Canal House – Tony Cowards, Tom Rackham, Hannah Silvester, Tim Goodings, Josh Pugh, Kiran Morjaria and Dan Nicholas (MC)

There are some nights when the audience just doesn’t seem to be up for it and tonight was one of them. I’m not sure if it was the wet and windy weather, impending Christmas, Detectorists being on, or just the fact that Nottingham is comedied out after the festival, but numbers were down on the standing room only nights that I’ve come to expect at the NCF £1 Canal House. I’d like to say that we made this up with quality, but this audience were very picky and choosy with what they’d laugh at. Canal House audiences have a habit of resetting themselves and requiring constant impressing, but tonight seemed to be on a different level. I’ve never seen them so flat. This meant that it was a uphill struggle for most of the acts.

Dan Nicholas (MC)

The audience were quite spread out and seemed to be more of a collection of individuals than an easily melded mass and this didn’t help Dan in bringing them together. Nicholas mostly went with room work and even when chatting to people about their jobs he emits surreal vibes. Mostly this is from his facial expressions, but also a lot comes from how he stands. This is a comic who seems to have mastered non-verbal communication and it’s nice to see. I’d have preferred to see a bit more material, though. Dan did loads of getting the audience to cheer and make noises and so on, but after a while it began to feel as though the audience were doing more work than him. This was a flat audience and Dan did what he could with them, but I don’t think that anyone would have found it easy tonight.

Tony Cowards

Opening was Cowards, whom I was expecting to be closing when I received notice that he was on the bill. He was here, cards in hand, to try some new material. It’s always a pleasure seeing Tony and I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to offer. As you’d expect, there were a lot of good jokes in there. A few were a touch strained, such as Keele and perhaps Manly, although the topper to that made it worth it. The audience seemed to go more for the silly gags than the clever ones, but as this room seemed so flat tonight, I’m not sure it was a fair test. Having said that, though, there was laughter after every joke, but it just seemed that there wasn’t anything that the entire audience seemed to all agree was funny. Personally, I thought trip adviser was splendid, even if I was in a minority.

Thomas Rackham

Rackham was one of only three acts tonight who seemed to get the audience fully onboard. He began with a new opening that we’ll probably never see again and then from there he went into what with someone else might have strayed into exposition. Instead, Rackham got a good number of laughs from it, as he had remembered to make it funny and whilst he was talking the room warmed to him. I’ve never read The Secret Garden, so I didn’t get the reference, along with a few others, but enough people did get it to make it viable. The main part of this set was the odd contrast between the background music to Newsbeat and the seriousness of some of the stories. Rackham accompanied this with music from his laptop, which looked very fiddly and it would be easier with a remote control or asking someone to press play for him. This was a lovely routine that definitely has legs and it really struck a chord with nearly everyone in the room. I say nearly everyone, because during the intermission, one lady who had obviously missed the point of the joke came over to remonstrate with Tom about one of the news items. It’s odd when someone is offended over a joke that neither aims to offend, nor mentions the source of offence except in passing. This was a good set and I can see the Newsbeat section going far.

Hannah Silvester

We resumed after the intermission with Silvester, doing her first gig since going to Chicago and she was the second of three acts who had a good gig. Silvester has a great microphone technique, holding it at a constant distance and this was something I noticed after seeing all sorts of permutations of grip during the last few weeks. Silvester was doing a mix of established and new material and it was all of a uniformly good quality. I thought that ‘Mr’ was a nice touch as was weeks, but there was a missed chance of a callback to Dove when she was talking about shaving. The religious new material sounded good, but could probably be a touch tighter, but as it’s new material that’s to be expected. Job lot was a cracking line. This was a very enjoyable performance.

Tim Goodings

Between Silvester leaving the stage and Goodings arriving, the atmosphere seemed to reset itself back to being flat and this was a shame, as Goodings never really seemed to regain the energy. He looked confident and there were some nice well thought out lines that got laughs, but even without the erms, his delivery really needed more spark and lift to it. This was a flat crowd and so I doubt that I saw Goodings under the best of circumstances.

Luke Prince

Prince was a character act that I found difficult to enjoy. He plays it as a very high status toff who is far superior to everyone else and this had none of the warmth, humanity or humour of McCabe’s Troy. Watching Prince, I became very conscious of my working class background and couldn’t help but wonder how he’d fare playing a miner’s welfare or WMC or anywhere in the North. Prince looked the part, being well dressed and he also sounded the part with his diction, but this was a performance that seemed to have quite a topsy turvy relationship with the audience. I liked the visual hankie gag and the space station joke, but thought that the spoon routine went on beyond the audience’s interest in it. Prince was probably unlucky in getting a chap onto the stage who really didn’t want to get involved, but perhaps he might just have been better in just cutting his losses. The section that I most enjoyed was balloon animals, which was fun and entertaining, but which also had only a very tangential relationship to the character he was playing.

Josh Pugh

We began the final section with Pugh, the only other act who had a good night. Pugh was trying some new material and naturally enough this was already original and pretty much solid. I enjoyed normal and the ice cream van was wonderful. This was a set that got consistent laughter and was great to see.

Kiran Morjaria

Morjaria closed the night. He began with Indians in football, which was quite a long set up and the pay off only really came when he talked about cricket, so this might have been more punchy edited down. He gave the room a rap song, using a replacement word and this was good, but again, it could have been made tighter, as he didn’t need to do so much of the song for the room to get the joke – diminishing returns did kick in. On the other hand, I thought that British rap was creative and funny, as was the Ark. However, the location of the unsuitable material gig was guessable and anyone who didn’t guess right, probably would have found a suitable alternative reveal, as it wasn’t hard to see where he was going with the joke. I was expecting something more creative and the same could be said of the story about the person who talked to him after a gig. I did, though, admire the time he took in shaving, which showed his dedication to getting the laugh. As this was new material it’s to be expected that there are a few teething issues, but with tightening and rethinking Morjaria will have a decent set. The delivery was clear and easy to follow and despite the atmosphere being flat he still received laughs.

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