Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Funhouse Comedy night at the Grosvenor pub, a place easy to get into, but harder to get home from due to a left hand only and then a no left hand turn set of lanes. I arrived there early enough for there to be a lot of empty chairs and I had a momentary worry that there was going to be a small audience, but instead it was a case of finding extra chairs by the time everyone had arrived. This crowd had perhaps the quickest reset button that I have seen. One minute they would be laughing and then the next minute, total silence and this made them a very tough crowd to impress. The only acts who didn’t seem to fall victim to this were Anna King-Jackson and Scott Bennett.
Our compere was Stevie Gray, who has something of a genius for getting audiences involved in shows and tonight was no exception. He had brought his wife’s best Tefal frying pans with him to assist two audience members in a timed pancake day toss off. This added a large element of fun wackiness to the night and I liked watching it. Rooms warm easily to Gray and this one was no exception, seeming to prefer his banter to material. He did have to remind one girl not to talk whilst the acts were on, as she did get a little bit disruptive, but that is all in a nights’ work for a MC. It was also good to see him chatting to the audience during the intermission, making them feel welcome.
Our opening act was Ben Shannon, who is a comedian that stays nicely on the accessible side of quirky. I enjoy watching Shannon, as I feel that he has the potential to become very good. Tonight things didn’t go as well as I’d have hoped and he certainly wasn’t helped by a lady shouting out a guess at one of his reveals, which hurt his momentum. I’ve seen Shannon do well with his material at quite a few shows, but tonight this audience didn’t seem to go with it and this was a shame.
Anna King-Jackson is a fairly new act and I believe that she has the ability to do well with comedy. Her set felt joined up, rather than just isolated bits of funny and she delivers it well. I like how she does a short set up and then a reveal, which ensures that she almost has the punchiness of a one-liner comedian, but contained within an actual progressively building set. King-Jackson did end with a few puns and these were knowingly groan worthy, which was ok, but could be improved upon. Although having said that, the Stonehenge Star Wars gag was very nice indeed. I was impressed by King-Jackson not being afraid of chatting to the audience. It’s nice when an act takes a risk like that, rather than staying on a script and it is even better when they can address people spoken to by the MC by name. This was a very good set from someone who shall become even better with more stage time.
Jack Topher opened the middle section. Topher is an act who is gigging more regularly and seems that little bit sharper every time I see him. I did feel that he got his opening jokes in the wrong order tonight, as he opened with a joke and then did two jokes about his connections to Nottingham and I think that he would have gotten a better response if he had begun with his local connections. There are some clever touches to the material, such as the people he is with on a night out with and his line about his brother is an absolute joy. As always, there were time lags whilst the jokes sank in and I don’t think that the 2 seconds between joke and resultant laughter on brother will ever get old. Like most acts tonight, Topher suffered a bit from the audience blowing hot and cold, but this was still a good performance from an act who is looking more confident with every gig.
Next was the low energy Danny Clives, who was unfortunately hard to hear at the back of the room. Clives has some good material – shy is a clever line that deserved a lot more than it received. In common with the other acts, the audience seemed to go with some material and then bizarrely not with others that were of equal strength; however, there was plenty of laughter for the jokes that the audience went with.
Hannah Silvester started well, talking quickly and delivering some good material, before the mood of the room dipped during diets, to pick up again with beach and the closing song. The closing song is a good one and I enjoyed the rest of her material, although super fruits was perhaps the weakest part of the set. However, as I’ve already said, the audience seemed unfairly picky about what they were willing to laugh at and this continued during Silverster’s performance.
Our headline act was Scott Bennett, a comedian who will strengthen any line up. He has the ability of an experienced pro act and the enthusiasm for comedy of a new act and this makes for a great combination. I did think that Bennett would be doing new material tonight, but seeing how hit and miss the audience were, he made a wise choice in wheeling out his strongest material. The result was something of a foregone conclusion. Within 5 seconds of walking onto the stage it was obvious the audience were in the palm of his hand and he had an applause break with 2 minutes; one chap was laughing so hard he momentarily choked. The material was all solid and relatable, going down a storm, apart from Postman Pat, which although it’s good and I’ve seen it smash rooms, wasn’t as well received by this audience. The Toby Carvery routine was bought into by everyone and provided a cracking end to the night. During Bennett’s performance the lights momentarily went out, twice in quick succession and then again a third time, which he riffed with, getting laughs, even if it did halt a karate based routine. This was put down to dodgy wiring, but Ben Shannon actually spotted the culprit the third time – it was a chap sat next to the lights who looked to be pushing the plug about. Luckily Shannon didn’t need to have a chat with him, as he desisted and hopefully it was something of an accident. Either way, it didn’t spoil what was a splendid performance.