This has been a splendid month for comedy. Although I have only seen 46 acts, the quality has been superb. This has really highlighted what a real shame it is that more people don’t go and see live comedy unless there is a TV name involved. As always, acts that I recommended the month or so before are time barred from appearing again.
The highlight of the month was easily the Funhouse Champion of champions gong show final: 9 acts, all excellent and all on top form. This was simply a cracking night where no one had a weak gig.
The low light was performer who just didn’t show at a gig. No phone call, no messages, just a no show. This was the second time that this particular act had been on a bill and had done a vanishing trick. For this to happen once it is bad luck, but for it to happen a second time it’s a bit rum – stage time is at a premium and someone else could have had a chance.
These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:
Briggs has made a name for himself for being dark and edgy, but there is a heck of a lot of depth to him and his intelligent approach to writing should take him far.
From the night:
Briggs was doing new material and it’s always interesting seeing what he has to offer. Despite the audience not being huge he treated the gig as if it had sold out and gave a headliner performance. He opened with a heavy hitting gag about a biker’s gig and then built from there. The theme of the set was racism and Briggs eased the audience into it by talking about voting, elections and brexit. This worked well to establish both his ability and personality with the audience. A white comedian doing material about race generally goes one of three ways: they either touch on it and then quickly move on, draw the comedy in broad strokes or become preachy and parade their more right on than thou credentials. Briggs managed to avoid coming close to any of those. He was nuanced, got his point across and was very funny, building loads of momentum. He’s obviously put a lot of thought into this and it is an intelligent routine with a lot of laughs. This was a great set and I can see why he’s been booked for a week of three gigs a day in Chicago.
A very new act, only aged 18 and not that experienced, but with loads of potential. Braithwate has funny bones and with enough stage time he will develop into a solid act.
From the night:
Living the furthest away by quite a margin, I shouldn’t be surprised if Braithwaite actually volunteered to go on first. Wearing a cape, which gave him the look of a substitute teacher at Hogwarts, Braithwaite made an immediate visual impression. This impact was magnified by his splendid intonation and his wonderfully offbeat material. All of this was then added to by his physical performance, which consisted of him jerking from side to side as if the remote control working him was being used as a stage to riverdance on by a group of hamsters. All of this combined made a huge impression and Braithwate received big laughs throughout his set. He did run out of material at the 6 minute mark, but such was the strength of his persona that even just faffing about for the last minute he remained compulsive viewing and got big laughs. With just one more joke, I think he would have made the final, where he would surely have been in with a chance of winning. This is a man who most definitely has funny bones.
Good well written material and a great presence.
From the night:
I’d only seen Kearse once before at Nottingham Jongleurs where he had impressed me; so when I almost bumped into him when hanging up my hat and coat, it came as a nice surprise to see him there. Kearse began strongly with material relating to his name and background and then he built on this with a very powerful set that covered a lot of ground and which never came close to getting bogged down. His material had an internal logic to it that helped it to stay not only consistent to what he had said previously, but which helped the audience to stay with him throughout his set. And the audience most definitely were with him, youngish and old, women and men, all were laughing heartily at what Kearse was saying, especially Judi Stafford, sat 6′ away from me, whose laugh seemed to echo about wonderfully. Kearse has a definite presence, which combined with his speedy delivery gave more impetus to what he was saying. His room work was good, when he put Ken, a distinguished looking elderly chap, on the spot and then ran with his reply was a lot of fun. I did have two small quibbles, neither of which are serious: ‘so I was in…. because it’s going well’ is a bit overused as a line, but as with most of these things, it got a laugh. Kearse also said ‘know what I mean’ three or four times, but I was probably the only person who noticed, so again, far from the end of the world. When I saw Kearse previously he had a magnificent routine about a trip to the Far East and some shenanigans involving a toilet – this routine was fantastic, so when to close he announced he’d been travelling I was fair hoping he was going to close with this. Instead it was a train based routine, which had improved since I saw it before and whilst not as superb as what I was hoping to see, was still a very good closing routine to what had been an excellent set.
One-liners plus sound performance skills, this act is a real found.
From the night:
Simmons was a lovely surprise, giving the room a change of pace with his one-liners. It was also nice that he changed into a suit and shirt to perform, which I think beneficial to the audience’s first impression of an act. Oddly Simmons didn’t do his gag that Dave selected for one of their top jokes of the Fringe, good as it is. Despite that being on their list, he had far better jokes in his arsenal. Simmons’ jokes are clever, well written and employ a wonderful level of misdirection. It’s great to see the audience’s brains being sent in one direction and for the punchline to come from another. A few of his gags required explanation and he made a virtue of this in asking people if they were ok with it and then explaining the odd joke in comically slow detail so that everyone got a second laugh from it all. I loved the momentary silence on the water feature joke as it percolated through before he got the big laugh. Simmons had a very enjoyable delivery and it was good to see him doing the odd actions on his jokes to push them further. The callbacks were the icing on what was a very tasty cake. This was a set with a lot of laughter and it’s a shame he lives so far down south as I’d like to see a lot more of him.
Every time I see Lomas he has improved and he’s simply fantastic.
From the night:
If Lomas isn’t soon making a good living from doing comedy, then I’ll be amazed. Watching him perform is just sheer joy. Tonight, my mum and dad didn’t really know what to expect from him and so when he came to the stage I spent half my time watching their reaction to him. Lomas opened with just one word and my mum, plus the rest of the room immediately burst out laughing. Looking at the audience during his set, a good proportion of people spent most of their time doubled over with laughter and this was great to see. The delivery was grandiose; slow, deliberate and with a lot of forced pauses for the laughter to subside. The material was offbeat and the reveals unexpected, with every joke getting a laughter break and bare getting near enough two applause breaks, because when the first subsided it began anew and everyone joined in again. This was a tremendous performance and I’ve never seen my parents laugh so much in all of my life.