This afternoon I was at the Navigation for two shows of the Nottingham Comedy Festival. This was tricky to get to owing to masses of traffic, but luckily I got there before the show started. The actual comedy itself takes place upstairs in what you would expect to be the landlord’s living room and you wouldn’t wander up there by accident, so it’s useful to have it signposted. There weren’t many empty seats in the room and as the afternoon went on first the emergency seats were brought out and then even more chairs were found as people came to see the comedy. In addition to the audience was Nick Mellors, one of my fellow panellists on the Midlands Comedy Awards and Elliott Bower, who kept himself separate. One bonus of an afternoon gig like this is that it gives acts of the calibre of Pugh and Bennett a chance to perform without getting in the way of their paying work on a Saturday night. Fran Jenking is hosting the shows here and he’s got a sure touch. He kept things on track, warmed the room up and didn’t make the day all about him. It’s always a pleasure to watch Fran compering. The first show was Josh Pugh’s
Josh Pugh – The Nuneaton and Hinckley Technical College Review
Pugh is an original thinker; whatever he does in the way of material you can guarantee that it will always be creative and unexpected and so spending some time watching him was an easy decision for me to make. He began well by referencing the unusual artistic figures placed at the back of the room, making some funny comments that were obvious in the kind of way that only a genius would think of it, but then once said got everyone thinking he’s right. One of the fun things about watching Pugh in action is that if you know where the reveals are, you can sit back and enjoy watching the audience be surprised by them, as they are all but impossible to guess on the build up.
There were a lot of highlights to this work in progress show. The triple laugh on kiss was wonderful, off-piste was great and the story of the jacket built very nicely. Possibly the strongest element of the show was just how relaxing it all was. The pacing was spot on and the laughs came regularly, but not that often to get the audience laughed out after 20 minutes, which seems a bit counter-intuitive. Plasterer needed a bit more and I’ll have to google the head coach to get that reference, but everything else was great. Pugh is a fabulous act who is on the way up.
Scott Bennett v Scott Bennett
Bennett is a fantastic act whom I’ve never seen have anything less than a smashing gig. I’m not saying I’d pay to to hear him recite his shopping list, but I’d definitely think about it, because he can make pretty much anything funny. He’s hard working and is a perfectionist, so watching him perform a work in progress is a treat.
He took to the stage resplendent in a boxers’ robe, which was to tie in with the theme of the show. The material covered a wide range of topics, such as his journey as a performer (it would have been nice to hear of his triumph in supporting Rob Brydon, but it wouldn’t fit in with the tone), children, kid’s telly, a garden centre, mother’s advice and one of my favourite jokes: Bond. All of this was rendered massively accessible by Bennett, who paints not only a vivid picture, but one that is recognisable to everyone. As a chap whom I was talking to yesterday said, this is a comedian that you can take everyone along to see as they will all get it.
Everything was a hit and generated huge laughs, although the small routine about being on the loo was probably superfluous when the previous nappy based one and the shed are considered, but all the same it was a nice concept. Being picky, the garlic argument was a touch depressing and changing a letter on a place of work is a bit commonplace, but as I say, I’m being picky with pointing these out. I was impressed with just how splendidly Bennett rolled with an audience member being called Gordon Ramsey (real name), who sold catering equipment. Something as oddball as that could have sent him off in any number of directions, but luckily he kept his comments on it brief and funny before returning to the show.
Bennett has bags of material and he delivers it quickly. This gives the audience a lot of words to take in. It’s all very funny and the quality was great. However, it is perhaps a bit too much without something to give the audience something visual to focus on to ease the brain. There are a couple of wonderfully bizarre celebrity jobs that make an appearance and if he were to have something mocked up showing them at work that he could display on a screen plus a few other bits and bobs, it might work very well. The show title and theme tended to get lost amongst the laughter the routines generated and if you were to ask any of the fifty or so people in the room what the show’s theme was, I think you would get any number of different answers. To me, this doesn’t matter a bit, I believe that the purpose of a show is to be funny and this show is most definitely funny.