped to make the night a success.

The review from the night:

Last year I went to 92 gigs and out of these, I only saw 4 female comperes. That surprised me then and having seen Hayward tonight, it surprises me even more, as she demonstrated a high level of ability and gave the room a splendid time. It did take a second for the audience to settle down initially, but this was mostly people just winding up conversations and so on. One of the first people she spoke to had caught her eye before the gig had started, because he was the only person in the room sat reading (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, fact fans). He turned out to be a comedy reviewer, which could have been tricky, but which Hayward handled with aplomb, getting some very nice laughs for it. She then had a chat with the stag party, which led to some confusion over Harvey, which turned out to be short for Harvinder and not the gay wedding that everyone had at first assumed it to be, although there was room for a cracking aside about what Harvey was up to, prior to this discovery. Hayward was not only skilled at asking questions that led into little bits of material, but she also avoided going too deeply into anything that wasn’t relevant to the here and now; she even evaded the blind alleys that some MCs go up with uncommunicative members of the audience. Everyone was happy to chat to her. I think this is perhaps because she isn’t an intimidating presence, looking to make people look silly. Instead, she came over as a rather warm person with lots of charm. She did the rules, explained how the night would work and really added to the success of the evening.

Mark Maier

This comedian had a great gig. His set seemed to be very well balanced and delivered superbly.

The review from the night:

The closing act was Mark Maier who ticked a lot of boxes for me. He felt very relevant, covered lots of topics, used accents, had actions that went with his material and used plenty of call backs. All of these are big ticks in the plus side of the ledger, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone’s list of boxes will be different, but judging by the laughs, I think the rest of the audience really enjoyed Maier, too. From the start of his set it was obvious that he’d been listening to the other comics and even more importantly, to Hayward’s compering. Maier was able to make references to various people and conversations that had happened previously. This made him feel immediately relevant. He even received an applause break for mentioning the elephant in the room – the fact that it was ruddy freezing in there. His material, which thankfully didn’t include a lengthy segment about cocks, seemed very wide ranging, taking in lots of areas. Although he is the third comedian I’ve heard talk about attending a speed awareness course (Tom Wrigglesworth and Caimh McDonnell being the other two), he came at it from a different angle, which made it seem fresh. A lot of his observations seemed to be very relatable to the audience and struck a chord with many, especially the use of notes on fridges and lying in bed needing a wee. I especially enjoyed how Maier would pull faces or mime actions to match his routines and these had the effect of selling his set that bit more effectively. The call backs were also a particular joy. He used a lot of these, mostly to his own material, but a lot went back to the acts that had preceded him. This was an extremely strong performance.

Tom Glover

Sometimes an act who you have no preconceived opinions of, or in this case, haven’t heard of prior, can be a lovely surprise. Glover seemed to have a set perfectly crafted for the night.

The review from the night:

After the first intermission, Tom Glover who had travelled up from Devon, took to the stage. There are some comedians whom one warms to from the off. For an uncle of mine, this is 3 dead people from Jokers Wild, but for me Glover would be included within my list. He opened strongly with references to facts revealed by Spiky Mike’s compering and other details discovered during Lennox’s set. This made it obvious he had been paying a lot of attention to what had gone before and had factored these into his set (Phil Reid is very good at this, too). In addition, he had lots of energy and enthusiasm and was very sharp with his call backs. Glover gave us a set that felt almost organic in how well it tied into the night. It wasn’t totally perfect, the first reveal about his nan was a bit foreseeable, but still no less funny for it. The rest of his material was very good and due to how he had played it, it all felt very relevant and if not quite bespoke for Ashby, close to it. His delivery seemed very natural and he left the stage long before he had outstayed his welcome. This was an inspired booking.

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Nottingham Jongleurs – Justin Panks, Leo Kearse, Mark Maier and Sally-Anne Hayward (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham Jongleurs for a night of comedy close to home. I’ve been here a few times before. The first time, there had been two stag parties sat at the front who seemed to be constantly vying for attention from the acts. The last time, it had been very quiet and the audience seemed to have paid to just sit and look miserable. This was not down to the acts, as I’d seen three of them do the same material to great effect in other rooms. It was just a bad night for all the acts. This time, things looked pretty near perfect. There were over 100 people, only one stag party, which was well behaved, a few birthday parties, but none that were raucous or disruptive. There was even a nice balance between genders and ages. The mood was pretty vibrant. The only downside was that the air con seemed to be set on polar. Half of the audience were sat with their coats on, making it look like a gig in the middle of Ice Station Zebra. The format was two acts, a break and then the closer. Our compere for the night was Sally-Anne Hayward.

Last year I went to 92 gigs and out of these, I only saw 4 female comperes. That surprised me then and having seen Hayward tonight, it surprises me even more, as she demonstrated a high level of ability and gave the room a splendid time. It did take a second for the audience to settle down initially, but this was mostly people just winding up conversations and so on. One of the first people she spoke to had caught her eye before the gig had started, because he was the only person in the room sat reading (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, fact fans). He turned out to be a comedy reviewer, which could have been tricky, but which Hayward handled with aplomb, getting some very nice laughs for it. She then had a chat with the stag party, which led to some confusion over Harvey, which turned out to be short for Harvinder and not the gay wedding that everyone had at first assumed it to be, although there was room for a cracking aside about what Harvey was up to, prior to this discovery. Hayward was not only skilled at asking questions that led into little bits of material, but she also avoided going too deeply into anything that wasn’t relevant to the here and now; she even evaded the blind alleys that some MCs go up with uncommunicative members of the audience. Everyone was happy to chat to her. I think this is perhaps because she isn’t an intimidating presence, looking to make people look silly. Instead, she came over as a rather warm person with lots of charm. She did the rules, explained how the night would work and really added to the success of the evening.

The opening act was Justin Panks, who used the presence of a couple of birthday parties as a nice lead into a routine about turning 40 and how he was now starting to moan about everything. This was followed by material relating to his relationship with his wife and kids and then a lengthy section about his cock and shaving body hair. I found some of this material to be fairly well travelled ground. Turning 40 and starting to moan isn’t especially ground breaking and a parent liking one kid more than another has been covered a few times. However, there was still plenty of fun in this and the audience enjoyed it. Panks got a great response to his line about the tennis ball and the factory setting cock joke also did well, but probably deserved an even bigger laugh than it received, as it is a truly good line. His closing section about different taste in films provided a great ending to his set, which had gone down well. I enjoyed it myself, but felt that he would have entertained me more if he had chosen different topics to build material from.

