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.

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