A night where the MC gets punched to the ground, one act ends his set naked and another begins in his underpants is always going to be memorable. The Stage Dive Comedian of the Year night was memorable for other reasons, too. It didn’t begin that well for me, as I got gloriously lost in Chesterfield and ended up walking five sides around a hexagram before I eventually found where I was meant to be. The venue is a good size with a large stage and Shooter did well to attract so many people to this on a Friday night, including Stewart Coleman, who was supporting the night as a spectator. This was quite a high stakes contest, with not only further (paid) spots up for grabs, but a rather nice trophy and £100 in cash, which is a very respectable amount. There were nine contestants, each of whom had seven minutes to perform in. This is the same period as English Comedian of the Year and whilst it represents a compromise between a brief five minutes and a ten that makes the night end late, it still feels a bit of an odd amount of stage time. We began, though with the organiser and MC, Jared Shooter.
Jared Shooter (MC)
This is effectively a home town gig for Jared and I’m confident that he knew almost everyone in the audience by name. This gave him an advantage in that he could use his local knowledge well, but it also ensured that he couldn’t dip into material, as they would be familiar with it. Also, I think it may have hurt his authority, as it’s harder when the audience know you personally as a friend. Shooter is a very likeable chap and that is his strength. He’s not yet that adept at rolling with responses to his questions and fell back on asking people what their favourite thing was four times. He also has a tendency to occasionally trip up over words, going with psycho instead of psychic and confusing podiatry with paediatrician, but his innate charisma ensured that this actually worked to his advantage and both occasions were funny. One of the more unusual stunts I’ve seen a compere do is to bring frying pans to a gig and do a timed toss off of pancakes, but Jared beat that hollow tonight. He knew that there was a boxer in the audience, so he invited him up onto the stage to give him dead arms. Ross, the boxer, duly obliged and with his cross to Jared’s left arm knocked him clean over for a good 8 count. This was quite a spectacle and was definitely different, but I’m not sure that I’d like to see it become a regular thing. I’m not sure Jared would either – it looked like it hurt. There was a nice call back to this in the final section, where Shooter came to the stage wearing an improvised sling. Jared is a relaxed host who whilst not perhaps the smoothest out there, makes up for it with charisma.
Opening this gig was going to be tough for whoever did it, but Dryburgh didn’t make a bad job of it at all. Having recently became a father, he’s not been gigging as regularly as he’d like and this did show a bit in it not flowing as well as usual. He began well with some nicely visual material about his forehead, which being right in front of the audience allowed them to get onboard quickly. From here he spoke about partners past and present and this was decent material. The call back to Christmas didn’t land as well as it usually does, but I think that was due to him going on first, rather than anything else. Dryburgh put in a solid performance, but would perhaps have benefited a bit by altering the pace of the gags to make it more punchy, because whilst he’d have built up well over ten minutes, seven didn’t really give him as much of a chance.
Selwood had a good gig and I thought he stood a decent chance of being in the top three. He began well by referencing his left hand. This made a benefit out of what may have become an elephant in the room. When he spoke to a lady sat at the front (I think it was a lady, it was hard to tell from where I was) about touching it, this set up a nice routine, which probably did need a bigger final pay off, but it still ambled along nicely. I was impressed by Selwood’s adaptability. He was very much at home mixing material with chatting to the audience and didn’t seem too worried by flipping from one approach to the other. Even when he drew a blank about mother’s on facebook, he wasn’t bothered, he just reworked the question to children on facebook and carried on without missing a beat. This was a good set.
I was looking forwards to seeing Haroon. I’d only seen him once before and he’d been good then, winning a gong show in fine style. His material is very well written and cerebral in tone. This is stuff that requires the audience to do a bit of work for themselves and I really enjoy comedy like this. I did think that a few lines were under appreciated by the audience, who possibly weren’t fully with him, but other ones such as Jihad and holiday went down very well. Although he was briefly interrupted in one gag by someone talking loudly, this didn’t hurt his performance and Haroon emerged a good third place.