The next act was Leo Kearse, who was actually instrumental in me picking Jongleurs over Glee for a local gig to attend. I had seen a fair bit of his creativity shared on social media and this had served to whet my appetite. Sharing material online can work for and against comedians, especially if Keith Chegwin decides to ‘borrow’ it. In this case, it had pushed Kearse up my ‘to see’ list and so him being on at Jongleurs tonight swayed me into going there. I wasn’t disappointed, either, despite his material being something of a mixed bag. On the negative side, unexpected item in bagging area has been rather ubiquitous for a while. Similarly, having a frustrating time entering a password and then picking a new one that insults the company had the same result that it did every time I’ve seen or heard that joke. Kearse was unlucky to share the bill with another act that had a long routine that involved his cock. After the earlier cock based routine by Panks, Kearse’s didn’t land as well as it might have done. Now, as said, this seems rather negative, but in truth, Kearse had a good night and the laughter rolled around the room with ease. He has a lot of positives that easily outweighed these negatives. For a start, he has a fantastic turn of phrase that really elevates his delivery and makes it something of a joy to see. Also, the rest of his material was more unique. His solution to a blocked Thai toilet had me laughing all the way home and I dare say I’ll still be smiling about it tomorrow. Similarly his close encounter with a pig was wonderfully fresh. These routines allied to a fast, momentum building delivery, worked very well and provided good entertainment.

The closing act was Mark Maier who ticked a lot of boxes for me. He felt very relevant, covered lots of topics, used accents, had actions that went with his material and used plenty of call backs. All of these are big ticks in the plus side of the ledger, as far as I’m concerned. Everyone’s list of boxes will be different, but judging by the laughs, I think the rest of the audience really enjoyed Maier, too. From the start of his set it was obvious that he’d been listening to the other comics and even more importantly, to Hayward’s compering. Maier was able to make references to various people and conversations that had happened previously. This made him feel immediately relevant. He even received an applause break for mentioning the elephant in the room – the fact that it was ruddy freezing in there. His material, which thankfully didn’t include a lengthy segment about cocks, seemed very wide ranging, taking in lots of areas. Although he is the third comedian I’ve heard talk about attending a speed awareness course (Tom Wrigglesworth and Caimh McDonnell being the other two), he came at it from a different angle, which made it seem fresh. A lot of his observations seemed to be very relatable to the audience and struck a chord with many, especially the use of notes on fridges and lying in bed needing a wee. I especially enjoyed how Maier would pull faces or mime actions to match his routines and these had the effect of selling his set that bit more effectively. The call backs were also a particular joy. He used a lot of these, mostly to his own material, but a lot went back to the acts that had preceded him. This was an extremely strong performance.

Peter Brush – Awkward Jokesmith

Tonight I was in Leicester to see Peter Brush. This was a birthday treat for both of my aged parents, whose birthdays fall in February. I did give them the chance of seeing Johnny Vegas or Brush, heartily recommending PB out of the two. I knew my mum would enjoy him, because she likes Yes Minister. I wasn’t too sure what the Old Man would make of him. My guess would be that he would enjoy the bits he actually heard. I knew that I’d have a good time, because out of 350 comedians I saw last year, Brush was my favourite. I saw a lot of good comics, but great quality intelligent writing will always be a winner with me. This was only my second gig (Jon Pearson being the other) as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival, which seems incredible , but owing to shift patterns and prior commitments things hadn’t gone as well as I’d have hoped. However, seeing both Pearson and Brush has made up for this.

The venue was Hansom Hall, which was packed out. Most of these people were here to see Vegas, but whilst I’d love to see Brush perform in front of a huge crowd, being downstairs with a smaller group somehow made it feel as if we were all in on a secret that the peeps seeing Vegas were missing out on. The room itself was octagonal with religious artwork and a huge high ceiling. Probably not the sort of place one would associate with comedy, but it had a nice atmosphere and there were enough people to make a fair sized audience.

The show, Awkward Jokesmith, was billed as being a work in progress, with extracts from his Edinburgh show of last year. This suited me, as I really enjoyed Older than the Oldest dog that ever lived and so to see sections of this supporting newer material sounded really promising. At the beginning of the show, probably within the first minute, Brush had to deal with a chap who wanted to go and fetch a drink. Upstairs, only a fool or an attention seeker would interrupt Vegas, but Brush, who hasn’t that force of personality (who has, apart from possibly Ian Cognito?) had to maintain his authority and not allow his show to become derailed by people wandering in and out at will. I’ve never seen him have to deal with a member of the audience who wasn’t sat listening before, but he dealt with him efficiently and gained a nice laugh for it. As disruption goes, this was pretty minor and it was all friendly enough.

Brush is a low energy performer, who uses intelligent, well crafted material. The joy isn’t so much in the delivery, which is perfectly fine and suits his material, but in the actual material itself. Brush doesn’t explain his reveals and references, he wisely lets the audience think for themselves. The joke about the spider being a great example of the audience twigging on in their own time as the more astute members got it a bit more swiftly than the rest. When one has to do a bit of mental work to get jokes and tie ins, it makes them feel more appreciable than any cheap knob gag ever can. The show contained new material in the middle, being bookended by established material either side. This worked very well. The established sections went nicely and gained good laughs, especially my personal favourite, the tale of his trouble finding a barber. This routine is a real stand out in what is a lovely show. The new material was well received with almost everything showing promise. For this, Brush did have to refer to his notes a few times, but with new material in a show billed as containing such, this was far from a problem.

We all had a great night and he is without a doubt on my list of people to see in Edinburgh.

Holly Bush – Dave Pollard, Joe Bowley, Chris Noonan, Chris Shaw, Alex Love, Nigel Mainville, Vimal Patel, Russell Truran, Ashley Gibson, Dave Francis and Danny Beet (MC)

Last night I was in the West Midlands to attend the Holly Bush open mic night. This is a night I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time. Thursday is a popular day for comedy, as there are often gigs that are on my doorstep and some a bit further away, but still within 45 minutes from home. Hence it hasn’t been easy to find a free night. The Holly Bush is also miles away, which doesn’t help matters. However, I had finally made it. The pub itself is rather charming, with lots of little quirky features that make it something a little bit special in a nice way. From the wood fire, to samosas being on sale, this was nicely different. It is one of those rare local pubs that is still full of local people, as opposed to a glorified canteen that specialises in serving anonymous pub food. Rather than being a generic pub that could have been in any town, the Holly Bush has a unique feel to it. I like this. There is a downside, though and that was the huge number of in-jokes that were flying about. Luckily I knew why partial nudity from both sexes was barred and the connection between China and racism and neither were people humming the theme to Steptoe and Son a mystery to me. Anyone walking in off of the street, though, would have felt flummoxed. However, as the audience are regulars, they were fully in the know and this did help engage them in the show. Last night there was a compere, a booker who did a routine at the end and nine acts. This made for a rather long show, with the unlikely format of 1-3-6 and a tipping point that came well before Dave Francis came on to close the evening. This was probably an unfortunate format, but then I think anyone would have struggled to go on after Dave Pollard, who had had a very good night. Our MC was Mr Danny Beet.

