Ashby – Andy Askins, Jake Baker, Mary Bourke and Ian D Montfort

Tonight I was in Ashby de la Zouch for the Funhouse comedy night. This is a great night that attracts strong openers and closers (usually on a double with Lichfield) with a rising star and a well experienced act in the middle section. The room was packed out and rather hot, which stood in contrast to the entrance hall, which was quite chilly. Sometimes gigs can take on a communal spirit, with the audience bonding together over odd things. This occurred twice during Mike’s compering; the first time was the almost universal intake of breath upon discovering that a first timer was from Coalville and the second time was a huge aww of disappointment from everyone when they discovered that ‘Fake Ray’ wasn’t there. Before long everyone was ready for the opening act.

Andy Askins

Askins gave the room a set that had something in it for pretty much everyone. He has a dry and self-deprecating sense of humour and delivers his material with a soft North-East accent. He’d give the room a line, pause and then let them have the topper or add an extra joke. This style worked very well and I was impressed with the number of callbacks and toppers he employed. Askins’ Bear joke was one where there was an obvious punchline looming, but the way in which he worked it was very clever and raised it far above what I think people were expecting. In a not too dissimilar way the car boot routine was nicely subtle. Askins is a musical comedian and I’m not a huge fan of music and comedy, but enjoyed the songs apart from one about a collision, which I found a touch depressing, but that says more about me than the song itself, as everyone else was into it. This was a very good set and I’ve a feeling that Askins was playing it safe, not going too dark as opener as I can imagine him having some extremely good dark material.

Jake Baker

Baker began well with a review that he had received; this included a nice couple of twists and he followed it with an observation about the room which hit home hard enough to earn him an applause break. This was proceeded by a short routine about his childhood and family, which was entertaining enough, but very much lacked the punch provided by a big joke. There was a charming moment when he realised that he’d not set his stopwatch and his heartfelt muttering of ‘oh bugger!’ got a big laugh and he earned a lot of good will for dealing with that slight hiccup so well. Baker’s delivery involved an incredible amount of ers, with one at the start of most sentences. In itself this isn’t the end of the world, but once I’d noticed it, I found it rather hard to stop noticing him saying er and it got quite distracting. Baker entertained the room and I’d like to see him again.

Mary Bourke

Bourke began by questioning the noises coming from the venue’s kitchen, which I hadn’t really noticed until she mentioned it and then I found myself deliberately listening out for it, which was a bit irritating. From here though, she went on to deliver a set that had some nice elements, especially the password, which was a lovely piece of material. Mum’s Net and the American gigging in Glasgow were both good, but I think the set ups were a tad drawn out and although she received an applause break I’m not totally convinced the entire audience were with her throughout all of the set ups on either. I liked the Titanic being alright when she left Belfast joke, but unbeknownst to Bourke, she’s the third comedian I’ve seen use that line and to me that diluted the impact. Bourke delivered her set in a quiet voice, which helped to draw the audience in, but if she’d swung her head a bit more to encompass the audience sat arrayed either side of her and not just in front, it would have helped her to make more of a connection than she did. This was a set that the rest of the audience enjoyed more than I did.

Ian D Montfort

If there is any justice in the world, Tom Binns’ career is about to go stellar with him making the leap from being well known amongst comedy lovers to becoming a household name. His show, Hospital People, is currently airing on prime time BBC and as good as this programme is, the ironic thing is that live he is so so much better, having more freedom to add nuance and presence. This set is not so much written, as crafted, and includes some fantastic little touches that don’t sound as if they are either here nor there, but which together definitely add a lot to the show. Montfort’s manner of elongating the vowels in certain words is a delight, as is the character’s lack of self-awareness with what he is saying. This is a great example of a character saying something funny, but being apparently oblivious to that fact. Tonight Montfort was lucky, or perhaps experienced enough to choose wisely, when he picked John to assist his show. John, with his big wide grin, happened to have that happy trilogy of being quick on the uptake, happy to take part and sensible or possibly in awe enough not to get too interactive. It was no surprise that Montfort used him throughout the entire show. There were at least a dozen applause breaks and a lot of laughter. Despite having seen this show a good number of times, I ended up hurting my side laughing and it was wonderful to see so many people laughing their heads off. This was a splendiferous performance.

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