We resumed after the first intermission with Pat Draper, who had read the room well. They responded extremely well to his deadpan delivery and well crafted material. I thoroughly enjoyed the pick a letter moment, when the audience thought that they had got the joke and he then hit them from another angle and judging by the applause I wasn’t the only person who liked it. This was a set that began strongly and maintained the momentum all through. Draper placed a very respectable second.
I’d not seen Davies before, so I was looking forwards to watching her perform. She opened with a visual gag that I liked, although I do think a few members of the audience may have taken it at face value. From here she talked about her home town, with the sibling line being a standout. I initially thought that the Pamela Anderson reference was a bit 1990s, but in context it made perfect sense and considering the other person chosen, there is probably scope for adding to that routine. The yoghurt pot description was strikingly vivid and the topper was very good. This was a set that flowed smoothly.
The last time I saw Hoss, he’d had a challenging night – anyone who can go to high five someone sat on the front row, misjudge the distance, fall and demolish a table can be described as having a challenging night. There had been a lot of bad luck for him that night and from what I saw tonight, I’m beginning to wonder just how many mirrors he’s smashed. He began by talking about his Masters degree and asking the audience about their degrees. This will work in some rooms, but in a depressed mining town in front of an audience of people having a Friday night knees up, it is more of a long shot than in many places. Paradoxically, his notion of weird degrees has real potential, but he didn’t really explore it. Hoss then went with a bit more material and it became obvious that the room wasn’t exactly fully onboard, so he spoke about going off and coming back on. However, he didn’t do this and I’m not fully sure exactly how he got from this and perhaps Hoss isn’t either, but he went from attempting to reset his performance to stripping off. He began by undoing a few buttons on his shirt and here the sounds guy really stepped up – he began to play You can leave your hat on. Hoss announced that he didn’t think he was going to win the contest, which received his biggest laugh and whilst saying that, he took one shoe off and then a sock, which was thrown into the audience. Very quickly he was down to his trousers and when he asked for a cheer if people wanted him to keep them on I was sure that the loud response meant that that was the end of it, but perversely there was an even louder cheer for him going further, which he obliged. The sounds guy put Tom Jones back on and Hoss ended up starkers. This was definitely not something easily forgotten once seen and like the punch out earlier, a spectacle, but I’m rather hoping that stripping off when a night goes badly will not catch on.
Luckily that was the end of the middle section, as no one would have been able to follow and when Triscott took to the stage after the break he was met by a shout of ‘take your clothes off’, possibly a new experience for him. Triscott gave the room a mix of one-liners and short routines and I felt that the room wasn’t that sure of him for the first forty seconds or so. However, they swiftly warmed to him and he went on to have the best night I’ve seen him have. His material was improved, with quite a number of good gags in there and the clever jokes interspersed with the odd pleasingly daft one. He’d perhaps benefit from having a few gags that link up (plus a later call back), as this would help him build momentum, but as it stands, I feel that he is moving in the right direction and I’m looking forwards to seeing him in a few months’ time.
Jenking had what you might call not a total success. I’ve not seen him do material for ages, as I’m more used to seeing him compere, where his ability to chat with people, win them round and to enthuse a joy of comedy in them is a big advantage. Tonight he began with material and there were some decent bits such as nicknames. However, Jenking perhaps made too much of being from Nottingham, which didn’t endear him to the good people of Chesterfield. Upon receiving a groan for a slightly dubious reference, he playfully admonished the room, ‘don’t groan at me you c****’. This was something of a high risk move and if he’d had a bit more momentum behind him, he could have pulled it off and ridden the laugh through to the end of his set. Unfortunately the room didn’t go that way and they turned against him, which more or less finished his set, barring a spot of heckling, which he had to put down. The comedians and myself thought his comment to the room extremely funny, certainly more funny that the audience found it. This was a rare slip from a man who is usually so sure footed in dealing with people.
King had a splendid night. He began extremely well by coming to the stage in just his pants, carrying his clothes and in a call back to Hoss’ set, announcing that in contrast, he begins his set nude and then puts his clothes on. From here he went from strength to strength. His local knowledge enabled what was already a good joke to land just that bit harder. Everything King said received a laugh and with hardly a moment that went to waste he gave the room a great set. There was a palpable feeling that the audience were fully with him and he not only ended the night on a high, but came away as the deserved winner.