Blessington Carriage: Cally Beaton, Daniel Muggleton, Good Kids, Jack Topher, Simon Wozniak and Chris McGlade

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Comedy night. Numbers weren’t huge, but the audience was a broad cross section of society. Mike had fun chatting to a chap who had broken his foot kicking a wall when the person he was aiming for had moved out of the way – he turned out to be a martial artist, rather than combative and we were blessed with a lively lady called Martha who worked for BBC Leicester. There was one slightly jarring aspect and that was one of the acts very visibly getting up to pop outside just as the first act was about to be brought on, which wasn’t really playing the game, but fortunately he changed his mind and sat and watched the show.

Cally Beaton

Beaton could certainly be described as ‘Woke’ (google it, I had to when I first came across it) and her set contained a lot of timely, educated and funny references that were socially aware rather than clunkily right on. There were some very good routines and jokes in this set, such as the Netherlands, ‘change’ and being a lady of her age. The opening routine about her son was strong and there was a great moment when someone got a joke just that bit later than everyone else. The closing percentages was ok, but it was very easy to lose track of the specifics, but as the general point was funny this wasn’t the end of the world. Beaton was slightly wordy and might be a touch sharper with an edit of superfluous words, but this is a minor point. She was a very pleasant presence and was well received by the audience, despite drawing the short straw and opening. I’d like to see her again in a longer slot, as I think she has a fair bit to offer. This was a good set.

Daniel Muggleton

Next was the Australian Daniel Muggleton, who had more mixed fortunes. Some of his material was decent, such as terrorism and couch; transitioning was very good, but a lot didn’t really stand out, such as flying, which was more of a whinge or undercover, which felt like a work in progress that hasn’t yet been nailed. His delivery was competent and with more stage time he’ll improve.

Good Kids

After the intermission we had Good Kids, a musical sketch double act. Their name is ok for the moment, as they are still fairly young, but in coming years it may begin to seem a bit incongruous. They have good voices and work well together. To begin with, they did a spot of room work, which felt like a cross between compering and admin, but were stronger when they began with the songs. These were all original and matched up to their personas remarkably well. The humour was gentle and went down a treat with the audience. They aren’t the finished article, but they had a good night.

Jack Topher

Topher was thoroughly enjoying Good Kids and so wasn’t fully in the zone when he unexpectedly found it was time for him to take to the stage. He began by telling the room how much he had enjoyed their set and then he opened with material. This was all good stuff. Part way through his set he came out of his persona to chat with Martha, the lady who worked for BBC Leicester, discussing his favourite disc jockeys on the wireless. This did make this section very much directed at the one person, with everyone else onlookers and it could have gone very badly, but despite the part about his father not going anywhere, Topher easily kept the room with him. This wouldn’t have happened six months ago. He then pulled it back without any trouble by resuming his material. This was a good performance, but I do think that Topher works best wearing his coat, as that, allied to the pauses, builds up a lot of comedic tension, but I’m happy to see him try new things, such as chatting to the audience. I look forwards to watching him develop as a comedian.

Simon Wozniak

Next was Simon Wozniak, doing new material. I’ve not seen Wozniak for over a year and in that time he has gone from strength to strength and there is a definite buzz about him. Within 2 minutes of him opening his mouth you can see why. He is a naturally funny person and even things that he had wrote that day, such as condoms were well worth keeping. The routine about the system being down was highly relatable to anyone who has worked in an office and he got a lot of mileage out of it, although he might be able to edit it down a bit and get the same result. I really appreciated his use of the words jeopardy and charades as they just added an extra layer of icing to the cake. Homeless was more chilling than funny, but as new material, it is early days and savings has a lot of potential. The closing routine about driving was a belter. This was a very impressive performance from an act with a touch of quality to him.

