Bar 1 – Edinburgh Previews – Big Howard and Little Howard and John Gordillo

Tonight I was in Derby at Bar 1 for the Funhouse Edinburgh Previews. It was fantastic to see almost a full house there at 1930, when I arrived ¾ of the way through the day. Comedy circuit figures present were Helen Stead, Elliott Bower, Brent Reid and Harry Sanders. The rumour that Pat Monahan had done a tight twenty was confirmed, as was the fact that aided by having a train to catch, he had also stuck to his time this afternoon. On a personal note, I received a text from my wife, alerting to me to the fact that we were expecting a new family member. However any optimistic hopes of buying myself a Sca Electrix for them at Christmas were soon dashed when she revealed that we were merely rehousing a refugee hamster. The first act I saw was Big Howard and Little Howard.

Howard Read was performing in an unnamed show, featuring a double act with a difference – his partner is his cartoon friend, Little Howard. He began with an explanation of how the show would work, which was wise, as this is something a little bit unusual. He certainly hit the ground running, forming an immediate rapport with the audience, who bought into the concept in a big way. This is an incredibly well thought out and creative show, with the sort of attention to detail that one would usually associate with genius’ like Tom Binns. Read has obviously taken a lot of time and trouble with not only getting the basic ideas right, but then in refining them and adding those little additional touches that push the jokes even further. Examples of this include the panda stretching out its paw, the demise of the crab on the wire and the light bulb materialising slowly. There were other things that also impressed me, such as the final reveal on driving to Brum, cat bugler, which is a simple idea, but very funny and Little Mix, which I thought deserved more than it received. The reference to Steve Austin worked surprisingly well, given the age of the show.

This was a performance that never came close to getting stale, as Read would switch nicely from being upstaged by Little Howard into a solo routine, using good solid material from his club 20. Even when going solo, Read mixed it up a lot, combining audience work and songs. His safari into the audience as the Fart Whisperer went down very well and helped the audience to feel involved. Read’s inclusion of myself as a reviewer, as someone whose fart he read was made brilliantly relevant by the results of his divination and he was rewarded with an applause break, one of probably half a dozen that he earned. There were three songs, the wonderful bedtime lullaby, a chaotic (in the spirit of Tiswas) duet with Little Howard and a fantastic song about Haberdashers, that worked even better when Read got out of synch with the visuals. I did feel that the separate shops idea needs a little bit more, but considering the sheer quality of the rest of the show, I’m sure that is new material.

Reed is very dry in his delivery, his voice reminding me a touch of a sped up Norman Lovett. He is also totally convincing, playing it totally straight with Little Howard, which really brought him to life as something more than just a character. The audience thoroughly enjoyed this show, which had more than enough variety to keep everyone happy. I thought that it was superb and massively enjoyable.

The next show was by John Gordillo. This was very much a work in progress, with him testing some ideas and working off of paper. This is fine by me, as it is a preview and naturally some comics will be more prepared than others. Unfortunately Gordillo has had an awful week and probably hadn’t had the time that he would have liked to prepare for the show. This was seen in him losing track of bits of paper and having to rearrange chunks of his show on the hoof, although in fairness he apologised profusely for this and his heckling of himself kept this entertaining. Putting these mishaps aside, Gordillo has the basis of a good show here and I’d like to see the finished article.

Gordillo began with contrasting the advert for Lothian buses with the reality, something that was a bit predictable, but still funny, made more so by him doing this in a Glaswegian accent. This led nicely into a routine that introduced the notion of advertising being about ‘the experience’, rather than just trying to do something useful. The lines about doing you a solid and buying a jumper were both standouts in this section. I also enjoyed the callback when he thanked us for choosing this show.

Every so often, Gordillo would come off script and banter with the audience and this was always very strong, showing quick thinking. His knowledge of Nottingham being the local rivals to Derby, when it came to a disparaging comment evidenced either a good general knowledge of local rivalries, or a bit of research and I’m happy with either. It’s always a bit jarring when a comic gets it wrong when slagging off the wrong town in these bits.

The section on reviews left on Tripadviser was very entertaining and shows, as Jasper Carrot first proved with the insurance claims, that laughing at other people’s idiotic comments will never go out of fashion. The section on touch screens, Virgin trains and hotel door signs is perhaps a case of having three routines that all make similar points and this could be tightened up, which would improve a promising area. When it came to the closing routine that will go with the actual show we only received a précis of this, which was a shame, as his antics as Tripadviser sound as though they will be of very high value.

Gordillo’s delivery was enthusiastic and enlivening and he also has this endearing habit of dropping his right shoulder and raising his left (imagine a reverse Richard III doing the Winter of Discontent bit) whenever he is being earnest in his pointing a fuckwit piece of ad copy. Quite often he seemed to be on the edge of an applause break and despite the execution of the show being a bit chaotic, I enjoyed it. This is a work in progress and it looks like he will have a jolly good show once he has tightened it up.

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