The headline for tonight’s gig is – Venue evacuated due to fire – Bobby Mair continues set outside perched on park bench.
That was how things stood at about 2225; it was very different at 2000. Funhouse hold their gigs in The Guildhall at Grantham. This is sort of a cross between a municipal building and a small stately home. The room hosting the comedy has huge high ceilings, decorative plaster work and is probably haunted by the cast of Downton Abbey. It wasn’t quite sold out tonight, but there were only about 5 empty seats out of 200, so numbers were still excellent. The crowd itself is well heeled and heading towards a touch beyond middle aged, but they are also very enthusiastic about this show. The loyalty of the crowd to Spiky Mike made his compering more than a pleasure to watch. He was playing in front of a regular audience who obviously like him a lot and he was able to bounce off them in a way that was thoroughly enjoyable and not easily achievable by visiting comperes. His chats with the audience seemed to have a more intimate feel than what one would expect for such a large audience and he chose well with the people he talked to, even gaining an applause break. He set the room up nicely for the opening act Martin Mor.
Mor is one of those larger than life figures who would command attention in any setting. As soon as he strode onto the stage the room was his to take in any direction he wished. His set contained a large amount of room work and this was excellent stuff. He has the knack of finding material out of the most unpromising discussions, without it seeming to feel forced or artificial. A read through of his actual material wouldn’t do it justice. It would read as being sweary and on the vulgar side, but in context it worked a treat. I’ve already mentioned the audience being upper middle class and of a certain age and a tattooed 6′ plus chap saying f*** a lot and discussing various sexual oddities may not sound like their cup of tea (Earl Grey, obviously). However, such was his skill, they lapped it up. I was sat next to a very pleasant and rather refined lady, who was just short of 80 years vintage and she really enjoyed his set. Mor’s delivery is very fast, almost without any pauses for breath and he really got the audience engaged. This was a very good performance that was not only very funny (including 3 applause breaks), but which also felt very refreshing.
After the first intermission we resumed with Rob Coleman. He began by standing on the stage and letting the audience drink in his appearance, especially his hair. For the few of you who haven’t seen Coleman, he has the sort of hair that looks as if it is having a party, regardless of what the rest of him is up to. Following this pause, he then began his set, proper, by discussing his hair. Whilst he received laughs for this, and decent laughs too, I didn’t feel that the room was totally on board yet. This all changed when he started talking to a couple on the front row. This led to a lovely bit of banter and an applause break and it was obvious that all of the room were now with him. Coleman then continued his set, weaving in material and banter nicely, getting laughs and groans in pretty much equal measure. His material hung together well, with no jarring leaps when he changed topic. I felt that some of the room may have gotten to the Pearl Harbour reveal before him, but this didn’t affect what was a nicely delivered and enjoyable set.
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.
The headliner was Bobby Mair, an act who managed to get a big laugh for a joke about bestiality 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.