Last night I was at the Funhouse comedy night at Gainsborough’s town hall. Originally this was to be in the side room, but the town hall management had moved the show into the main room, which made the night harder work for all concerned than what it would have been. The main room was huge, it is easily the largest space I’ve seen live comedy performed in outside of theatres. The ceiling was perhaps 20′ high, the stage large enough to put a brass band on and a good portion of the 100 strong audience were sat quite a way away on the other side of a bannister. Spiky Mike did what he could by setting out chairs and tables at the front and moving people forwards, but it was obvious that this was going to be something of an uphill struggle to get and maintain an atmosphere, whereas ironically, 100 people in the smaller room would have made it electric. Things weren’t helped by the front row being made up of an entire rugby team who early on divested themselves of much of an interest in the show and left the acts playing to the remaining audience. As it turned out, everyone apart from the rugby team had a really good night and were very complimentary after the show. However, although the night was fun, this was something of a missed opportunity for Gainsborough, because in the smaller room this had the potential to have been a much better gig.
The opening act was Wayne the Weird, a comedy magician. He began quickly with two fast jokes delivered perhaps a little bit before the room had adjusted to him being on stage and these seemed to get missed by a lot of the audience. Wayne was on firmer ground with his first volunteer, Abi, who was a giggler. She was the ideal assistant, giggling, looking happy to be on stage and quick enough on the uptake not to drag things out. He wasn’t so lucky with his other volunteers who just seemed that bit too slow in doing the various tasks, but I think getting anyone on stage is always going to be that bit dicey. The magic was good, with no flaws and I was impressed with just how much Wayne could express through his eyes and physicality on the last trick. I enjoyed the twists on each trick and the finale is excellent – no one was expecting the big reveal at the end. This was a good set, but one that could be improved with a few tweaks. Wayne would benefit from a mic that clips to his jacket, as he would occasionally step away from the microphone to do a trick or set up an assistant and it was hard to hear what he was saying. The comments of the various assistants were all but impossible to hear and Wayne may have done well to repeat what they were saying if it was relevant or perhaps to kill the odd bit of dead time. There was a fair bit of dead time, where a trick was being set up (especially the card trick when the volunteers were handing out cards to the audience) and some of this may be due to the size of the room, but a little bit of patter would have kept the energy going. This was a nicely enjoyable set.
Rob Mulholland, taking a night off from having the time of his life playing Death in Panel Beaters, was on in the middle. Most comics have a stage persona that is to some degree an exaggerated version of themselves, but with Mulholland he’s the same on or off stage. He is something of a force of nature and what you see is what you get. He’s not so much a big cheeky lad, but instead someone who is happy to push things and see how far they can go (incidentally, this is probably why he is superb on Panel Beaters). Last night, though, his material was quite restrained and easily accessible to the audience. He began by informing the audience that this was his second visit to Gainsborough in 24 hours, due to him mistaking the booking and coming a day early. This went down well as did the twirling and the taxi driver. The cat routine was the standout, but although he didn’t perform it last night, I’ve always thought that his routine about suicide is the stronger of the two, even if it isn’t an ideal closing. Mulholland’s delivery was fast and since moving to Manchester he’s picked up a bit of a Manc twang, which would occasionally come out on certain words. Owing to the disinterest of the rugby team, he ended up playing to the remaining audience who were very much with him. There was a lot of laughter and he was on the verge of an applause break more than once. There was just one discordant note and that was when Mulholland put down a loud talker on the front row. This he did effectively enough to make sure that the rest of the rugby team talked quietly, but he a bit more forceful with his comments than what he needed to be. The rest of the audience cheered though and he most definitely got away with it. Mulholland is a cracking act who will have a career in comedy for as long as he wants.
Tony Burgess closed the gig. He was quietly spoken, almost whispering into the microphone. This helped to encourage the room to listen to him, but was largely lost on the rugby team and so he wisely concentrated on the rest of the audience. Burgess’ material concerned odd things found in Aldi, turning 40, drugs and a head. The drugs material I couldn’t engage with as it is a topic I know nothing about and even with Burgess making it accessible, I still struggled to feel much interest in it. Fortunately the rest of the audience were thoroughly enjoying it. Life changes at 40 is something I’ve heard a lot of comedians do material on and I didn’t feel he’d said anything especially new on it. However, the routine about the head was extremely good – this was very enjoyable and funny. Burgess had a good night and went down well.