Blueys: Tom Houghton, Peter McCole, Thomas Rackham, Milo McCabe as Troy and Carl Jones (MC)

Tonight I was at Bluey’s in Alfreton for the FaF Comedy night. This is a gig with bags of delight. Although the audience wasn’t huge, for a wet Tuesday night it was very respectable and most importantly of all, this was a crowd that were there for the comedy and wanted to laugh. I’ll take this over a big, but indifferent crowd any day of the week. Bluey’s is an Australian themed steak house, with a couple of wonderful little quirks. There is a lady with a loud and very infectious laugh, who sounds as if she is sat on a feather. This is very endearing. Also, Bluey himself is the only person who tends to heckle and he saves this for the MC, being funny when he does shout out. Not a combination that many hecklers manage to achieve. Tonight was one of those gigs where everyone had a very good night, both audience and comics. Our MC was Mr Carl Jones.

I’ve only seen Jones MC once before and that was when he was the compere of choice for the NCF comedian of the year awards. He’d had a good night then, so was a reassuring presence on the bill. Jones is a clever comedian, one of those chaps who could probably rise up the rungs of any profession he decides to have a go at. Tonight, this intelligence demonstrated itself in two ways. Firstly, he avoided politics like the plague, only making one passing reference to the new exchange rate, a mention that was very funny and non-contentious. Instead, he concentrated on England being bundled out of the European Football. This gave him ample scope to chat to people about how they watched the match, if indeed they had. This did lead to one blind alley, where he quickly cut his losses and moved on and this succeeded in creating a nice fun atmosphere and it also created a lot of material for acts to work with later in the night. Jones is a local lad and was able to use this to great effect, in making jokes comparing Alfreton to his home town, which is a distance of about 5 miles away. I especially enjoyed how Jones would provide a funny line and then almost as an after-thought, he would hit the room with a second reveal, which ramped up the mirth. Jones had a good night and it was a pleasure to see him again.

The opening act was Tom Houghton, who I last saw at a Funhouse night in Loughborough, where he had been excellent. That night, he had largely ad-libbed his way through a 20 spot in magnificent fashion. Tonight, his set was based more upon material, rather than crowd work. He made a big entry onto the stage, emphasising his campiness for the benefit of the room. This lead into an account of how he became the man he is today, where he managed to avoid the all too often used routine about not being a man’s man, followed by joke about putting up shelves. This was then followed by a spot concerning a posh girlfriend, where his use of a cockney accent on ‘Don’t want to talk abaht it’ really sold the line. His five stages of answerphone message provided a very good set piece to his show. This was a performance that had the room laughing hard, impressed everyone present and seemed to fly by all too quickly.

After the intermission we resumed with Peter McCole, who is the second Liverpool based comedian I’ve seen this week and indeed within the last couple of months. I have to confess, I wasn’t familiar with McCole until I saw his name on the bill, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew he’d be good, otherwise he wouldn’t have been booked, but this still added a little bit of excitement to the night. McCole came onto the stage and ad-libbed the first couple of minutes to good effect, generating laughs quickly. Within 3-4 minutes, he had the entire pub hanging on his every word, as he delivered his material with a great deal of charm. I was especially taken by his story of a séance, which built up nicely as he delivered it. The reveal was saved from being foreseeable by a lovely twist. His closing routine involved a sex tape, which is something that has been covered a couple of times by comics, but which gave the room real pleasure as McCole acted out the scene on the tape and the reaction from his parents. This was a well thought out set, with both good material and a well pitched delivery. I hope to see more of McCole.

Next was Thomas Rackham, an act that I am always pleased to see. Rackham is a prolific writer and if one sees him in May, then by June, you can pretty much guarantee that 60% of his set will be new. This isn’t new as in try it and see if it works, new. This is new as in new and very good, new. He began with a fantastic gambit. There was a chap on the front row who had arrived straight from work, sans tea. Rackham carried out a bowl of crisps, supplied by Bluey’s for the acts and offered this chap a crisp for every time he laughed. A simple idea in many ways, but one which struck a chord with the room and in a small way showed that this was a unique event and not just something he does every night, as if on autopilot. A lot of Rackham’s new material concerned football, which was very enjoyable. He then moved on to close with some established material: nights out and jazz, which all landed well, getting consistent laughs. Rackham has a natural delivery and I’ve never seen him have a bad night.

Our closing act was Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke. Hawke strolled onto the stage, looking like Douglas Fairbanks relaxing on a film set, bedecked in a silk top, cravat, moustache and brylcreemed hair. His use of language and speech patterns were reminiscent of a PG Wodehouse character, but with more credibility. This was used to marvellous effect, as a set that was 50% based upon facts elicited by Jones’ compering and 50% material was delivered to the room. I was very impressed with how Hawke managed to work in so much improvised material and judging by the sounds of laughter, the rest of the audience were extremely enthusiastic, too. The pre-existing material, which discussed football and his interactions with various people were of a uniformly great quality, but pushed a lot further by a very strong delivery, that stayed in character throughout. The closing routine was simply magnificent. This involved Hawke working in a call back to everyone who had been spoken to during the course of the night. This earned him a series of applause breaks. I’ve never seen anyone manage to pull this off before. The closest I’ve seen to it was on television, when Bob Monkhouse improvised a series of links between audience members in one of his shows. It was at this stage that Hawke was delivered a googly in the form of a shout out/call back to his own material and was asked to sing a song. He dealt with this request with aplomb and some very quick thinking. This was a fantastic set.

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