October – Comedians who have impressed me the most this month

This has been a month where I’ve seen acts noticeably improve from the last time I saw them and there have been some very nice surprises, such as promising new material being exhibited and some wonderfully off the wall comedy. These are the acts who have impressed me the most this month:

Rahul Kohli

Kohli is not yet the finished article, but he is already a very strong act. His political material is highly insightful and funny. He has the ability to get the feel of an audience very quickly.

From the night:

The middle spot was occupied by Rahul Kohli, who was an inspired booking for two reasons. One, he has obviously got a good career in comedy ahead of him and two, being half Hindu and half Sikh, this gig was tailor made for him. In common with Handley, Kohli was getting laughs before he reached the stage, but in his case it was because there was a chap sat in the audience who looked just like him. Kohli, who evidently devours the news and retains a lot of information in his head, received good laughs for referencing a recent fracas in Leamington between a group of Hindus and Sikhs, before going on to reveal his 50/50 background. This display of local knowledge won the crowd over and went down a treat and from here it was hard for him to put a foot wrong. He got a huge laugh for Glasgow and then an even bigger laugh for the second reveal. The material was evenly balanced between political and being about race and both played wonderfully. Kohli was very much in tune with the audience and had a level of insight that ensured that his room work hit home. He was able to make everything relatable to the crowd and this was a joy to watch. The pause in the delivery in the Trump apology analogy demonstrated a good sense of timing, but I felt that his story about a rudeboy friend was more of a work in progress. There were quite a lot of erms in Kohli’s delivery. These weren’t so much a case of him thinking or running out of things to say, but instead he seemed to be using an erm almost like a comma and probably subconsciously, either way it didn’t impact on what was an infectiously enthusiastic delivery. This was an outstanding set from a very talented comedian.

Billy Lowther

Lowther probably has the best ten I’ve ever seen. This was from a fifteen and he easily sustained the momentum. The material is solid, but it is his slow delivery that makes him a find.

From the night:

The opening act was the award winning Billy Lowther, an act that I have a lot of time for. His material is solid and he has a delivery that gets the most from it. His routine about Sunderland provided an easily accessible opening to his set and right from the beginning it was obvious that everyone was onboard. The new material fitted naturally into his set and it is always a pleasure to see a comic know which town to name as the local shit town. Lowther is a well built chap and this features in a few of his jokes, but he has a very broad approach to his gags and is far from being a one issue comedian. Also, in contrast to a lot of one-liner comics, his delivery is slow paced and this suits him a lot better, although part of the slow pacing may be due to the fact that he needed to leave room for a laughter break after every single line. Lowther seemed to be on the verge of an applause break all the way through and the big surprise was him only receiving the one applause break.

Hannah Silvester

I seem to have seen a fair bit of Silvester recently and that is no bad thing. She seems to have moved into a higher gear and this performance was without any hiccup or lull.

From the night:

Hannah Silvester had a splendid night. This makes it three out of three gigs where I’ve seen her do well. Her material is relatable, it hangs together well and she moves smoothly from routine to routine. Silvester’s delivery was perfectly in key with what she was saying, with the right tone and lilt being used to make her point without overdoing it and this was a joy to watch.

Ben MacPherson (as Byron Montrose)

MacPherson is a name that is largely unknown outside of the Nottingham improv scene. However, in this character act he has created something special. Given a room where the audience allow the acts time to establish themselves, he would create a lot of mirth.

From the night:

Next was Ben MacPherson, resplendent in jazzy outfit, performing as a new character – Byron Montrose. I like MacPherson, he has presence and the sort of voice that Barry White would envy. His show was a monologue and I’m generally not a fan of these, as I find a lot of audiences disengage after a while and it is hard to sustain the momentum without some audience interaction. However, I’m happy to say that Montrose did not suffer at all from this; indeed from beginning to end he remained thoroughly entertaining. The material was extremely good. Every line had been scrutinised until it contained something that added comedic value. There were no loose adjectives, instead, it was like a Spike Milligan book, with nods to surrealism and everything provoking a giggle. Whilst there was no one killer line that brought the house down, the cumulative effect of one small pun after another was remarkable and I think there is a real risk that in the full show the room may be giggled out after 25 minutes. This was a smashing performance that was delightfully different.