This was the first time I’ve seen Beet compere, although seeing him ad-lib the first part of his set in the Roadhouse had hinted that he had some skills in this direction. Beet had a mixed night. He had some insider jokes that were well received, some prepared material that went down well, but was probably at his best when he was ad-libbing. This is a man who can think on his feet and I’d like to see more of that from him. When he is performing on the edge like that, he comes alive and moves up a gear. Quite often whatever Beet was doing would be thrown into chaos by a shout out from Francis behind the bar. These occurences were always very funny and went down a storm with the audience, but did make Beet’s job harder than it perhaps should have been. There was one slip up in Beet’s work and that was not noticing that Ashley Gibson had nipped to the loo and so he was left in the unfortunate position of having announced Gibson and whipping up a round of applause, only to be left on the stage looking around expectantly. Naturally this wasn’t without its comedy value and in fairness to Beet, this was the first time he had met Gibson and owing to the acts being sat with the audience, losing track of one individual wasn’t hard to do.

The opening act was Dave Pollard, who was doing some new material. Pollard has had a busy week, doing a fantastic pastiche of my reviews, incorporating every catchphrase of mine. Tonight, though, it was new material, which began with the Bruce Willis experience. Pollard has a wonderful prop, that although I’ve seen him use it 4-5 times, it doesn’t get old. If anything, it improves with the amount of times you see him use it. If he were to find a way of working it into his set in another slightly different context and getting two bites of the cherry so to speak, I wouldn’t be upset. He had a small routine about emails that seemed a little bit low powered at first, but which the pay off makes it well worth the set up. This was followed by some visual gags, which were in A3 and so actually visible, as all too many comedians rely on A4. The various off the cuff comments about the visual gags pushed them nicely and there is a fair amount of mileage in this. Pollard then had a darker section about Donna, which was hugely enjoyable. The closing section was something that on paper sounds ludicrous – doing a 2 minute routine in English and then repeating it, but in German – but which in practice and with the momentum he had built, worked tremendously well. This was a very good set that covered a lot of ground, but which stayed fresh. It also made him a hard act to follow, which may explain why a break was called.

Joe Bowley opened the middle section with a short routine of new material. He began with a Chinese joke, which worked well and then some Gangster Rap, which he does extremely well. There was one bit where he lost track of the next portion, but for new material, this isn’t the end of the world and to his credit he didn’t get flustered. There was one reveal that was a bit predictable involving a urinal, but that was the only downside to his set. I enjoyed it, as did the rest of the room. Bowley manages to do material that could be considered off beat, but still stays on the right side of being funny. I think we’ll be seeing him at more gigs.

Chris Noonan had a night of two halves, ending on a very nice high. To begin with he didn’t look that confident on stage (not helped by a chap walking through the door adjacent to him as he was in mid flow) and his delivery was a bit low key. It didn’t feel as though he was really selling his set. However, his material was extremely good and luckily the room listened to it. Some of this material was rather personal, but he relayed it in a way that kept it accessible to the audience and it never felt as if we were being used as a counselling session. Not every act who uses very personal material (whether it actually happened or not) can pull that off. Noonan received good laughs after a somewhat slow start and possibly had the gig of the night after Pollard. His writing is very good and with better performance skills, or at least looking more at home on stage, he will do well.

Chris Shaw closed the middle section. Last year he was the recipient of one of two reviews I gave where I really struggled to find something positive to say about an act. In contrast to the other artist, who will remain dire, I did believe that Shaw would improve. Last night he demonstrated that he has, indeed, improved. This was new material, with him working off of note paper, which is fine by me. His set still covered jokes and magic and he possibly would have done some fire breathing if Francis had allowed him, but this would have distracted from the comedy. Shaw had a nice dalek joke, a good prop gag involving the microphone stand and then a lookalike gag that worked well. There were two occasions where he was stood with his back to the audience setting up a gag and this was dead time. If Shaw were to develop a line of patter or just a couple of short one liner jokes to cover these moments he would reap a good dividend. The finale was a floating candle, which worked in a fashion, but could have been a bit stronger on the mirth. This set was much improved and Shaw received some good laughs, leaving the room with an overall positive feeling.

Alex Love opened the final section. He began with a nice joke about his GCSE results, which was improved mightily by a double reveal. This was then followed by some new material that was political in nature, using a girl he has dated as a frame to build it around. This was interesting material, but he seemed to have to explain every reveal to the room as a lot were missed first time, although Bra Exit was a rather strained link. This robbed him of momentum and was very frustrating. The part where he first described his lady friend and then went to some trouble to explain she was actually real was a bit well worn. It seems that 90% of comedians when discussing a partner or date have to explain that, yes, she is indeed actually real. It is almost a convention of comedy. He did get laughs for this, but I felt that he could have used that time more productively and certainly more creatively. Love rounded off his set with some quirky facts, but again, a lot of these seemed to require explanations. Tim Fitzhigham, whom Love reminded me of to a small degree, does quirky facts, but he also makes them more accessible to the audience, whilst still letting them have to use their brains enough to feel a small sense of achievement at having got the references. Love’s set was probably the most frustrating of the evening. It’s obvious that he’s talented and has a lot of ability, but it was hard to escape the conclusion that this was a good act having a bad night.

Nigel Mainville was next. He managed to pull off the unlikely combination of being both the most exotic act on the bill, but simultaneously being the least memorable, too. Mainville is an American from New England who is working in Hong Kong teaching small kids. This occupation formed the mainstay of his material. It wasn’t especially bad material, but it just felt really bland. He received laughs, but I doubt that anyone would be able to remember a word of it ten minutes after he had finished. This is unfortunate, as he’s not a bad act and with stronger material he will be much improved. His delivery was competent, he had a decent sense of timing and did a great prat fall, but he will need better material to stand out. As it is, everyone will remember there was an American on the bill, but that is all they will remember.

