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.