Last year I saw more than one hundred shows and the funniest one was Panel Beaters, so it was with great joy that I was able to attend tonight’s show at the Funhouse comedy night at the Blessington Carriage. I was equally pleased to take a party of six with me to see it, as live comedy is absolutely amazing, but it is extraordinarily difficult to tear people away from boxsets and wanting to be in bed by eleven, because they only have another forty or so years left to live. This was a sold out gig and we were lucky to arrive early enough to bag some decent seats. In contrast to a lot of Funhouse gigs, Spiky Mike didn’t do the warming up, which gave the show an unusual feel to me and if anything made it feel more like I was temporarily transported by to the Edinburgh festival. The format of the show is that the panel buzz in to answer questions on a number of rounds. Death gets to pick someone to answer the question of What gets their Goat, which gives each contestant a couple of minutes to showcase a bit of material. There is a break at the halfway mark, which is very sensible as the audience is in mortal danger of being laughed out. Also, the acts spend just as much time laughing as the audience, which makes this a wonderfully communal show. At the end Death selects one of the comedians to bump off. In a panel show the contestants can make or break it and tonight we were blessed by having some very strong comedians present. The comics all seemed to bounce off of each other, topping each other’s jokes and engaging in callbacks. The chemistry between Death (Rob Mulholland) and Gary Delaney is excellent. Going from left to right as they were arrayed upon the stage:
Scott Bennett is very talented with the gift for making his material relatable. Out of the panel he made the strongest showing. His material struck a chord with the audience and he had a great work rate. Bennett came out with some wonderful ad-libs and he did a lot to keep Sam Gore’s running joke about dog milk in the show. I think everyone enjoyed his eczema suffering miners joke. Bennett’s What gets his Goat was delivered at a cracking pace and it came from the heart, drawing a vivid picture just as much as it drew the audience in and this was a brilliant piece, as was the Northern Books section, which he had invested a lot of thought into. This was a fantastic performance.
Sam Gore, who I last saw in Edinburgh had a good night, making a lot of timely jokes and providing a lovely running gag in the form of ‘Dog Milk’, which became funnier the more often it was returned to. When decrying what got his goat, Gore gave the room a solid mini routine, which he had to pause due to Delaney laughing loudly at. His line about an uneventful Palestinian wedding was dark,edging towards bleak, but incredibly funny. I enjoyed seeing Gore and he was bumped off by death at the end of the show.
Laura Lexx had impressed me when I saw her compering at a FaF gig a year or so ago, but tonight her contributions met with a more mixed response. She suffered from a fair number of her reference points not really being got by the audience, such as her Ian Dury based excuse to get out of jury service, which only landed upon being repeated. In contrast, she received an applause break for her comments about Birmingham and her Valentines Day card message was excellent. Lexx’s what got her goat was worthy, rather than funny, which was a shame.
Dotty Winters is an act that I had not seen before and was interested in seeing. Unfortunately she largely stayed in the background of the show. This was unlucky, as I enjoyed what I saw of her. She gave a great answer to jury service excuses, had a clever line about transforming Birmingham into an Italian restaurant and what got her goat was sensible and entertaining. I’d have liked to have seen her take on a larger role in the show.
Gary Delaney is a comedian who will brighten up any show and this was no exception. Tonight he was playing host, asking the questions and trying to keep things on track. He got a big laugh from the off and added a lot to the feel of the show simply by enjoying what he was doing so much. His corpsing and snorting is infectious and he can get humour out of anything.
Death, played by Rob Mulholland, was the stand out performer. Mulholland was clearly having the time of his life and has taken to this role with gusto. This is a man who clearly relishes having a license to say the most dreadful sounding things imaginable. He began by explaining the concept behind the show and then proceeded to make a series of magical interjections, each one being as dark as midnight in a coal hole and extremely funny. His comments about a previous performance in a city that had been unhappy about being teased were great. The glass ceiling was inspired, as was the comment about excellent rail links to a certain Dutch tourist attraction. Mulholland’s comment upon selecting Sam Gore was very much in keeping with his role and whilst sounding outside of decency was absolutely hilarious.
This is a fantastic show and is one that everyone should go and see.