Honourable mentions:

Bennett Kavanagh, Dan Nicholas, Jared Shooter, Ross Smith, Seymour Mace

Canal House – Gina Overton, Jon Pearson, Jeanette Bird-Bradley, Byron Montrose, Paul Savage, Ben Shannon, Hannah Silvester, Dan Nicholas and Paul Mutagejja (MC)

Last night I was in the Canal House in Nottingham for my favourite comedy night – the NCF £1 night. This was something of a showcase event, with all of the acts, apart from Overton, showing previews of their shows in the forthcoming Nottingham Comedy Festival (4/11 – 12/11). This was a wonderfully varied bill, with new material being performed, surrealism, straight stand up, a character act and a healthy gender split. Audience numbers were buoyant with local comedy scene figures Rob Stevenson and Minder being present. Our compere was Paul Mutagejja.

Mutagejja is probably the best thing to come out of Lincoln since someone invented the Lincolnshire Sausage and I’ve seen him perform a few times, but this was the first time I’ve seen him MC. Last night I think he was heavily handicapped by not being able to see much of the audience beyond the first row, due to the lights and so he defaulted to alternating between asking the audience to clap for various things, which by the 7th time was perhaps a bit much, and performing material. The material was decent, with Tunbridge Wells being the stand out, although in a different routine he may get a bigger laugh when discussing Thatcher by replacing Cameron with Theresa May and keeping everything else the same. Doing a truncated version of his 20 worked well enough, but I would have liked to see him tie it into the audience a little bit more so that it didn’t feel so much like an extra set on the bill. This wouldn’t have been that difficult for him to have done, either. By asking who had travelled the furthest from home for their holiday Mutagejja would have had a nice lead in to his material on Skegness and something similar could have been done by talking about posh areas of Nottingham, before going into Tunbridge Wells. I enjoyed seeing Mutagejja and he had a decent night, but I don’t think he did as well as what he may have done.

Gina Overton opened and whilst there were some interesting touches (queue, labia, kids reactions), this set unfortunately felt a bit lightweight. Overton’s material was heavily skewed towards sexual content, but a lot of the value in this approach came from the novelty of it being a middle aged lady talking about vibrators, labia, lingerie and Ann Summers and beyond this there didn’t seem to be a lot of substance. Her delivery was low energy and this made going on first a disadvantage – if she had gone on 2nd or 4th, then Overton would have had a better night. In fairness, she held the room and there were laughs, but she may do better to inject a little bit more energy into her delivery. It may also be beneficial if she were to have some more audience interaction, such as getting someone unlikely up onto the stage to model the lingerie and to serve as a foil, whilst she delivers part of her set.

Jon Pearson had an odd night. The audience seemed to have reset themselves and so he had to begin anew to build atmosphere. Rather than going for material, his banter played better with the room at first, but as a hugely confident presence he rolled with this, alternating between room work and material until he had everyone back onboard. I liked the expanded Karma Sutra routine and the new line about paper mache.

Jeanette Bird-Bradley gave the room a pleasant time that rolled along nicely. It would improve her set if she had something immediately funny to open with and a knockout closing routine, but despite this, she was quietly enjoyable and hoovered up consistent, if not big, laughs. JBB’s delivery is low key, almost like a teacher explaining a concept to a class and this is quite endearing.

Next was Ben MacPherson, resplendent in jazzy outfit, performing as a new character – Byron Montrose. I like MacPherson, he has presence and the sort of voice that Barry White would envy. His show was a monologue and I’m generally not a fan of these, as I find a lot of audiences disengage after a while and it is hard to sustain the momentum without some audience interaction. However, I’m happy to say that Montrose did not suffer at all from this; indeed from beginning to end he remained thoroughly entertaining. The material was extremely good. Every line had been scrutinised until it contained something that added comedic value. There were no loose adjectives, instead, it was like a Spike Milligan book, with nods to surrealism and everything provoking a giggle. Whilst there was no one killer line that brought the house down, the cumulative effect of one small pun after another was remarkable and I think there is a real risk that in the full show the room may be giggled out after 25 minutes. This was a smashing performance that was delightfully different.

