Tonight I was at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night, an absolutely cracking gig. This was another packed out show with a good mix of ages amongst the audience. Owing to acts needing to catch trains at certain times, the running order was altered to take this into account and that made for an interesting mix.
Shannon has a few attributes that assist him in compering a room: he’s a likeable chap and his material is simultaneously unusual enough to be arresting, but (with brief explanation) tangible enough for a room to get on board with. At the moment, though, his room work isn’t on a par with his material. There were a few too many occasions where he would chat to someone or go down a train of thought and then either get distracted or abandon this without reaching a conclusion and he’d leave it hanging and move on. With more experience he’ll become more adept at working the room and bringing people into the night. In fairness, Ben got stronger as the night went on, partly because he went with more material (if he could work up a couple of loaded questions that led into his material, it would go down a treat), but also because he seemed to relax into the role, too. To his credit, Shannon wasn’t afraid to tackle people who were talking and he was effective in keeping the chatter down. He also did the rules, plugged the next night and held things together, keeping the night on schedule. Given his affability and material, if Shannon can build on his audience work he will become a much stronger compere.
Opening was Dan Tiernan, someone whom I regard as a very promising act. He has a forceful delivery that makes a definite and positive impression on an audience and as his material is very personal it carries a lot of authenticity. This isn’t a set where people can guess what is coming next, they are surprised by the reveals and they work very well. I really enjoyed how he built the set ups to a high level before dropping out the punchlines. This was a very good performance from someone who is building a nice reputation.
Next was Rich Austin, whom I last saw at Bluey’s. His slower and dry delivery made for a contrast to Tiernan and he opened with some local based jokes (nice to see acts do their research, although there’s no comedic need to confess to the hows and whys of this, as that time can be used for material) which led into some Bon Jovi puns. These might have gone a pun too far, though, clever as they were. The callback to Anakin was nicely played and went down well. There was a large routine based around the cultural appropriation of names and this was very nice. The Kendo Nagasaki, Big Daddy and Lester Piggott references were perhaps more for the over 30s in the room, but this didn’t seem to make any difference as everything was explained without too much exposition. The closing, guitar based, routine was very good and formed a solid closing number to what had been a very enjoyable and improved set.
We resumed after the intermission with Josh Pugh trying out some new material. Pugh is a great act who writes some wonderfully offbeat material and so this was a joy to watch. His comments about Alexa were bang up to date and hit home hard. Winded had promise, but Judging is already something of a gem and directions was superb, but last words and the Dalai Lama possibly need more work. Pugh’s delivery was smooth and compelling and his set seemed to go by in a flash.
Next was Patch, who was on her second gig. On the positive side, I found her quite engaging and bubbly, but on the negative side, her material concerned alcoholism, death and medical worries. Over five minutes this was a triple whammy that would have depressed all but the most cheerful of people and it did prove to be something of a mood killer. She could have gotten away with material on one or perhaps two of these topics, without hurting the atmosphere, but all three was just too much over too short a time without anything in it to lighten the mood and at times it did come close to sounding like speaking therapy rather than comedy.
Elmi was trying out new material, some of which was based on actual events at a gig he played at not too long ago. The energetic Elmi began by making some throwaway disparaging comments about Nottingham, which he didn’t really seem to do enough with to really make it worth his while – I think that if you start a gig that way, there has to be enough in it to either make your point, or be intrinsically funny and so this might have been better if not done, as it felt a bit disposable. Elmi is an original thinker and I believe that he could have the makings of a good comedian with this. His material and viewpoints feel refreshingly different and with more experience and perhaps quality control with his writing he will do well. He had some very interesting perspectives behind what he was talking about and if he could tighten up his writing it would be all to the good. This was new material, but I like the way Elmi thinks. I’ll be interested in seeing how he develops.
We began the final section with Hately, who opened with a surreal joke that was a bit of a groaner, but which did establish his persona. This was then followed by a bit of exposition about his nose and then a joke about his name which demonstrated the law of stretching something out for too long. I enjoyed the callback to Shannon’s ham based material and thought it to Hately’s credit that he could change his routine to accommodate it. This was a surreal set and the meat of his material concerned beards and birds and wasn’t that easy to buy into. I certainly found that it didn’t really draw me in. If you couldn’t get on board with the premise of keeping beards that have been shaven off, then it was quite a long road to go down. The closing routine, a character act, was to me, a dead loss, as it seemed a lot of trouble for very little in the way of comedy. Hately delivered his set seemingly without pausing for breath and this helped him to build impetus. Although Hately wasn’t for me and I think he did slightly split the room, he still received laughs and I’d watch him again to see which direction he goes in.
Closing the night was Salisbury, a skilled act who living in Hull, probably doesn’t get the recognition or gigs that his ability entitles him to. He began by building some energy, not needing the microphone for this and then he followed with three fast jokes. This was enough to establish his credentials as closer and from here he held the room in a way that seemed effortless. The material was well considered and it had a natural rhythm to it with no odd leaps in logic or topics to interrupt the flow. I especially enjoyed the voodoo curse material and I wouldn’t have objected to hearing more on that as it seemed so unusual to really entice me into it. Salisbury was quick on his feet mentally and when talking about the differences between lads and ladies nights out he spotted three lads helpless with laughter, who had obviously seen something of themselves in this material, and he worked in some fast comments about it. This was a powerful set from someone well worth watching.