Vimal Patel is an act that I’ve seen at a couple of gong shows and whom I was interested in seeing do a longer set tonight. I liked his opening section about various permutations on his name and the size of his ears, although some of this was at the level of playground insults he may have received. This is an area he could probably improve, but as a new act, that is to be expected. The Asian Wedding part was enjoyable and with some more colourful similes it will be pretty strong. The story of the Patels shows promise, and could provide a nice call back to his ears to round off his set. This was a nice set that is a work in progress.

Russell Truran did a short set of new material that felt very relevant and seemed to catch the mood of the pub nicely. I’m not sure how much of the set was ad-libbed, but I suspect a lot of it was. This worked well in his favour, giving it an immediacy that most of the other acts had lacked. Truran has a big grin, which is endearing and makes him look as if he’s having a good time, which in turn seemed to help the room have a good time. He knocked a guitar over, but got laughs for his apologies and enquires into ownership. This set was too short, as I was enjoying it and it made me want to see more.

Ashley Gibson was next, performing his first gig outside of the East Midlands. As related earlier, he was announced and applauded whilst in the loo and came back to resume his seat totally oblivious to this. He was then announced and applauded for the second time and began his set. He did one-liners, some of which landed well. However, doing pedo jokes about Rolf Harris with the reveal being (all together now) ‘Can you tell what it is, yet?’ were passé years ago. The same can be said for taking offence/a fence at B and Q, which has been doing the rounds in some form or other for donkey’s years. The harmonica joke is a winner and it was nice to hear a DFS joke that doesn’t revolve around them having a sale on. Gibson received laughs, had a good time and provided entertainment.

Dave Francis closed the night with a routine based on Bruce Forsyth and Play your Cards right, with a voice that sounded like a combination of Forsyth and Ray Winstone. This included insider jokes galore, most of which were easy to get from the context and it was good fun. Coming at the end of three hours of comedy, the room had reached a tipping point and I think the response was a bit more muted than it would have been if Francis had gone on earlier. This was good fun, it was funny and it wrapped up the night nicely.

Melton Mowbray – Jon Pearson with support from Pat Draper, Pete Walsh, Dominic Way and Tony Dunnill

Tonight I was in Melton Mowbray for Jon Pearson’s show. Melton is only about a hour from home, but seems a lot further away and very much out in the countryside. I’ve been there twice before. Once to see Dave Spikey and then to see Pearson’s show last year. There were two major differences between this year’s show and that one: This was not a free gig and tonight there were support acts. For Pearson’s first one man show in his home town there had been a large crowd. However, even a very low admission price can put people off going to see a good night of comedy. This is something that never fails to amaze me and it made me curious as to how the numbers would look for the difficult second gig. The answer was slightly down, but not enough to make any real difference. The other innovation was support acts. Pat Draper was always going to be a good choice, but it was going to fascinating to see how the other three acts fared. These were all graduates of a comedy course that Pearson had run in the weeks prior to the show and this was going to be their second ever gig. This had the potential to be very risky. It wasn’t hard to mentally fast forwards to 2017 and picture Jon stood on stage in Melton saying, ‘Well, from novice to a theatre in five weeks, what could have possibly gone wrong with that?’ On the other hand, I was pretty confident that it would all work out. On a car share the other week Pearson had spoken about how well they were coming on, so I was confident it would all work out very well. It’s also very creditable to give new acts an opportunity like this.

Opening was Pat Draper, who in the last few weeks I have seen more often than close members of my family – this is no hardship, as he is funnier than them and also doesn’t keep asking me tricky questions about when an Elton John CD will be returned. The nice thing about seeing a lot of Draper on stage is that not only has his act not paled through familiarity, but I also enjoy knowing just where the big reveals are and can watch the audience knowing that they are being built up and are about to be laughing hard. It was also great to see him in a big theatre gig. I saw him in the Grantham Guildhall a fortnight ago, which had similar numbers, but it was even nicer seeing him on a big stage like this. Draper’s material went down a treat, with the post code running gag getting a great response, everyone singing along to Slayer and the big call backs at the end of the set all going down a treat. I’m of the opinion that this is a comedian who could probably play any venue, as there is something in his set that appeals to pretty much everyone. He looked comfortable on stage and gave the audience a belting start before the new acts came on.

There may be spelling errors in the names of these three acts, as it wasn’t easy to catch their full names over the applause whipped up for them.

The first of the trio was Pete Walsh, who opened strongly with an anecdote based on his army days. The voice he used for his Sgt really sold this and it went down well. The rest of the material concerned his time as a pub landlord in Wales. This was a bit of a mixed bag, but there was plenty of decent stuff in there. The bad place reveal was foreseeable, but worked well and for a second gig eminently forgiveable. Walsh’s voice reminded me of Brian Glover and I half expected him to tell the joke from An American Werewolf in London, but as I felt his accent helped his delivery, this isn’t a bad thing at all. Walsh looked a bit stiff on stage as he delivered his set, but he did well and received good laughs. When he’s got a few more gigs under his belt, he may want to consider breaking the 4th wall a bit, as I feel he could get a good result from that. Walsh did well and also kept his set within the time limit. The only one of the trio of graduates to do so.

Next was Dominic Way, who made a lively entrance, which raised the energy level in the room. I’m not sure if he had received an adrenalin rush as he came on, or if this was his natural state, but he spent his entire set moving about the stage, like McIntyre, but only after someone had put itching powder in his pants. I found this to be very distracting, but as it is a second gig, c’est la vie. His delivery was lively and although he did have a brief stumble over his wording, he recovered well. The material was very personal to him and to the village in which he lived, which didn’t make it as accessible as it might have perhaps have been, but it did include a lovely line about them having a village idiot rota and a strong finish. He overran, which wasn’t ideal, as it had a knock on effect for the next act.

The final graduate was Tony Dunnill, who in contrast to Way was a low energy act. Low energy isn’t a synonym for anything negative; different approaches and energy levels suit different acts and different styles. It is impossible to picture Jack Dee’s performance working half as well if he was an high energy act bouncing about the stage, or a low energy Alan Carr being so entertaining as he spoke slowly to the audience. Dunnill had some nice ideas for his material, with a routine based on The North and the south, and where each began. The notion of various places being suburbs of London was novel and interesting, which the audience responded well to. Some sections landed better than others, but he had a decent night. For a second gig, it was a creditable performance and there is potential here. I feel he may have benefited from slightly faster pacing, but yes, he had a decent night, despite also overrunning.