Paul Savage closed the middle section with some new material. Whilst some of this was still raw, there was a lot that had promise. I was especially impressed with his line about subs clapping. Savage was a confident presence and sold the material very well, with some great moments when he broke from a routine and just chatted with the audience. I’m looking forwards to attending his panel show, Hell to Play, at the Lord Roberts on the 11th.

Ben Shannon, with his welcoming grin, was a joyous addition to the bill. His delivery has the sort of rhythm that makes me wonder why he isn’t better known than he is. His material was good, although I did think he missed a chance for a call back to his material about his girlfriend when discussing ham on a cat’s back, but this may have been omitted for this preview of his full show. Like 90% of comedians, Shannon felt the need to confirm that his girlfriend was real. I’m not keen on this, as it is overdone. Although Shannon got a laugh for saying it, I can’t help but feel that this laugh could be achieved in a more novel way.

Hannah Silvester had a splendid night. This makes it three out of three gigs where I’ve seen her do well. Her material is relatable, it hangs together well and she moves smoothly from routine to routine. Silvester’s delivery was perfectly in key with what she was saying, with the right tone and lilt being used to make her point without overdoing it and this was a joy to watch.

Headlining was Dan Nicholas, who should perhaps come with the warning – ‘expect the unexpected’. Nicholas could be described as surreal, unorthodox, off the wall, nuts and also compelling. Whether he is organising a Mexican wave of animal noises, shouting down a flight of stairs for Enrique (with Elliott having to manhandle the lights to follow him) or leading a huge conga through the room, Nicholas is never anything less than compulsive viewing. John Robertson once declared that he decides where the front row is and Nicholas could easily say the same, as he worked not just the front row, but the entire audience. This was magnificently unexpected, but also good fun and he is the comedian that the audience will be telling their friends about today.

Blueys – Billy Lowther, Jared Shooter, Rich Austin, Seymour Mace and Pete Dobbing (MC)

Tonight I was in Alfreton at Bluey’s for the FaF Promotions gig. This is a night I always look forwards to attending. The atmosphere is great and Mr and Mrs Bluey always make it obvious to the acts that they are valued and welcome, which is a lovely touch. Apart from the headliner, the line up was a complete mystery to me until I arrived, which made for some very pleasant surprises. Our compere was Pete Dobbing.

I have only seen Dobbing once before and that was doing a short ten spot on a showcase bill up in Edinburgh, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to him filling the role of MC. He began by using the status of Bluey’s as a steakhouse as a segue into his material about food (I personally thought that the line about the Australian Steakhouse Circuit deserved more) and cruise ships. This set the tone for his compering, which consisted mostly of material. Dobbing was competent – he got laughs, he set the room up for the acts, remembered to plug the next show and never forgot a name (there was no, ‘the next act needs no introduction…’) – but I would have preferred more ad libbing and audience work beyond him asking rhetorical questions, although in fairness, the broomstick gag was a nice touch. With a bit more of this I think he would have had a better night; this isn’t to say he had a bad night, Dobbing was still good fun.

The opening act was the award winning Billy Lowther, an act that I have a lot of time for. His material is solid and he has a delivery that gets the most from it. His routine about Sunderland provided an easily accessible opening to his set and right from the beginning it was obvious that everyone was onboard. The new material fitted naturally into his set and it is always a pleasure to see a comic know which town to name as the local shit town. Lowther is a well built chap and this features in a few of his jokes, but he has a very broad approach to his gags and is far from being a one issue comedian. Also, in contrast to a lot of one-liner comics, his delivery is slow paced and this suits him a lot better, although part of the slow pacing may be due to the fact that he needed to leave room for a laughter break after every single line. Lowther seemed to be on the verge of an applause break all the way through and the big surprise was him only receiving the one applause break.

We resumed after the intermission with Jared Shooter, who demonstrated a new and improved set. Although he began with some established material it wasn’t long before he was giving the room some new material and this was all good bankable stuff, although naturally with some room for improvement. The fire engine was nicely convoluted, the job application worked well and the danger wank gave him an opportunity to work the room a bit, something that I think adds to a lot to sets, as did his callback. I was a bit puzzled as to him not making a gag out of the price difference between the two lists, but I dare say that will be worked on, as it seemed like a good opportunity to fit something in about the value of a wank opposed to a good takeaway. Shooter’s delivery isn’t as smooth as I’d perhaps like, with a few too many erms, but he’s a charismatic chap whom audiences want to like, so this isn’t disastrous. I enjoyed this set and he’s definitely moved in the right direction with his new material.

