Punchbowl – Morgan Rees, Paul B. Edwards, Jack Topher, Stevie Gray and Pat Draper

Tonight I’ve had a lovely time at the Funhouse comedy gig at the Punchbowl in Nottingham. Last month there were 60 people here; tonight owing to various factors numbers were smaller, which gave the night a very intimate feel and for some of the less experienced acts on the bill, provided experience in how to play to a small audience. Mike, sporting a subdued stripy t-shirt, made the most of the audience, chatting to people and warming the room up. He acknowledged that the night was something of an unusual one, but in going ahead and taking it seriously he also made it playable. The room was soon ready for comedy.

Morgan Rees, on a double with the Funhouse Wollaton gig, opened with material, when perhaps he might have been better with going with a spot of banter first to ease the audience into his set. I’ve seen Rees before in Sheffield, where he had done well and tonight it was easy to see why. He has some good material – the park bench routine is sound as is the alternative name for the postman and the Welsh words will always prove to be a winner (this is a routine that could be expanded or modified). However, he did use the line we’ll call him Andy, because that his is name, which I thought was the same line that 90% of comedians would use and I think he could improve upon this. This wasn’t the night that Rees was expecting, but it was still good to see him.

Next was the experienced Paul B. Edwards, who has recently moved to Nottingham. He began with a couple of standard lines, that are quite commonly used, but luckily soon moved up a gear. His material about pound shops was good and the routine about satin sheets was very entertaining. However, the thing that most impressed me about Edwards was his delivery. This was fast, almost at the pace of a man holding a meat auction (see also Roland Gent) and this was absolutely spot on for the night. He held the room very well and built up a big head of steam. Edwards had judged the room well and had chosen wisely in how he pitched his set. This was very enjoyable.

After the intermission we resumed with Jack Topher, an act that I am looking forwards to watching develop. He began with a bit of room work and received good laughs for this before moving onto a new joke, which has potential, especially as I thought he was going to take us in a totally different direction (size 16, wears a 10). His reveal was bleaker, but delivered with enough panache to keep it funny. From then it was into his usual set, which was delivered with skill and he coped very well with a smaller audience than usual. This was a nice performance.

Stevie Gray, who was also on a double with Wollaton, was next. Gray is great at working with an audience and it’s always a pleasure watching him bring the room into a gig. Tonight he started by getting me on the stage to dance as it is my birthday. Unfortunately I can’t dance to save my life and my musical tastes are limited to Wagner’s Ring Cycle and ELO, so being asked to dance Gangland style flummoxed me. Luckily Gray got Jasmine, who worked in the pub, to join me on stage and teach me how to dance a Macarena. This went down well with audience and acts, with Jack Topher commandeering my notebook to write a review of it for me. I believe there is a video of this on Facebook showing why my wife thinks I should be barred from every dance floor. From here Gray had a chat about Secret Santa’s and a game of legal/illegal to close his set. I always enjoy watching Gray – this is a chap whose sense of fun is infectious and he can brighten up any room.

Closing was the slimmed down Pat Draper, whose dry wit and well crafted set provided a fitting end to what had been a lovely gig. Draper was airing some new material and this was all very pleasant. I was especially impressed with the string of callbacks that he almost closed on. These were excellent and are a definite banker. As this had wrapped up his set and gave it an air of completeness I thought he’d tap out on that, but instead he finished on a song, which harked back to his earlier one. This was a nice set and I’d like to see Draper gig more.

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