Chris McGlade

Headlining was Chris McGlade who gave the room a high energy and lively performance. At times the room seemed too small for him and he resembled someone who had been cooped up for too long as he alternated prowling amongst the audience and sitting on the edge of the stage. Sometimes he would chat at a conversational level and at other times he would shout. A stand out moment was when he popped out onto the fire escape and bellowed some of his lines out into the night from there. His material felt like an abbreviated Edinburgh preview; a 20 minute synopsis concerning the issue of PC in comedy and how it is being used to artificially divide the people. At times, he did veer into political polemic, but would always top those sections with a powerful joke, although I did feel that sometimes the message did get in the way of the funny. There were some nicely visual jokes in this set, especially the shoe bomber, which worked very well. McGlade more or less finished on a new song, which gave a satisfying feeling of closure to the night, with his last couple of comments providing an epilogue to his performance.

Advertisements

New Barrack Tavern – Hector Walker, Luke O’Leary, Grenville Glossop, Patrick Mackridge, TJ Harlott, Tim Brudenell, Alex Dunlop, Danny Adams, Mickey McKay, Donny Otemod and Adam Beardsmore

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse gong show. Although there are gong shows closer to home, I’d invited 4 other people simply because this is a bloody lovely pub and there it always has a fantastic atmosphere and I wanted them to see a gong show under the best of conditions. A bonus to the night was seeing Wayne Bamforth (Last Laugh) in the audience, as it is always wonderful when such comedy fans are present. Mike had a great night compering, mostly talking to Dan, who worked in a call centre who kept feeding him lines to build material with. Probably the biggest laugh, though, came from a well built lad sat with Dan, who was asked if he was a darts player, to which he reposted that he’d need to borrow Mike’s shirt for that. This compering provided plenty of material for callbacks from the acts during the night.

Hector Walker

Our opening act was Hector Walker, whose material has potential, but he’s not yet worked on it enough to get the most from it. On the debit side, the jokes about Coventry being a crap town aren’t anything we’ve not heard about any other town, the line ‘suck its’ own dick’ was a bit jarring and the Isis goat was a digression, but on the credit side of the ledger, Coventry as City of Culture and the Aldi loyalty card are very novel topics and he should be able to get a lot of mileage out of them. Although having said that, the loyalty reward might need changing to something funnier, as I’m not convinced the present reveal is strong enough (perhaps some bizarre object that they’ve not been able to shift?). Walker displayed some good room work upon the votes and it would be nice to see him inject more of his personality into the rest of his delivery as he seemed to come to life more in those moments and it really added to his presence.

Luke O’Leary

O’Leary was an oddity. He has funny bones, but no material and tonight his performance veered from superb to boring. He began with a downbeat opening that worked surprisingly well, he built on this with a fantastic comment that his dad had made on his comedy and then followed this up by chatting to Dan on the second row. O’Leary seemed the most surprised of all the people in the room when he received 5 green cards at the first vote, but he was doing well and as so much of his work involved the audience everyone was paying full attention. He was a bit sweary and commented a few too many times about having no material, but what killed him off at the final vote was that just working the room can only take you so far, even in a home town gig in front of a friendly room and the audience simply grew bored of there being no framework of material for him to base this off. This was a shame, because with just a few minutes worth of material O’Leary would have made the final.

Grenville Glossop

The penultimate act of the opening session was Grenville Glossop. Tonight he had a change of style from what I’ve seen before and came to the stage with an A3 folder full of visual gags. The opening joke was smashing and even if he discards the rest, he should keep that. The rest of the gags featured cuttings from the local paper and whilst he could have built something out of them, there wasn’t really enough in it to impress the room, but it is entirely possible that in a longer set it would work better. I think he could be onto something in incorporating some more visual jokes into his set, even if the press cuttings aren’t what he ultimately goes with. I like Glossop, but this wasn’t his night.

Patrick Mackridge

Mackridge gave the New Barrack Tavern an uneven set. The first few minutes, despite having a nice start and convinced being a good line, wasn’t especially strong and he was more of an amiable presence than really funny – he was receiving giggles, rather than laughs. When he came to ‘bombs’ his set took off and the final few minutes were much improved. He managed to get enough support in these minutes to secure a place in the final, which he wasn’t able to capitalise on due to having to catch a train back to Manchester.