Following the intermission it was time for the main event, Mr Jon Pearson himself. A man who looks even bigger on a theatre stage than he does in a small pub, which shouldn’t even be possible. He began extremely well with the gym routine and then followed it with 40 minutes of material that he had developed over the course of the year. To write 40 minutes of mostly first class material in a year is remarkable. I only saw him last week and I could see even within a week that he had been improving this, with the odd word or phrase that hadn’t been there previously. The barcode is getting better every time I hear it and this may well become my favourite bit. One part broke the mood a bit was the section about past girlfriends. This is a good routine and works well, but when it is part of a larger show, it momentarily breaks the upbeat tone of the rest of the show. After 40 minutes of great material and great laughs, Pearson finished with 5 minutes of older material, which gave a good end to the night. I’ve a lot of time for this comic, as I can see him going a long way.

Admiral Rodney – Pippa Evans, Aaron Twitchen, Dave Bryon and Michael Fabbri

Tonight I was at the Admiral Rodney in Southwell for the Funhouse night, along with Stoney, who had come out to enjoy the show and support a fellow promoter. I like this gig, consistently there are good acts, the room is nice, the audience are up for it and basically, if one turns right at the top of my street and carries on in a straight line, you arrive in the car park for this place. More or less, anyway. As ever, the room was pretty full, near a sell out, which is lovely for the acts and it also ensures a good night for the audience. This is a pub with a regular crowd, who come out in strength for the show and they have a lot of affection for Spiky Mike, which helped him to compere the night. This was also one of those rare occasions, where a shout out from a member of the audience, Andy, was both genuinely funny and a welcome addition to the night. I still doubt he will get to go skiing, though.

The opening act was Pippa Evans, who I was a little bit wary of to begin with. Although I’d never seen her before, I have seen musical comedians and found many not to be my cup of tea. I’ve also seen lady musical comedians and found them to be even less my cup of tea simply because so many of their songs are just so angry. To me, too many of songs start nicely and lovingly in the first verse, but by verse two all hell has broken loose and they are singing of their hatred for their boyfriend. With this in mind, I felt wary, but open minded. Evans opened by testing the mic through shouting ‘I’m bleeding!’. This was followed by a song involving a nice trip out with her boyfriend that by verse two had devolved into a very unpleasant journey. This was not looking good. However, at this point, which was about 3 minutes in, it all suddenly became a lot more fun. Evans began to do some accents, came out with a winner of a joke about Greggs and then a fantastic song about the ‘White Wine Witch’, which landed massively well with the room – although I wouldn’t have objected to her using someone else’s hat to pretend to be sick into, rather than mine. This was suddenly looking a lot better than it had done during the first song. This was all followed by some really good audience work, a technically excellent, as well as funny song about a parking ticket. By now, I was fully won over to Evans and was having a splendid time – the rest of the room were all loving her set too. The finale approached genius in how she managed to extract material from Spiky Mike’s compering and her own audience work and not only work it into a song, but to make it pretty damn hilarious to boot. This ended up as an incredibly strong performance.

Following the intermission, we resumed with Aaron Twitchen. I like Twitchen, because I find his flamboyant personality really heart warming and I was looking forwards to seeing him in a ten spot for once, as opposed to just trying out new material. Tonight he hit the ground running, with the audience seeming to warm to him almost straight away. He had lots of energy and some lovely turns of phrase, which were very well received by the room. He did seem to push the boundaries of the audience with ‘ugly cocks’, which was odd, as the act that followed him was far more sexually explicit, without the audience drawing back. The highlight of his set was his section about school reunions, especially a pregnant school friend. This seemed to skate on the edge of an applause break, which would have been well deserved.

Dave Bryon was next. I found his set to have some really good parts, but also some lines that were a bit familiar. However, his delivery was excellent and the room really went with him, as a lot of his material seemed to strike a chord with them. His set could be split almost into two halves. The first half was the story of him losing his virginity, which contained a great line about the ladies of a nightclub defying gravity, but it also held well travelled ones, such as by being surprised by a condom which wasn’t there when he first went in. This didn’t make any difference to the crowd, as they were very much with him. The second section, audience participation, involved a demonstration of air safety. This could have been taken in a number of directions, but did stay fairly conventional. The room enjoyed it, but the joke about the rationale for assuming the crash position is so that you can kiss your arse goodbye is a bit dated and I don’t think anyone hasn’t made a joke about oxygen being an extra on Ryanair. Bryon had a really positive delivery that worked extremely well. He had numerous asides and comments for the audience that all landed well, which was very good. I just felt that his material could be improved.

Michael Fabbri closed the night. He seemed to make a bit of a slow start by discussing posh towns, which wasn’t really his fault – I think every act had commented upon the area’s affluence already. He was on far firmer ground with his tales of working in a job centre and his dyslexia. These were great, but topped by his clothes shopping mishap. Fabbri’s material about his partner giving birth dealt with an issue that has been covered by a few comics, but which also seemed fresh and unique, which is no mean feat. However, for my money, his section about bungee funerals at the coast was the stand out part of his show. It is easily pictured and once imagined, it is hard to stop smiling at it. I shouldn’t be surprised if there is a whole set to be had in alternative methods of stiff disposal. Fabbri had a really good night, but not only because his material was good, but also because so much of it revolved around a unique way of seeing things. Quite often comedians will see things differently to other people, but Fabbri seemed to be one step beyond his peers in this and this made his set feel wonderfully different.

Canal House – Chris Sherwood, Ashley Gibson, Theresa Farlow, Alex Leam, Graham Whistler, Pat Draper, Carl Jones and Jared Shooter (MC)

Tonight I was at my favourite event of the comedy month – The NCF Canal House £1 night. This is now to be my favourite double monthly comedy night, as NCF have wisely decided to run it twice a month. As they are booked up for acts until well into May, I can’t see there being any problem with getting decent acts in, nor with selling tickets, as it was nigh on full tonight. This was the first time that NCF have run a book in advance system and my feeling is that people may have to use this to avoid disappointment. For £1 this night gives terrific value for money. Not only do you get quality acts, like Draper and Jones (tonight) trying new stuff, but it also gives up and coming acts stage time. Although it sounds cliché, there is a real chance of seeing someone here who in the not too distant future may be a household name.

