Tonight I was at the Admiral Rodney in Southwell (or as we pronounce it in Mansfield, Suvhull) for the Funhouse comedy show. I’ve had a mild cold since Tuesday that has knocked me about a bit, so I had to come off of the critical list to venture out and I’m rather glad that I did. This is a gig that attracts a regular audience and that makes for a very well disposed crowd. Whilst I was awaiting the start of the gig, the party sat behind me were discussing acts they had seen and acts that they would like to see and it was gratifying just how knowledgeable they were about the UK comedy scene. As ever, the compere was Spiky Mike, who had perhaps the most enjoyable night I’ve seen him have, or at least the best since the news came out about Cameron and the pig – that night he looked as if he had picked up a winning lottery ticket on his way back from having won Wimbledon. He demonstrated a fine nose for detecting bogus professions and extracted the true facts. This was followed by him getting big laughs out of a man being an IT legal accounts wallah than one would have thought likely given the profession and then an even bigger laugh for talking to a man wearing possibly a J-cloth instead of a shirt. Perhaps the funniest part, was Mike’s frank look of total disbelief at the number of people in the room claiming to be students. This was totally natural and not a prepared look and as such it went down very well. The room was well prepared for our opening act, John Robertson.
I’d seen Robertson a couple of years before I began reviewing, and so I knew something of what to expect. That had been at Calverton, just a few miles down the road and he had totally smashed the room, making it impossible for the next act to follow and I mean this literally, the next act died, having spent half of his time trying to explain that he wasn’t going to stand on a chair, or run around the room. That night, Robertson had a leather jacket on and with his Australian accent, gave me the sense of Mad Max let loose and doing comedy. Tonight he was in a red suit and had long flowing blonde hair. This made him look something like a late 1980’s Bond villain. I liked this look. It was also responsible for him being heckled as he made his way to the stage. Some comedians can be heckled – Robertson is not one of them. He returned the heckle with a cracking reference to Bad Manners that landed well considering that that band were probably never that big in Southwell. As soon as Robertson got on the stage, he just put the microphone to one side and announced it wasn’t as if he needed it and he was right. I’m not sure what his normal conversational level is, but tonight his voice seemed turned up to 11. The only other act I’ve seen pull that off is Ian Cognito and it worked equally well for Robertson. He ad-libbed his way through 25 minutes that seemed to pass very swiftly. There were no awkward pauses whilst he tried to think of something to say, he generated material from the most unlikely places and was evidently very fast on his feet, mentally. His set went extremely well. He is the only comedian I’ve seen take someone’s pint hostage, whilst he ribbed the audience. The room had a fantastic time and he was awesomely impressive.
Following a much needed intermission we resumed with Tom Little, who is making a nice name for himself on the circuit. It looks as if this awareness is spreading, as the party sat behind me were commenting about having heard of him winning the Leicester Comedian of the Year award and looking forwards to seeing him tonight. I must add that on a personal level, I really do enjoy it when I hear people saying nice things about acts, I find it very warming. I’ve seen Little before and this was last year at a nice gig in Halifax that sadly never became a regular fixture on the comedy calendar. That night he had opened and had been good. Tonight, I felt that he was very good. He began with a decent routine about Family Fortunes. This was followed by a section on Cockney rhyming slang, which worked all the better for being delivered in a strong Cumbrian accent. His routine about yoghurt was his stand out routine and he got a lot of mileage out it, earning a well deserved applause break for the final denouement. Little is definitely a talent with his own unique style and someone to watch.
The final act of the middle section was Kieran Lawless, a jovial Irishman with an engaging delivery. His set was a bit of a curates egg. On one side, a lot of his material did seem transient and not so memorable, although in fairness, some of it was new. I think that what made it seem so transient was that he touched on a fair number of topics, but none of them to any depth, apart from perhaps the new section on texting sex, which whilst it didn’t get a big response, I’m still glad he was willing to try out. Paradoxically, the stand out material came at the end, not so much as a highlight that he had built up to, but almost more as an after thought, which was strange considering how I and the room really liked it. This section was about people’s last 24 hours left on earth and it’s a wonderful topic that he made a lot out of in only a minute or so. It gave him scope to chat to the audience, weave in material (make a wish foundation was a wonderful line) and it is something that he could easily expand and and work into a big strong closing routine. Lawless has an engaging personality and lots of enthusiasm and this is a real attribute that will assist him a lot. He is also quite physical onstage and this is another bonus. I don’t know if Lawless has ever done any compering, but I suspect that he would have a lot of ability in that. Sometimes, there was just as much joy in how he was delivering his material as in the actual material itself and if he can marry this wonderful delivery to equally strong material then he will do very well indeed.
The headliner was Peter White, with his nicely distinctive Nova Scotian accent. White gave the audience a demonstration of what a well thought out, intelligent and tightly constructed set was. He began by discussing his experiences as a heterosexual chap drinking in a gay bar and being propositioned and in the process possibly enunciated the most logical argument against this element of homophobia that I have heard in a long time. This was also incredibly funny. He then moved on to discussing being brought up in a small town environment – this gained him a shout out from a well lubricated lady in the audience and he fielded it deftly. Five minutes later, she interrupted again and he silenced her effectively, but somewhat inelegantly, which he did apologise for twice during his set. White recovered well from this and completed his set with a tale about open toed sandals, which made a very true point about the pronunciational difficulties of flip flop and then a nice twist on the who would you take on a desert island question. White’s set flowed very nicely and he gained strong laughs. I especially enjoyed the craftsmanship evident in the set. A well written set is a joy to see.