TJ Harlott

We resumed after the intermission with TJ Harlott, who was performing his first ever gig and who, by and large, did almost everything right. This is despite there being an excruciatingly awkward moment when at the top of his set he asked the audience to give it up for the acts they’d already seen, which got absolutely fuck all from everyone. To his credit, he didn’t go to pieces at this total lack of enthusiasm and he bounced straight back from it with a callback to Walker’s material about Coventry being the City of Culture. It was also evident that he’d been listening to the rest of the performances, as he had remembered Dan’s name and had something funny to say about him. Harlott had also kept his eyes open in the pub and was able to make some very relevant comments about the cocktails on offer. This was all very impressive and it tied his performance in to the audience wonderfully, as they could either see or relate to everything he was saying and it felt incredibly of the here and now. Harlott did forget some of his prepared material, but everyone was happy to forgive this as he had charm and had remembered enough to get by. He made it into the final very easily and here he treated the room to an improvised minute of comedy based around why Sheffield is great. This had more than a whiff of wikipedia having been googled during the intermission, but as with his earlier material, it was charming and above all relevant to the audience and he ended the night as a close runner up. For a first ever gig this was very impressive and if Harlott can match his nous at getting the most out of the environment with some material to fall back on, he will do very well.

Tim Brudenell

With his massively varying energy levels Brudenell was something of an acquired taste. He began full on, bouncing around on the stage, burning up calories at a frightening rate as he jumped up and down upon it, only to then send the energy levels through the floor as he began to talk about his girlfriend. Unfortunately, imaginary girlfriends are a fairly common trope and this didn’t go down that well and then when he ramped the energy back up for the next routine it was more jarring and bewildering than a comic contrast. This fluctuating energy felt like it had come from a drama workshop or something and the girlfriend material was a mood killer. The persona adopted by Brudenell felt forced and unnatural and when he let the downbeat and odd mask slip, he seemed quite cheerful and this was a much more attractive stage persona.

Alex Dunlop

Dunlop is a fairly new act, only having been gigging for 6 months and I think he has potential. The mainspring of his set was being black and middle class, with the tale of a gig in Leeds forming the rest of his material and there was some great stuff in here, such as Jesus, which was a cracking line. The timing on lawyer could have been a bit improved with a shorter pause, but it worked well. The joke about Trump having small hands felt a bit last year, but it still received a big laugh, all the same. Aside from the good material, what struck me the most about Dunlop’s performance was the delivery. He addressed the room with a big warm smile and I think that everyone was able to bounce off of this; he looked like he was having a great time on stage and only the most churlish of people wouldn’t have responded in kind. Tonight he made the final. There is some gold here and I’ll be very interested to see how Dunlop develops.

Danny Adams

Adams began by tying his opening line into Dan, sat in the audience and despite snapchat being a fairly novel and curiously underused topic, his set was pretty flat. Routines about Tinder were done to death in 2015 and it is incredibly hard to say something about it that hasn’t been said a dozen times already and I think most audiences can explain how it works after seeing so many acts describe it. Luckily this was only a short part of his set and he soon moved onto snapchat. The broken bed was ok, but it really needed more, being an anecdote at present. This wasn’t a great set, but Adams has something to build on.

Mickey McKay

McKay didn’t half remind me of a younger Tony Cowards, being tall, facially similar looking with having stubble, glasses and doing one-liners. However, in contrast to Cowards, McKay is in his early stages as a comedian and his material wasn’t that strong, feeling more like ideas than something that is the finished article. This will all improve in time, though. Tonight, possibly thanks to a slightly generous audience, he made the final, but wasn’t the winner.

Donny Otemod (Mark Richardson)

Otemod was a character act and visually arresting, wearing shorts, shirt and waistcoat with a dickie bow (non rotating, alas) and a flat cap. He began by describing a childhood incident and ‘Friday’ was a good line with the rest of that routine being a logical progression that was ok, but perhaps needed a bit more. Where Otemod came unstuck was when he came out of character to mention comedy experience and this felt like an aside at best and a road to nowhere at worst. As it was, coming out of character fatally weakened him just as a vote was cast.

Adam Beardsmore

A lovely bonus to the night was seeing Beardsmore who is very much on form at the moment and seemed much sharper than when I saw him last. Possibly this was because he had already gigged tonight and was totally warmed up (this double was a happy coincidence of him being in the area and Mike being short of an act), but having said that the lady sat next to me had seen him in January and thought him much improved, too. Tonight he opened with a solid joke and never looked back, with pretty much every gag landing with the force of a punch, getting big laughs all the way. Beardsmore flew through to the final where he came back on stage and continued the good work. Instead of his usual closing joke, he did a new routine which went down well and Bearsmore finished the night as a worthy winner of the show.

