Tonight I was in Leicester for the So you think you’re Funny? heat, organised by Funhouse Comedy. This involved an early start for the show which was much appreciated by those acts who had to be at work the next day. This contest is open to comedians who have been gigging for a year and they have seven minutes for their performance. There was to be no winner announced after the show, instead the judges were to make their announcements later in the year, after other heats. This meant that they were free to send a few acts through if they had been impressed by more than one, or perhaps none, if no one was what they were looking for. Whilst there weren’t many acts on the bill that I’d seen before, it was a wonderfully diverse line up with a good gender balance and a selection of musical, character, prop, double and one liner acts. The room was cold to begin with and seemed reluctant to warm up, with Spiky Mike having to work hard to inject energy into the audience.
Terry and Ted
The opening act was a double act. It was only yesterday that I was saying how infrequent these are on the circuit and then lo and behold, two in two days. These two Geordies performed as characters, with Ted in shorts and a sports top and Terry dressed up like an 80’s radio star. They began with the well used trope of one wanting to do one thing (life coaching) and the other another thing (inventions) and the set went from one topic to the other. However, despite their energy levels they did suffer from most of their material not being that strong. Their best joke was a breakfast based prop gag, but the majority of their stuff sank in a room that still seemed reticent about laughing.
With her quiet Liverpudlian voice and low powered start Thompson seemed to begin on the back foot. She had a smooth delivery, but unfortunately it sounded more like a read through than a performance in front of a live audience and in this she wasn’t helped by her material. These were mostly lengthy anecdotes with too long a gap between the jokes. Thompson was humorous rather than funny and there was a definite feel of the room slipping away from her. With more punchy material she would be a stronger act.
Bowley made for an intriguing figure as he was stood on stage with 3D glasses sat over his real spectacles. He built on this with the most varied approach in style of the night. His seven minutes included magic, props, music and jokes and he managed to feel fresh all of the way throughout. This was a highly visual set, where one didn’t want to take one’s eyes away from the stage in case of missing something. I especially enjoyed the non-sequiturs, these added a lot of mirth to his set. There was one slip up with his phone not playing a bit of music, but he handled that so smoothly that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was part of his act. Bowley closed with a risky song, one that could have seen him sent off if this had been a gong show, but just as the mood of the room began to shift he turned it around with a great twist to the song. This was a very good set. Bowley isn’t the finished article, but he’s got a lot going for him.
The Russian accented Italian Carla Pol had a good night. Her lively presence won the room over very quickly and they seemed to warm to her faster than any of the other acts. To begin with her material wasn’t hugely stand out, but the further she got into her set the stronger her material became – Brexit was very good indeed. This was a very enjoyable set from someone who has funny bones.
We resumed after the intermission with Moses Francis who had a mixed night. He began well with the coolest walk onto the stage of anyone present. Following this he demonstrated a good ability with accents and solid performance skills. These added a lot of depth to his set, but his material let him down. This wasn’t that great. I think a lot of people will remember his stage presence, but will not be able to recall a lot of what he actually said. Francis misjudged his timing and massively under ran, which gave his set the feel of a missed opportunity. I’d like to see him again, though.
I’d seen Keegan before at the Funhouse gong show at the Rigger, near Stoke. Here she delivered a set that veered from being bleak to merely being depressing, so I was curious as to what we would get tonight. Unfortunately it was largely more of the same, with a dislocated hip, IBS and having her cervix cauterised providing a lot of her material. I found these to be depressing topics and her delivery didn’t add any lift to them. However, despite this, I did enjoy her reply to a note received from some old neighbours. Keegan was an act that split the room, with the female half finding her set funnier than the male half.
Roger Swift is a prop act who does deliberately bad puns with such energy and verve to make him a wonderful act. Instead, Love was a prop act who was just doing bad puns. Unfortunately he didn’t have the energy or presence to make them work and groans far outnumbered laughs. I did enjoy bolognese, though, that was a fun gag and was also the highlight of his set. Love is a new act and the only way is up.
I’d seen Platt before at the Canal House and she was a frustrating act then and she was frustrating tonight, too. She has obvious ability. Her timing is good, her construction is also good and it’s nice to see a deadpan delivery. However, this is all thrown back by her choice of topics that she mines for material – self harm, abortion and suicide. These are all depressing and I feel that with more upbeat material, or at least something less bleak, she would be much improved. As it was, she got a lot of laughs from the comedians, but didn’t seem to fare so well with the actual audience.
Taylor had a very good night, getting laughs by the bucket load. Taylor demonstrated some very high quality writing in his one-liners. A lot of these were very clever and the odd joke that didn’t get as big a laugh as it might was usually because it took a moment to sink in, such as the Mayo gag. It was nice to see an act have to pause for the laughter to subside. Taylor does have to work on his stage presence though, as he didn’t look comfortable and seemed to be unsure of what to do with his hands, putting them in his pockets every so often. I thoroughly enjoyed Taylor’s set; his writing was excellent. After 16 gigs, mostly at the Roadhouse, he would benefit from gigging more widely and I’d like to see how he develops as a comedian.
Sham Zaman was another act who had a good night. He has a bubbly stage presence and was able to get laughs even when the quality of his material occasionally slipped a touch. Zaman was fast speaking, delivering ten minutes of material in seven at the speed of a man holding an auction. He built up a lot of momentum and was rewarded with a lot of laughter. This was a set where the audience had to listen carefully to get everything he said and there was a lot to enjoy in this set. Zaman was one of the four acts that the audience really seemed to go with.
The well dressed James gave the room two songs. He didn’t really come across as a comedian, but instead seemed more like a musician who was dipping his toes into comedy songs. The two songs were well sung, but the lyrics were humorous instead of funny. If he had bantered before and between songs then he may have done better, but instead it was more like a musical turn had stumbled onto the bill instead of a comedian.