April – acts that have impressed me the most

This has been a tremendous month for comedy, with some excellent pro and semi pro nights attended. I’ve seen 42 acts and the standard has been incredibly good. Many of the acts who have had a honourable mention would have been in the most impressed by section on any other month.

These are the acts who have most impressed me this month:

Ignacio Lopez

Lopez had a nightmare of a time getting to the gig (Funhouse Retford) as his first train had been replaced by a coach and this had caused no end of a delay, turning a 4 hour trip into a 6 hour trip and to go on stage 15 minutes after arriving after such a long journey and to put in such a great performance is nothing less than remarkable.

From the night:

The last time I’d seen Lopez had been at a tricky weekend club gig in Nottingham, where numbers had been far below critical mass and it had seemed that the audience had all agreed to stay miserable for the entire show. That night, Lopez had done very well under the circumstance to squeeze a good amount of laughter out of them. Last night, though, was a totally different gig; with a room chock-full of people who were there to laugh, albeit with a tipping point approaching, especially with the talkative group near the bar. Prior to this set, Mike had been busy tipping Ignacio off to what had been said by the previous acts and alerting him to the presence of the Welsh chap in the audience and this paid a beautiful dividend when Lopez worked him into his set and got loads of laughter for it. This was a very well written set and this skill went beyond the actual jokes – a great deal of thought had gone into the construction of this set. There was a feeling of coherency to it, as a lot of it was linked and there were plenty of callbacks, which is something I adore. Ignacio’s delivery had bags of charm and he’s helped in this by his accent. It always caught me by surprise when he went from a Spanish accent straight into a Welsh one without taking a breath, when discussing aspects of Welsh culture and I found this very endearing (it also reminded me slightly of Julio Geordio). I was a bit surprised that he didn’t close on his song about holidaying Brits, as this would have made for a fantastic closing routine. This was a great set and provided a superb finish to what had been a most enjoyable night.

John Robertson

This act tore the roof off of the place:

From the night:

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.

Josh Pugh (MC)

A superb act in what was to me an unfamiliar role.

From the night:

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.

Ben Briggs (MC)

Briggs sized up the room and made totally owned it.

From the night:

Briggs has performed at Bluey’s before and I shouldn’t be surprised if he was re-booked by popular demand. He came to the stage with a swagger and immediately took charge of the room by making a provocative reference to sheep as we were in Derbyshire and then soon after commenting on the unlikely way the audience pronounced the name of the town. I was very happy to see Briggs had a good memory for faces and was able to recognise people he had spoken to the last time he was there – it means a lot to people when they are remembered. Rich, sat on the front, proved to be a great gift to Briggs, who cheerfully took the P out of his job, his looks and his love of Celtic Folk Punk. He could have tapped out at that and not spoken about Easter eggs, as the room was ready for the first act, but perhaps feeling how strongly the room was with him, Briggs gave them an extra five minutes. This was an overrun that wasn’t really necessary, but the audience were loving everything he did and it didn’t unbalance the night. Briggs built up no end of momentum. His room work was great and there was a huge sense that he could have done or said anything and make it funny. Against this, Briggs was a bit overly sweary, using ‘fuck’ almost like other people use commas and he could perhaps have cut out a few and kept the same force of delivery. This was massively enjoyable compering from an act who was pretty much a force of nature. His room work reminded me of Ian Cognito and that is no mean compliment.

Scott Bennett

This performance was sheer joy to see. The mood of the venue totally matched the style and material of Bennett and as he was on top form he smashed it out of the park.

From the night:

Closing the gig was Scott Bennett, who began by working the room and having some fun with Kev the landlord. His observations were very perceptive and delivered in a totally disarming manner that had everyone onboard within seconds of him beginning his set. Despite only having seen Bennett a few weeks back there was obvious improvement in his routines, just the odd word changed here and there, but it was enough to make tangible gains. The movements from topic to topic were flawless and imperceptible. This was a tremendous set from a superb comedian.

Honourable Mentions

Che Burnley, Keith Carter, Marc Jennings, Pete Teckman, Phil Pagett, Rik Carranza, Sully O’Sullivan, Tony Wright

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