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.