Tonight I was in Alfreton at Bluey’s for the FaF Comedy night. It’s always lovely to come here, as the audience are not only up for comedy, but everyone is really well looked after by Leonie and Bluey and it’s great to see the landlord so supportive of the night. Another thing that pleased me about tonight was that all of the acts stayed after their sets to watch each other perform and it’s nice when that happens.
Wayne Beese (MC)
I really rate Beese as a compere. He has excellent people skills and just seems able to get that bit more out of an audience than many others and all without being pushy or in anyone’s face. He has a quiet voice that I’ve never heard him raise and this seems to calm people and draw them in, making listening to him mandatory. Beese also has a natural sense of when to move on – he manages to find the balance between talking to one person and then knowing when it is time to spread his attention further. I was impressed by his ability to remember people whom he spoke to 18 months before, when he last appeared here. Tonight he discovered quite a number of characters in the pub and wove them into his work, building unlikely scenarios for them to be involved in, all of which he managed to keep relatable. There was a lovely little moment when he asked people to cheer if they’d not been before and one lady cheered with enthusiasm and then suddenly realised she was the only person – her ‘Yaaaaaay! Oh!’ was rather nice. Beese had a very good night.
Neale opened, building nicely upon the goodwill formed by Beese’s compering. He began with a bit of audience participation, which whilst superficially similar to something O’Neil does ended up going in a very different direction. This made for a fun and attention grabbing opening and the jokes that it span off into were strong enough to establish Neale with the audience. Most of Neale’s set concerned trying for a baby and the joy of kids. This was well constructed and had a logical flow with some good callbacks. Skin to skin was decent, but perhaps not quite at the same level as the rest of his material. Neale had a positive delivery and received a lot of laughter; this was an enjoyable set.
This is the third time I’ve seen Sham in just over two weeks, but it is also the first time I’ve seen him perform more than seven minutes and at something other than a contest. His set began with a surprise; he thought he was on second after the intermission and so had to jump out of his seat and make ready very quickly before getting to the stage. Sham has a very fast delivery, almost relentless and this helps him no end in building momentum. Tonight the room responded with gusts of laughter, no matter how surreal his material became and he was smashing the gig for perhaps the first 8 minutes of his set, definitely being stronger than at either of the two heats that I’d seen him at recently. However, and it’s possible that I’m wrong, but I rather think that after this time the audience reaction dipped a bit. Not massively, but I’ve a suspicion that his fast speed maybe had them feeling exhausted towards the end of his set. This was a subtle change in the feeling I had coming from the audience and I think it is hard to be definite on that from just one ten spot. Either way, he still did very well.
Preston based Wright was next and he was a huge change of pace to the turbocharged Sham Zaman. Initially I thought that Wright suffered a bit from this and it may have been better if he had gone on first out of the two, but he swiftly made his presence felt. Wright had a pleasingly slow and engaging delivery that was almost conversational in tone. In this he reminded me of Alun Cochrane and like Cochrane a lot of his potency comes from his material. Wright had a set that was very well put together, indeed. The standout routine was one involving helpful phrases when holidaying overseas and there were numerous ways in which Wright could have taken this. I was very happy that none of them were obvious and with how they built up. This was a very impressive set from a comedian that has definitely got something going for him.
Monkhouse is a highly skilled act. He has quite convoluted set ups with plenty of extraneous words and quite long gaps between punchlines. On paper this shouldn’t work that well, but Monkhouse does more than merely make it work, he gets a lot of mileage out of it. He is a comedian who looks plausible as he stands on stage with a slightly mischievous grin and after the first couple of fairly quick jokes the audience has enough confidence in him to happily go with the long set ups in the certain knowledge that the reveal will be worth it. Monkhouse looks like he’s having fun on stage and as is often the case, this is infectious and the audience enjoy themselves that bit more. This was another good performance by him.