Tonight I was back in Sheffield at the Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. This is a smashing gig with a crowd who are not only comedy savvy, but who are also really up for having a good time. In addition to the promoters Jules Wasley and Stewart Coleman being there, the manager and agent Adam Rushton of A Rush of Laughter was also present, plus a reviewer, which can be seen as either an opportunity to impress, or a bad night to have a bad night. It was hard to find out who was on the bill prior to getting there, which made this something of a lucky dip, but one that came up a winner.
This was the first time that Peace had compered a comedy night. His usual forte is MC’ing burlesque nights, cabaret, cruises and the like, so whilst not directly experienced with comedy per se, he is used to working with audiences. Visually Peace cuts quite a dash, being elegantly dressed in trousers, frilly shirt (changed to leopard print for the last section) and a jacket and I really got the impression that this is someone who would feel quite at home with a top hat and cane . He is also physically lively on stage, moving about, stretching his legs as if looking for a pole to wrap them around and even venturing into the audience. On the positive side Peace is someone whom it is very hard not to warm to, is lively and has a good singing voice. This is something he put to good use with a couple of songs, a slow Like a Virgin and a modified Abba song. On the downside, he did mangle some names and he ticked most boxes of the stereotypical gay act – pretending to come on to chaps, making references about his availability during the breaks, hugging people who weren’t that into being hugged and so on and there wasn’t really anything new in this. It was more fun than funny and just not that original. Given Peace’s strength in performing and his warmth as a person, he could become a decent compere at comedy nights if he aimed more for the funny and widened his range.
Stacy Silcox (Keith Carter)
Carter is a good act and so anything new by him is of great interest. The deadpan Silcox made a very low energy start as they stood still and spoke slowly, hardly blinking. This made for compelling viewing and they got their first applause break for the don’t heckle comment rather quickly. From here we were off into a surreal world that was cemented together with some very inventive and clever thoughts. The only bit of material that I wasn’t quite sure of was the death ray, but everything else was tip top, especially the greeting cards and the phone call. The room work was very strong, with a chap called Mike being used as a foil for much of the set. The delivery was spot on and the moment where Stacy’s deadpan expression cracked and they started to laugh prior to someone recommending Zen was a delight, with all of the room enjoying it. This was a very accomplished opening to the night.
I’ve seen quite a bit recently of the upcoming Jones and that is fine by me. Tonight he was trying some new material in between spots of more established routines. His existing material, African name, his brother and the story about his youngest went down well and as ever he impressed me with his ability to subtly work the audience. Of the new material, smoking isn’t there yet although the concept has something to it, but neighbours shows a lot of promise. I can see that becoming a very nice routine indeed. I enjoyed watching this.
We resumed after the intermission with Sutcliffe, whom I’d not seen before. I didn’t care much for his opening gag, based around the microphone, as I thought it a bit predictable, but the rest of the room enjoyed it and in fairness this was the only joke that you could see coming. Everything else was wonderfully unpredictable, such as new me, the scotch egg and the riddle. Also, considering that Sutcliffe is the umpteenth comedian to have material on a speed awareness course he did well to keep that novel. The routine about the barbers was well thought out and the call back very nice. This was a well written set that had a lot going for it. Sutcliffe speaks in short sentences. He’d do a quick set up. Then you’d get the reveal. This worked well not only for anyone with a short attention span, but it ensured that there was a good laughter rate.
Byron opened with a gag about making a good impression, but I think that she would have benefited from something a little bit stronger to help establish herself. However, this was swiftly remedied by her first routine. Her ideas for improving the world were fun, with the new name for narcos being short and funny and the Christmas permutations an highlight that has scope to perhaps be enlarged on a little bit to include a few more days. The 4th thing that she’d change led into a story about cake, which I wasn’t that convinced of. It had a fairly long set up for the reveal and as it unavoidably involved a word that she and no one else wanted to hear it felt a tiny bit clunky, too. The slapping routine was similar in having a long set up for the reveal. The ruin them material was superb, though. Her set really came to life with this and she cut a powerful figure as she delivered it, almost personally to a chap sat at the front. This section was very pleasing. Byron has a slow and measured delivery, which I liked, but which did have the side effect of drawing out the set ups a little bit. I think that Byron has a lot of potential. She has good presence and held the room, the measured delivery has its charm and with either an edit to lessen the gaps between the funny lines or perhaps a twist on the punchlines, the material that I’m not so keen on would be more punchy. I enjoyed seeing Byron and hope to see her again.
Nige (Keith Carter)
Nige made an amazing big start to his set and this built up a a lot of atmosphere that he sustained throughout his entire performance. This was a set that mixed material and audience work and which jumped from topic to topic and from person to person in a way that should, by rights, have been disconcerting, but which instead stayed as fresh as a daisy. Nige is very fast on his feet mentally and had a witty line for everything that anyone said to him and he gave the impression that he was two steps in front of everyone he spoke to. This included the people sat at the front who unwisely made a couple of comments to each other and were caught out. My personal favourite of this performance was when Nige spoke to Matt, as if his alter ego, Stacy hadn’t spent five minutes or so talking to him earlier in the night. This led to a masterful series of call backs. The set piece routine about the various dog breeds was great and I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of laughter and applause. The song about Liverpool (not sponsored by the Merseyside Tourist Board) gave a good ending to the show and it was nice to see Nige get encored back to the stage. Having two characters performed by Keith Carter on the bill was a bonus. The call backs worked splendiferously and each is a strong act in its own right. However, to get the most out of it, I think a little bit more differentiation between each would go a long way. This was a very good night of laughter.