The Blessington Carriage – Matt Bragg, Mark Kennedy, Julian Lee, Adam Coumas, Kelsey de Almeida, Faye Treacy, Chris Stokes

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night and I can say that this was a cracking start to the new season. It was one of those nights where pretty much every act did very well and the crowd were definitely up for it. Between Doug and partner who were celebrating their marriage last week, Bob the Asian Elvis impersonator (yes, for real, not just a nickname for the evening) and Helen with her Woody the Woodpecker laugh, we had a very nice audience indeed. Getting Bob up to sing a bit of Elvis before the final section worked wonderfully well. Spiky Mike himself was firing on all cylinders and he hit the room with a lot of energy during his compering and this was a night that was great to see.

Matt Bragg

Bragg began the night and he gave a splendid opening performance. As a low energy, softly spoken comic, it was a tribute to his ability just how well he did, as usually this slot suits the more lively and brash acts. What Bragg did have, though, was a well written set with some subtle reveals, a reassuring stage presence and the ability to draw the audience in. Although I felt the bread set up could have been edited down a touch, it worked well and everything else was spot on, including the puns. This was a very good set indeed and I’m rather pleased that he has moved into the area.

Mark Kennedy

Kennedy made an interesting start with a visual clothing gag and then he gave the room the darkest material of the night. In his soft Geordie voice he would tell jokes and then stop at the punchline, letting the audience figure that bit out themselves. I liked this approach, as it can mean more when you have to do a tiny bit of work to get the gag, although I think a couple might not have been fully worked out by a few people and the crack reveal probably works better within 50 miles of Newcastle. There were a lot of good clever jokes in this set, but I don’t think they all landed as well as what they might have done. It might have been a bit early for some of the edgier ones, or perhaps they just needed that bit more to get the most out of them. Kennedy isn’t the finished article, but he’s definitely got something to build on.

Julian Lee

Lee, the second Geordie in a row, is a very strong one-liner act, who probably doesn’t get as much work as his talent deserves due to geographical reasons. Tonight he opened with a pun ad-libbed from Mike’s compering and never really looked back from there. Despite having a sore throat, his forceful delivery (he probably didn’t need the mic) gave his already good puns added punch. This was a set with a lot of laughter. The only bit I wasn’t too sure of was the Reluctant Cowboy, which in a longer set would provide a welcome change of pace, but which in this ten spot, whilst good, probably gave him one laugh (albeit good) in the time he could have gotten three or four with his puns. That was my only minor quibble in what was a great set.

Adam Coumas

We resumed after the first intermission with Coumas, whom I saw deliver a very good set in Oakham the other week. Whilst this performance didn’t hit home as well as that did, there was still a lot to like in it. The material was good, especially the advertising slogans, which made for a strong closing routine and I enjoyed his delivery. I did think that there may be room for an additional gag with Keith, where if he had pointed to the ladies in the audience instead of at random, he may generate a possible added laugh, through the incongruity of it. This was an enjoyable set.

Kelsey de Almeida

Wearing all black and looking like a cross between Johnny Cash and a Mormon, Kelsey stood out on the stage as someone a little bit different and this was something of a bonus. He began by discussing his Portuguese/Swedish heritage and whilst I don’t think there are many Swedish connected acts who don’t mention Ikea, he did well with it. The sofa sneezing line was a lovely one, as it was so easy to picture. Kelsey was, however, politely derailed by Doug speaking to him in Swedish or Portuguese (hard to hear from where I was) and as no one would really expect that in Derby, it took him by surprise. The mood of the room was playful and with Doug being 73 and just recently married, it was hard for Kelsey to reply too much without losing more than he would have gained and when a shout from the other side of the room that he was being groomed got a huge laugh, including from Kelsey himself, I think he knew that his night had taken an unusual turn. After the laughter had subsided, Kelsey continued with a routine that revolved around him not being manly in contrast to his dad being manly, which is pretty well travelled territory. Not being a manly man seems to be to this year what internet dating was to the last two years, something that a lot of comics talk about. However, despite this, he had some good material on it and received loud laughs for it. This was something of an odd set,with a lot of laughter for the wrong reasons (being politely derailed) and the right reasons (being very funny). Whilst I don’t think that the topics Kelsey spoke about where especially original, I definitely liked what he did with them and I think he is an act with a lot of potential. I’d certainly like to see more of him.

Faye Treacy

Treacy is probably the only comedy trombonist in the country and her act is certainly quirky enough to add a nice touch of something that little bit different to bills. Her approach was to do routines in-between the musical jokes and whilst ‘commitment’ was a wonderful line, I felt the comedy side wasn’t really that strong. It was decent, but without the trombone, I don’t think it would stand up on its own. She wasn’t helped by having a tic – saying ‘right’ a lot, which once noticed was hard to stop noticing. The musical side was better, but the first routine, seemed to go on for an awful long time and I gained more from playing name that tune than from the comedy in it. The finale, opera played with a butternut squash was a spectacular end to the set, even if the humour all came from it being possible to do and the rest was just finishing off the tune. In fairness to Treacy, I’m not a fan of musical acts and this wasn’t for me – however, the rest of the audience enjoyed it and if she can strengthen the comedy side of her act, she’ll not do badly.

Chris Stokes

Stokes had put in a skilful performance when I saw him in Ashby and so it was nice to see more of him. Tonight he began by referencing the oddness of the gig; his taking to the stage after Treacy had played a butternut squash and Bob the Asian Elvis Impersonator had come up from the audience to do a song. This was followed by him talking about and how he has never had a normal visit to the city and this made for a splendid lead into his set, which started with his own connections to Derby. When discussing which of the two swimming pools he had visited to dive (including well appreciated comments about Ilkeston), he did come close to provoking a debate amongst the audience about the merits of the pools and he did well to bring everyone back on board, as the room was now in a festive mood. His tale of time spent at the station went down wonderfully well and as it was about Derby, the room lapped it up all the more. The tales of the ninja, his young looks and dog were all well written, too. Stokes was a relaxed presence, not afraid to pause his set to chat to people and he proved to be an excellent closing act.

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