This has been a surprisingly quiet month of comedy for me. Owing to work I’ve only seen 27 acts this month. However, the quality has been superb with some amazingly good acts performing. It was very hard to separate the most impressive acts from those who deserve a honourable mention. However, these are the acts who for various reasons have made the biggest impression on me this month.
Most impressive acts:
I don’t see a lot of Norcott; generally I only see him previewing his Edinburgh shows or through reading his political articles, so it was a real pleasure to watch him doing his set. This was a very strong performance that everyone enjoyed.
From the night:
By any measure Norcott has had an absolutely smashing year. His Edinburgh show was very well received (last year’s was a good one, too), he’s written articles for more papers than I can think of, he’s been on Question Time more than once and in a fortnight he’ll be on Live at the Apollo. He is also an act that I’ve seen three times doing Edinburgh shows, but hadn’t seen do his normal set until tonight. I was very interested in this, because I’ve always enjoyed his Edinburgh shows. Mike gave Geoff a great introduction, managing to not only build a joke out of announcing his telly achievements and get in a polite jibe at Geoff’s politics, but to also squeeze in two references to Funhouse gigs in Southwell almost all at once, which must have taken some thinking on his feet. Norcott opened by carrying on this good work and talking about what the producers of Question Time wanted from him, the nuisance that is the general public obsessed with their own parochial concerns and the tweets he received following his appearance. I liked this, but didn’t think the room was totally with him. However, after this he hit his stride and the room fully invested in his performance. Electrician was a lovely line and got a big laugh. The material about teaching was well thought out and chimed with the audience. When it came to Brexit, which can be a tricky subject if handled badly (ie, by calling 50% of the room racists or something similar), Norcott handled this very deftly by avoiding the motives of voters or the merits of the decision and discussing protest chants (fit bits was a great line) and Spain. He built up bags of momentum with this. The structure of the set had a lovely level of coherency, as he moved logically from topic to topic without any awkward pauses or lulls in the energy and this kept everyone onboard. The use an occasional pause to let the audience fill in the missing word was very well done. It was also smart of Norcott to keep the swearing down, as I think that in this room, it would have detracted from what he was saying. I’m not sure which part of this was my favourite. It’s a toss up between his dad’s comments on the Paralympics, or the cruise, which got a lot of laughs of recognition. This was a splendid performance.
This was a cracking performance and I especially admired his quick thinking.
From the night:
Closing was Silky, an act that I’d not seen before. To begin with the tech was plagued by an attack of gremlins, but rather than have a strop, prevaricate or restart, Silky just ad-libbed his way through it and simply put this was glorious. He gave an incredibly strong impression of being 2 steps ahead of everyone in the room. Silky has that combination of spotting what is occurring, thinking up a line whilst noticing it and the comic ability to bring this together to create mirth; something not easily mastered. There was a courting couple whose inhibitions had loosened, which when mixed with a total inability to whisper in any way which wouldn’t be heard 2 miles away could have made things awkward, but it was handled beautifully. Silky suggested that they go somewhere else and begin work on conception, which brought the house down and this was followed up by some lovely jokes which worked the oracle in getting them to pay attention without being harsh or losing anyone. This was a set with a lot of room work and this gave the performance a huge feel of being laid on especially for that audience and it was a very powerful to experience. It was hard to spot what was an ad-libbed line and what was actually material modified slightly to account for the room. I’ve seen acts hold audiences through the fear of being spoken to, but with Silky, he held the room through respect for his art and a shared interest in what he was doing. The set was ended by three songs and I’m not that huge a fan of musical comedy, but even so, it was as pleasure to watch him at work. This was a magnificent set from a comedian who is absolutely razor sharp.
How this comedian doesn’t have a bigger profile is a mystery to me.
From the night:
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.
A superb act who is well on his way.
From the night:
Owing to an act unavoidably having to drop out, Houghton was offered the extra stage time and by heck was that a good shout by Mike. Houghton has probably one of the poshest backgrounds on the circuit and sometimes an act having had a privileged upbringing can alienate an audience, but in Tom’s case he has both boyish good looks and absolutely bags of charisma and this totally disarms any possible resentment towards him. Tonight he bounded onto the stage full of energy, looking bright and bubbly and within 10 seconds he had won the room over. In addition to this charisma is a huge talent for performance. Houghton really pushes his material to the audience, investing almost every line with an action, be it a movement of an arm, a dance or a direct look at someone sat near the front. This certainly brings the room into his set. The same can be said of his choice of accent for a farmer. Most comics would have gone with a generic West Country accent, but in a fit of genius, Tom went Cockney Villain and this ramped up the laughter no end as he acted out the scene. The material, probably 60% of which was new to me from when I saw him last (an act having that much new first class material so soon is impressive in itself), was absolutely sound. It was all strong stuff. It isn’t often that you see any audience having a singalong whilst someone on the front row is hugged. This was a magnificent set.