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.