Tonight I was at the Kayal for the Funhouse gong show. This was a night that was sold out, nearly over sold out, as tables had to be removed from the room and even with extra chairs brought in, it was still difficult to stand and not to be in someone’s way. There were fifteen acts on the bill, mostly from down south and usually a few of these will drop out, but instead, all turned up, which added to just how busy the room was. The format was 4 – 7 – 4 and the judges were pretty bloodthirsty in the first section. Mike had a lovely time chatting to a metal head sat at the front and to Jamie who was in transport, which led nicely into a spot of material for him. Very swiftly the room was ready for the first act.
Aggy, wearing a LA Raiders shirt, opened. It’s unusual to see someone wearing team colours at a gig, because there is always a good chance that someone will shout out abuse because they support a different team, but Aggy escaped this. Instead he spent his time talking about being a new parent and about other, more ambitious parents who post pics on facebook of their kids with extravagant claims. Aggy is a new act and probably not aware that this topic has been done a lot of times, so it was a shame he was voted off early. He wasn’t doing great, but he did deserve to at least get to the second vote.
Harris was next up and he opened well, but his set was like a wedding with something new, something borrowed and something blue. His Weinstein joke was pretty much bang up to date, people’s reactions to him telling them he was going to do comedy had definite shades of Monkhouse and the McCann joke was pretty near the knuckle. So much so that I think he managed to alienate a judge who gave him red every chance she had. A lot of his material had a familiar feel to it, which was a shame as he had a confident and buoyant presence. Harris made it through to the final vote, where he went off.
Mather was a good act who was unfairly gonged off at the final hurdle. Referencing the Somme was something that could have gone either way on Armistice Sunday, but she got away with it, halfway was a strong line and tenuous sympathy links was a nice concept that perhaps needed a bit more to it, but it was still good and her comments about telling people she was going to do comedy earned her applause, as did her acting out the desert scene. Mather held the room very nicely and always looked plausible. Unfortunately she lost a bit of energy with the God routine just as the final vote came up and she was gonged at the last chance which was a raw deal for her, as I liked what I saw. It was perhaps some consolation to her that the judges were booed for their surprising decision. Mather is an act I’d like to see more of.
Sometimes it can take 100 gigs before an act finds their comedy voice, but Braithwaite has found his already. Although he is still very new and is not well known, he has already been nominated for Best Newcomer in the Midlands Comedy Awards. Tonight he received a laugh for his opening line and never really looked back. He made good use of his voice, lowering and raising it to add emphasis, which was in contrast to a lot of the acts tonight, who were tonally banal. His deliberately odd stage persona, cleverly offbeat jokes and unexpected reveals sent him through to the final. For his final minute he gave the room a few quick jokes and ran a much more experienced act close, emerging as the runner up.
Bridgeman was a confident act whose relaxed delivery won the room over quickly. He used a fair bit of physical comedy in his delivery to bring his material to life and received good laughs for it, especially dicks and fists. His was an entertaining set and he made the final, where he went with new material from when he had just gone outside to check on his car sitting dog and he ran out of time before he finished what he was saying.
Living in Essex, but from Glasgow originally, Fletcher-Cross had a bit of a mixed night. She began by talking about phone calls and parents, which was competent, but not inspired. However, her set came to life when she moved onto Glasgow, life expectancy and weddings. This impressed the room enough for her to make the final where she started what sounded like a splendid routine, which really should have been in the first five minutes, as it had a lot of potential and there was no way she would be able to rush through it in 1 minute. Naturally she ran out of time before she reached the end of the routine.
Nash was something of an oddity and I’m not sure what he was trying to achieve. It was hard to tell whether he was a fairly experienced act trying something totally new, or if it was anti-comedy that went over everyone’s head, or if he was attempting a character act that was a very bad and hack comedian. He began by a tiny bit of opera specially laid on for the Midlands, just 2 lines of it, before he started chatting about other things, constantly interspersing what he was talking about by saying hacky comments, like live the dream! This amused the acts, but not many others. The audience couldn’t make head nor tail of most of it and at the first vote he was swiftly voted off. Although this was unfunny and something of a trial to watch, with laughs coming from how awkward it was, Nash did it with vigour and was at least interesting in doing so.
There are some acts who have charisma and personal magnetism, effortlessly holding a room and then there are those who seem to suck all of the energy out of a venue. Ene was one of these and even he looked bored as he performed. His material concerned a wildlife documentary and even on a read through of it I’m not sure I’d be able to spot the comedy potential in it. As soon as possible Ene was unanimously voted off. From here, though, the only way is up.
Pritchard held the room despite her material not being the strongest. The compliment from her boyfriend and ring were both nice, but fancy dress was really just lookalikes under a different guise and not a lot of what she was saying really stood out. People will remember there was a comedian who looked like Queen Elizabeth, but I don’t think they’ll remember much else she said. However, Pritchard did enough to make the final, where she compared her achievements to those of Jesus, but chose to go down the facebook friends route, rather than number of twitter followers that most other comedians use.
Hunter showed promise. He is a chap with an interesting back story: born in Cornwall, miner in the Outback and now living on a narrow boat in Oxford (not all of which made it into his set) and I think that with consistent gigging, he’ll do fine. He opened well, the pace slowed a bit on fly but not disastrously so, the tattoo label was great, and marriage got a huge laugh, even if he did signpost the gag (if he could mask the reveal, then this would land twice as hard). For the final, Hunter split his time between a hack you are what you eat gag (I was surprised by this, as I’m positive he has far better jokes) and an anal joke that had a lovely twist and the basis of a small routine in it. I’d like to see Hunter again, as he has potential.
It’s odd seeing an experienced act doing a gong show and someone who was headlining at the Tokyo Comedy Store as long back as 2002 is certainly an unusual entrant. Day is an American who has cerebral palsy and unlike some disabled acts I’ve seen, she is a comic with a disability, rather than a disabled comic. The difference between the two is that whilst she talks about being disabled, not everything comes back to it. She’d be funny even if she never spoke about her disability. There was the feel of a proper set here that had just been cut down to a five minute show reel and it was very entertaining. The material and delivery were spot on and she romped through to the final, where after being run close by Braithwaite, she was the winner of the night.
Baum has recently returned to comedy after a long break and tonight despite a few good jokes, she really needed more on both the delivery and material front to stand out. Baum has a dry delivery, which saw her nicely through her opening routine based around sexuality. This was good routine and the delivery chimed nicely with it. However, when discussing her daughter, the material wasn’t really punchy enough and here her slow dry delivery failed to give it the lift it needed. I’m sure she’ll be back and stronger, too, though.
Drummond didn’t have a sparkling night. The gaps between her saying anything funny were too long and she wasn’t helped by her habit of pausing for a few seconds every now and again. This really wreaked havoc with her building any kind of momentum and she failed to gain much traction with the audience. If she were to try again with a more energetic delivery and say more that was funny, quicker, then she would do better.
Brooks was another act who failed to make any kind of connect with the room. He turned up, spoke for a couple of minutes, deadened the atmosphere and was then gonged off at the first vote.
During Frank’s set, one of the speakers made a peculiar vibrating noise, which I’ve never seen before, but luckily this didn’t affect her set, which received good laughs throughout. Frank delivered her set leaning forwards into the audience in a dramatic fashion, almost as if it were a Shakespearean soliloquy. This made for a nice change and the audience bought into it, laughing consistently. There were a fair few nice lines in this set and the material had been well thought out. Frank made it through to the final, where she was a good third. I enjoyed this monologue over five minutes, but I think in a longer set it may become too much of a good thing and may need breaking up a bit.