This has been a great month for comedy; I’ve seen 50 or so acts, ranging from gong shows to a very good English Comedian of the year heat. The highlight was probably ‘Fake Ray’ stealing the show when Jonny Awsum got a volunteer onto the stage to assist with his set – how Jonny kept a straight face I’ll never know. The low point was seeing a gong show entrant do a set based around them having a serious illness, which went from being depressing to bleak in the time it took for them to be voted off.
These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:
This was at the English comedian of the year heat. Atta gave a fantastic performance.
From the night:
The final section was opened by Vince Atta. Atta was more or less a shoo in to do well in this contest, the only question I had was over the length of the spot, as I doubt Atta has done anything less than a 20 minute opening or closing slot in years. Atta began by explaining how beat boxing worked at top speed before doing a highly abbreviated version of his usual set. I was sorry he didn’t do resting bitch face, as that is my favourite routine of his. The routine where Atta used Derby was absolutely perfect for this heat and went down a dream. Everything that Atta said or did received a laugh – the meaning of his name in Urdu getting a huge response. Vince brings a real feel good factor into the room and I felt that tonight if just one person had given him a standing ovation the rest of the room would have joined in. This was a great set and he went through as winner of the night.
Similar to Vince Atta in his ability to brighten up a room and make everyone significantly happier than they were before they left the home.
From the night:
Jonny Awsum closed the night and he’s ideal for sending an audience out on a high. There is a huge feel good factor to his work and it is very upbeat. There is also a lot of stagecraft involved, too and Awsum showed how quick on the uptake he was when he was chatting to the couple of the front row. Despite being on a double, he realised straight away that they had probably already been spoken to and the likely questions they had been asked and backed away, moving on to talk to other people. Awsum sings, which he does with verve and he involves the entire room in the songs, which gives his set a great feeling of inclusivity. The highlight of his set was when he got ‘Fake Ray’ on stage to play the harmonica. Getting people on stage must be like minesweeping, as there is always the chance that you’ll pick someone uncomfortably uncooperative, or even worse someone who disrupts the show. Fake Ray turned out to be brilliantly up for the idea. In a way that wasn’t over powering, or especially disruptive, for 5 minutes he managed to steal the show from Awsum, as he joined in mimicking the chord that Jonny was playing. This ended wonderfully with a version of duelling banjos and this was a truly great moment. It was nice to see Awsum do a very welcome encore.
A superb set.
From the night:
Chris Stokes had a fantastic night. He started by referencing how young he looked before going on to chat about his life. He made a quiet start chatting away, but this was a set that built up all the way throughout. Stokes demonstrated that he had been listening closely to everything that had been said before and I love it when a comedian can reference people and gags as it makes the night feel bigger than the sum of its parts. He received an applause break for a callback to Nelson’s set and even managed to chat to a couple who knew the small village where he had grown up without losing momentum, although by rights the surprise probably would have wrong footed many other acts. In contrast, Stokes didn’t put a foot wrong throughout his set. There was a lot of good quality writing in evidence and his delivery was perfectly pitched to what he was saying. With his soft West Midlands accent and his pattern and rhythm of speech, Stokes reminded me a lot of Thomas Rackham, as they both sound identical. This was a performance that never came close to outstaying its welcome and Stokes was tremendous.
Clayton Jones, Dave Fensome, Gary Meikle, Phil Pagett, Sean Turner, Steff Todd (MC).