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.

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