Rich Austin followed, looking smart and plausible in his suit. His material was clever and well structured and it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into it, as there was scarcely a word that didn’t add value to what he was saying. I was especially impressed with the Iams line, as that managed to be simultaneously both clever and daft and also funny. Austin’s closing routine provided comprehensive closure to his set and will be what most people will remember of it. There were two slight things that jarred in this performance. The first one was the routine about Hull and here he was the victim of the running order. Lowther had ticked this box earlier by rubbishing Hull twenty minutes before and although Austin’s material on this subject was good, the impact of it was somewhat diluted. The other thing was Austin’s delivery. It is somewhat grim, which suited his description of cats, but over ten minutes it did began to seem a bit out of synch with the rest of his material and he may have benefited more from lifting his tone a bit. As it was, this was an enjoyable set with strong writing skills in evidence and I’ll be interested to see Austin develop as a comedian.

The headliner was Seymour Mace, who is one of those rare comedians who could never be anything other than a comic. He had a wonderfully ad-libbed opening and within two minutes the audience were eating out of the palm of his hand. His material is top notch and like the very best surrealism it maintains an internal logic that adds no end of credibility to what he is saying – everything, no matter how silly – still makes sense, whether it be about dog muck or Scooby Doo. Only one line didn’t seem to land heavily (councillor) and I thought that that was still a good one. There were a number of stand out routines, such as Scooby Doo, the owl, Gladys Knight, but probably the best was the facebook window. During this routine, Mace just seemed to manage to ratchet up the laughs every time he opened his mouth and added a new twist. This was a splendid set.

Blessington Carriage – Jack Barry, Damien Ryan, Fiona Ridgewell, Dave Chawner, Saskia Preston and Mark Smith

Tonight I was in Derby for the Funhouse comedy night at the Blessington Carriage; a night that I’ve always enjoyed, but which it seems an age since I last attended. One of the best things about this gig is the audience. There are a large number of regulars who are instantly recognisable and who are keen fans of comedy. Having these aficionado’s in the room is a big bonus, as not only are they up for the show, but they also give the acts time to develop their set. The dress code tonight went from a chap in his trademark shorts and lively shirt, to a poorly lass who was dressed as if she had missed the boat when Scott had gone on his last expedition to the Antarctic. Also present was industry figure, Elliott Bower and as ever, our compere was Spiky Mike, who had a lot of fun with some new faces in the crowd.

Our opening act was Jack Barry, who had a good night. His delivery was lively and enthusiastic, which made him a good choice as opener, although I think he would have had a good gig in any of the slots. There were a few too many errs between sentences for this to be a smooth delivery, but as he was so appealing, I don’t think it made much of a difference to the end product. Although I wasn’t personally keen on the mock surprise when he announced he had a girlfriend, as this has been done to death, as always this line received a laugh. The rest of his material was far more creative than this. Name during sex, bus trip and the call back in Chinese were all good, solid bits. Barry’s closing routine about Santa in China was very good and could easily be built upon. This was a very nice set and I enjoyed it.

The next act was Damien Ryan. His set consisted of a couple of short songs and numerous short set ups and a reveal and seemed very old fashioned in execution. A lot of the gags were the sort where one could guess the reveal before he announced it, such as him having a shadow on his lung – if the punchline had been anything other than Hank Marvin then it would have been a real surprise. There was also no sense of a set being built out of all of these gags. The running order of them could have been randomly shuffled and it wouldn’t have made any real difference to the final result. This was a shame, as Ryan’s delivery was confident and when it came to sarcastic responses to lost items, he really stepped up a gear with this routine, which was all too short. I can’t say I especially enjoyed this performance, but perhaps with a different approach then Ryan would be a stronger act with a wider appeal.

