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.