End of Month Review
I can safely say that this has been a fantastic month for comedy, with 55 individual reviews. I have seen a heat for English Comedian of the Year, pro bills, a champions gong final, open mic nights with a lot of acts standing out for their quality and Bobby Mair performing from a park bench during an evacuation from a venue.
These are the acts who have impressed me the most:
I saw Page at the English Comedian of the Year heat. He totally blew the room away and put in an incredible performance during the 7 minute time limit.
From the night:
The closing act of the first section was Nick Page, who I think was the man most of the acts and myself, had as the man to beat if anyone wanted to guarantee a place in the next round. Page suffered from two disadvantages: he had performed there last month and he had given the room a bumper 40 minute set, that must have used a lot of his material. This was never going to be anything less than interesting. He opened with a call back to Spiky Mike’s compering, which went down well and then proceeded to devote most of his time to a story, rather than short routines. Only he and Pearson took this approach and in both cases it paid a handsome dividend. He deserved an applause break for the Middleton reference, as that was wonderful and also one for his best paid piece of work. The tale he told involved community service and complications arising from it, with a very clever touch concerning the extra hours. This drew the audience in and I think everyone wanted to know how it all turned out. Unfortunately his time ran out before we got to that stage, but everyone had been laughing throughout. This was a master class of how to do a 7 minute set. It was no surprise when he went through in first place by a very respectable margin.
Houghton was playing to a smallish crowd and managed to make it a fantastic gig.
From the night:
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.
Mair held the room easily and when we had to move outside due to the fire alarm sounding, he continued to dominate proceedings.
From the night:
The headliner was Bobby Mair, an act who managed to get a big laugh for a joke about beastiality within the first minute. Despite his delivery being slower than Mor and Dickinson, he managed to use this to build momentum, as no one would have been able to predict where he was going with any of his material. At one point he was part way through a routine and a motorbike rode by, making quite a racket. Without pausing for breath, he simply worked that external interruption into said routine. There was a couple sat on the front row who were off to get married in the morning, so Mair had a chat with them about the realities of marriage, which whilst it may have made them wonder if they were able to call it off and get the deposit back, it provided great entertainment for the rest of the room. This was followed by him singing with his face about 2” away from that of a lady. By this stage, everything was going well. The room were laughing, Mair was on top form managing to deliver dark material in an upbeat manner. It was then that the fire alarm sounded. Mair was up for continuing, the audience weren’t wildly enthusiastic about having to leave, especially as no one was visibly on fire, but evacuate we did.
2 minutes later, the best part of 200 people were stood on The Green, outside of Grantham Guildhall. The scene was: Bobby Mair, stood perched on a bench, smoking a cigarette, no microphone, continuing his set. Audience arranged in a crescent around Mair, half with phones in hand filming and taking pics, alarm still sounding and sirens in the distance, the odd passerby looking at the crowd and the chap on the bench and probably wondering if we had all escaped from somewhere that had upholstered wallpaper. Mair didn’t bat an eyelid to any of this, he simply picked up from where he left off and then ad-libbed about the statue that was next to his bench and provided a fantastic time for the crowd. The fire engine turned up, siren on, to which he shouted that he was being heckled by a fire engine. Some of the crowd turned to look at the appliance, but he swiftly regained their attention with the line of the night – ‘Ignore that! You can see that anytime! This is the only show you’ll ever see on this bench, apart from some homeless guy jerking off!’ This would have brought the house down if we had had a house. 5 minutes later, we were back inside for Mair to complete what had been an incredible night, that had mixed an element of farce with high comedy.
Shanyaski gave a very warm performance and brought a surprising level of intimacy to this gig.
From the night:
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 mischivious 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.
This was a barnstormer of a middle ten spot.
From the night:
Marvyn Dickinson gave the room a wonderful time. He made a lively start, which injected a bit of energy into the room and got everyone fired up. His material was very relatable. It dealt with the confusion caused by his name, being from Preston and his wife having a baby. There was a lovely line about Waddle that like his penalty kick, sailed above the heads of some of the younger members of the audience, but which to me was nearly the line of the night. Dickinson is aided by a flamboyant, forceful delivery that massively adds to his set. He has the habit of suddenly raising his voice, stamping his foot and pointing to the audience on a big reveal. This seemed to have a faint echo of Peter Kay about it, although some of this may have been suggested to me from Dickinson’s strong Lancashire accent. His set was the stronger for this delivery and the audience really liked him. His ten spot was one of those that seem to fly by all too soon. He is a real find and I hope to see him gigging in this area a lot more often.
Wozniak is an up and coming comedian who I think is going to have a very good year and will have progressed a lot further come the end of it. He delivers his material well and definitely has ‘it’. I saw him at a champions’ gong show. Although he didn’t win, it was a close run thing.
From the night:
Simon Wozniak was the comic that I had as the likely winner. Tonight he did extremely well, with an improved delivery and some excellent material. His shoplifting routine was very well acted out, which added no end to its’ reception and his crack about Sunderland was very timely and earned him a laughter break. Wozniak had lots of little asides that he’d address to the audience, which served to bring them into the act and made it feel very inclusive. He built up a lot of momentum and was the eventual 2nd place after 2 close counts of hands. This is a comedian who has obviously got a future in the industry.