We resumed after the intermission with Fiona Ridgewell, who had a warming presence. Her delivery was good, although she did have the subconscious habit of thrusting her chin out, almost like someone doing an impression of a chicken, and sat to the side of the stage, once you noticed this, it was incredibly distracting. This aside, her set was good, with some strong bits of material, such as prince and woods, which were early stand outs. The reveal on coke was surprisingly pedestrian and was in contrast to the rest of her material. Nicely Ridgewell wasn’t afraid of chatting to the audience and this gave her set a feeling of versatility. This was a good performance.

Dave Chawner followed and his set was something of an oddity. He had a smooth delivery, his material wasn’t bad and it all flowed well, giving it the feel of a set that was building, yet for the first five minutes nothing was really that memorable or stood out. He received laughs, but nothing seemed to land heavily. However, during the second half of his performance Chawner gave the room some good laughs using stronger material. This set was unbalanced with perhaps 70% of the big laughs being in the last 50% of the performance. Not a bad set, but certainly a bit of an odd one and it had a lot of positives going for it.

Saskia Preston demonstrated the combination of powerful writing and an unfortunate delivery. Her material was laudable, with some especially well thought out jokes. Fantasist was excellent (perhaps the line of the night) and sponsored run, twin and regret were also first rate. However, the response to the intelligence of this material was badly hurt by her delivery. This was almost a monotone, with no energy behind it and rather than draw one in, it almost encouraged people to switch off. This was highly detrimental to her set, but if Preston can find a different way to proffer her excellent material, then she could be a very impressive act.

The headliner was Mark Smith, who looked plausible from the moment he stepped onto the stage. He began by working the room, building up some energy and then he launched into a fast delivered set that kept the momentum up. As a native of Derby, he had some local material that went down a treat. Smith’s routines featured reveals that one could not easily guess and I especially enjoyed this. The execution of the set was great, with a very well realised increasingly downcast element to ‘people do’ that added no end of depth to that routine. This was a good performance from a quality act.

Khalsa Sports Club – Jay Handley, Rahul Kohli and Junior Simpson

Last night I was at the Khalsa Sports Club in Leamington Spa for the Funhouse comedy night. This is a Sikh hockey club and perhaps not the sort of venue that one would usually associate with comedy. However, this was one of those lovely gigs where the audience were (with the exception of one table) really up for comedy and hugely appreciative of the acts. It was also one of the friendliest clubs I’ve been in. In contrast to some of the Miners’ Welfares and WMC’s around here, where one is considered an outsider if you haven’t known people for at least three generations, the Khalsa Sports Club had a very welcoming atmosphere. Spikey Mike, surveying an audience where 50% were wearing turbans, had what must have been a tricky moment as he initially received total silence for his opinion that judging by all of the head injuries hockey must be a dangerous game, but luckily this was just a gag that took a few seconds to sink in before there was a lot of laughter. Ironically, during the first intermission one of the chaps in the audience popped into the green room to shake Jay Handley’s hand for this joke, as he really appreciated it, proving that despite being totally different in looks, height, facial hair, age, hair colour, clothing, resemblance to Jesus, some people can still be easily confused. This was enjoyable compering and very quickly the room was ready for our opening act.

Jay Handley hadn’t even got within 5′ of the stage before the audience were giggling and murmuring to each other that he looked like Jesus. This happy state of affairs gave Handley a great opening into his set, where he capitalised on being Jesus in a Sikh sports club by announcing that he was playing an away match. This instantly established his credentials and from here he launched into his set. I especially enjoyed his account of a Jock wanting a photograph with Jesus as opposed to Jay and the way he added to this routine by referencing teaching a young audience member a new word was superb. Handley began the trend of each act discussing how difficult it was to find the club, something which the audience lapped up, before getting an applause break for a nice ad-lib about Tinder. I wasn’t convinced that his routine about Theresa May was of the same standard as the rest of his material, but it certainly led into some very nice stuff about the NHS. This performance was slightly marred by a talkative bunch of chaps sat to the far right of the stage, who despite being asked three times to shush by other audience members seemed intent to carry on chatting. Luckily someone must have had a word with them during the intermission, as they settled down for the rest of the night. Although Handley is perhaps best known for his routine about Jesus, I maintain that his bus journey material is the real gem. This was a great set by an act that is on the up.

