Tonight I was at Bluey’s my favourite Alfreton Australian steakhouse for the FaF Comedy night. It was unusual being there without Stoney who was unavoidably detained in Germany. Instead Abbi was filling in for him and apart from one brief hiccup in announcing the compere to the stage before tipping him off that it was time, she did well and the evening ran smoothly and to schedule.
Chris Tavner (MC)
There was a lot to like in Tavner’s work. I think it’s wonderful that he makes a big effort to get dressed up for a gig and he is still the best dressed man in comedy. Being so smartly turned out gave him a head start in establishing his authority over the audience tonight and this may partially explain why he was successful in moving people forwards towards the stage. His compering consisted of a mix of audience work and material, leaning more to material (Ireland was very good). He chatted to a couple of people, discovering a painter and decorator and an actual astronomer, which set up some nice moments for the rest of the acts. His joke about amber nectar deserved more than it received and I thought the playful back heel kick of his on ‘fun’ was a lovely visual touch. I was very happy to see him continue to work during the intermissions, as he chatted to people in the audience, because I think this can really help comperes to build up a relationship with the room. Another thing I appreciated was his way of building up the applause, which I thought worked wonderfully well. Tavner was fun and got stronger as the night went on, but perhaps a little bit more research about the venue, personalities present and the area before he took to the stage would have given him a big advantage. Tavner was the victim of a practical joke, being told that there was a meat raffle and so he spent some time talking about how nice it was to be back in the North and returned to the forthcoming meat raffle a few times during the course of the night, only being told what everyone else knew, that it was for free tickets and a drink, as he was about to do the draw….
Wall is visually interesting, wearing Rupert the Bear style trousers and having a passing resemblance to a young and white version of Danny Trejo. He also has a clear voice, which is an advantage. Slightly surprisingly for someone from the East End of London he only had a faint accent. Of his material, I liked imaginary friends, Ed Sheeran, blind dating and the bus story – the callback to this was much appreciated. However, jokes about there being three types of people and some not being able to count, Ann Summers having a back to school range in the local shit town (good call on using Derby, though I personally would have gone for Mansfield) and the sound of someone chubby falling downstairs sounding like the end of Eastenders are all pretty well known lines. Bluey’s has a pretty comedy savvy crowd and I’d be surprised if these were new to anyone there. None of these were bad jokes and they got laughs, but I think Wall could improve on them by giving them a twist. This wasn’t a bad set, but I think he would have been better received if he had gone on during the middle rather than opening.
It’s rather lovely when you see an act that you’re not familiar with and come away highly impressed and that is exactly what happened tonight with Dimarelos. He only arrived in the country from Australia this week, being up for Edinburgh and so I think I’m lucky to have caught him. He began well with a solid opening line and then he made some well observed comments about the room, which went down well, before moving on to material. I liked the bus call back to Wall’s set, which showed that he had been listening and I also liked the Liverpool gag, but felt that he could make it stronger by naming the local shit town to wherever he is performing that night. Dimarelos’ references were vivid and arresting, especially when discussing pineapples and this added a lot of life to what he was saying, although this routine wasn’t quite so fast paced as the rest of his set. Dimarelos was a lively, funny and confident presence and I was sorry to see him come off the stage – if he’d done another five minutes I’d have been very happy, as would the audience.
It’s been a while since I last saw Woodings and like the last time I saw him, I could see definite improvement in his work. What struck me the most tonight, was just how well he brought the audience into his set, making his performance feel really relevant to them. There are some comedians who perform almost as if the audience is an afterthought, whereas Woodings made his spot feel like it was bespoke to Bluey’s. He began by getting the audience clapping before deliberately changing course much to the amusement of everyone with their hands in the air. When he sang Paint it matte he made sure to reference the painter and decorator present and there was a nice moment later on when he revealed the song that he had just dedicated to a long married couple. I liked his new material about zoos although I did half expect a quick throwaway reference to a cuddly toy to go with the conveyor belt scenario. This was a very strong performance that received a lot of laughter from the audience.
I don’t see a lot of Andrew Bird and that is a shame, because he is a consistently strong act. Tonight he delivered a barnstormer of a set that matched great material and a polished delivery with relatable topics. The result of this was a lot of laughter and applause. Bird began well with talking about nearby Matlock and then he went from here to talk about parents, friends, pets and marriage – all things that everyone in the room could relate to very easily. His routine about the Millwall fan, which can only have been written in the last few months, was not only magnificently funny but also so well delivered that it felt like he had been doing it for ages. Bird moved seamlessly from topic to topic and there were hardly any words that didn’t add value. He was fast speaking and probably gave the room an extra 5-10 minutes of material in the time that he was on. Bird also looked joyful whilst doing this and combined with the verve with which he delivered his set he built up one heck of a head of steam. This was a superb set and Bird ended the night on a definite high.