Last night I was at Bluey’s in Alfreton for the FaF Comedy night. I like this gig and I like Bluey’s. I never fail to be impressed by just how up for comedy this venue is. The staff go out of their way to look after the acts and the audience always give the performers a lot of love. They are interested in what they have to say and get involved in following the show. This is in marked contrast to a lot of weekend comedy clubs, where 50% of the audience are only there because it is an outing of some sort. It’s also nice to see glasses collected regularly and a curtain across the bar, screening off the comedy area. Little touches like these all add up.
I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Mr Tony Cowards was our MC for the night. This was for 3 reasons. Prior to walking in I only knew who the headline act was, every other slot was a mystery. Tony is a cracking MC, with a quick fire delivery of puns that builds atmosphere swiftly. And thirdly, by common agreement, he is regarded as one of the nicest people on the circuit (in Edinburgh he organised kick abouts, runs and a litter collection). I was interested in seeing how he would adapt to this gig after his recent Edinburgh Festival run – 105 gigs in front of 4000 people – and the answer was easily. He opened with a brilliant set of puns about blood groups, which I massively appreciated, as did the rest of the audience. From here, it was a case of chatting to people, discovering their jobs and then selecting a joke to match it. Cowards has a great general knowledge, a wide selection of puns and is very skilled in tying all of this together in a way that makes it feel natural. Audiences warm very quickly to a comic who can do this. Tony is a clean comedian; I’ve not heard him swear or tell anything especially blue or questionable, although I’m sure that if he chose, he could do some very nice stuff along these lines. Instead, he concentrates on jokes of a very high order and he isn’t worried about being too clever for the audience to follow. His Picasso and Proctologist jokes both worked very well. In addition to his puns, the highlight was either when he was asked whether Wiltshire ham actually came from Wiltshire – a question that no one expects – or his interaction with a Cockney on the front row. Alfreton is a small (ex) mining town and not the sort of place one would expect to find a Cockney. The football loving Cowards homed in on this chaps’ Spurs shirt and he very quickly painted a convincing portrait of him as a geezer, almost an exile from a Guy Ritchie film. This construct was wonderfully burst amidst big laughs, when the man admitted that instead of being the local king pin, he merely worked for the Co Op. This was very enjoyable compering.
Our opening act was Pat Draper. I’ve seen a lot of Draper this year and that is no bad thing. His style is dead pan, but with enough of a twinkle in his eye for audiences to know that he is very much tongue in cheek. Tonight he showed a lot of small improvements in his material, with, amongst others, an added line after his joke about the erection. This was a set that went down very nicely and for some parts, he received laughs for simply standing there looking at the room. I was impressed with his joke about the yawn. I had seen this first performed on a new material night a couple of months ago, where although raw, it held promise and it is very nice to see that that has been realised. Draper had a good night and received a lot of laughs.
The middle section began with Pete Selwood. As he made his way to the stage and indeed, during his set, he radiated confidence, far more than what one would expect for someone so new to comedy. This is a man with swagger and it isn’t misplaced, either. Selwood gave a very strong performance. He began by addressing a physical issue that he has, which was a clever move, as it dealt with both the issue of people being distracted by it and it also showed that if he can laugh and make light of it, then it is ok for everyone else to laugh during his set. In contrast to some comedians, he didn’t make his set all about this single issue and instead he talked about a variety of topics. I was impressed by his joke about magnums, his proving that his dad was correct about it and then getting a third laugh from this one area as it rolled along very nicely, building impetus. Although facebook and parents is something that is overused, he also had a decent section on it. Selwood wasn’t helped with the microphone cutting out during the set up to his finale, but it was definitely worth the wait for the reveal. This is a comedian who shows a lot of promise.
The next act was Simon Lomas, who was on a technical level the more interesting of the two (laughter wise, the middle section was equally matched). His appearance, unlike Selwood, doesn’t inspire confidence. He initially gives the room the impression that there was a clerical error when he was booked and that somewhere else there is a comedian taking his place in an Alan Bennett play. However, this is all a very clever construct that Lomas makes a lot of capital from. Rather than try to engage with the audience, he is deliberately aloof, staring off to one side throughout his performance, which given his intentional awkwardness, works wonders for his delivery. I was further impressed by his ability to make the most of a silence. If a comedian can get a laugh during the spaces between jokes, then he is doing very well. Lomas’ material involves him setting up an implausible scenario, some misdirection and then a wonderfully offbeat reveal. This went down a storm. Apart from the Xbox, where I got there just before he did, I had no idea what the reveal would be on any of them. My only (slight) criticism of this set was that Lomas broke out of his fixed position where he was staring off into the middle distance to one side of the room, 3-4 times to check either the time or his hand for material. I felt that this very slightly weakened the impact of what he was doing, but in truth, I was probably the only person who noticed. However, considering that Selwood has a good gag about not being able to write material on his left hand and that these two often gig together, I shouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t room for a very strong callback to be fitted in here. This was a set that was splendidly different and very funny.
The closing act was Brian Damage and Krysstal. I’ve never seen this duo have a bad night and very soon they were hoovering up laughs. Brian is a master of sarcastic and disparaging asides and Krysstal manages to play being 2 stages detached from proceedings very well. I think it is easy to overlook the strength of their material in the sheer joy of watching them deliver it. The manner in which Brian looms over the audience, looking slightly rum during the penultimate song really sells it, as does Krysstal’s looks of disgust to his advances. As ever, they gave a cracking performance.