NCF – Mecca Bingo, Sheffield – Tony Cowards, Vikki Stone and Barry Dodds (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield for the first comedy night held at Mecca bingo. The Mecca in Mansfield is located on a trading estate with loads of car parking, so I was rather hoping for the same thing. However, this was in the city centre and parking was next door in a NCP car park and I’m thankful that Mecca had come to an arrangement with them to offer free parking, as otherwise it would have cost everyone £10. My ticket to the show only cost a fiver and there is something wrong in life if you can see top comedians perform for half the price it would cost to park.

The venue itself was what you’d expect for a bingo parlour – the room was the size of an aircraft hanger. The ceiling was really high up and the room was huge, so building any kind of atmosphere was going to require a lot of hard work. The audience was younger than I was expecting, with a 70/30 female male gender split. The biggest issue with the audience was that they weren’t really there for the comedy. They’d gone out for a night of bingo and basically someone had turned their parlour into a comedy club and so their investment in the night wavered dramatically. As they weren’t regular comedy goers, despite Barry explaining the rules, people showed a distressing tendency to chat and in that room, it didn’t half echo when someone at the back spoke. Also, people were more than happy to get up and wander off to the loo or outside partway through sets and one bloke even had the disgraceful manners to get up and walk right in front of the stage and stand and queue at the bar, ready for when it reopened. This was a first time gig here, so hopefully as the crowd become more comedy savvy this will improve.

Barry Dodds (MC)

Barry put a lot of hard work into building atmosphere and making tonight function. He began by getting the room cheering, which built up some energy and almost forged a collective out of the individual tables. He then explained how the night would work, doing the rules, before finding out who was present. Dodds spoke to a few people, using his local knowledge to good effect and he had a lot of fun with a chap who had travelled from Cheshire to see his partner, even getting him to go down on one knee and pretend to pop the question to her. Barry has bags of charm and this helped him in building a rapport with folk. After the intermission he went with more material and this went down especially well with the audience, particularly the routine about becoming an uncle. This was good compering in a venue that was unfamiliar with comedy.

For anyone who isn’t aware, Dodds is one half of the Parapod, the best podcast I’ve ever heard. If you’ve not listened to it, then I’d recommend you do so. It’s so good they even have a film coming out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuTsp3itCRw

Tony Cowards

Cowards does intelligent and clean one-liners, with the odd darker joke thrown in and he will deliver his puns in strings, almost like a boxer with combination punches. These are strong jokes, with blood groups being my personal favourite. He varied the pace a bit, slowing it to conversational for the set ups and then increasing it when he hit the punchline and toppers. I did wonder if he might have been better off keeping the pace fast, as he may have built more momentum, but I don’t think it would have made a huge difference, as he took a bullet by going on first. The audience partly listened and laughed a fair bit, but what I’ve seen get a 9 or a 10 on other nights was only getting 6s or 7s and this was due to a combination of people talking and just not feeling that involved in there being a show on. This was bad luck for Tony and I think that this was simply the result being the first ‘turn’ as I’m sure most of the audience would have described him, of the night.

Vikki Stone

Stone gave the room an opening routine based around her footwear and this went down well, before singing the first of 4 songs, which she accompanied on keyboard. This wasn’t a bad song and I enjoyed the callback to her earlier material. That song revolved around her unrequited love of a celebrity and the second song was basically a variation on this, being another song about her unrequited love for a different celebrity. These were well written and sang very well, but I was glad when the 3rd and 4th songs were totally different. Stone was helped a bit by the demographic of the audience being in her favour, but the biggest boost she had was that the audience had settled down into the night during the intermission and the balance of the room was now with the people who wanted to listen and be entertained. Stone is a talented musical comedian, but didn’t really do it for me. Not through any lack of ability, she has plenty of that, but simply because musical comedy really isn’t my cup of tea; the audience were happy with her.

