Last night I was in Grantham at the Funhouse Comedy night. This was a sold out night, but one where the odd person had bought a ticket, but not shown up, which must be frustrating for those who couldn’t get a ticket. Supporting the night, but not performing were Lincoln based comedians Paul Mutagejja and Will Collishaw. Spiky Mike had a great night compering, albeit with one rather awkward slip, where he got the name of an act wrong for the first time. Mike began very well, making timely jokes about Storm Doris, commenting to one chap on the front row that he’d look happy to be blown. This was followed by some very nice lines as he spoke to the audience, finding new people and there was a lot of laughter. Mike looked sharp, built the atmosphere and got the room ready for our opening act.
Tanyalee Davis struck immediate gold from the off by announcing that she was not a pokemon and then launched into a set where the majority and certainly the best of her material concerned her height. This was a geographically diverse set, with Australia, Las Vegas, North Carolina and Norfolk all coming into play. Davis looked as if she was having a good time and the audience responded by enjoying her performance. Her delivery reminded me of Robyn Perkins, but with perhaps a greater work rate. Lee painted a vivid picture during every routine, allowing the room to easily imagine the situations in which she has found herself. This was a very good set.
The first of the middle slots was occupied by the guitar toting Andy Stedman. As I’ve said many a time, I’m far from a fan of musical acts, so I was glad that Stedman had more to offer than just comic songs. The songs were enjoyed by the audience, even if not my cup of tea (2016 was the pick of the bunch). Instead, I was more impressed by the intelligence behind the set. This was well constructed and the string of puns that resulted from singer song-writer was impressive. I was also happy with the little touches, such as referencing people spoken to by Mike during his compering and the movement with the glasses when speaking to a chap on the second row – these all helped to establish a sense of Stedman’s presence. Over 10 short minutes this performance seemed to plateau – there were no ups and downs with the pacing – and concomitantly no sense of it building up momentum into a big closing routine, but I’m sure that over 20 minutes this would differ. This was an enjoyable set that held the room well, but it is also one that would have benefited from that little bit more, such as a bigger ending.
Archie Maddocks gave the stand out performance of the night. Although he was introduced by the wrong name (a first for Spiky Mike), he rolled with this and then built upon it as he threw himself into a relaxed, yet fast talking set. Maddocks built up a lot of momentum as every reference hit home, including a Breaking Bad/knitting crossover and in a room 80% full of pensioners, a well received pussy joke. My personal favourite was a toss up between a routine about lineage or his indestructible granddad – both were excellent. In addition to the routines, Maddocks was happy to chat to the audience, although I felt the question asked was better framed as a rhetorical one. He did become one of the few acts I’ve heard booed, even in a friendly manner, when he commented on the number of old people in the room, but he had enough charm and goodwill to maintain his grip upon the room. This was an excellent set that I’d have liked to have seen more of.
The headliner was the bearded Hal Cruttenden, who demonstrated that solid TV and touring credits haven’t dimmed his enthusiasm for performing. This performance was one that was both excellent and irritating in equal measure. Cruttenden had some great material: his attack on facebook celebrity grief was top notch and highly relatable. The routine about his wife and Northern Ireland was also strong, as was the brief political set. This was all delivered with an enthusiasm and panache that made this feel like it was a gig he cared about, rather than a famous comedian doing his job. Cruttenden showed that he could be easily diverted, which was where it became irritating. There were two people who had passed their tipping point regarding alcohol consumption and their ability to keep quiet and whilst they had behaved up until now, they decided to join in with Cruttenden. This needn’t have been much of an issue, as he shut them down a few times, but unwisely he kept returning to them and spent a lot of time chatting with them. At times the room felt like it had become a counselling session, with him talking to the lady on the front row and the rest of the room left out in the cold. This seemed to eat up a lot of his time and whilst it was funny and Cruttenden always bounced back with flair, it didn’t half detract from him delivering material and this was where the gold was. This was a hugely enjoyable performance, but I do wish he hadn’t allowed a couple of people to divert him from delivering a great set.