This afternoon I was in Derby at Bar One for the first of the Funhouse Edinburgh Preview all dayers. These are cracking value for money, although I had a feeling that after Panelbeaters I would be laughed out, so I just went there especially to see this show. Even on a day when it was 90 degrees outside and a big car show being held just a couple of miles away, there was still a respectably sized audience present (including Elliott Bower and Harry Sanders). The panellists today were: Sam Gore, Steff Todd, Gary Delaney and Steve Day, with Caimh McDonnell as host and Death playing Rob Mulholland.
McDonnell has the job of explaining the concept, announcing each category and then what is probably the hardest part: that of judging when the banter and mutual piss taking has run its course and it is time to move on to the next round. For me the biggest joy of this show is just listening to the comics bouncing off of each other, as they rip each other for stumbling over a word, or they provide toppers and callbacks to each other’s gags. It is almost like listening in to the world’s funniest conversation. McDonnell does well in allowing the comics some latitude with this, but also in keeping the show on schedule and ensuring that no round overran. The individual rounds, such as marriage proposal, elevator pitch and so on were fun, but they struck gold in a big way with Childish TV programmes – this was the highlight round and one that I hope they revisit as it was splendid. McDonnell did well as host and it was great watching him taking the piss out of the panellists and telling the room about when he took a ventriloquist monkey to Ireland.
Gore has been consistently excellent on Panelbeaters. Every time I’ve seen him on the show he has been very well prepared with jokes in both quantity and quality. Today he was smartly dressed in jacket and shirt and he must have been melting on the stage, but this didn’t effect how funny he was at all. Amongst other things, Gore can do clever jokes, dark jokes, sick jokes and clever dark sick jokes. This means that there is a thrill of anticipation when he buzzes in; more so when he pauses as if trying to judge whether the room will go with what he is about to say. Some of his highlights were Findus Lasagne, Bill Cosby, Google tax returns and the second series of Sons of Anarchy, which frankly deserves as much shit pouring over it as possible. Gore is a superb pannelist.
Todd was the odd one out on this panel – all of the other contestants are (I believe) pro comedians and she was the least experienced by quite a way. You wouldn’t have believed this, though, from watching her. Todd’s reference points aren’t arcane or require a lot of time listening to the home service to get; instead they are down to earth. This makes them more relatable. When she mentioned eyelashes on cars everyone knew the sort of person she was talking about and the same with her nanna and Liam Neeson. Todd’s standout line was about a wine list, which was a very strong gag. Like everyone else on the panel, not everything she said landed, but a heck of a lot did and I’d like to see more of Todd on the show.
This wasn’t a good day for Delaney’s self esteem as most of the panel spent the show taking the piss out of his waistline, but it was a great day for him making people laugh. Delaney is a great act and this show plays to his strengths, yet instead of dominating it, he was content to take a more relaxed approach and let the other panellists make the most of their afternoon in Derby. A lot of what he had to say was wonderfully dark in tone and I was very impressed with the Isle of Wight joke, the stream of childish tv programmes and the biscuit gags.
The first thing that strikes you about Steve Day is just how in shape he is. This is a man who looks fit and healthy, which is no surprise considering that he had cycled 40 miles to the gig from Birmingham (prompting Death to announce that he was going to follow him home along the dangerous roads). As a panellist Day has a slight disadvantage in being deaf and this meant that he didn’t get to join in with the banter as much as the others, but he made up for this in his answers during the rounds. His story about proposing marriage was charming, as was his notion of banning twitter and reinstating shouting at the telly, but where he scored big was with his scenario of the House of Commons being reconstituted as a bouncy castle. This was funny in itself and gave the other panellists plenty to work with as they riffed with it. Watching Death doing a parliamentary talk whilst he and Sam Gore were bobbing up and down was surreal, but funny. There was another glorious moment when he innocently asked Death about his autism, much to the surprise of Death. Day had a good show.
As is traditional, Death got the majority of the best lines, as he put the finishing topper on the gags of the panellists, such as when he advised Todd that he was going to be dropping in on her nanna. Every so often McDonnell would insert the word ‘allegedly’ into the show just to keep things tidy legally and every time he did this Death would leap in with both big feet and say something defamatory. This was superbly funny and shows just how much Death relishes his role. In addition to this, Death spent 90% of the show grinning like the Cheshire cat, which was very warming.