Tonight I was in Nottingham for the final NCF £1 comedy night of the year. Numbers weren’t bad, but were down on what was expected, as a few people had booked and then not turned up. Unfortunately for all concerned the front row was largely made up of some teachers on a night out. They were originally merry, but got drunker as the night went on and generally made life difficult for the acts by doing a loud running commentary throughout sets. There was a lot of satisfaction when the headline act, Thomas Green, descended on them like an Ofsted inspector from hell and told them to shut the f*** up. These people aside, this was a lovely night.
Rob Coleman (MC)
Coleman had a night of two halves. To begin with the audience wasn’t that helpful in providing him with anything that was easy to make funny and every conversation seemed isolated from the others. He got laughs, but there wasn’t a lot of atmosphere being built. However, in the second section he spoke to Grace who gave him a lot to work with, a man with spectacular hair and even better was one chap who unwisely confessed to not having washed his hands after visiting the loo. Coleman got a fair bit out of these three, which added to the ambiance. I think that Rob might have fared better in the first section if he had done more material, but he obviously wasn’t to know that no one on the first (and visible) couple of rows would be comedically interesting. Coleman didn’t do too badly all the same, he did the rules, plugged the next few nights and kept things to schedule.
It’s been quite a while since I’d last seen Milton and so it was nice to see him on the bill. Tonight he was doing new material. His downbeat and world weary approach struck a chord with the room and he tried out four or five routines. Two of these concerned his cock, which gave it a bit of an imbalance, but this was new material, so that’s not massively important. A few of the set ups were a bit wordy, but this will no doubt be ironed out. Living room VCRs and porn have been covered a fair few times by comedians aged 30 and over, so it was nice to see a new take on it. The final reveal on that was splendid. I was rather surprised that Home Alone didn’t get referenced during the set up, though. Scurvy was more of an observation than a finished article, but again, that can be honed. The final routine, about a massage built very nicely, but would have benefited from a bigger ending. This was a nicely delivered set and I’ll be very interested to see what he does with the material.
Next was Matt Hoss, who whenever I see him normally seems to get mixed up in some kind of fiasco, whether it be misjudging a high five and crashing through a table, smashing a light with a mic stand or following a patchy audience reception stripping off naked on stage. I’m sure that he was beginning to think that I was some kind of performance Jonah. I’m happy to say that he’s broken that string of bad luck and that he had a good gig tonight. In fact it was the best I’ve ever seen him. The reason behind this was partly that his set featured a lot of audience interaction and this brought everyone onboard and created a good atmosphere. There were still a few things that could have been improved, such as him doing a few jokes before announcing his degree, as this would have given it more credibility. The tweets were good, but the 9/11 one was a bit bald and would have been better if he’d made a funny comment about it. As ever, the final one was a bit predictable and I’d like to see a rethink on the sender to make it someone totally unexpected. Hoss did well and received good laughs from the audience, with everyone enjoying his set.
We resumed after the intermission JBB who was doing new material. This got off to a false start when a mobile phone rang loudly on the second row, with the owner having no idea how to silence it, but as JBB is unflappable, this didn’t mess her set up. She began with some nicely seasonal material about how she is turning into her mum, which went down well and this led nicely into a routine about hoovering. This was quite promising, but needed a bigger ending – possibly if she did do her neighbour’s flat, too, that might lead into one, especially if she were to do the routine about having elderly neighbours during the same set. The baby pigeon was a very nice one liner and she delivered it with the exact level of dismissal and this might have got the biggest laugh of her set. The final routine was quite a lengthy affair, travelling from stink bombs to gangland, through a South African advert. This was new material, so I can imagine it getting edited down quite dramatically to maintain the momentum of her set. This was a fun performance.
Next was the Midlands Comedy Awards New Comedian of the Year, Jem Braithwaite, who was well supported by friends in the audience. However, although their laughter helped to create a good atmosphere, the entire room (barring the four teachers at the front) were fully behind Braithwaite and he received consistent big laughs throughout. It was fun watching him trying not to corpse, which he more or less succeeded in keeping at bay. His delivery felt a touch more polished than when I last saw him and it’s nice to see improvement in a good act. I did think that he might have been better with a brown cloak for one of the gags, but that’s a minor point and there is room for a nice visual touch if he were to hold the mic in one hand and dangle the cable from his other when talking about a puppet. This was a very enjoyable set.
Shanik took to the stage wearing jazzy trousers and immediately stood out. He began with some nicely tangible bald jokes, from which slid got the biggest laugh. These were then followed by a few more gags, some of which were ruined by the now drunken teachers who received some very good put downs. The box is a splendid idea and it worked well – possibly having the audience pick a piece of paper, read it out and then pass the box on one would work even better in bringing everyone in, although I can imagine it would mean a lot of hassle in re-writing the unreturned slips. A lot of these jokes were very clever, such as Phoenix and Prince Harry, but were under appreciated by the audience. Cinders was a good joke, but due to the demise of coal fires probably only people over 40 were thinking along those lines and everyone younger probably guessed the correct direction he was going in rather quickly. Towards the end of his set Shanik chatted a bit with the audience and this went very well. I’m wondering if he had done more of that at the top whether he’d have formed a quicker bond with the room. There was a lot to like in this set.
We began the final section with Carr, who was on his 14th gig. I doubt whether anyone in the room would have believed that. He has the presence and authority of a much more established act. As you’d expect with such a new act, the set was largely the same, albeit with some nicely promising new bits. Despite having seen him three times in short succession, I still really enjoyed it and I can see him doing well with his good material and well paced delivery. Out of all of the acts tonight he was one of the few who wasn’t messed around by the drunks on the front row. Keeping their attention was no mean feat. This was a performance that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.
Headlining was the Australian Viking lookalike Thomas Green, an act who really should be better known in the industry than what he is. I think he’s a smashing act who matches natural charisma to a buoyant delivery, good material and a razor sharp awareness of the audience. However, for some reason he’s not got the name recognition of acts that are far less talented than him. By the time he came to the stage two of the drunken teachers had gone way beyond their personal tipping point and were interrupting on such a level that he could not only get away with telling paying audience members to shut the f*** up, but thrive on it. I think a lot of acts would have been content to have just got through twenty minutes of interruptions, but remarkably Green built up loads of momentum. Partly this was because he has changed his stage persona. Previously he was a more affable presence, whereas tonight he had adopted a higher status and more abrasive and edgy persona, being quick witted with his comments and occasional put downs when talking with the audience. Sometimes giving a mild insult to someone slow on the uptake can be risky, but Green has enough charm and is funny enough to do it well. This was a set where there was a lot of audience interaction, some unwelcome, such as with the drunks, but a lot of it welcomed in the form of answers to questions and queries and throughout all of this Green was firmly in control and command of the room. This set, barring 30 seconds of material was a brand new 20 and it’s a very good one. This was a cracking performance from someone who I think could go a long way in comedy.