Last night I went to a show that unfortunately ended up getting cancelled, but luckily I bumped into a group of friends and accompanied them to the Banshee (venue 156) for the Jay Handley helmed Fat Penguin. This was a fast moving show, with 8 acts all doing 5 spots. This was a boozy show, with audience and acts vying for whom was the most drunk and I’m not sure that I saw all of the comedians at their best after they had had a thirsty day here. It was a bit of a comedian’s show, with a fair proportion of the audience being comics themselves. Our host was Jay Handley, a man whom I hadn’t seen for a year and then watch twice on the same day doing both a short set and compering. Handley had a few in-jokes, which pleased the assembled comics, but which weren’t too obscure for the public to also enjoy. He kept it short, but not before discovering that a teacher on the front row had moved to Greece, which was a topic he happily resurrected a few times when bringing acts to the stage and I enjoyed the continuity that this brought to the night. I was also happy to see Handley take a few seconds to explain the format of the night, as I think a lot of compere’s neglect this. Throughout, Handley remained affable and never milked his position to make the show about him, with the other comedian’s being relegated to bit parts. I was pleased with what I saw.
The opening act was Red Redmond, whom I’ve enjoyed seeing before. Last night he wasn’t at his best, being somewhat under the weather after a long day spent performing and seeing friends. He had some timely material about his encounter with a Scottish girl and then following a suggestion from Handley, he talked about an old flat mate, where he showed his skill in knowing how long to stretch out a silence for the maximum return. The reveal to this routine earned him a nice applause break.
Next was Sam Gore, who used the presence of some teachers on the front row as a springboard into a nice opening section. I found to Gore to be a wonderfully expressive comedian, with very vivid descriptions of what he was discussing. This made him very accessible and easy to follow. He had a short political section, which despite being a bit of a change in tone flowed just as well as the rest of his set. Gore’s delivery was not only vivid, but also powerful and he sold his material very well indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed his set.
Harry Stachini, who is very much an up and coming comedian, followed. His delivery was very matter of fact, he described the events surrounding odd people on buses in a plain workmanlike way, almost as if he had just got in from work and was telling his partner about the journey home. Yet despite this being a bit of a no thrills approach, it perfectly suits his persona and material and worked far better than any other approach he could have taken. It gave the events he described great credibility. Stachini chose his words well, with there being hardly a single word that was superfluous to what he was saying and every phrase he used seemed perfect for the context. Although bus passengers is a well travelled topic for comics, Stachini made it seem fresh, which is no mean feat.
Next was Edward Hedges, who gave the cellar anecdotes about his rural upbringing and dramatic weight loss. His set was disrupted by a few late comers, who headed almost as far as the stage before changing their mind and leaving the venue. Although this didn’t derail his set, it didn’t help him much. Hedges was competent, but failed to stand out in spite of the overall feel of his set being one of quiet enjoyment.
Lenny Sherman made an immediate impression. He’s a big chap from East Lahndaaan, who is right wing, loud, aggressive and with little hair and if one isn’t already picturing a version of Al Murray, then now is the time to do so. His set was a mixture of good well thought out lines and what may or may not have been irony, as it could have been taken either way. I enjoyed some of his material, but just as I’d relax into his set, he’d say something that was closer to crass than irony and I’d be put off. I liked his knives and forks gag, the phonecall from his mum was fun, but although glassing an heckler played well with the comedians in the room, I felt it overly aggressive. There was a running joke about the number of re-tweets his gags have received, which without a twist on it included within this short set, came over more as bragging than being funny in itself. Although I didn’t enjoy him as much as I may have done in a longer set, the rest of the room laughed a lot.
David Stanier opened with a visual explosion, which grabbed everyone’s attention. Unfortunately he failed to build on this and his set ultimately petered out. Ghost Dinner was creative, but too light on laughs to pass muster and Bob Marley, if the exact reveal wasn’t obvious, the nature of it could be foreseen. However, I really liked his line about Doncaster and felt that that deserved a lot more than he received for it. This was less a set and more a disconnected collection of jokes, but I feel a lot of this was due to it being performed in the early hours after a long day and under different circumstances he would be a lot better.
I was very happy to see the next act, Stu Woodings, as the energy had dropped following the previous comedian and I know Woodings to be a good performer. He began by getting the audience to clap with their hands above their heads, with a surprising number joining in. This was then followed by a quick gag, which in a call back to Sherman’s set, he announced had received absolutely zero retweets. This received a well deserved applause break and was probably the line of the night and I really enjoyed it. This was followed by two songs, Paint it Matt and 80’s entertainers, with just enough of a pause between verses two and three to gain an extra laugh. This was a good set that went down very well.
Closing was Moses Ali Khan, an act I’ve seen once or twice and enjoyed each time. However, I’d not seen him perform for several months and so I was really looking forwards to seeing how he had improved. The answer to this is massively. Khan has some extremely dark material and could easily split a room, yet he has found a way of disarming this potential trap. He performs almost as a character, one that is guaranteed to gain the initial sympathy of the audience and this gives him enough of a breathing space to get a lot of laughs under his belt before anyone considers whether or not they should be offended or alienated by what he is saying. His material contains short routines, which are all extremely good and have some excellent twists. An example of this is when he is discussing having flown across the Atlantic and has tired arms – Khan goes for a pedestrian, almost playground level joke, but then gives it a wonderfully dark twist at the end. There were also examples of him doing the set up to a joke and then stopping and waiting for the laughter break, as the audience were able to provide the punchline to that one themselves. This was an excellent set on a lot of levels. It was technically great, the material contained lots of twists and extras and the new delivery style enabled him to get away with saying a lot more than a straight delivery would have allowed. This was splendid.