The first show I went to today was Gag Reflex (White Horse 1430), which was packed out and I felt myself very lucky to be able to get in. The MC for this is Adam Rowe, whom I’ve seen perform a few times, but never in the role of compere. Rowe is a man who is obviously going to make it as a comedian – he puts it a lot of effort and has a real hunger for the profession – so I was already confident that we were in a safe pair of hands. It wouldn’t be going too far to admit that seeing his name on the bill influenced my decision to attend. Whilst Rowe stayed with a conventional approach to warming up the audience, (professions, where are you from, how did you meet, how long have you been together, etc), he seemed to be able to make more of the answers than a lot of MCs that I’ve seen. There were some great touches, such as the score draw analogy when searching for the longest relationship, his comment about his eye when someone missed his question and teaching a young girl some new words was great. Perhaps his biggest laugh came after introducing an act – as he went to sit down Rowe missed his chair and spectacularly went arse over tit, or as near as one could in such a crowded room. One thing I did pick up on and this is something we all have and that is a pet word. Rowe’s is ‘cool’, which was what he said after almost every reply to his questions and I may not have been the only person in the room wishing to have a quid for every time he said it. No big deal, but it is nice to mix it up a bit. Rowe did the rules and checked with the mum of two younger members of the audience if they would be ok with the swearing, which was good to see. I liked Rowe’s work, he got a lot of big laughs and in truth he could probably have tapped out half way into his compering, as the room was ready by then.
Gabriel Ebulue opened the show and was unlucky with the audience. The topics he discussed included weed, race and sex, but unfortunately this was at 1445 to an audience that seemed to be mostly made up of retired people. Although he got laughs, none of his subjects really struck a chord with the audience and this was a shame, as there was nothing bad with his set (although the reveal on where to buy weed was a bit of an obvious one) and there was a lot of good with it. The Jehovah Witness proof beard was good, Tupac was nice even if the demographic was against getting the reference and his take on paranoia was great – I liked how people got this at their own pace. This was a good performance, but due to the demographic of the audience, it was one that didn’t do as well as it would at any other showing. If this had been performed at Fat Penguin, then Ebulue would have smashed it.
Lauren Pattison was next. She began with a timely Donald Trump reference, which was a good start. She then went on to discuss how she isn’t ladylike and that she swears a lot, referencing an article in The Guardian to prove this. None of this was bad, but I didn’t feel that she was really treading any new ground with this, it all felt like it had been said a few times before and once one took out the swearing, it also felt a bit empty. This was a shame, as the longer she was on stage, the more I found to enjoy in her delivery. There were some lines that landed very nicely and generated big laughs, such as Bob the Builder, Aunt Bessie being smug and the whole chip. Whilst I didn’t enjoy all of what Pattison offered, finding the swearing/ladylike section a bit passé, I still found enough that was entertaining to be amused by.
Tom Taylor, with his matinee idol moustache and infectious grin was a change in pace and he had people singing along within the first 60 seconds of him sitting down. This was a very lively set that had a lot of impetus behind it as Taylor captivated the audience. There was some excellent off beat material contained within this set, such as fish poison, which took a second to percolate through the brains of the audience and both pasta shell and Braille received huge laughs. This was a joyful set.
Radu Isac closed the show. I’ve seen Isac a few times now and the more I see of him, the more I like his style. His delivery is very dry and contains a knowing grin that shows that he fully understands the irony in all that he says. His material is always logical, with good points being raised. I’ve seen him win champion of champions gong shows and he is someone who is definitely on the way up. Unfortunately today the audience seemed to take a while to warm to him, which was a shame, as I’ve seen much the same material wow an audience only a month ago. As it was, today didn’t go as well as I’d have liked for him, but I certainly enjoyed his set.