Tonight I was at the Admiral Rodney in Wollaton, a gig that may be in danger of outgrowing the space. The snug around the performance area is very small and was quickly filled and tonight the tap room seemed to be equally full. This was pleasant to find. It’s great to see comedy attracting good numbers, especially on a night when the weather is miserable. On the other hand, the bar could benefit from more experience in keeping the noise down, as although the bandit was turned off, the phone rang a couple of times (hard to avoid), the bar on the comedy side of the pub was kept open, bottles were dropped into a bottle bin, cutlery was rattled and the music in the lounge was a bit too loud. Having said that, the atmosphere most certainly remained cordial and buoyant throughout.
Our MC was Fran Jenking, who chatted amiably with the audience, asking people about holidays, which is a welcome departure from most compere’s obsession with occupations. He had some fun with this and gained laughs, before using his local knowledge to his advantage and stepping up a gear. His approach was low key, which in a small room is ideal; this wasn’t an audience that would have wanted to be shouted at from 3′ away. Later he had a bit of luck with finding a magician in the audience and bantering with him to good laughs. Fran was a bit unlucky in one of his choices for clapper. He picked a chap called Woody, who seemed to be suffering the effects of ale and who unbelievably took one telephone call after Fran had done the rules and then left his phone on loud, so it was noticeable when it rang for a second time. This was swiftly followed by him dropping and smashing a glass during the first comedian’s set. Fortuitously he left after the first session, giving Fran the chance to ask the magician if he had magicked him away. Jenking had a good night tonight and kept things moving nicely.
The opening act was Will Hutchby, who left me with mixed feelings. On the debit side, some of his material was a bit hack. Telling an audience he has a girlfriend and then acting like it is a shock, listing heckles received over his appearance and giving away the ending of the 6th Sense are all things that have been done before by many comedians. In fairness, Hutchby did get laughs for this, but to me, they are overused. On the positive side, he did inject a fair bit of energy into the room through his performance and he held the room nicely. The Star Wars audition was good, Scouse Darth Vader was interesting, albeit I have seen something similar on youtube. However, his kill the Brownies line was a definite highlight to his set and very funny. During his set, Woody managed to smash a glass, but this didn’t put Hutchby off, he carried on without getting distracted.
The next act was Karl White, whose persona combines the charisma and voice of Nora Batty’s husband, Wally from Last of the Summer Wine. He plays it as a down to earth Yorkshireman, with limited horizons and reference points, using very little energy whilst he does so. Most acts try to make a big impact, White was deliberately the opposite. To do this and hold a room requires skill and to do it well requires very good writing. White had both a great paced delivery, that was totally in keeping with his persona and very well written material that kept the room’s attention. His tale of a visit to a lady was both funny and original, using totally believable phrases, and was delivered to big laughs from the audience. I enjoyed his leap from one topic to another, his use of a magnifying glass and the perfectly in character ending to his set. This was understated, but very cleverly done.
After the first intermission we resumed with Neil Irving, who had a set of two halves. He began with material based around work, which was decent, but could just do with a little bit more of a spark to raise it beyond that. I found the second half of his set to be the stronger side. His material on sex toys, with sound effects, puzzled expressions, call back to plumbing and the line about high pitched farts was good and seemed to catch the mood of the room better than his first section. I enjoyed how he acted out the beads on stage and this seemed to strike a chord with the audience.
Jim Daly, who I last saw in Loughborough, was next. He made a nice start with a quick joke and hit the ground running, ignoring the rattle of cutlery or whatever it was and the sounds of Up town girl that were coming from the bar. I liked his work on fraping and felt that his snapchat reveal deserved more, but as it was a visual gag, I think a few people missed it, which may explain why it didn’t get the response it merited. He did seem to lose a bit of momentum when he got to his routine about vegetarianism, but he picked it back up again. I’m not a huge fan of songs in comedy, so didn’t enjoy his closing routine, which was a (w)rap, as I felt it disproportionately light on laughs for the time it took out of his set. However, the room enjoyed it. He didn’t have a bad night, he received consistent laughs.
The final act of the middle section was Thomas Green, who through some mystical process, managed in the time it took him to walk to the stage and grasp the microphone, to look like he was a professional who knew exactly what he was about. This may have been a confidence thing on his part, but I’m more inclined to put it down to the fact that he is very good and has a comedian’s instinct and this is what I and presumably the rest of the room were sensing. His set seemed to cover a lot of areas without either getting bogged down or making them feel inconsequential, which is a neat trick to be able to pull off. His set was very well written and it seemed to have a natural flow to it, with no jarring leaps. Despite being new to the area, he was sharp enough to know that the local rivals are Derby and to throw in a reference to sheep for the additional laugh. This was impressive and naturally went down very well. Green delivers his material with assurance and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially his closing with a call back, which always seems to wrap things up nicely. I believe Green is certain to move up the comedy ranks quickly.
The headlining act was Barry Dodds, who had a fantastic night. Before he took to the stage, the audience seemed to be a bit noisy, but following Jenking’s compering they swiftly settled back down. He began well, using his local knowledge to tie bits of his set in, all to great laughs. Dodds was then granted a gift when the lights all turned themselves on and then off. This allowed him to launch into his material about Yorkshire poltergeists and following the incident with the lights, this felt extremely natural and went down a storm, getting massive laughs. Geordies in Space gained an applause break and I felt his silly sausage line a wonderful juxtaposition to the C-bomb and very funny. There was some great improv concerning a shooting in the set up to his closing routine. This was a set that generated loads of momentum, was delivered extremely well and gained huge laughs.