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 ā€“ 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 ā€“ 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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