Canal House, Ant Campbell, Katie Mitchell, Mark Williams, Shell Byron as Ally Allerton, Che Burnley, John Hardy, Phil Pagett, Moses Ali Khan and Josh Pugh (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham for the NCF £1 night, held at the canal house. Numbers weren’t as high as previously, but there were still 60-70 paying customers for a new act/material night, which was tremendous. The bill tonight featured a large contingent from the North West, mostly Liverpool, but luckily when Elliott had worked out the running order he was smart enough to not have all of these acts follow one another without a break, as this would have unbalanced the show. Supporting the night, but not performing were the comedians Harry Sanders (with lady from Doncaster) and Nick Mellors.

Josh Pugh (MC)

Pugh is one of the brightest prospects on the circuit and it can only be a matter of time before he is on panel shows, so it was very nice to see him on this bill. He began with admin, explaining the format of the evening and then he had a chat with a few people in the audience, finding out names and jobs, appointing clappers and so on. The people he spoke to all had saintly occupations, working in charity shops, meeting their partner whilst volunteering in Africa and so on, and this could have proved tricky, but Pugh just took it in his stride. He is talented in working his way to material from the replies he received and as ever, his punchlines came from unexpected angles, which he has made almost an art form. Another nice aspect to his work was keeping the night on time, which is very useful in a compere. Pugh is never anything less than fantastic and tonight he showed that he is sharper than ever.

Pugh is performing at the for NCF at the Derby Comedy festival at 17:40 on the 14th of May at the Carneo Lounge.

Ant Campbell

Campbell opened and the only negative issue I had with his set was some of the topics he used: Trump/Clinton being a lose lose scenario and online dating are both areas that a lot of comedians have mined for material and it is very hard for anyone to find a new angle that hasn’t been done before. The tinder material was funny, but it was something that I have heard a lot of versions of, which robbed it of some of the impact it would otherwise have had. There were a lot of very nice lines in this set, such as JJB, Wand, Bunsen burner and blocked, which all received a good response. Campbell’s delivery was workmanlike and without a lot of flair, but it managed to carry conviction and sold his material well. I enjoyed the callback that he ended on. This was a good opening to the night.

Katie Mitchell

Mitchell had a night of two halves; a decision forced upon her by an art prop she needed not being available and her having to quickly rethink her set. She began by getting the audience divided up to make the noises of a distressed train, May getting into a bath and the Russian Revolution, which whilst fun would have benefited from a big finish. This was followed by a convoluted routine based upon a video game which I can imagine working very well with an audience who have played the game, but which tonight didn’t really catch the mood of the room. This half of her set was largely carried by her personality, which is strong and confident. The second half was new material that had come to her mind only in response to what someone had said earlier and this was a tale from when Mitchell was at school. In its raw form, this story was funny and it held the room, as everyone wanted to know how it would end. This half of her set was very entertaining and with a bit of work and artistic licence I can well imagine this story becoming a closing routine that is accessible to all audiences.

Mark Williams

Williams was a relaxed and pleasant presence who largely bantered with the room, feeding in the odd bit of material every now and again. He’s an unthreatening act whom everyone was happy to chat to, confident that he wouldn’t make them look a wally. I don’t know if he does a lot of compering, but if he doesn’t he should, as I can imagine him having a talent for it. There were some nice lines, such as his comment on it being a £1 comedy night, but not a lot of what he said was that memorable and this is a shame. Everyone will remember him being affable and amiable, but unfortunately they won’t remember a lot else. If Williams can match his easy going and genial presence with material with more bite he will be a strong comic.

Shell Byron as Ally Allerton

Next was Shell Byron performing as Ally Allerton, a character act that was subtle enough for some of the audience to perhaps not realise that this was so. She took a low energy approach, speaking slowly and with quite a long gap between reveals. The motivational speaker material was solid and the smoke alarm stood out for its sheer quality. I did think, though, that despite leading into the next routine, the feeling shit routine was a bit overly drawn out. This was a nice set that built up very well.

Che Burnley

Burnley had a very good night and he seems to have moved up a gear in the month since I saw him last. He read the room well and came at it with a lot of energy, which was just what was needed as the level had dropped a bit. His set could be split into a 50-50 mix of material and room work and both went down extremely well. A lot of the audience work consisted of Burnley messing around in a creative way. The mic stand split into two halves, which led to an impromptu Freddy Mercury impression that morphed into a well orchestrated brief audience sing-along to the Banana Boat song. I’m not totally convinced the mic stand splitting like that was a total accident, as Burnley was so smooth in segueing into top quality mirth. However, if it was an accident, he’s great at rolling with the unexpected. If it wasn’t an accident, then he’s great at making it look like it was, either way, it is to his credit. The material was delivered with verve and there was a definite feel good factor to this performance; it has certainly made me want to see this Burnley perform more often.

John Hardy

John Hardy was on his fifth gig and whilst inexperienced he did alright. The material was naturally a work in progress, although buffet was nice enough and although the quiet joke was more of a concept than a routine, if he could but find a reveal to it with a twist then it would be a stand out. Hardy is a well built chap, with a largely bald head and his wearing a black jacket had the unlucky side effect of making him look as if he was taking a break from doing the door, which isn’t the end of the world, but perhaps didn’t help him with his visual presence. For a fifth gig this was a credible performance.

Phil Pagett

Pagett opened well with two jokes that he had made up on the night, which pertained to the events of the show and both were hugely relatable to the audience – I really appreciate it when an act can think on their feet like that. From here he stood, clipboard in hand, trialling some new material in preparation for Edinburgh. Pagett is an excellent crafter on one-liners and anything of his is worth listening to, so I was really looking forwards to seeing this. Some of the jokes were brilliant, especially the darker ones, with a few applause breaks being given and even the ones that weren’t quite up there with his best were still good. This section was then followed with a spot of his established material, which gave for a well rounded and very funny performance.

Moses Ali Khan

Moses is another act that I don’t see enough of. He’s a prolific writer and has a good eye for the funny. Tonight he played the room utilising an audible internal monologue, almost giving the audience a peak into his thoughts. Moses is quite a shrewd psychologist when it comes to audiences and this tactic really drew people into his performance. This grasp of how to work an audience was further demonstrated when he was doing some riddles, all of which had a twist that the chap he drew in didn’t anticipate coming. This was a great set from a very clever comedian.

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