Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse gong show. As ever, the room was pretty packed and although it was cold outside, it was as warm as toast for the audience. I’m always astonished by how many people can be squeezed into such a small room, but having watched the landlady, Stephanie, rearrange the room afterwards I saw just how much work was involved for her and Kev in getting that side of things organised. Last week I was at a gong show in Leicester where surprisingly all 15 acts turned up and tonight, instead of having a few drop outs, all 14 showed. This made for another busy, but fun night. There were a lot of fairly new acts on the bill (not that anyone would have guessed) and the quality amongst these was excellent.
With his soft Scottish accent and only having two months as a comedian under his belt, Welch proved to be a very strong first act. His opening material comparing sex/virginity and performing in a gong show was the weakest section of what was a very good set. From here, though, he just continued to get better the longer he was on, despite his dangerous habit of pausing his routines whilst Mike did the votes. The material about booze was a big hit with the audience and his delivery of shout added to what he was doing. This was a sound opening to the night and Welch easily made it through to the final, where he wasted a lot of his final minute by complimenting the other acts and live comedy. His five minutes, inadvertently made it tricky for the next act.
Following a strong act can work for or against the next comedian; they can either build on their energy, or they can suffer in comparison and unfortunately for Harris this was one of those occasions where the audience seemed to take one look and decide ‘no’. He opened with a few throwaway comments that didn’t have a lot of comedy in them and then moved on to talk about poor patrol, which was a bit of a depressing concept, especially so early in a set before he had established himself. Harris’ material about paedos injected some life into his set and gave it a temporary bounce, but he was an early gonging.
Hussain had some good material, but was let down by his delivery, which didn’t really sell what he was saying, with too many erms, like and so’s. To begin with, it was hard to hear what he was saying, as until corrected by Mike, he held the microphone roughly about level with his nipples, which was neither use nor ornament. However, what he was saying was definitely worth listening to. Both overly made up girls and en-suite were good and it felt like he was building a set. I felt that his gonging wasn’t really fair, as although he wasn’t getting huge laughs he was good enough to go further.
At first I thought that Carr was a fairly experienced act who was doing the gong more to be seen than for the prize money. So I was very surprised to learn that he was only ten gigs in, as he definitely had an air of plausibility about him. He had a slow and measured quiet delivery that held the room very well. His material was equally as good as his skilled performance (the winding of the window was a lovely touch that really pushed that joke) and he got the first applause break of the night. This was a very good set indeed and for his final minute Carr carried on with a minute or so of solid material. He was a very close second on the night.
We resumed after the intermission with Adam Muscat, who was only on his second gig. A lot of his material concerned weed, but he managed to make this all very accessible to a roomful of people who probably knew very little about it. There was an unintentional, but wonderful callback to weed and forgetfulness when Muscat left the stage at the 3 ½ minute mark, thinking that he was done before swiftly resuming his set. This got a huge laugh and he carried on from there. The difference between Glaswegian and Edinburgh accents has been done a few times, but Muscat had enough ability with accents to be able to carry it off well. I especially enjoyed his delivery; this was laid back, almost casual and I think everyone in the room relaxed into his set. Muscat easily made the final where he gave the audience a well timed final minute of material. This was a splendid set and I think we’ll see a lot more of Muscat in the future.
Simpson was an interesting act and on a different line up may well have been a contender. He looks and sounds quite posh, which allied to his fast, almost manic delivery made for a nice contrast. He also has a unique angle based around his sexuality and the material that came from this was all very good. For his final minute Simpson gave the room a nicely buoyant routine. I’d like to see him again.
Grimmer didn’t have a great night. He opened with an inexplicable joke about the green room and Blazing Saddles, which no one seemed to get. This was then followed by material concerning relationships and phones. Grimmer wasn’t helped by following the charming Simpson, as his buoyant delivery made Grimmer’s slow and quiet approach seem almost drab, nor was he helped by checking his hand for his lines, but his biggest issue was that whilst what he was saying might amuse in conversation, it didn’t enthuse a crowd.
Glass was easily one of the most interesting acts of the night. Only on his second gig and he gave the room the darkest and most edgy material of the night. At first I thought he was going to be a bit hack, as jokes about a relative dying in their sleep with a pull back and reveal to them driving are too well known, but he had a lot better stuff in his arsenal. I loved the weight gain joke, this was extremely good. However, that joke and the baby’s head are both very dangerous to do, as whilst a few people can be offended by a dark joke, dead babies can actually upset people and there is a chance that a person having suffered a loss will be in the audience and doing material that features them is a bit like minesweeping – sooner or later you will get an explosion. What impressed me the most about Glass was his performance. He came over as just on the right side of arrogant, which was perfectly in tune with him pushing the envelope. The way he paused on occasion and let the audience work out the punchlines really brought people into his set. It means more when folk have to do a bit of thinking for themselves. His use of a silence was great. This was a technically excellent set and he made a good showing in the final.
Walker never really seemed to find his feet. He spoke about a new baby and instagram, but then wasted a lot of time in getting someone to take photos of him. I could see what he was trying to do, but there just wasn’t enough comedy value in it for him to gain much momentum. He was an early gonging, but it would be nice to see him try again, perhaps with a different approach.
Smith had a great night. He began well showing some excellent local knowledge (researched beforehand) about which area to use as the shit one and this went down a storm. Whilst Hull may be the city of culture, its more down at heel reputation is widely known enough for Smith to get a lot of mileage out of being from there and so this was very relatable to the room. Equally, his visual hair gag is right in front of the audience and so that hits home hard, too. Smith had a fast delivery and with the good links between topics, his set felt almost seamless and he built up no end of impetus in what was a storming performance. He narrowly beat out Carr to win the night.
Liversidge was the most alternative of the acts on the bill and this was refreshing in itself. She was also the only one that used a bit of tech, which opened her show with a pre-recorded apology, which she then joined in with and developed further. She asked the audience to give her a cheer if they liked trans, which got a huge cheer which was superb and she built on that with a joke that she labelled as being from 2016, which puzzled me. I wasn’t sure if that was a slip of the tongue or not, as I couldn’t see much comedy value in giving it last years date. From this she began a routine featuring a Rubik’s cube. Unfortunately and unfairly Liversidge was gonged before we got to the end of that. Whilst she might have benefited by being more punchy with her material for the gong, I felt that Liversidge was definitely fascinating enough to be kept on. I had the feeling that something interesting was building up. I hope to see her again.
Only on his second comedy gig, Jones had a splendid night. His material was good and he made the most of it, earning a nice laughter break. The short gags broke up his set in a very nice and refreshing way and he had an air of originality about him. This was a well thought out set. It was nice to see that he was confident enough to risk using a ukulele during his final minute. Jones was third tonight, but on a different night he may well have won. This was an impressive set.
Donny Otemod (Mark Richardson)
Otemod was our only character act of the night, coming onto the stage with flat cap, dickie bow, waistcoat and shorts. Hamming up his Barnsley accent and adding a slight impediment, he came over as a deliberately odd character. Biggins was a good line, but not a lot of what he said was hugely funny; however, the audience bought into it up until the final vote. This was a fun set, but one which I think lost the room shortly after the second vote.
Marsh suffered badly from the running order. Going on after thirteen other acts really hurt his night. He opened with a bit of audience participation and then a routine about party games, but the room had reached a tipping point and he was voted off. Should Marsh have gone on earlier he would have done better as he wasn’t a bad act.