Tonight I was back at the Cross Keys in Nottingham for the Fowl Humour comedy night. This is a very congenial open mic night that not only allows newer acts a chance for stage time, but it also gives established acts a chance to air new material, or as was the case tonight, a whole hour in which to showcase their Edinburgh show. The last time I was here it was two months ago and the place had been packed out, with people having to stand, as all of the seats were taken. Tonight, though, the numbers were regrettably a lot fewer. There were enough people to make something of an audience, but more would certainly have been nicer. Sat on what became the front row was a couple who were lovely, but prone to join in, which whilst it suited some acts, it did throw a few a bit off course. The compere was Andy Hughes, who had the tricky job of compering a small room, with a small crowd, most of whom he knew by name. He did this by riffing on the Referendum meeting Britain’s got Talent, which helped to get the night rolling. The first act was Steve Wright.
I’ve seen Wright before, at a gong show, where whilst I had been impressed with his material, I had felt his delivery a little bit low key, despite him making it through to the final that night. Wright is a one-liner merchant and whilst a few jokes didn’t land that heavily tonight, a lot of his jokes are good, with some that are very good indeed. The driving test failure gag was excellent. He is an act that would benefit from two things. More consistent gigging, as I feel that with this his delivery will improve. Wright’s delivery just needs a little bit more of something to help push his good material that little bit further. The other thing that I think may help him is to have more of a unique look. Tonight he was dressed in smart casual, which is fair enough for a midweek gig, but it didn’t scream comedy and I believe that a more unique style of dress would help establish his presence more swiftly. I can see Wright doing well with comedy and I look forwards to seeing how he develops over the next year or so.
The next act was Alex Hudson, who didn’t have the best of nights and perhaps demonstrated that he is a work in progress at the moment. He began by talking about year 6 of school, at which point the couple sat at the front joined in with a couple of anecdotes. As a newer act, he perhaps didn’t have the experience or possibly the confidence to close them down, or alternatively to banter with them and maintain his authority, but instead ended up with them telling their stories and him losing his momentum. This was unfortunate, but for a fairly new act, understandable. He then followed with a spot of material about barbers and how that was a metaphor for success in life, which gave him a chance for a callback at the end of his set, after he had talked about Lego Land, a topic that sadly died. As performances go, this wasn’t great, but then everyone has nights like this early in their careers and they learn from them. The material was a bit weak, but that is nothing that Hudson can’t improve. His delivery wasn’t bad, but he would have profited from looking at the audience a little bit more and making more of a connection with them. He has something of a confident presence and given half a dozen or so more gigs he will improve nicely.
The last act of the first session was Stu Woodings, who dealt with the talkative couple by getting his head down and cracking on with his set. His Paint it Matt song is a real highlight of his set and something I really enjoy. This went down very well, as did zorbing, with the family sized plot a nice touch. I especially liked his new material about VR and think that this is something that he could develop an entire set out of, with the help of some props. Tonight it was obvious that Woodings had improved since I last saw him, he seemed sharper, his material better defined and in general, just better all round.
The headline act was Jon Pearson, recently returned from his honeymoon. Tonight he was treating the audience to a work in progress – his Edinburgh show. Pearson began with a bit of room work, bantering with the couple at the front, forming laughter and material out of thin air, with callbacks for later. The set itself showed some nice additional touches, such as the pause on strong… like bull, that just pushed it further. There was a bit of a stumble over some of the newer sections, but this is a night for new material, so no harm in that. The talkative couple had quite a lot to say to the (rhetorical) questions asked by Pearson, which was always on the pleasant and nice side of things, but it did mess up the flow of his set a bit. Naturally Pearson made the most of this and achieved a lot of mirth from these exchanges. The show is coming along very nicely, but what impressed me most, was his ability to switch from material to banter and back without batting an eyelid.