The Saracen’s Head – Stephen Grant, Adam Riley, Edd Hedges and Steve Royle

Tonight I was at the Funhouse gig in Southwell, which owing to the Admiral Rodney being refurbished, had moved 200 yards up the road to the Saracen’s Head. This is a grand old hotel with a touch of class to it. The comedy was in a big room, which lacked the intimacy of the Admiral Rodney as the audience were sat in rows, rather than arrayed around the stage. In common with the Adm Rodney, though, was the lack of a signal on people’s phones. Mike had a fair bit of fun with a birthday group that were there for the first time. It’s not often you come across a PE teacher who claims that his speciality is golf and Spiky Mike received applause for a swiftly ad libbed line when he caught him talking just before he brought on our opening act.

Stephen Grant

Stephen Grant is an act that I was especially interested in seeing. However, to begin with, I thought that he had misjudged the demographic of the audience, as his opening joke about Mansplaining, whilst a totally solid gag, went completely over the heads of most of the room. He easily bounced back from it and then gave the room a set that was perhaps 60% room work and 40% material. This did initially feel a little bit like a continuation of Mike’s compering, but Grant took it in a different direction and subtly swung the interactions in the direction of his chosen topic: marriage and relationships. Everyone was happy to chat with him and he held the room easily, picking up a lot of laughter. There were a few challenges to overcome, such as a lady giving a plausible lie about the number of times she had been married, only to pull the rug from under Grant’s feet when he began to weave something out of it – he rolled with this effortlessly – and then there was a chap who had business in education. The specifics of this took a bit of nailing down and it did feel a bit of a long road that would end in a comedy cul de sac, but much to his credit, Grant managed to make a lot out of it and my fears of a dead end were quite unfounded. The room work was done so well that when Stephen moved into material it felt like a natural continuation and there was no jarring change of direction. The delivery was very fast and there were a surprisingly high number of fucks contained within it. This was a very strong set and I’d love to see Grant compering a room as I can see that he’d be superb at it.

Adam Riley

I last saw Riley a year and a bit ago at a tough gig and I’d liked what I saw then, so when he came to the stage I was curious as to how he’d improved. He has a dry voice and a slow delivery, with some very well timed pauses and this works well with the slightly cantankerous stage persona he adopts. He scored points with me by having listened closely to Spiky Mike and Stephen Grant and so he was able to address audience members by name – this had the effect of making what he was saying feel all the more personal to the audience. I’m not a huge fan of pull back and reveals, but Riley had written his opening jokes skilfully enough that they worked very well and it was lovely seeing how dark he could go with exposure. The line about helping his wife’s addiction was absolutely smashing, as was the one about people not indicating, although I was surprised that he didn’t take it a bit more specific and go with BMW drivers not indicating. Ginger Bond was another strong routine, but probably didn’t really need him to ask the audience for their suggestions for the next Bond, because whilst it set the routine up, I think it possibly adversely affected the pacing, but I’d like to see it again, as it might have just been the audience tonight where this occurred. This was a very good set that I thoroughly enjoyed and Riley is definitely going in the right direction with his comedy.

Edd Hedges

There are two ways to pronounce Southwell. South-Well, which is the one that the inhabitants prefer, or Suvvhull, which is the way that a lot of people in the surrounding areas pronounce it. One of these pronunciations tends to annoy the inhabitants of Southwell and I think you can guess which one Hedges was unfortunate to go for with almost his opening line. This led to a good proportion of the room correcting him and more seriously, it seemed to put him on the back foot. Hedges is a country boy and this featured in his early material, but in referencing inbreeding and extra fingers (odd choice when a lot of his later material was about his dad having fewer fingers and less would have made his point just as well and tied in better) he wasn’t treading any new ground. The same could be said when he talked about his dad being a man’s man, whilst he himself isn’t a manly man – this scenario has been pretty much done to death and I’d be surprised if even the casual comedy goers haven’t seen a few routines based on it. The routine about the Australian OAP with the Cornetto was original, but sadly it would have benefited from a bigger ending and the end result was that it felt quite pedestrian. Hostel and Barclays weren’t bad, but like a lot of Hedges’ material they seemed more like an anecdote than first class material. On the plus side, Hedges got some laughs, he didn’t die, he was an amiable presence on stage, but he just didn’t seem to really cut the mustard tonight.

