Ashby – Howard Reed, George Rigden, Finlay Taylor and Justin Moorhouse

Tonight I was in Ashby de la Zouch for the Funhouse Comedy night. This is a cracking night that attracts a big crowd and some wonderful acts. As it happened, I had only seen one of the acts before, so that was something a little bit different for me. Spiky Mike’s compering had a nice feel good factor to it; in particular, his interaction with the skater boys was fun, with a cracking ad-lib based on one of their names and a nice applause break for his chat to a couple who both worked in selling building materials. This set the room up nicely for our first act, Howard Reed.

Howard Reed, who sports a passing resemblance to Boris Becker, came to the stage with a ukulele case over his shoulder, which for a moment, took me back to various pastiches of gangster films. He began by discussing long term relationships, which contained a great line about being outbid on kinky sex. This was then followed by a story about a pulled muscle, which he delivered with total conviction. Reed finished his set with two songs, one of which was good and another which was great. These were sung in a manner not unlike some of the songs in Mary Poppins and were wonderfully creative, especially the bedtime lullaby, which was cracking and much appreciated by parents with young kids. Reed’s delivery was at a conversational level and contained some great asides, such as smallest kebab shop and toilet roll, both of which I really enjoyed. This was a good set.

We resumed after the intermission with George Rigden, a musical act. I’m not a fan of musical acts, but on the positive side, he had a good voice and his set contained some nice touches and was well thought out. It was impressive how he managed to dominate the room, especially when he evicted one chap from his seat, so that he could stand on it to sing a song to a lady. On occasion Rigden veered towards being high status, before being more self-deprecating and after a while this did grate a bit with me. The room enjoyed him and he achieved consistent laughs with good material delivered in an offbeat way.

The next act was Finlay Taylor who discussed his physical imperfections, gentrification and various non-problems in life. With this last category, he refrained from calling them first world problems, which demonstrated an impressive restraint on his part, as 90% of comedians would probably have worked that phrase into this set. Taylor’s material was tightly written and impressively strong, earning him an applause break for his contempt at the putative cure for being gluten-intolerant. He moved from one topic to another swiftly, but his set hung together in a way that made it feel seamless. Taylor’s delivery was fast and he hardly seemed to pause for breath as he swiftly built up a lot of momentum. It seemed like he managed to fit twenty minutes of first rate material into a fifteen minute slot and the world is a slightly better place for this achievement. I’d not heard of Taylor before tonight; he was a lovely surprise and a splendidly entertaining one.

The headlining act was Justin Moorhouse, who is someone whom I’ve been interested in as a comedian ever since I saw his cameo appearances in an old show I used to watch before going on nights called something Taxi Nights or something similar. I’ve travelled to places like Derby, Sheffield, Matlock and now Grantham to see him perform and every time I’ve seen him, he has been excellent. Moorhouse has produced some great material over the years, such as ‘asthmatic sith lord’ and a shout out for Manchesters when he was in a department store in Australia. However, he seems to have made a conscious decision to continue to write new material and not to rely upon a greatest hits catalogue approach, which is a real bonus. Tonight he began in a callback to Mike’s compering by chatting in French with a lady in the front row, with exaggerated facial expressions for added effect. He then started his set properly, by discussing three lies that comedian’s tell, managing to get three reveals from the oft used line about a comedian announcing his girlfriend had just left him. I particularly enjoyed his successive downgrading of something funny happening on the way to the venue. The theme of Moorhouse’s set was his current fears. This covered a lot of areas, but my personal favourite in this was his work on the Manchester pusher, which he chose to deliver with a strong Mancunian accent, making him the ‘Push-Shore’. This made the villain sound less like a menace and more like a roadie for a 90’s indie band and tickled me. Moorhouse had perfect timing and made great use of raising his voice partway through a sentence at the crucial moment to add the emphasis to what he was saying. The result of this was nigh on 40 minutes of massive laughs. The closing routine, involving a KO and an accident with a bucket was simply superb and the way it was described really brought it to life and actually had me in tears of laughter, which doesn’t happen often. This was a barnstormer of a show.

This was one of those nights where you come away thinking that there are people sat at home, who don’t realise what they are missing.

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