Last night I was at the Gate Inn, just outside of Retford for the Funhouse comedy night. This is a lovely old pub, that looks to have invested a lot of money in the place. The room was sold out a month before the night and as it was a not too huge L shaped room, it was red hot inside. The stage was located at the corner of the L, giving everyone a full view of the stage. The bill itself was nicely varied, with a musical comedian, and both a female and male comic. The quality of the acts gave the night the feel of a triple headliner. The audience were enthusiastic and liked banter. There was a couple of people stood at the bar who were a bit too talkative and Spiky Mike had to shush them part way through a set. Mike received some big laughs for his work, especially for wall and his response to a lady named Ali.
The opening act was the very dry Anthony King, who mixes music and mirth getting a very nice balance between the two. I appreciated him interspersing the songs with some great material, as I’m not a huge fan of musical comedy. His routines are all very good and have a logical build to them, making perfect sense, with no bizarre twists. The speed bumps and being self employed stood out. The songs are dark, almost bleak in tone, but made uplifting by his skill with the guitar and by his remarkable voice. I liked how King’s facial expressions during the lodger went from normal to looking far from normal – very much in keeping with the material. This was a solid set that opened the night well.
Lou Conran is an act that I’ve heard nice things about, but hadn’t seen before. She’s one of those nice and warm people who brightens up a room just by being there (see also Chris Norton-Walker). She has an excellent memory for who is who in an audience and was able to address a lot of her banter/material to specific personages within the audience. This forged an instant connection with the room and she got off to a great start, making her room work look effortless in a way that only someone very talented can. Addressing asides to Simone, sat on the front row furthered this work in drawing the entire audience into her set. The material was easily accessible, concerning body parts and functions and some interesting friends of hers whom she could describe in two words, which was enough to be able to instantly grasp what she was saying. I do think that Conran may have benefited from changing tack away from body parts and functions as she had covered this area well, but in fairness that is a minor point. It was great to see one lady in the audience giggling so hard at what she was saying that Conran had to pause and check up on her. Lou’s delivery is fast and she repeats what she is saying 2-3 times, similar to Tim FitzHigham, and it is very charming and helps to build up a lot of momentum. This was a lively and very enjoyable set.
Barry Dodds closed the night. Barry is probably one of the most well liked people on the circuit and seeing his name on a bill is enough to ensure it will be a good night. As the room seemed to be enjoying banter he split his time between material and room work, making a lot of good connections. Considering the remote venue and his interests in the paranormal he gained no end of laughs out of riffing along the line of the pub not existing and him being at a gig in a pub like the Slaughtered Lamb out of An American Werewolf in London. When discussing people who shouldn’t be driving, he made a wonderfully obvious change to this routine so as not to alienate the elderly room demographic and got a big laugh for making it so obvious. When discussing middle lane drivers he received a cheer for dropping the C-bomb, which is the first time I’ve seen that get a cheer. Dodd’s hoovered up massive laughs with this fast moving set. His timing was great and he charmed the audience, leaving the stage to cries of more.