Steve Royle

Royle is a very talented comedian and he hit the ground running with the room taking an instant liking to him. He had a musical opening, which led into him juggling and then into the jokes. Royle is a dynamic act and like Gary Delaney he has the endearing habit of snorting when something has tickled him. He mixed the jokes up with some very good room work that tied it all together. In his delivery he would repeat a good proportion of lines to add emphasis to what he was saying and he did a similar thing with a few of the early punchlines, stooping down to patiently explain the joke to someone sat near the front. This gave him a second bite at the cherry with these jokes, but I think he was wise to tap out after doing it three times. I enjoyed seeing his skill in working in four or five punchlines to the upholstery gag. To close, Royle did a big and spectacular routine involving music and props and this went down an absolute storm with the audience. Whilst I admire Royle’s ability and talent he’s not really for me, but I was probably the only person who felt this way. Everyone else was massively invested in it and having a whale of a time. Royle definitely ended the evening in dramatic style.

Ashby: Angela Barnes, Richard Massara, Pierre Hollins and Patrick Monahan

Tonight I was in the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was a sold out show and having so many comedy savvy audience members present is one of the things that makes this such a nice gig. Initially Mike found it tricky to find someone to speak to whom he’d not spoken to before, but dropped in lucky when he asked one chap what he did for a living. Answering ‘that would be telling’ is probably the worst move anyone can make when hoping to either avoid the spotlight or when their job requires explanation. This fellow was a porter at one of the Oxford Colleges dealing with securityn and such, something which a few years ago might have resulted in a joke about Morse and murders, but which isn’t really something to try to avoid admitting to as an occupation. There was a beautiful moment when in the darkness, Mike saw someone stood at the end of the room and started to speak to them, asking if they had just arrived and did they need a chair, only to realise a split second later when she moved into the light that it was our opening act, Angela Barnes.

Angela Barnes

Tonight, Barnes gave the people of Ashby a very strong bonus length opening set. The material, amongst other things, concerned Netflix, drugs, getting older, bucket lists, dating and shaving, with her moving smoothly between topics. The particular angle with which she dealt with these things should have made her set of more interest to the ladies in the room, but Barnes delivered it in such a way that everyone was fully engrossed in her performance. Her voice was loud and clear and her delivery was animated, which drew everyone in. There was a huge laugh for biscuits in particular and a lot of laughter and applause throughout her set. As much as I liked her material, my enjoyment was a tad diluted by the fact that bucket/fuck it lists aren’t that novel and the odds and sods aisle in Lidl has been well mined by other comedians and beyond that, I’ve heard Barnes on Radio 4 quite a bit and so some of her stronger jokes didn’t hit me with as much force as they did the rest of the audience. However, apart from this minor quibble I thoroughly enjoyed her set. Barnes’ performance was great and everyone, myself included, had a lovely time watching her.

Richard Massara

Considering how tricky it was for Massara to get to and from this gig he is showing the sort of commitment that will take him far. This is matched by his ability, so I’ll be very interested in seeing where he is in a year or so. Tonight he came onto the stage and opened with a strong joke and never really looked back. The honeybee was wonderfully drawn out for long enough for the big reveal to get a superb response and this gave him his first of three or four bouts of applause. The material on insomnia was especially good and as well as getting a lot of laughter, I’m sure I saw a few people poking each other in recognition of what he was saying. The mugging was well acted out and this helped to sell it. With his winning smile and confident stage presence Massara gave the room a cracking performance.

Pierre Hollins

By coincidence I’d only seen Hollins last night in Sheffield and so as you’d expect this was the same set, consisting of twenty minutes or so of his best material. One difference between last night and tonight was that perhaps owing to the more intimate nature of this gig, the audience being more up for it, the energy levels in the room, or more likely a combination of all three, Hollins had a better gig in Ashby. Of his material, age went down a treat, cancer was great and his line about the weather was superb, netting him a well deserved applause break. I’m still not too convinced about the pacing on the better than routine, because opening the question up to the audience slows things down a touch. Last night I was very impressed by how exuberant Hollins’ delivery was and I was just as struck by it tonight. This was a really good set that was possibly longer than usual for this slot to give Pat more time to get to Ashby from the double up with Lichfield. The end result was that it felt like we had had three headline spots in addition to the up and coming Massara, which was no bad feeling to have.

