Tonight I was in Grantham for the Funhouse comedy night. There was a good sized crowd in, which included the solitary person who decided to clap along to Tony Christie singing ‘Is this he way to Amarillo’ before the show started. Spiky Mike did well compering, not only warming the crowd up, but discovering enough facts and names for all thee of the acts present (Larry Dean was in Oakham on a double) to make use of during their sets and this gave the night a wonderful feeling of continuity. I was also impressed by how Mike referenced everyone spoken to during his final spell of compering, as this continued the feel of inclusivity. Our first act was Steve Royle.
I’ve seen Royle before, where he closed a gig and I was curious to see how he’d fare opening here, before he journeyed off to Oakham to close there. He began nicely by building on Mike’s compering, talking to the same people and taking a few things said that little bit further, partly by climbing on a table and lunging suggestively in the direction of the lady who sold leather-wear whilst juggling. He continued to demonstrate that he wasn’t on auto-pilot by commenting on the number of windows in the room and getting a chap to stand up to mimic the emergency exit sign. The set was fast moving and contained, juggling, visual gags, some balancing work, a big closing number and some gags. Royle’s delivery was very similar to Kay and not just because of his accent. He has the same habit of repeating words and explaining the working behind gags. He also has a lot of stage craft and this was a very strong performance where he managed to get the audience right behind him. It was no wonder that he went down an absolute storm with the room and received a huge cheer for his efforts. However, whilst the rest of the room loved him and I enjoyed the skill he displayed in his performance, I found that I guessed the reveals on enough of his jokes that I spent the rest of the show playing at guess the punchline before he said it. This took a little bit of the shine off for me personally, but apart from that, this was a great show and also one of those that would have been unfollowable without an intermission.
We resumed after the intermission with Joby Mageean, of whom I had heard some very nice things said. He began by commenting on Spiky Mike’s compering and doing a quick demonstration of him not using his guitar to juggle with, in comparison to Royle, which was not only funny and harked back to Royle’s set, but it also demonstrated that Mageean was brave enough to think on his feet and alter his set. From here he did a splendiferous vocal version of Morricone’s ‘The ecstasy of the gold’, which I can’t speak highly enough of. However, he may perhaps benefit from building a more powerful joke around this, as whilst the vocals were fantastic, the joke paled by comparison. I enjoyed the Gay Card material and felt that it was both logical and funny, although the final pay off didn’t feel quite as robust as the rest of that routine. The jokes about his name were fine and the closing song was very good indeed (the callback was superb), building nicely as Mageean got ever more frantic in his exasperation with the comic getting his name wrong. Mageean’s delivery was very effective, combining a genuine enthusiasm for what he was doing and an awareness of the audience. It was great to see him following Royle by speaking to Angela and it’s always nice to see acts listening to comperes and knowing where people, such as the Irishman, are sat. This was an extraordinarily promising performance and it’s obvious that Mageean has a real future as a comedian.
Next was Pete Teckman, who fully lived up to his reputation as being a thoroughly nice guy. His dry delivery went down very well with the audience as he started pleasantly with a routine about identity theft and then continued with the nicely creative concept of head tattoos. This was followed by material that was formidable enough to earn him not one, not two, not three, not four, but five applause breaks over fifteen minutes. That was lovely to see and whilst it could perhaps be said that the audience were his type of people and his material was their type of humour, I don’t think that that is the real explanation for Teckman’s success. Instead, it was the result of a very well put together set that felt coherent and carried on building right up until the end. There were a lot of great routines delivered with good timing and in a great dry manner. My personal favourite was the aunt kicking, which was not only intrinsically funny, but all the more appreciated because one had to think about it to get the joke and it built upon the foundations laid by an earlier joke. I knew that Teckman was good, but he seems to have moved up a gear. This was very impressive.
On a side note, at the start of the night, Teckman told me probably the funniest story I’ve heard this year and I think I’ll still be laughing next week.
The closing act was the Glaswegian, Larry Dean. He has the looks of a young Lee Nelson and not being familiar with him prior to tonight, I expected a laddish style set, but he surprised me by going down a different route and by the intelligence behind his performance. Dean began by doing a London accent, that momentarily had me wondering which one was his real accent, the Jock or the Cockney. This was then proceeded by a nice routine concerning Irn Bru, although I was surprised that he didn’t use his London voice for the shopkeeper, as this was set down there. The main part of Dean’s set was largely autobiographical in nature and contained a splendid twist that I doubt anyone in the room would have guessed. Judging from body language, I think that parts of this may have made the odd person a bit uncomfortable, but I don’t see why this should be so. What is incontrovertible is the intelligence behind it all. Dean got the most out of his time on stage, adding little movements with his face and body to illustrate various parts of his material, which helped to push it further. There was a cracking running gag about people he’d been to school with and some magnificent callbacks. Dean was rewarded with consistent laughter and this was a very enjoyable show that had the feeling of having been crafted, rather than written.