I have just spent a very agreeable hour at Aaaaaargh! It’s the One-Liner Show (Espionage, Noon). This is located in an unusual pub. It is built on a lot of levels, but most of them are very deep underground, giving the place a feel of a converted government surplus nuclear bunker. Our host was Masai Graham, who is heading for legendary status for his puns and is rumoured to be the only comedian who is actually in profit up here. He warmed the room up with a few excellent gags, showing why he was crowned pun champion and setting a high bar for the rest of the performers to match. He explained the format of the show and how each act would have 6 minutes or so in which to showcase themselves. In between each act, Masai would do two puns, one clean one dirty and although the dirty jokes received the bigger laughs, the difference in appreciation wasn’t perhaps as much as you’d have thought. He kept things running smoothly and the entire show went as scheduled. I especially enjoyed Masai’s bucket speech – his request for extra money to pay for Roger Swift’s carers got a huge laugh.
The opening act was Luvdev Barpaiga, whom I had last seen at midnight, twelve hours ago. His set contained a mixture of groan-worthy puns, good puns and some delightful ones. Turban was a groaner, but minge deserved far more than it received. The overall feeling was that the material was good. The delivery was competent, but a trifle flat tonally and I think he would get a lot more out of that material if he injected a little bit more life into it. This was a set that I enjoyed.
The next act was one whose name I struggled to catch, but it sounded like Ben McGowan. He struggled from two things, one was an indistinct voice that was hard to hear, which put him on the back foot from the off and the other was that although the odd line was very good (such as orgy), a lot of his jokes didn’t land heavily with the audience. In particular, took offence/took a fence was recognised as being hack by everyone who could hear it. He didn’t quite lose the room, but did seem on the verge of it a few times. A lot of this could be put down to him struggling to be heard, but not all of it.
Tom Mayhew followed, an act that I respect, but wouldn’t have considered a natural one-liner chap, as I find he is like a pineapple best appreciated in chunks as opposed to snippets. Again, it wasn’t easy to hear him at the back, but the audience liked him a lot. His interaction with the stag dressed as a wrestler on the front row was a highlight to his short set and he hoovered up laughs simply for being himself and just chatting with this masked man.
As ever, Adele Cliff was a lively and energetic breath of fresh air. Her grin sells her material very nicely, although initially it took the audience a few minutes to warm to her. When they did, the room went for her in a big way and she built up an incredible amount of momentum in such a short space of time. This was a short set that had a lot of laughs.
Moses Ali Khan was next and he had an exceptionally good gig. His character act is a beautiful construct that allows him to say the most appalling things with enough of a breathing space for the audience to laugh before worrying about how dark his material is. The material involves a lot of misdirection before the surprise punchline emerges and it isn’t what the audience ever expects it to be. This was a very very funny set and although he benefited somewhat from following Adele, the gusts of laughter were down to his talent.
Richard Pulsford followed with a nicely polished set. He had his pacing down to a tee, leaving just the right amount of time for a laughter break. His set flowed very nicely, contained nothing too obscure and showed some nice elements of creativity. The only item I didn’t like was when he announced where he was from and then followed that with the line, ‘that’s the usual reaction that gets’.I feel that he can do better than that. However, this small part aside, this was another set that I enjoyed.
Kieran Walsh left me with mixed feelings. He had a dry delivery, which was reasonable, but his material was not hugely standout. Some of his reveals were a bit foreseeable, but I really enjoyed the gag about the disciplinary, which was very good. Although I wasn’t massively impressed by him, he was the first act to get anywhere near to an applause break and this was encouraging to see.
The headliner was Roger Swift, who had a slight delay in reaching the stage due to a broken prop. Although it wasn’t easy to see all of the props from the back of the room, he had so much energy and verve in his delivery that everyone laughed anyway. I say everyone, it was more like 80/20 in Roger’s favour, which is a very good percentage. He received a nice applause break as he did 20 minutes of material in a very fast flowing 10 minutes. This was a tour de force ending to what had been a very enjoyable show.