The middle spot was occupied by Rahul Kohli, who was an inspired booking for two reasons. One, he has obviously got a good career in comedy ahead of him and two, being half Hindu and half Sikh, this gig was tailor made for him. In common with Handley, Kohli was getting laughs before he reached the stage, but in his case it was because there was a chap sat in the audience who looked just like him. Kohli, who evidently devours the news and retains a lot of information in his head, received good laughs for referencing a recent fracas in Leamington between a group of Hindus and Sikhs, before going on to reveal his 50/50 background. This display of local knowledge won the crowd over and went down a treat and from here it was hard for him to put a foot wrong. He got a huge laugh for Glasgow and then an even bigger laugh for the second reveal. The material was evenly balanced between political and being about race and both played wonderfully. Kohli was very much in tune with the audience and had a level of insight that ensured that his room work hit home. He was able to make everything relatable to the crowd and this was a joy to watch. The pause in the delivery in the Trump apology analogy demonstrated a good sense of timing, but I felt that his story about a rudeboy friend was more of a work in progress. There were quite a lot of erms in Kohli’s delivery. These weren’t so much a case of him thinking or running out of things to say, but instead he seemed to be using an erm almost like a comma and probably subconsciously, either way it didn’t impact on what was an infectiously enthusiastic delivery. This was an outstanding set from a very talented comedian.

The closing act was Junior Simpson, who made a strong start by discussing finding the venue. From this he delivered a fun set with the comedy being drawn in broad strokes. His sections about Dudley and Sean Connery were both enjoyable and no one would have guessed where he was going with Nelson Mandela. Simpson’s delivery was quite fast paced and he built up a lot of impetus with it and it was no wonder that the room liked him. There were a couple of pull back and reveals and with a fair number of routines I got to the punchline before he did, but this didn’t make any difference to how his set went down with the audience. They really enjoyed it and he gave the night a fitting close.

Kayal Gong – Neal Sullivan, Timothy Montague de Flerie, Valerio Sara, Sean Sellers, Ross Smith, Michelle Harrison, Trisha Timpson, Sarah Johnson, Jack Topher, Ben Warrington, Pat Robinson, Bennett Kavanagh, Marvin Alan and Shaun Turner

Last night I was at the Kayal in Leicester for the Funhouse gong show. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a gong show and so I was looking forwards to seeing what was on offer. Gong shows have a reputation amongst the general population of being filled with the mad, bad and delusional, but this is far from the reality. My experience is that one is more likely to find semi-pro acts trying new material, hoping to catch the eye of the promoter, than you are to witness a car crash of an act. Last night we had 14 acts performing, most of whom were unknown to me, on an international bill that was extremely varied, covering music, magic, character acts and stand up.

Our opening act was Neal Sullivan, whose high energy walk to the stage contrasted sharply with his slow start. Sullivan, who looked happy just to be present (and this was very warming to see) had some nice reveals, especially the apt murder a nan/naan, but the set ups weren’t really punchy enough for him to survive long. With shorter set ups he would have done better.

Next was a character act, Timothy Montague de Flerie, who played it as a high status toff. Wearing a wig and physically resembling a cross between Richard Branson, Noel Edmonds and Hans Gruber, this was someone who definitely stood out. On the positive side he was a convincing caricature, the performance hung together well and ‘Timothy’ had no problem projecting his voice, which was a bonus. However, this was light on laughs and the best line, ethical sweatshop, seemed to be missed by many in the audience. The root problem was that the character was one that it was easy for the audience to feel deeply unsympathetic about and that the humour needed to be especially strong to win people around. There was enough in it though, for him to get through to the final.

The Neapolitan, Valerio Sara, followed. His enunciation was interesting, sounding a touch like Bela Lugosi and this added a lot to his delivery. He began by dragging out the silence before talking about an alternative evolutionary path. I enjoyed his line about an omelette, as this was a nice clever line, but it was perhaps a little bit too subtle for the audience. His singing in Italian ate up a lot of time, but the reveal was decent, although it did rely more on his stage persona than being intrinsically funny in itself.

Sean Sellers began with room work, which led into a short routine about his style of fashion. He received his first (of two) applause breaks for this. The routine about Trump was good. Sellers was one of the more polished acts of the night and gave the impression of having a decent amount of stage time under his belt. I found him to be enjoyable and wasn’t surprised when he became a finalist.