Our MC tonight was Jared Shooter, who I had last seen compering at his gig in Chesterfield. That night I felt that he had used too much material when he was working the room. Tonight there was an improvement here, but he did still use his best material. This worked well and gained laughs, which is a positive, but the negative side is that solid bankers can become overexposed, especially on a gig just down the road. Shooter had a bit of fun asking audience members about their plans for Valentine’s Day and did the rules. He was thorough with the rules and made it quite clear how the night would work, this was all to the good. I would have to say that Jared’s greatest attribute as a MC is his likeability. He is a chap that people like from the off and this gives him a lot of latitude in his approach. He was also indirectly responsible for what was the line of the night. Last year only two comics made me laugh that hard I hurt myself (Briggs and Binns), but tonight Elliott Bower came within an ace of achieving the same. Bower who was on the sound system, introduced Shooter as the ‘Magnificently Beautiful’ which was just so out of the usual line of introductions to be absolutely brilliant and because it was so unexpected to be totally hilarious.

The opening act was Chris Sherwood, who was making his debut at the Canal House. In contrast to his usual attire, which is casual, Sherwood was in smart suit jacket, which added a layer of authority to his demeanour. This helped, as he launched straight into his set, without chatting to the audience. Normally he will interact with the room a bit, whereas he changed his tactics tonight. Following a discussion with him afterwards, this change was because he hadn’t anticipated not being able to see the audience due to the glare of the lights. It looks as if this unsettled him a touch, although he began well with a story about school and cross country running (which may have possibly benefited from a few local references, as he is a Nottingham lad). This led into a routine based around the adorable sounding pounds, shillings and pence of pre-decimal currency. It was here that he lost momentum. The explanation of what a florin and so on was, was quite wordy and took up time that could have been used better. He did make a recovery with the tale of the cleaner, but a few less descriptive words would have helped that, too. There is the basis of a good set here; one which tighter editing would improve no end. I look forwards to seeing it.

Ashley Gibson followed. This was my first time of seeing him at something other than a gong show. He started well with one-liners, the first one being nice and topical. These all flowed very well and he was building up a very enjoyable momentum, before he choked on the 2 minute mark and came totally unstuck. I’m not sure what actually happened, but I think he may have delivered a reveal out of sequence, definitely prior to the set up and so ended his night there, with the room sympathetic, albeit in some confusion. In the past I’ve seen Gibson utilise jokes that are internet sourced, or common knowledge (hole in the road – council looking into it, etc) and it’s hard not to be suspicious of his material, which is highly regrettable.

The final act of the first session was Theresa Farlow, whom I have only seen the once before. This was where she opened an awful free gig, that should have been very nice, but which was stymied by drunken fuckwits constantly heckling. Everyone had a bad night that night, most of all the promoter, who was mortified about what had happened. So, I was curious as to how she would perform under more propitious circumstances. The answer is very well, indeed. Farlow began strongly with a joke about playing the (C)anal House and her googling it first, which got a big laugh and immediately established her credibility – I hope this is a joke that she can somehow work into her regular set, as it was excellent. This was followed by material which varied from being about her life, family and relationship with her husband to a section on sticks and stones that was a tad derivative, but nice all the same. Some parts were slightly dark, some sexual, but it all worked well. Her delivery was good and there were some great looks and the odd hand signal which added value, plus a lovely double reveal. Farlow gained consistent big laughs and the first applause break of the night. This was a very good set.

We resumed after the intermission with Alex Leam, who only gave us five minutes. I would have been happier with him doing more, as I was enjoying his set. Leam has a talent with accents and has built a set around them. This went down well and he could get a lot of mileage from this ability with an expanded set and routines involving various character pieces from distant corners of the realm. I’m going to be interested in seeing how he develops, as I feel he could go in a number of very different positive directions.

Graham Whistler had a good night He was easily the darkest in tone of the comedians on the bill, but possibly gained the best response of the night from the audience. Whistler’s background provided him with plenty of material in which to base his set. This received good laughs, an applause break and went down very well. He was a touch aggressive with some people in the audience, which may have been situational, rather than habitual, but which may also lose some of the room over a longer set.

Pat Draper closed the second section. Draper is easily the act I’ve seen the most of this year and is possibly suffering a bit from being over-reviewed, although they are all very positive. Hence, I’ll keep this short. As ever, he had a good night, the audience really enjoyed him and rather surprisingly, he’s the first comedian I’ve heard do material about vaping.

The final act of the night was Carl Jones, who was treating the room to a bit of an Edinburgh Preview. Jones is a local act, who I don’t seem to see much of. This is unlucky, as I’ve always enjoyed what I’ve seen. Jones’ Edinburgh show is autobiographical in nature, with plenty of slides to go along with it. I was probably sat in the worst seat in the house to see these slides, with a portion of a slide being obscured by a speaker and much of the remainder hidden behind Jones himself. Unless someone has led a truly remarkable life, it can be difficult to become that immersed in their back story. There is a real skill in making an audience care about school crushes, holidays and suspect haircuts. Jones manages to tick this box of making an audience care. He’s a nice guy who draws you in, as you are curious as to what is coming next. There was an IT problem and so we did miss the end to the show and I suspect that the big pay off may well have been missed due to that. This was a shame, because as it stood, the show had an undeniable feel good factor to it, but the humour quotient seemed rather low. This is a work in progress, where Jones is testing how things work and I suspect that the final incarnation will have addressed any issues.

Ashby – Paddy Lennox, Tom Glover, Danny Mcloughlin and Nick Page

Tonight I was in Ashby de la Zouch for the Funhouse comedy night at the Lyric Rooms, a huge barn of a venue, with some wonderful free parking not quite a mile away. This was a line up that was a little bit changed from that originally advertised, but as emails had been sent to everyone, this was no real surprise. Joe Lycett, who is very much a rising star, had been the original headliner. However, as is the risk with booking someone of this stature, he had been forced to cancel due to being involved in something in the way of a special project that will probably be on our screens soon. Luckily, Spiky Mike had been able to secure the services of Nick Page an equally skilled comedian to close. I’m not sure if the night was completely sold out, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to find it so. This was also something of an unusual gig for myself – I was seeing four comedians whom I had not seen before. The room is rather large and there were enough people present to make doing even a rough headcount hard work. The crowd were also very loyal to the night, with a sizeable number of regular attendees. This initially made it tricky for Spiky Mike to find someone that he’d not recently chatted to, but when he did, he struck gold with a chap who worked with Police Drones. This was very nice and provided a fair bit of ammunition for the comedians to work call backs around. It was also a true job, rather than one person’s highly dubious attempt at claiming to be a Dolphin Trainer.

