Blessington Carriage – Nick Mellors, Adam Jaremko, Rob Cucan, Ben Hamer, Phil Yates, Winter Foenander, DJ Mitchell, Sandra Hale and Neal Sullivan – feat. Jay Islaam and Scott Bennett (new material)

Last night I was in Derby for the Funhouse gong show at the Blessington Carriage. One of the best things about this gig is the crowd. There are a lot of regulars and it has a powerful feeling of inclusivity. There is one regular who wears shorts all year round and I was curious if he’d still be doing this on the coldest day of the year – he was – a fact that got a round of applause when Spikey Mike got him to show his legs off whilst he was compering. It didn’t take long for Mike to have the room warmed up before he brought on the first act.

The opening act was Nick Mellors, of whom I was beginning to wonder if he was a figment of my imagination as we’d been at a few shows and events in Nottingham at the same time, but never actually met until tonight. He began with a playfully controversial opening and developed his set from there. Mellors partly improvised his material, working elements of Mike’s compering from 2 minutes before into his performance as he alternated between talking to the audience and doing material. His ability to think on his feet was highly impressive and there were some very nice segments, such as Bosch and Kinder, which it was probably too early on in the night for. Goats milk was clever, perhaps a bit too clever, as he had to explain his workings to the audience and unfortunately this was too close to a vote to enable him to recover. This was an intelligent and fleet footed set.

Next was Adam Jaremko, doing his first ever gig. He looked confident and had a nice habit of talking to himself, giving a running commentary of how he was doing. This held his set together, which was a collection of stand alone jokes and short strings of gags. His material was very good and well it might be, as buying a very cheap door (there must be a catch) and vajazzle/diamond in the muff are well known jokes. The rest of his material had a whiff of google about it, with nothing being personal to him, it sounding like a random collection of gags and all being just that bit familiar, even if one couldn’t say exactly from where. He made it through to the final.

Rob Cucan, a man brimming with a sense of humour, gave a brave performance, ad libbing with the room, which he usually does well with. However, his reference to a new film about a plane crash went over the heads of most of the audience and his explaining of it just ate up time without ever seeming to get off of the ground. It was nice to see something different, but this was a performance that failed to fly with the audience.

Next was Jay Islaam, who was performing a ten spot of some new material as himself, rather than as a character. This was quite novel, as the only time I’ve seen Jay as himself on stage was in Edinburgh. This routine concerns the true story of Jay being booked to do a Muslim comedy night. It had a bit of a slow start, but built up very nicely. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the references, even the niche ones. He has definitely got something with this routine and if he gets booked for a few more gigs from hell, then that will be his Edinburgh sorted.

We resumed after the intermission with Ben Hamer, another first timer, who gave the room a monologue about his quest to determine how many different kinds of breasts there are. It was an interesting concept albeit a bit light on humour, with the occasional bit sagging a bit. He did well to stay on until the final vote. This was material that needed an uplift to make it more perky.

Next was Phil Yates on his 3rd ever performance. This was a solid set with well thought out material. The pole reference was very timely and showed that he wasn’t on auto-pilot and ‘lickle’ was very relatable to the room. I enjoyed his shoulder shrug on sat-nav, as I felt that little bit added a lot to what he was saying. I wasn’t too sure about the pelvic lunging, though. During the final I was very happy at the callbacks to his earlier material. This was a very good set and he was a worthy winner, making his stats, 3 gong shows, 3 finals, 2 wins. Pretty impressive, whichever way you look at it.

Winter Foenander gave a charismatic performance,speaking fast and building a lot of momentum. His first joke had quite a long set up, but he held everyone’s attention with the build. I liked the section about the fire service and this shows promise. He received an applause break for a splendid pun about being Caucasian. However, despite a promising start, he misjudged his pacing in the final and never got to the reveal on a routine he began. I had him as a close second.

The last act of the middle section was Scott Bennett, who was doing a ten trying some new material. This was intermixed with existing material to give it context. To begin with Bennett gave an uncharacteristically slightly political performance, with lots of references to Brexit and questionable views. However, as these were delivered through the medium of his legendary dad they were extremely relatable. The section on ear piercings has been expanded and is building into a very nice short routine. There was one slip, where Bennett said ‘supermarket’ instead of hospital, but his recovery was so fast and so aptly funny it was almost tempting to believe that this was a deliberate slip. I don’t think the new material is the full finished article quite yet, but it is already tremendously good. This was a set that seemed to be on the constant verge of an applause break all the way throughout.

We began the final section with DJ Mitchell, who was performing under painkillers to nurse his broken arm. Under the circumstances his delivery wasn’t bad, perhaps being just a little bit too matter of fact to draw people in – I did enjoy him breaking the 4th wall about the bus trip, though. His material concerned him having epilepsy and whilst parts of it showed promise, there was perhaps just too much on the one subject to hold the room.

Sandra Hale gave a lively and enthusiastic performance as she delivered a set that focussed on her age. This went down well with the room and she was an easy finalist. There were some nice touches, such as crotchless knickers and the topper to it. However, despite the charm with which it was delivered, she didn’t seem to be saying anything that any other act who has used their advancing age as material hasn’t said already.

The final act was Neal Sullivan, who was unlucky in the running order, as his opening line about being epileptic lost impact due to Mitchell doing a set about being epileptic earlier. The line about Shipman was a definite standout in this set, although Fort landed nicely, too.

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