Last night I was at the David Lloyd in West Bridgeford for the Funhouse Comedy night. I can safely say that this is the poshest venue I have ever been to that hasn’t involved a family member getting married. It is a country club, like what one sees on American films. It had plenty of tennis courts, a big outdoor swimming pool and pretty much two of every sort of amenity, including a barrier on the car park that no one told me required a code for escaping. This wasn’t really what I was expecting. I had assumed that it was a pub gig and was wondering if it would be a rowdy night. Instead, the crowd was the epitome of respectability, although there was one lady who was a persistent joiner in. Our compere was Spiky Mike, who began very well by chatting to a chap on the front row who looked like a Norse God. This led to various chats with audience members and it was good to see Mike on top form. He very quickly reached that happy place where he’d ask a question, get a reply, make a comment based on the reply and everyone would laugh. The speak, pause, laugh rhythm is always wonderful to see. Having said that, his comments about James and their sit down song did fall on stony ground, perhaps being a bit niche for the audience, but this was the only comment that didn’t do well. The room was well prepared for our opening act, Andy White.
I have only seen White once before and that was in Derby, where he was a panellist on Panel Beaters. This proved to be the best show I have seen this year and so I was more than happy to see him on the bill. To begin with the room seemed a bit lukewarm towards him, but he won them round very quickly, probably within the first minute and a half. His line about resembling Dr Who was inspired and the added reveal with Chelsea fans was great and these firmly established his credentials with the audience. White’s set gave the room a lovely mix of gags, small routines, songs, dancing and visual jokes. I like it when a comedian mixes it up like this, as it seems to make the performance fresher. One technical facet that I and perhaps only I noticed, was the fact that White had been paying close attention during Mike’s compering. He knew people’s names and who was sat where and was able to work this into his set. It is ruddy jarring when a comic who hasn’t been listening asks the same person their name 2 minutes after the MC has and White easily avoided this, which I appreciated, as it gave the night a feeling of coherency. There were a lot excellent bits of material contained within this set, such as the reference to Japanese porn – it is always fun seeing who laughs at porn related jokes, as a fraction of a second after they’ve laughed they suddenly seem to realise that they’ve just outed the fact that they have cookies they need to delete. Germans in sheds was nicely self-explanatory and White wisely left it at that as it worked better with the audience not needing more in order to get the joke. I felt that the highlight of this set was a tie between Al Qaeda and the lullaby. Both worked extremely well and were easy to access. This was a splendid set that I thoroughly enjoyed, with no less than four applause breaks being given.
After the intermission it was Wayne the Weird, an act that I wasn’t familiar with, although with a moniker like his, it was obvious we were in for something different. Wayne is a comedy magician. I’ve seen a few of these and find it to be a good combination, only really failing at the lower end of the experience spectrum. He began with a few short puns and then brought on his first volunteer, or rather second; as the first person refused to budge from their seat and he was smart enough not to persist with them and just moved on. There is something about being invited onto a stage that transforms ordinary members of the public into wooden mannequins. On balance, I think this is probably better than someone who suddenly wants to become the star of the show and luckily all of the volunteers proved as wooden as usual, throughout all of the magic. There were a number of tricks performed, rope cutting, cards, knowing the words in a book, a newspaper full of something and a big escapologist finale. On one hand, these sound like the standard fare of any magician, but without a huge set up or investment in props there are natural limits to what a sole performer can achieve on a small stage. Perhaps the real magic lies in performing these tricks in a way that makes them novel and entertaining. Wayne managed to achieve this by adding lots of little touches, such as the gloves he put on, the soundtracks chosen and the mirror he used. These all added a lot of laughter. There was also a lot of comedic misdirection, too, where the audience thought that he had just given them the reveal, but instead the true reveal was yet to come. There was obviously a lot of thinking behind this set. The big finale was sound on the escapologist side of the ledger and also pretty unexpected on the comedy side, but the inclusion of the teddy bear was one of those small touches that just made it even more entertaining. This was a nicely different set that went down well.
The headline act was Danny Mcloughlin, who was stepping in to replace an act who unfortunately hadn’t been able to make it. Whilst I had been influenced in my choice of night by the presence of the original act on the bill, Mcloughlin has a sound reputation and I’d seen him do well before at another gig, so I was pleased to hear he had picked up the slot. His low energy delivery was rather endearing and definitely suited his material. It’s hard to imagine a frenetic high energy performance about being a fussy eater, bread and flintstones duvets working half as well. This was a set with some lovely lines, such as the almost throwaway line about Alton Towers, Gregg and also the one about the dictionary. I was interested to see Frost being the detective show referenced, though, as that was one that my family never watched when I was growing up. The material hung together nicely and Mcloughlin was able to move from topic to topic almost seamlessly. I say almost seamlessly, because his momentum was badly affected by a lady who persistently joined in well beyond the point when many people would have twigged on that they were just throwing a spanner in the works. It was like watching Mcloughlin perform with the director’s commentary being played over him. He dealt with this as well as anyone could, given the circumstances. She wasn’t being nasty or derogatory – she was pleasant and friendly if anything and the atmosphere in the venue was polite and restrained, so brutally putting her down was out of the question. Instead he made it clear to her that her input wasn’t necessary, threw her a couple of very funny mild insults and carried on. Naturally, after the show she was the first to congratulate him on being hilarious. This was an enjoyable set that even with the lady shouting out, was still very good.