Following the intermission we resumed with the act that made the biggest impression of the night on me: Ross Smith. To begin with he presented a strange sight. His mustard coloured t-shirt matched both the colour of the Funhouse banner and the curtains behind the stage and this made it look as if there was a head floating on the stage. Immediately after Smith had made a clever start, this floating head business ensured that he earned the first shout out of the night. However, this interjection didn’t derail his set, on the contrary, he returned the comment with interest and gained a nice applause break for his quick wits. From here Smith went on to borrow a pair of glasses from a chap in the front row and used it as a prop to illustrate his various looks. This physicality added another layer to what was the outstanding set of the night. This was a very varied and enjoyable performance and I was surprised to see him as runner up, rather than winning the night.

Michelle Harrison was on her second gig, fresh from winning a gong show on her opening foray into comedy. Her tone was pleasant and conversational and she gave a very engaging monologue. She was totally disarming in her delivery and I think everyone wanted to hear more from her. I felt that the material was a bit lightweight, but I can picture her becoming a good act with more stage time. She easily made it through to the final.

Trisha Timpson is a character act with potential. She is played as a dim-witted barmaid who is able to get the wrong end of any stick. This was a well delivered set and the look was in synch with the character. The material was good, but suffered from two factors. One was that it was hard to make out the minge reveal and so last night this didn’t land as well as it could have done. The other issue was that over the short time we had with Trisha, the character, although fleshed out with a backstory, didn’t show any depth beyond being dim-witted. This is a facet that would probably be addressed over a longer set, but over 4 minutes or so it did make her feel a little bit one note. If she was more nuanced with some misdirection over her being dim-witted then she would be stronger.

Sarah Johnson was a confident presence and her observational style went down well with the audience. Although the set held up nicely and the links were pretty smooth I felt the material was a little bit pedestrian. She made it through to the final easily.

Jack Topher, who has impressed me when I’ve seen him, had a good night. He was a little bit unlucky in the running order, as the judges had been quite lenient, letting a lot of acts through, and I felt that they had woken up to the fact that they had to vote someone off sooner rather than later. However, instead of being the fall guy, Topher sailed through to the final. He received a big laugh for idiot and then an applause break. This was a well constructed set that was delivered with a nice line of patter. To progress further, though, Topher will need to get more stage time.

The smartly dressed Ben Warrington was a little bit low on laughs and was voted off long before he had the chance to make an impression on the room. I would have liked to have seen more of him, as it was hard to get much of a feel for his set from the brief bit I saw.

Pat Robinson benefited from the fact that a lot of the material she used was that old that it was now new to many people in the audience. Jokes such as how do you make an Essex girl laugh on a Sunday were done to death in the mid 1990’s and I’d rather see unique material, rather than someone remembering jokes from the Sun. I was also less than impressed with the material about facebook/twitter and uploading photos of meals as sets about social media fads were ubiquitous a few years ago and I don’t feel that she is saying anything not already said by 30 other people. However, the audience enjoyed Robinson’s performance and in fairness she built up momentum. With different material she would be a far better act.

Bennett Kavanagh was an interesting act. He began by riffing with variations on his first name, which was fun, although the ultimate reveal was a bit of a let down, as I was expecting something far more original than just a standard ‘teachers’ gag. Like Smith earlier, Kavanagh was the victim of a shout out, but like Smith, he handled it well. This was a very good set, with a lot to like about it. The material was strong, the piano added something a little bit different and the jokes were pretty smart.

Marvin Alan added to the bill by being a magician. However, he had a nightmare 3 minutes and died by a thousand cuts, as everything he said or did went wrong. He lost time at the start by asking for volunteers and then he dropped a vital prop before seeming to struggle with the physical set up of his first trick. By this point he had lost the room and was promptly voted off before he had chance to recover with a quick ‘Just like that’.

Shaun Turner, the winner of the night, was last on the bill. Turner has some nice lines, such as parking and swimming, but the mainstay of his set is him having cerebral palsy and it quickly became easy to predict the type of punchline, if not always the exact wording of it. Apart from a routine about WKD, everything came back to CP. Over 5 minutes this didn’t seem to matter so much, but over a longer set he would need to introduce more variety. As it was, the rest of the audience enjoyed him and he emerged as a clear winner.