Bluey’s – Josh Pugh, Andy Woolston, Ryan Brown, Steve Shanyaski and Jim Bayes (MC)

Tonight I was at Bluey’s in Alfreton for the FaF Comedy Night. FaF have some very nice gigs, in particular, this one and Thorncliffe. Both venues have a bit in common in as far as neither sound like an obvious comedy hotspot. However, both have not only an audience that really enjoy the show, but they also have a really nice feel to the rooms. Bluey’s is a very welcoming establishment, with the owner himself personally thanking all of the acts and there was a very kind barmaid (with the sort of laugh that comedians wish they could bottle and take to other gigs) who made sure that all of the comics were well looked after. This included the present, but sadly not on the bill, Jed Salisbury who has had a very good week with a funny comment of his going viral. The numbers weren’t massive tonight, but luckily it never became anything other than a lovely room thanks to the compere, Jim Bayes.

Bayes was a real asset in bringing everyone together and making the night feel inclusive. He began with a high energy opening and between his onstage lunging, which made it look as if he were working out and his fast thinking, he seemed to radiate enthusiasm for comedy. His crowd work took in most of the room and he could do this not because it was that small a crowd, but simply because he never got bogged down spending 5 minutes failing to get someone’s real name (his reference to Namey McNameface was wonderfully timely). Bayes avoided this, through a natural grasp of when to move on. I was also extremely happy that he never asked anyone what they did for a living, this is a most welcome change to the standard approach. Asking a chap what his favourite dog breed was led into a solid piece of material. The audience enjoyed his work, he remembered to do the rules and he kept the night on track. This was a good performance.

The poster for the night contained that tantalising lucky dip that is ‘with support’. The first person I saw when I entered the pub was Josh Pugh, which immediately confirmed that all was well. I like Pugh, he has a lot of style and is consistently funny. I really enjoy how the reveals are totally unexpected. Considering he has only been going for 2 years he has done well and he is very much one of the comedians of the future. This was the first time I’d seen him open and whilst a pit village may not be considered the natural home of off beat comedy with a touch of surrealism, he has the skill to make it work and by heck did he! Pugh had an applause break within the first minute, a laughter break 30 seconds later and before long he had the room laughing at the set ups, as well as the reveals. Tonight he made it look effortless in a way that only someone who is at the top of their game can. I’ve always liked Pugh and felt him a strong act, but tonight he seemed to have stepped up a gear. This is a man to watch.

Following the intermission it was Andy Woolston. His material and performance was decent enough, but not a lot seemed to land heavily. He received laughs and whilst he didn’t have a bad night, the room just didn’t seem to go for him in a big way. The only reason I can think of for this was that whilst his material was decent, nothing seemed to be especially stand out. There was a nice routine about other people’s kids, but this is a fairly well travelled area, which may have diluted its’ impact. This was a shame as I felt that he has talent and I’m hoping to see him again.

Ryan Brown closed the middle section. He came onto the stage wearing a fedora, a striped shirt and what 60 years ago would have been described as a demob suit. This gave him the look of a rather dapper Tommy Trinder or Jack Leonard and the effect was to make him stand out before he had even picked the microphone up. Having a unique look is a definite asset and I liked it. I had seen Brown before at Roger Swift’s best of the year gig in Telford, so I was looking forwards to him. Brown is a one-liner merchant, who has the endearing habit of corpsing just before he delivers a pun. This aids his delivery and works well in building up the momentum. He received big laughs throughout his set, getting a well earned applause break. I particularly enjoyed how Brown strung a series of puns together to get an even bigger laugh. I would have been happier with a few more call backs, but the two he did were splendid. Brown had a great night and made 10 minutes pass very quickly.

The headliner was Steve Shanyaski, who I’d not seen him before. Stoney was really enthusiastic about having booked him, which had definitely whetted my appetite. I’ve got to say that Shanyaski hit the ground running and went from strength to strength. He began with some very strong room work, he weaved in a bit of material and the audience lapped it up. Shanyaski has an infectious mischievous grin that is half way to selling whatever he is saying before he has even said it. When this is combined with him acting out the routines on stage, his whole set seems to spring to life with the result that it goes through the stratosphere. Shanyaski also has some highly impressive improv skills and was able to take anything that was shouted out by a chap on the front row and weave comedy gold out of it and all without causing any ill-feeling with his interlocutor. In places Shanyaski was a touch surreal, but this was something he built up to, one layer at a time, making it a natural progression and this really suited his style. This was an excellent set and ended with something I’ve only seen the once during a year or so of reviewing – calls for an encore. I’ve seen plenty of these in arenas and theatres, where they are de-rigour, but not in 130 or so gigs I’ve reviewed. This was something new and summed up the impact that he had had upon the audience.

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