Last night I was in Sheffield at the Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. As before, it was a doddle to find, but a lot more tricky to get a parking space nearby. I ended up parking a good five minutes away up a hill that seemed steeper on the way back up than it did on the way down. The venue is located in quite a vibrant area of Sheffield that has a student feel to it. The room itself has a high ceiling, which was a bonus to Tom Wrigglesworth, as he didn’t have to worry about bumping his head whilst on stage and it had a very nice intimate feel to it. The night wasn’t quite sold out, but, you probably wouldn’t have noticed much difference as almost every seat was filled. The audience was lively and inclined to chat to the acts, not in a heckling kind of way, but more through enthusiasm than anything else and whilst this didn’t help the comedians in sticking rigidly to their material, it did do wonders for making it feel like a community having fun together.
Hayley Ellis (MC)
I’d only seen Ellis once before, where she had done a good middle spot and she had impressed me then with her ability. As a compere one of her strengths is her natural warmth. She reminded me a bit of Lou Conran in being one of those people who somehow manage to brighten up a room just by being there and having likeability is a definite bonus for an MC. Ellis began by asking if anyone was celebrating anything, which elicited a huge cheer from a group of girls fortuitously sat at the front. Upon enquiry it was revealed that one of them had just quit her job working in a morgue – some nights the comedy Gods smile upon the compere – and Ellis made the most of this, asking the lady (who really was far too bubbly to be working with corpses) questions that everyone wanted to know, including what she was going to do next, as cutting up dead bodies is a skill that can only have limited transferability. From here she chatted to a girl who seemed to have the knack of drawing attention to herself, but who didn’t really want to get too involved in the night, so she kept it light with her. Ellis was skilled at weaving the odd bit of material into her room work and this had a naturalistic aura to it. I was impressed with the contents of a fridge idea, not so much because it was funny, but more because it was original and something different to asking half of the room for their name, occupation and location. It was also nice to see that Ellis knew when not to pursue someone. There was a chap talking towards the back of the room just as she was about to bring on an act and she made an instant correct deduction that just a quick mention of it would be enough and would work better than making a big deal of it and then having to reset the room again. Ellis was a fun compere and a definite addition to the night.
Opening was Tom wrigglesworth, who was trying some new material. Wrigglesworth is an exceptionally talented story teller. He has a great turn of phrase that makes the unhurried nature in which the tale unfolds a pleasure. It’s rare to find the build ups to be just as enthralling as the punchlines, although the mine reveal was superb and landed so well for being so out of the blue. The entire home brewing story was splendid and I can easily see it becoming a stand out routine. The fire alarm was more of a work in progress, but there is certainly a lot there to work with. Wrigglesworth would ask a question about batteries or acronyms and this would result in the room joining in, which he handled well. There was something rather enjoyable in Tom asking a question about speed awareness courses and within a few minutes being asked a question in return about groats. The same can be said about his foray into acronyms and people suggesting other ones for him to construe. He may have ended up off piste, but all the same it was very entertaining and even when having to think a bit about L.A.S.E.R, he kept everyone laughing with him over the course of a bonus length set that seemed to fly by.
When I saw Brooker’s name on the bill I erroneously assumed that he’d be compering and I was happy enough with that, as I really rate his abilities, but I was thinking how nice it would be to see him doing a set. So it came as a big bonus to discover that that was exactly what was on the cards. He began with a joke about awkward tension, which he really sold with his facial expression as he swung his head slowly from one side of the room to the other. He then went into describing himself and it’s not often that you hear whoops of joy at someone being ginger. It was soon obvious that he had been paying full attention during Ellis’ compering and Wrigglesworth’s set, as he knew who was whom, where they were sat and he never got anyone confused. I really do like it when acts pay attention like this – it sets a good example to the audience and it makes the night feel more than the sum of its’ component sets. All of this was evidenced by him asking the ex Morgue worker what she had taken home with her and much more spectacularly with a lady who jumped horses. This became one of those moments where I was left wondering whether this was fantastic ad-libbing or a great stroke of luck in him having material specific to the situation. This was very funny and the matter of fact way by which he described the circumstances regarding an unexpected item in the bath added a lot. The kidney routine was good and the mention of Korea was timely, but the tongue trip regarding One Direction and one dimension was priceless. Brooker has a Somerset accent and despite having seen him a few times I’d not really noticed it much before, but last night he made it an asset, using it a couple of times, most particularly during his closing routine. This was well written and finished the set off with a climax. This was a very good set that everyone in the room was enthusiastic about and Brooker looked as if he was having a great time delivering it, which I think everyone found infectious.
Vince Atta is a solid closing act and tonight proved to be no exception. He opened with a great callback to Brooker’s one dimension slip and continued the good work with referencing the lady sat near the front who worked on nights at Sainsbury’s. After this he launched into his set, which went down as well as it always does – ie, very well indeed. I’ve seen Atta a fair few times and what keeps his performance fresh to me are his facial expressions and his ability to squeeze local references into his work. Vince is wonderfully expressive and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching him do ‘resting bitch face’. At the end of his set pretty much everyone was shouting for more, so he gave the room an encore where he added a bass line to a song that famously lacked one before ending on a strong punchline.