Tonight I was in Alfreton at Bluey’s Australian Steakhouse for the FaF Promotions comedy night. This is a gig with a smashing atmosphere that is enthusiastically supported by Bluey and Leonie, who own the venue. Numbers were on the low side tonight and this could have made for a tricky gig, but luckily we had Ben Briggs compering.
Back by popular demand, Briggs made the night a success. He took a small crowd of individuals and formed them into an audience, speaking to everyone in the room whilst doing so. From Rich and co sat at the front, to the group from Coventry come to see Carter, he took in everyone for his sharp comments, including myself who received some fair observations. There was a real feel of a community being formed by Briggs and he didn’t put a foot wrong. Briggs is an edgy comic, but not in a self-conscious way, more in having a natural interest in seeing how far he can push the envelope. However, this is allied to a first class comedic brain and he has the knack of knowing just how far he can go without going too far. Briggs has no lack of bravery either, being happy to take to the floor between the two middle spots to ask the lads at the bar, 30′ away to keep the noise down and to keep at it until they did so – a lot of other comperes would probably not have wished to pursue the matter, or would have made a token attempt and left the lads to it, but Ben saw it through. The audience took Briggs to their hearts and his hard work made it possible for the other comedians to perform as they did.
Dryburgh opened with a nice line, which gave him the chance to get 3-4 quick laughs under his belt before moving into material on being a new father. He managed to tie this into some of the audience work that Briggs had done and there was a cracking line about what his baby looked like upon birth. However, at the moment this routine isn’t the completed article and because there are a lot of comedians who do routines about having babies or young children it didn’t really feel as though (great line about appearance, aside) he was telling us anything that we’d not heard a similar version of before. With time this routine will become more nuanced and in fairness, Dryburgh did receive good laughs from the audience for it, so I may have been the only person thinking this. The remainder of Dryburgh’s set was, to my mind, stronger. The line about the ex girlfriend was improved and the parking joke was very powerful, so much so that it would have made for a big closing routine. This was a good performance.
We resumed after the intermission with Doug Carter, a new act, who had impressed me in Stoke last month. Tonight he did a longer and slightly different set. He opened by dropping the C Bomb – he got away with it, but I do think that there aren’t many rooms in the country where he would be able to do that. He may be better downgrading it to an insult that doesn’t risk alienating people, such as arsehole or going in totally the opposite direction and using something such as nincompoop, which is patently ridiculous, but might actually make the routine stronger if he were to talk it up as the worst insult ever, before unveiling it and then suggesting his modern replacement. As before, Doug’s ability to do a Brummie accent worked very well in selling the videos routine and allied with his hand gestures, this went down very well. I thought that there was the chance of a possible callback when he was talking about the gym: if he were to change the price to £24 and say he could have three Thai friends in a month instead, which would hark back to his second routine. Carter ended on a very strong joke, which gave his set a big ending. This was a good performance, especially for such a new act. It could be improved a bit by him relaxing more on stage and slowing down (this will come with regular gigging, so isn’t anything to worry about at the moment) and also by tying his performance into the audience more. A few nods and smiles to audience members would go a fair way in that. I’m looking forwards to seeing Carter again.
Next was Row, whom I only saw on Sunday night and so naturally his set was largely similar. He opened by referencing how other comedians had already covered topics that he was to speak on, which I thought was a smart move. He then went on to deliver a fuller version of Sunday’s performance. Mark’s delivery was conversational in tone which was totally in sympathy with his material and the atmosphere of Bluey’s. I did think that he had the chance for an extra laugh by being a bit more specific about a matter of death, but that’s a minor quibble. This was a good set and if anyone wants to know about his documentary – A1: The long road to Edinburgh, then it can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuwvgxioDrY
Headlining was Will Mars, who was a very interesting act to observe. It was easy to miss the technical excellence of his set amidst all of the laughter, but this was a solidly built set. Ironically, a paper read through of it would probably depress most people and Mars delivers it down at heel, looking like he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Usually this would result in a set that is unpalatable or simply kills the atmosphere, yet the quality of Mars’ writing and his ability to simultaneously talk to people and work their replies into the direction he wishes to go transforms it into a splendidly funny experience. Mars focussed on Rich, sat at the front, looking like an extra from Mad Max and built his status up in respect to his own and this worked beautifully in adding a contrast to what Mars was saying. This was a set with a lot of laughter and was extremely enjoyable to watch.