Tonight I was in Grantham at The Gingerbread for the Funhouse Comedy night. As this gig was in the function room of Grantham Town FC, it was pretty easy to find – all I had to do was look for the stadium. The room itself was spotless and quite big, with a fairly high ceiling, but it also had a sterile feeling to it. There were little of the odds and ends on walls or character that you get with a gig in a pub. This meant that the room resembled an oversized team meeting in an office. There wasn’t a huge crowd there, but I’ve been to plenty of lovely gigs where there has been a small but up for it audience. Unfortunately this audience was very much mixed in that regard. On one side, there were a few people who were quietly appreciative of the comedy. In the middle were a more ambivalent crowd, which included a lady who seemed to go from being sober to totally drunk during Andy Robinson’s set. And then there was a table where a family had definitely had enough to drink and concurrently had the attention spans of gnats. With a few more people there the balance of the room would have swung in favour of those wanting to enjoy comedy, but as it was, this was a very difficult gig for the acts. It was also one where no one could be too harsh in putting people down as the mood of the room was too uncertain for that. All too large a percentage of the room thought it was interactive and wanted to banter and talk back to the comics. Almost every line provoked a brief conversation amongst the crowd. This is highly unusual for Grantham, as the gigs at the Guildhall are truly lovely and this one has the potential to be nice, too.
Stevie Gray MC
It’s always a pleasure to see Gray. I’ve found him to be a very lively and inventive compere. Tonight, he began work before the gig had even started by chatting to the audience and working the room prior to the show commencing. Usually Gray will mix material and room work with props and music, but considering that our opening act was musical and used props, he wisely gave these elements a miss so as not to make things tricky for Mundo Jazz. Gray is lively and enthusiastic and very quickly had the room cheering. I really liked some new material of his and I can see that being a regular fixture in his set. As well as warming up the room, it was nice to see him remember to do the rules and send out the email sign up sheets. He dealt with a persistent heckler during the first intermission by having a quiet word with him and giving him a hug – something that would have silenced all but those totally lacking in self-awareness, which unhappily this interrupter suffered from. Gray had a good night and did all that was possible with the crowd short of deliberately being rude to people and he ended the night in style by getting the headliner onto the stage whilst he smartly stepped into a lift at the side of the stage and vanished from sight.
Mundo Jazz is a character/musical act. The character is that of a Columbian singer, for which he speaks in a Spanish accent and dresses like a 1970’s prog rock singer with a fake ‘tache This isn’t especially deep as characterisation goes, but it’s enough for a bit of fun. Tonight he opened with a reasonable satnav joke, which wasn’t immediately obvious to all of the audience and this resulted in half of the room dissecting it and him explaining it. This wasn’t a great start, but he then ended up in a battle of wits with an audience member and came off second best. Mundo Jazz then wisely cut his losses and restarted the night, walking onto the stage anew. This salvaged his performance, even though he did keep on going back to one persistent heckler, when as a musical act he would perhaps have been wiser just to have ignored and then sung over him. Mundo Jazz was skilled at working information received from the audience into songs and this was a nice touch. The smoking gag was particularly strong. However, the mainspring of his set was his songs. I’m not a fan of musical acts, but I did like the t-shirt song, which was well thought out. However, with a lot of the songs, you’d got the joke by the end of the first verse and in my opinion any more was overkill and this was especially true of the drunken song, whilst Quincy worked best with those of a certain age. The audience liked Mundo Jazz more than I did. I would have liked to have seen more well thought out humour in the set, as this was painted in broad strokes, rather than nuance.
We resumed after the first intermission with London based Clint Edwards and there was a lot to like in this intelligent set. A lot of Edward’s material related to things specific to the room and to Grantham itself and it was evident that he has a keen eye for spotting the funny. He had done his research and he had no end of quirky facts about Grantham to weave into his performance. He was rather reminiscent of Mark Steel’s in Town with this and much appreciated by me for it. Generally when an act has put in the effort to make a gig feel bespoke for a particular location it is well received by the audience, but in this case the results were more mixed due to this room being so interactive. Whilst a wiser audience might have let him get on with the task in hand, this one was that was more than happy to talk about most of his facts with him. He dealt well with this and was good at thinking quickly – turning was an especially fine example of this. I wasn’t that keen when he made a joke about the L and the I of his name being too close together on the poster, as this is an old joke, but in fairness this still got a nice laugh and it led onto some enjoyable material. Unluckily, the same person who had helped to rob Mundo Jazz of momentum did the same to Edwards by talking and interrupting during his performance. Edwards won the battle of wits, but his interlocutor was impervious to this and it was a relief when the man’s wife led him outside for a bit. The audience settled down for Edward’s closing routine and this made a huge difference to the room. It suddenly became a very nice gig for that brief couple of minutes. Edwards was fun to watch and he’s an act I’d definitely like to see more of.
Robinson was a confident and assured presence. I really liked his mushroom joke, but the age of the audience was against it getting the kind of response that it deserved. Just as it was looking like the room had settled down the same party who had been disruptive throughout the night struck again and Robinson had to halt what he was doing to deal with them. Realising he was in a zero sum game he invited them to leave which happily they did. However, any hopes that this would allow him to crack on were dashed pretty soon when he tried to use a chair during a routine. He was then told in no uncertain terms by a lady who had gone from seeming sober to being drunk in ten minutes that that chair had recently been upholstered and that he couldn’t sit on it. Naturally this left Robinson bemused about the purpose of a chair that one can’t sit on. He was then momentarily offered her chair before she took it back. This wrecked that routine, but like Edwards, he received good laughs for his ability to think on his feet and improvise. The lady then attempted to start a dialogue with him, which he genially tried to close down by pointing out she had a vested interest in the night being a success, to which she announced that she was the person paying him. This was something of a gift to Robinson, who thoroughly enjoyed pointing out that she had already paid him. In between bantering with the room and ad libbing responses there was some nice material trying to get out and Robinson has a good club singing voice. Andy did an extra ten minutes, ending the night with a Q and A, where he received the mind-boggling query from this lady of did he know who her father was. Robinson did well with this gig and it was nice to see people shaking his hand afterwards.
This gig wasn’t a great one and it’s a shame as this venue has potential. It was simply a case of their being a fairly small audience and the balance favouring those who wanted to chat or had had too much to drink. With a few more people there to quietly enjoy the show this would have been a totally different night.