Tonight I was in Grantham for the Funhouse Comedy night. It was a horrible wet drive there, yet in contrast to home, which was cold enough for me to be wearing a jumper all day, it was pretty hot at the venue. It felt unusual being at a gig in daylight until Judi rushed around to finish closing the curtains, standing on a radiator to reach. Mike had a great night compering, renewing his acquaintance with a music promoter sat at the front whom he had met at Glastonbury after having sampled some of the local cider a few days ago. Mike recognised a lady who had made the local news a while ago by refusing to have a statue of Thatcher in the Grantham museum in which she worked unless it was made out of coal, so Mike asked her for her thoughts of what a statue of Theresa May should be made out of, to which the lady, quick as a flash, replied, ‘cladding’. This was a beautiful moment that came completely out of left field and Mike was stood on stage trying to carry on whilst almost pissing himself with laughter. Mike judged this comment to be that good he posted about it on facebook and announced the number of likes after the intermission, pointing out that he had had advice to book her for a gig.
We opened with the energetic Pat Monahan, a man who moves about that much on stage he probably hasn’t needed to go near a gym in years. Monahan is famous for a number of things including, his ability to work a room, hugs, being incredibly funny and not being able to tell the time. Tonight he was on a double and so came off at the right time (he may well still be performing in Oakham as I type this, though), he gave out a few hugs, worked the room marvellously and was indeed very funny. Perhaps 25% of his time was taken up with material, but really this was just a useful framework for him to chat to the audience around. The lights were dimmed, but leaving enough light for him to see most of the people there and he used this to great effect, as he dispensed his ideas of a recipe for a happy marriage. He may have perhaps spent a little bit too long on the partying material, but this is a minor issue, as his strong performance skills brought his set to life and opened the show with a bang.
Tavner has replaced Tony Wright as the best dressed comedian that I have seen. Tavner came to the stage wearing matching trousers and waistcoat and a shirt and tie and this gave him the look of a best man at a wedding about to make a speech to the room. This prompted a rare shout out at this usually well behaved gig about him being overdressed. Tavner dealt with this well, being kind, but authoritative and then he began his set. His material consisted largely of his house share experience, marriage and a bit of politics. This was all fine and I enjoyed the fact that his UKIP joke was accurate enough to get a tut from someone; on the other hand, hope in the eyes of youngsters is a bit overdone, but that’s no big deal. There were some nice touches such as when he leaned in and lowered his voice, which helped to sell what he was saying. This was an enjoyable set, but also one that I think needed a little bit extra to really shine and I think that the extra element was a bit more time. This set was building steadily and I think an extra 5 minutes would have helped Tavner to make a bigger impact as his performance seemed to be over rather too soon.
This was the first time I’d seen Lomas do a fifteen spot and whilst over ten he is probably one of the best comedians in the country, I was curious as to whether he could maintain his deadpan low energy approach for a longer set. The answer is that with extra time he was even better. He came onto the stage and took up his stance, looking to the right of centre and began what was a gloriously slow paced set. Lomas has longer pauses between jokes than anyone else would dare. Most comics would see it as dead time that could be filled with a gag, but instead, Lomas, without saying anything got laughs and built up comedic tension from being stood there and the audience were quickly laughing with anticipation during these moments. After he had established his persona, Lomas chatted to a chap on the front row, which led to a brilliantly conceived opening for an archery joke. There were 8 applause breaks and some of this was due to the audience taking advantage of the pacing between gags to applaud, but these were all earned applause breaks, Lomas was getting or on the verge of getting, applause for everything he said, which is remarkable. When he left the stage it was to the sound of not only applause, but also cheers from a very impressed audience.
Binns came to the stage announcing that he was doing new material, not really fit for closing the show with and it is a tribute to the confidence that this audience has in him that they were still 100% behind him, even though he was kidding them and it was actually a well rehearsed performance. This was Binns as himself, doing ventriloquism. It was thoroughly enjoyable watching the audience laugh heartily at the show. Everyone enjoyed Binns teasing the room as warned people about how things stood with each character. This was a set that combined craftsmanship, attention to detail, imagination and a huge feel for what is possible. I especially liked the big ending song, which gave the night a tangible feeling of closure.