Tonight I was in Nottingham at Faradays, for the first ever gig at this location. Virgin gigs can be a bit tricky, as often enough the venue make schoolboy errors. However, as NCF were running the night I was confident that Helen would use her authority to ameliorate any of these. To being with, though, it looked as if it was going to be a tough night. The event wasn’t over advertised and when I walked in I had to ask at the bar where the comedy was taking place. On the plus side it was upstairs, nicely separated from the rest of the pub, but as it had a spiral staircase and was open plan, there was a lot of noise bleed. Also, numbers weren’t great and to exacerbate this, the audience were spread out over as large an area as possible. Although the bar was closed upstairs, nothing could be done about people who had ordered food, which fortunately mostly arrived whilst our compere was on. This was initially a tough night for the comedians, but one which by the end had turned out to be pretty nice. A lot of the credit for this goes to our MC, Mr Carl Jones.
Tonight Jones became the second hardest working MC I’ve ever seen. When he began the room whilst not hostile to comedy, was very guarded and seemed to almost resent the intrusion of what they had all actually paid money to see. Bizarre, I know, but that was the vibe I was getting. They were the sort of crowd to who didn’t want to interact or get involved. However, Jones bravely made a point of chatting to every table and without being a pest, actually getting them to open up and chat. This paid a very good dividend as he made the room seem a lot more welcoming. His explanation of what the Bake Off is to a Danish couple only highlighted just how odd a concept it must seem to our foreign friends. During his second session, Jones made some real connections with the various disparate groups of people sat about the room. He did well to remember names and whom was connected to whom and he didn’t put a foot wrong. Everyone had bought into the night thanks to Jones. This was determined compering that never became overbearing and he did very well to make this a gig.
The opening act was Adam Riley, whom I thought sported a faint resemblance to Keith Lemon. To begin with he was low energy, delivering short set ups and could have perhaps been described as competent rather than inspired. However, rather than just maintain this level, his jokes built up a nice level of momentum and before long Riley was doing very well. There were some very nice subtle lines in his set, such as lack of empathy, which deserved more than the room gave him. His joke about Cumberbatch as Bond was good and I felt that he could have perhaps expanded upon his concept of a Ginger Bond. His initial line about the big issue went over a few people’s heads, but the entire routine was a big hit and went down very well with the room. He had a slow start, which was in front of a tough crowd, but I’d very much like to see Riley in front of a bigger audience, doing a longer set as he did well. I felt that once he got going his performance rolled along nicely and he had some interesting and funny things to say.
Stu Woodings was next, mixing existing and new material. Woodings has stepped up a gear recently and his newer material is very pleasant, indeed. He opened well, received a good laugh for soccer and as ever, his songs did well. Despite it being a tough crowd, this was a good performance.
Resuming after the intermission, Alex Kealy didn’t have a great night and seemed to lose the room very quickly. His material was a mixture of intellectual comments (Copernicus, Fracking, Phosphates), the more interesting to him than the audience (his first kiss) and a concept that might have sounded good on paper (the news report and music). He finished his time by spending the last 90 seconds or so talking about counting down. Kealy’s style was beyond self-deprecating and into the depressing and I think this may well have alienated too many people from the off and he never really recovered from this. His set seemed to be out of step with what the audience wanted and in a different, more comedy literate venue, such as the Canal House, he may have done better. There the audience may have been willing to trust him to take them on a journey through his life and supply laughs on the way. Tonight wasn’t his best night and he never really seemed to get going.
In contrast, Ian Lane had a great night. He began by making some observations about the room which brought everyone into his act very quickly. His material about his top seemed very fresh and immediate, impressing the room with the fact that he wasn’t on autopilot. His chat with an audience member about 4 socket extension cables initially flummoxed her, but the pay off was nicely offbeat. I did wonder if he was dragging out one section a little bit too long, but it was worth it for the Morse related reveal, which featured as a splendid call back later. Lane delivered his set looking mildly exasperated by the audience, as if he were a teacher and they were a bright but unruly class and this, combined with some strong ad-libs produced a performance that was extremely good. I was very impressed by what I saw.
Closing the middle section was Jay Islaam as Bambam Shaikh, an act I’ve not seen in too long a time. This is a very clever character piece that works on many levels. I’ve seen this act a lot of times and always enjoy it. There is almost as much fun in watching the audience’s reactions to the jokes as there is in listening to them and I thoroughly enjoy the sense of knowing just where Jay is going with his set ups. There were some very loud laughs for this.
The headline act was Philip Simon who cleverly tailored his material to the various members of the audience. It was evident that he had been paying attention and knew who was Welsh and who was a Geordie and this went down a treat. His line about the memory foam mattress was solid, but then raised by the second reveal and then a tie in to an audience member, which ramped up the fun yet another notch. I was especially impressed by his nod to Bambam’s material, which was unique and very funny. Simon was totally in control of the room and it was a pleasure to watch him switching from material to room work and hoovering up laughs. His material was broad with something for pretty much everyone in it. His darker material was probably the most appreciated by the audience. This was a very good set that was intelligently delivered.