Our first act of the night was Paddy Lennox, who began by asking if there were any other people from Ireland in the room. This resulted in him finding two other people from Ulster and led into a very nice talk about sectarianism and terrorism, which as well as being easy to follow was a very funny start to his set. Lennox hit the ground running with this and built upon it, until he started discussing the recession, at which point the energy level dipped a bit. This picked up again when he was talking about pelvic muscles and accents, but then seemed to dip for cats and dogs. This may sound like a big deal reading it in a review, but in truth, I think I may have been the only person who noticed these little dips, as the audience enjoyed his set. I liked large sections of it, but not all of it – the pelvic floor and cats and dogs didn’t really work for me personally, although the bits about Ireland I liked in a big way. Lennox had a very nice delivery, he didn’t speak quickly, but instead, he took his time and this helped draw people in. He had a good night and left the audience happy.

After the first intermission, Tom Glover who had travelled up from Devon, took to the stage. There are some comedians whom one warms to from the off. For an uncle of mine, this is 3 dead people from Jokers Wild, but for me Glover would be included within my list. He opened strongly with references to facts revealed by Spiky Mike’s compering and other details discovered during Lennox’s set. This made it obvious he had been paying a lot of attention to what had gone before and had factored these into his set (Phil Reid is very good at this, too). In addition, he had lots of energy and enthusiasm and was very sharp with his call backs. Glover gave us a set that felt almost organic in how well it tied into the night. It wasn’t totally perfect, the first reveal about his nan was a bit foreseeable, but still no less funny for it. The rest of his material was very good and due to how he had played it, it all felt very relevant and if not quite bespoke for Ashby, close to it. His delivery seemed very natural and he left the stage long before he had outstayed his welcome. This was an inspired booking.

Danny Mcloughlin followed. He was observationalist in nature and a somewhat surreal one at times. However, he has mastered the tricky skill of not only making a surreal observation offbeat enough to be funny, but to also make it still feel relatable enough to not lose any of the room. His set covered the Flintstones, Disney, cooking and cannibalism – all of which were given offbeat twists of varying degrees. There were some lovely lines, such as a throwaway quip about winning the lottery, legitimately, that landed very well and a super line about defrosted freezers. This set was nicely different and worked well.

The headlining act was Nick Page, who is currently running a number of comedy courses. Running a comedy course can be something of a double edged sword – not only are you saying that you are a good comic, but that you are also good enough to teach others how to be a good comic. Although Page didn’t mention the course tonight, I was once at a gig in Matlock where a comedian had flyered every table with the details of a course he was running and had pushed it at the start of his night. This comic then proceeded to die. Badly. This was very different to Nick Page, who tonight demonstrated very well that not only is he a good comic, but that he is also definitely good enough to teach others. As he was closing the night, Page was in a position to give the room a bonus sized set, with 40 minutes of entertainment, during which he held the room very well. On longer sets, especially going on last, audiences can have shorter attention spans and often it is a race to see if a comic can finish his set before the room reaches a tipping point. Page’s ability to hold a room was seen with his opening, where he talked about Schrodinger’s Cat. In some gigs, this topic could have lost the room immediately, but Page kept hold and gained laughs for it. This was followed by another topic that could have lost a significant section of almost any room – the despatching of a pig by an unpleasant manner. Instead, this led to the line of the night (one pair of shoes). Page advised the room that he wasn’t a political comedian , but then went on to give us some very pleasing material that was related to this. A few times Page went out on something of a limb with his monologues, but the audience had enough confidence to stay with him for the pay off. This was a very good set that was delivered with bags of authority and gave the audience a splendid close to the night.

Cross Keys – Jon Pearson, Jack Topher, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Fran Jenking and Graham Milton

Tonight I was at the Cross Keys for the Fowl Humour comedy night. This is upstairs of the pub in an elaborately, not to say extravagantly, decorated room. Tonight there didn’t seem to be much lighting in the performance area, apart from that provided by 3 bulbs, in their hat shaped shades. This meant that every comedian, with the exception of Jeanette, who is shorter than the rest, were performing in shadow. Until his music gig started and he had to leave, Spiky Mike was present, supporting the night, which was lovely to see. The compere was Andy Fowler, who got laughs from an enthusiastic plugging of his Leicester show, but who took a lighter touch to warming up the room than I’d have perhaps liked to have seen.

The opening act was Jon Pearson, who was refining some new material. Jon followed Tom King, who I had seen a few months ago, in trying on a light shade shaped like a bowler hat and discovered, the same as King did, that the bulb inside was rather hot. Following this, he began with some great material about the gym, which showed his capabilities nicely. He spoke quite quickly on the set ups, but slowed down to make sure the reveals landed well. I enjoyed the internet arguments section and feel that there is a lot of scope in that to take it in lots of interesting directions. The Chinese whisper leaving card was very nice and I’ve got a lot of time for the bar code joke, as it is very strong and has a lot of charm, including a nice call back to the leaving cards. The material about Butlins still doesn’t seem to be as finished as it could be and needs a bit of work, but that is the nature of new material – it requires experimentation to find what works best. This was a very good set from one of my favourite comedians and a very nice bonus to the bill. He is performing in Melton Mowbray as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival.

Jack Topher was next, doing his third ever gig. I liked his material when I saw him winning a Funhouse gong show last week and so seeing him again so soon was very pleasant. He began with a decent enough joke about Paul Daniels, but then went onto better material about Peter/Vernon Kay, which I liked a lot. Topher made a few hand movements, which looked like a cross between an umpire signalling for a four and a Kung Fu chop, this was explained when he informed the audience that his material was written on that hand. This breaking of the 4th wall served to help engage the crowd with his set and was a nice addition. Although Topher is pretty much brand new as a comic, he shows a lot of promise with good material and a delivery that has improved in the space of a week.

Jeanette Bird-Bradley closed the first half, although she nearly ended up opening the second half, as our MC announced that she was about to come onto the stage and then in a fit of absent mindedness he then declared a twenty minute break, before twigging on and going back to plan A. This could have thrown a few acts, as I dare say some people had mentally gone to the bar already, so to speak. Instead, Jeanette, doing her first gig of the year didn’t let it bother her. It was the same when a chap’s mobile phone rang partway through her set. I like how unflappable she appears. She wasn’t doing new material, it was more a case of gaining more stage time to hone her existing set. Her delivery of this shows signs of evolution and improvement. I really like the inflection she places on ‘very bad man’ as it pushes home that part of her set. There are a few areas that could perhaps be improved, but I think these will develop naturally the more time she spends on stage. Like Andy and Jon, Jeanette is also performing in the Leicester comedy festival.

