December – end of month recommendations

This has been a busy month, despite Christmas getting in the way of attending gigs. I’ve seen 55 acts this month, with some great acts mentioned below and other great acts time-barred, as I’ve mentioned them in recent monthly round ups.

These are the comedians who have impressed me the most this month:

Alistair Barrie

This was a performance that rolled along generating a lot of momentum and also one where Barrie seemed to be restraining himself from going full on with the political material.

From the night:

Our opening act was Alistair Barrie, whom I had last seen dismembering an heckler in Southwell. He began strongly, with local references and a beautiful callback to Mike’s compering when he asked the dildo lady if that present had been a stocking filler. Barrie gave the room a thoroughly enjoyable 25-30 minutes. He dipped his toes into political material, referencing Thatcher, Brexit and Trump – tying the latter in nicely to an American who was in the room, but wisely he didn’t go too deeply into this. Although he received laughs for his political side, Barrie got a far better response for his other material that was accessible to all and he concentrated on making the most out of that. The applause breaks rolled. There was a wonderfully surreal moment, when part way through delivering a highly visual routine about dog litter, the Guildhall clock started chiming and he incorporated it into his act. This was a very well written set, delivered with conviction, albeit with Barrie mostly stood facing the right hand side of the room from him. I got the impression that Barrie was restraining himself in front of this genteel audience and I’d love to see him go all out.

Ian Stone

A joyful and engaging performance.

From the night:

Closing was Ian Stone who was on a double with Alistair Barrie. Stone and Barrie had demonstrated professionalism in discussing with each other (presumably over the phone as one was opening and the other closing a nearby gig) what political material they had used and possibly a quick nod towards usable people and where they were sat. This was a good idea, as both Stone and Barrie had material about Brexit and politics and so it helped to avoid duplicating each other’s work. However, Stone was unlucky in his take on Spain and siestas being similar to what Barrie had said (you obviously can’t discuss everything one said when conferring over the phone), but when it came to dog mess, which Barrie had done a strong routine on, Stone’s material was both different and powerful enough to beat the laws of diminishing returns. There were some great bits of material: tickets was good, Baddiel was fantastic as was clerical work and football coach was very topical. The delivery was energetic, but also combined with a very dry wit, which made for an entrancing combination. This was a great performance, despite some crossover with the earlier set.

Roland Gent

This was a performance that was extremely funny and which tore the room to pieces.

From the night:

Roland Gent, whom I had last seen at Field Mill, closed the night and definitely ripped it. The audience warmed to him from the off and he proceeded to dominate the room, building a lot of impetus as his material hit home. He was smart enough to work in a lot of local references and these all went down a treat and his closing routine about names was a definite standout. I especially appreciated his delivery, which was fast and he hardly seemed to pause for breath. This was an extremely good performance.

Sully O’Sullivan (MC)

Great compering, with a deft touch.

From the night:

Our compere was the articulate Sully O’Sullivan, whom I last saw at a tough drunken bank holiday gig, where he had mixed compering and riot control. Tonight he was able to use his talents more widely. He began well by pointing out the irony in his being a New Zealander and a Vegan in an Australian steakhouse. This was followed by some very good room work, involving delving under the Christmas tree in search of toys and presents which he made full use of. O’Sullivan seemed to find the right balance in ribbing people – being funny and slightly cutting without crossing any lines. This was shown in him getting four people to the stage and having the audience vote for who looked most like they were homeless, a serial killer and a 70’s porn star, etc (I was voted serial killer by a roomful of people, which is a bit disconcerting). This was a wonderful piece of work and really brought the people sat in the room together as an audience. I was especially impressed by how after the first intermission he dealt with a drunk who was prone to shout out – O’Sullivan fished out a Where’s Wally book from under the tree and passed it to the drunk with the instruction to read it whenever he got the urge to talk. This was a night of good compering that melded wit, charm, energy and authority.

Scott Bennett

From a comic who is as good as any pro act on the circuit.

From the night:

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.

Honourable mentions

Jack Campbell, Steff Todd, Dave Pollard, Alex Black, Carly Smallman, Simon Wozniak, Johnny Sorrow, Jon Pearson,

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