Ashby – Markus Birdman, The Monks, Alistair Williams and Zoe Lyons

Tonight I was in Ashby de la Zouch for the Funhouse comedy night. This was one of those nights were I’d like to have been able to shake the hand of the person who invented air-conditioning, as it was swelteringly hot again. Spiky Mike had a fun night compering managing well with a chap who tried to be funny/helpful/sarcastic with his answers when spoken to. There was a lot more fun to be had with a person who sold floors and beds and these interactions nicely set the room up for our opening act.

Markus Birdman

Birdman was excellent the last time I saw him, so I was pleased to see him on the bill. He began by making a joke about the town name, which is unusual as Mike generally advises the comics not to, as there are only so many gags to be made about it over the years without things getting samey. From here Birdman followed with the smartest knob gag on the circuit and we were off into a remarkably good set and also one that never began to feel staid. Birdman changed the tempo of the set a few times, going from material to including a couple of mimes and then room work followed by some deceptively clever gags from his notebook, before finishing with a bit more audience work. The first mime, that of a Muslim, was a bit of a slow burner, but it very nicely set things up for his next one. The room work was interesting, although he misheard an oriental man when he said about wanting to be his daughter (a callback to some of Birdman’s earlier material about his daughter). The jokes from the notebook had a lovely element of misdirection to them and worked very well. Markus was fairly sweary, but when he swore it was to add emphasis to what he was saying, rather than being gratuitous. Birdman was on a double and this performance had more of the feel of a headlining set than an opening one. This was a great performance.

The Monks

This double act had some nice touches in their set. It’s nice when acts listen to the compere chatting to people at the top of the night and can work audience members by name and their occupations into a set. This adds a huge feel of the here and now to a gig and The Monks did this very well. The prizes gave their performance a different dynamic to everyone else and this was nicely different. However, their joke about their last gig was predictable, although in fairness it received a good laugh from the audience, but this is a minor point. The main issue I have with this duo is that their material, over ten minutes or so anyway, is all based around one theme and I find that is too much on this topic for me. In their case the set is based around Christianity, but it is true with any topic that an audience member is disinterested in, any theme will begin to get old over ten minutes. Ten minutes of sketches and jokes utilising the Ten Commandments without a change away from it was too much for me. If they had mixed material based on Christianity with more general topics then I would have enjoyed them more. As it was the audience enjoyed them more than I did.

Alistair Williams

I saw Williams in Edinburgh last year – a bit of a lucky punt on my part to be honest – and with him being based down south I’d never seen him since, so having him on the bill was a big bonus. This was a set that combined well written material, good stage presence and a bouncy delivery; I enjoyed it a lot. Williams has a cheeky grin and looks happy on stage, which is always nice to see in an act. He also has skill with accents and was able to use this to add more depth to his delivery when discussing Australians and Mancunians. The routines were well put together and also in some ways thought provoking. The next time I see a picture of the Sydney Opera House, I’ll definitely be wondering what is inside. Dinner was probably the stand out routine of what was a cracking set.

Zoe Lyons

It’s nice to see a comedian who has a following and the presence of Lyons’ name on the bill seemed to have specifically attracted a few extra people to the gig judging by some of the reactions of the audience. This was a set that had the feel of having been written during the last year or so, with plenty of stuff about Brexit and so on. This was lovely for a couple of reasons; one, a lot of headline acts have mature sets that vary little from year to year, so a new set of this calibre is superb and gives people a reason to see her more than every other year or so; and two, instead of a standard Brexit routine insulting people’s motives in voting, this section concentrated on the personal side of the result and how it has played out in her house. This was nicely different. Lyons is wonderfully lively on stage, acting out what she is saying, which adds a nice visual element to her work. Her delivery was great and its no wonder there was a lot of laughter in the room.

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