Grantham – Duncan Oakley, Adam Hastings, Jack Barry and John Robertson

Tonight I was in Grantham for the Funhouse Comedy night. This featured a bill that for reasons beyond the control of anyone had had three of the four acts requiring substitution. Sometimes this can be a bit of a lucky dip, but Spiky Mike came up trumps with this bill which featured a wide variety in styles. The Guildhall attracts a loyal audience and tonight Mike had a bit of trouble in finding people whom he hadn’t spoken to before. As he has been compering the room for a long time this also meant that they had heard most of his material over the years, too, which could have limited his options. This might have been tricky, but he was fortunate enough to find a couple who had been married, gotten a divorce and had then started dating again and this provided plenty for him to work with.

Duncan Oakley

Oakley is a fine act whom I don’t tend to see that much of, despite him only living in Nottingham. The last time I saw him perform it had been in Thorncliffe, where he had given everyone a wonderful time, so I was very happy to see that he was performing tonight. I don’t think that it took any more than a minute for his cheerful charm to win the audience over and he never looked back from there. Although Oakley is best known for being a musical comedian, I found the routines in between the songs to be the most enjoyable, but that is probably because I’m just not that into music. I couldn’t find any fault with his banjo or harmonica playing and definitely enjoyed the nicely visual element of the harmonica routine. This was a totally different set to what I had seen before and whilst one song didn’t perhaps hit home as well as the others, this proved to be a crowd pleasing performance.

Adam Hastings

Hastings is possibly the most Geordie act I’ve ever seen outside of Jimmy Nail in Auf Wiedersehen Pet. He deliberately ramps this up by appearing in an old black and white striped NUFC shirt and speaking in the broadest why aye man accent one can imagine. The end result of this is a combination of a character act, novelty act and a very entertaining comedian. Hastings began by commenting about the rooms fixtures and fittings, which made for very tangible comedy. This was followed by a lot of audience interaction, with him asking for opinions on Alan Shearer, knowing that his accent would make the question almost incomprehensible for a few of his interlocutors. This was a lot of fun and there was a great atmosphere during his set, with some cracking throwaway lines being used. I and the room enjoyed this set and over fifteen minutes his shtick didn’t outstay its welcome.

Jack Barry

I’ve seen Barry before in Derby, where he gave a good performance and it is nice to see him progress to playing a bigger room. He began by discussing his former job, before being brought to a slight halt by a chap shouting out that he’d received vouchers following a complaint he had laid against that firm. This didn’t prove to be a set back to Barry as he used it as a lead into the next part of his routine, that of silly complaints he had received. From here he then spoke about his girlfriend (I’m still not a fan of the mock surprise on him or any other comedian having a girlfriend, as it is getting to be very old hat) and went into what was for Grantham, a fairly sexual routine. Barry began this with a bit of mock hesitation, which could have built up the anticipation, but which tonight I think just took a bit of momentum away from him; not much, but a bit. This went down very well, although perhaps the highlight of his set was his tale of a bus ride, which whilst short was a delightful small routine. This was a buoyant set that the room happily relaxed into.

John Robertson

Robertson is a man with a striking presence. I’ve seen him in a leather jacket looking like an extra from Mad Max; I’ve seen him in a velvet jacket looking like an 80’s Bond villain and tonight he was dressed all in leather, looking like a vampire rock star. This is a man who oozes presence and in a way similar to Ian Cognito and Doug Segal, whatever he did for a living people would always turn around to look when he entered a room. Robertson has a powerful voice and doesn’t require a microphone; his natural level hovering somewhere around 11. Having seen him before I knew what to expect and I was keenly anticipating the effect this whirlwind would have upon the room. It was a joy to watch him striding through the audience, not touching the ground as he moved from the odd empty seat to another. This was 30 minutes of stand out improv with just one possibly discordant note sounding. When improvising a set the act has to think on their feet, which Robertson does with gusto, but there is no save point to restart from if you go with something perhaps unwise and I think the comments about a dead child, which in context were understandable and received good laughs could have been very risky. This was the only part of the set that I wasn’t that keen on, but the other 99% was absolutely tremendous – especially the not in Germany line, which I was still laughing at on the way home.

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