We resumed after the intermission with Fran Jenking, who I last saw perform at a car crash of a charity gig in Lincoln. Tonight he was trying out some new material for his Leicester Comedy Festival show. I like Fran for various reasons and I strongly believe, although I’ve never seen him in this role, that there is an excellent compere lurking inside him. He has lots of charm, a natural ability to banter with people and just seems to create material from almost nowhere. His prepared material was fairly decent, with Bestwood getting good laughs from a local audience and racist graffiti proving to be a very nice section. The TV shows he is interested in is good and the bucket list shows promise. The real joy, though, was to be found every time he chatted to the audience, this was first rate.

Closing the show was Graham Milton, who is always worth seeing. His set was tightly written and his delivery was polished, with him knowing just where to place the emphasis in a sentence for the best result. I enjoyed all of his work, despite his material not being as uplifting an end to a comedy night as one usually gets. Milton is also appearing in the Leicester Comedy Festival, where he is involved in two shows.

Adm Rodney, Wollaton, Marshal Anderson, Stu Woodings, Stephanie Laing, Roger Swift, Ben Briggs and Kelly Kingham

Tonight I was at The Admiral Rodney in Wollaton for the Funhouse gig there. This is one I somehow missed on their website, but I fortuitously saw it mentioned on the facebook page of one of the acts (Swift). I also nearly missed it due to getting pretty lost, despite the gig only being half a hour from home. Funhouse do know some lovely pubs. This was an old coaching house in an affluent country village part of Nottingham. The actual room the comedians were performing in was probably smaller than most people’s living rooms, which at first impression could have made things awkward. Conversely, it just made things intimate and worked very well. I’d have liked to have had the music in the other part of the pub turned down, or at least the record player taken outside and dynamited, as it was a bit distracting, but at least the bandit had been switched off, which was nice. Speaking of nice, it was nice to see local talent supporting the night in the shape of Fran Jenking. Spiky Mike was in front of what you may consider to be a home crowd and had a splendid time with lots of local references that won strong laughs and warmed things up for the opening act.

Marshal Anderson opened with some nice material about being old and the problems that old people cause. Owing to the layout of the room, with audience left and right, he did look like he was impersonating a lighthouse at first, but this soon passed. He had some pleasant material, including some good puns and was punchier than the previous two occasions that I’ve seen him. Unfortunately, I still think that the Gilbert and Sullivan assisted explanation of the Middle East is more clever than funny, but whilst it does eat up time, there were 4-5 very great punchlines in it that all received good laughs. Anderson gave the room an enjoyable set that was well received.

Following was Stu Woodings, who I haven’t seen in what seems like a very long time. His set felt a little bit unbalanced due to the relative strength of the songs and jokes. Both ‘Paint it Matt’ and the song about sex offenders are stand out pieces of material, that he delivers splendidly with lots of nods and winks, which helps sell them. These were both lovely. However, whilst the jokes in between the songs are good (I liked flip flops, but felt that a version of the German gag has been done by a few other comedians, including Phoenix Nights), these aren’t as memorable as the songs. This was a shame, as Woodings is a decent act, who gives a nice performance.

Opening after the first intermission was Stephanie Laing. There are some acts who have an immense physical presence and work with this. I wouldn’t say that Laing has a huge presence; instead, she has a lot of charm, good material and a winning way with an audience. She began well and within moments had established herself with the populace of the room. Her material was tightly written and she seemed to get the most out of every line. The tone varied with each topic and whilst the closing section could be considered a bit dark, it was delivered in a nice upbeat manner that worked very well. Laing received the first two shout outs from the audience and she simply took them in her stride. This was an enjoyable set from someone I look forwards to seeing again.

I saw Roger Swift performing in something akin to a stately home last week. There the size of the room worked against him. Tonight he was working in a very small room and it was a bit worrying thinking about how many people would end up being hit by discarded props. The room itself ended up looking like an explosion had taken place in a charity shop, with props all over the floor and audience members doubled up. However, Roger had the best gig I’ve ever seen him have and I’ve seen him have some nice gigs. He built up a lot of momentum and everything seemed to land. His new joke about Star Wars made me laugh that hard I choked a bit. He just simply had a fantastic night. He totally dominated the room and was loved by the crowd who will remember him for a long time to come.

Ben Briggs was next, doing new material and will be reviewed with this in mind. He has a show in Leicester within the next few weeks and this was a run out of some new bits. Last week I saw Jon Pearson trying new material and he opted to start with some existing bankers and this served to establish his credentials with the audience and perhaps to relax him into the set. Briggs began with a wonderful ad-lib concerning the remains of Swift’s props and then he launched into his new material, where he didn’t look as comfortable as he might have done. This set was something of a work in progress, concerning Facebook, Twitter and modern life. There is the basis of a good set here. Tonight Briggs wasn’t helped by two things. One was a shout out from the audience that whilst it was very funny, did derail his set (although he did get laughs out of it) and the other was that he wasn’t as dark as he usually is. Briggs is a comedian who isn’t afraid to take his audience into dark places and he is extremely strong when he does this. Tonight, he was lighter in tone, which to me, looked like a right handed boxer fighting southpaw. I enjoyed his set, he has tons of natural ability and I hope to see the finished article.

Kelly Kingham closed the night. It was probably a toss up between Swift and Kingham as to who had the best gig. It was obvious that Kingham was enjoying himself and this joy was infectious, it spread to the audience, who were similarly enthused. He won the audience over very quickly, despite his material being a lot more offbeat than one would have suspected on a first impression. It was also evident that he was sharp and had kept his ears open during the compering, as he had some wonderful references to things had gone before, including pointing out a Ted Heath lookalike. His material was largely based around his relationship with his wife and a pet dog (with bark, which was a nice running joke). Whilst delivering his material, he’d look around the room in a way that really added flavour to the performance. His pattern of speaking was quite similar to Tim Fitzhigham, if not quite so frenetic. Kingham had a really good gig and was rewarded by strong laughs from the audience who really bought into his set. Personally, I didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else and I’ve got no idea why this should be. He had good material, a great delivery, he had good stage presence, the mood of the room was firmly with him, it wasn’t past any personal tipping point in my night, so I’m puzzled. On any objective level, I should have been laughing deeply, along with the rest of the room. Kingham is a good act with a lot going for him and all I can say is that whilst he wasn’t for me, he was for everyone else and he gave the audience a very strong close to a very nice night.