Swan in the Rushes – Ed Patrick, Jim Daly, Richard Quarmby, Wizzy Janew, Bambam Shaikh and Tom Houghton

Tonight I was in Loughborough for the Funhouse Comedy gig at the Swan in the Rushes. This was a local-ish gig with a nice steady drive to it and some free parking just across the road from the pub, which was all to the good. The actual performance area was upstairs, so we were nicely separate from the rest of the patrons and didn’t have to worry about noise bleed or unwelcome intrusions. The compere was Spiky Mike. Also present, but not performing were Harry Sanders and Ishi Khan-Jackson and it’s nice to see local talent supporting a night, even if they aren’t gigging. Dave Bryon was due to perform, but had to leave due to unforeseen circumstances. This was unfortunate as he seems to have the ability to build a rapport with a crowd swiftly and his presence was a definite addition to the bill. The opening act was Ed Patrick.

Patrick made a promising start by discussing bad heckles he had anticipated receiving due to his career as a doctor. He then made a reference to the room being cold and requiring a push start, although given his job, a defibrillator may have been more apt. This was an undemonstrative room, which didn’t seem to warm to anyone that quickly with perhaps a few exceptions. His material was well written and although he may have benefited from more audience interaction to help bring them on-board there was nothing intrinsically poor about his set. He just suffered from going on first to a cautious audience and as a result his set felt a bit flat. This wasn’t his fault, a different running order would have possibly produced a different response. He did miss a chance for a possible call back to ‘syphilis’ when he mentioned discovering a barnacle.

Jim Daly closed the first section. He began in a lively and energetic manner, and although his Countdown joke had a foreseeable reveal this didn’t stop it landing well. His fraping material covered an area that is surprisingly neglected amongst the circuit. This again was well received. I wasn’t overly enamoured with his song at the close, but I’m not keen on songs in comedy in general and so this is no reflection on him. The room enjoyed it. This was a nice set with a lot to like.

The smartly dressed Richard Quarmby opened after the first intermission. His set seemed a little bit patchy in some ways. His material about Dr Dre was a bit niche for a middle aged and middle class audience, but those who got the references went for it in a big big way. Quarmby had a convincing delivery and lots of nice touches in his material, but not a lot seemed to land heavily, despite it being decent stuff. I have a suspicion that there is a good set here and also a fine comedian, but I don’t think we saw him at his best tonight or his material get the results it should have done. I’d like to see him again, as I think he has promise.

Wizzy Janew was next. He received an applause break for his opening ad lib, which was a great start. This was partially undermined by a joke about him being black, which harked back to an old 80’s joke about Stevie Wonder. Janew’s set can be split into two unequal parts. One being standard jokes and routines, which are competent enough and get laughs. This is probably 30% – 40% of his set. The remainder revolves around him being blind and generally go with set up and then the punchline being an error caused by him being blind. Of the two parts, this is more unique and gets bigger laughs. However, although each jokes works very well on its’ own, the cumulative result of so many is that the law of diminishing returns sets in. One doesn’t tend to notice this so much in a ten spot and his performance remains solid, but in a longer set it may count against him. Janew had a good night and received consistent laughs.

The ever entertaining Bambam Shaikh followed. He is a master at building up tension and making things feel a tad awkward before he breaks it to a huge laugh. Tonight he split the room a bit, albeit with the majority going with him. Those that liked him, liked him a lot. Those who didn’t weren’t so sure. There was a lot of fun when he broke the fourth wall and his audience work was great. He chose well when he decided to speak to the lady from Prague. It’s always a joy to see this act, even though tonight, it was the lighter version of Bambam, as the more provocative side would have perhaps been out of step with the feeling of the room. I’d still love to see a political set from Jay, the man behind the missing beard.

The headliner was Tom Houghton, who may be more familiar as part of The Noise Next Door. Houghton gave the performance of the evening and was simply superb. He spent the first 10 minutes or so ad-libbing and bantering. This was wonderfully of the now and present and was almost a textbook guide as to how a room can be worked. Some of this was deeply surreal, such as his shoe and the shoe of a reticent member of the audience having a conversation. This was an artist living off of his wits and quick thinking and making it look easy. This part was followed by a short song, which was short enough to remain fresh and not to get in the way of the momentum he had built. Following this, Houghton moved towards material, which whilst not as strong as the banter, was still good and received laughs, although the best line of the night was his quick shout out about one chap looking like a Bond villain who had lost his cat. He finished on a song and provided bags of fun along the way. This was a splendid performance and he is definitely an act that we should see more of. The audience work was worth the ticket price alone.

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