Pat Monahan

I’ve seen Pat Monahan a lot of times and I’ve loved every performance as they are all so different. However, no matter how many times I’ve seen him, I still get a thrill of anticipation when he steps onto the stage, as I know what is coming and can enjoy the looks on the faces of people who are new to him. This man is a born performer and with his memory for faces and his ability to ad lib lines and routines on the spot, his room work is always tremendous. There is a lot of joy in just sitting back and watching Pat getting sidetracked by something or someone that has caught his eye. Tonight he noticed a lady trying to discreetly take his photo and in a wonderful moment he just paused the show and told her to take a proper one, getting Ben a young boxer sat near the front to come up and pose with him. This was followed by him riffing with Ken being a club DJ and luring people into liaisons through his use of a whistle. This was all cracking stuff and everyone felt involved because it was obvious that this performance wasn’t being phoned in, it was being laid on especially for them and it was very much of the here and now. Similarly, Pat built an entire segment around a lady he noticed whom he spotted checking her iWatch – his ability to spot opportunities and to think on his feet is amazing. This was a magnificent set that had a real feel good factor to it.

The Leadmill – Danny Sutcliffe, Allyson June Smith, Pierre Hollins and Steve N Allen (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at The Leadmill for a gig that wasn’t really on my radar until Red Redmond dropped me a line and made it so. Beyond a quick visit to their site to book a ticket and hearing that the seats are hard and uncomfortable (sadly true), I had no real idea of what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised. The room is huge, with a big stage and there were well over 100 people present, mostly students or young enough to pass for them and very well behaved, too. I had been hoping to see Red, or Scarlett hosting the night, but instead we had Steve N Allen on compering duties.

Steve N Allen (MC)

Although you wouldn’t think it to hear him speak, the well dressed Allen hails from my home town of Mansfield. However, in place of the usual Northern accent, he has a cultured voice and crystal clear diction. This stood him in good stead when he was chatting to the crowd in the first section. I really appreciated him asking people for their name and an interesting fact about themselves – this is a definite cut above asking people what they do and where they live. Allen’s examples of his own interesting facts were good, even though there was an element of pull back and reveal in his answers. I enjoyed his chat with the bodybuilder sat at the front and his line about 140 being a nice distance was especially pleasing. For his second and third stints, Allen used more material, and this worked well, with Weinstein being a pretty up to date reference. Allen kept his compering tight during all three segments and this certainly helped the night finish earlier than many midweek shows. This was good compering that helped the show without threatening to dominate it.

Danny Sutcliffe

I last saw Sutcliffe not too far from the Leadmill, at the Lescar and then I was pleased by his originality. However, tonight, I thought that whilst you perhaps couldn’t guess the exact punchline, if you had a stab at the direction he was heading in, then you were usually right. There were some good lines, like retired, a great running joke and some lovely callbacks. Structurally this was a fine set and Sutcliffe certainly looks interesting visually, with his bushy beard and big hair, but unfortunately his material didn’t really do it for me this time.

Allyson June Smith

We had a change of pace after the intermission with Allyson June Smith, who opened by informing the audience that she was Canadian. This was a shrewd move as it stopped people playing guess the accent and it led into some strong material. Her reaction to having her bag snatched was splendid and well acted out – you could really picture it happening. Smith’s delivery was pretty physical and she was never still for a moment, all of which added to what was a warm and endearing performance. I could have done without the inclusion of ‘still got it’ and ‘tell you a bit more about myself’ as both are overused, but this aside, there were a lot of very nice lines in this set. The routines about names (good room work to tie it in), horror films and the stalker were all well thought out. I was surprised that Kevin didn’t feature in the names routine, as that would have teed it up for a callback later, but never mind. The singing wasn’t really my cup of tea, but that aside, this was a performance that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Pierre Hollins

Closing was Hollins, who came to the stage carrying a guitar. He began with some good local references that quickly brought the room onside. Hollins has a deceptively flamboyant delivery and was a lot more bouncy and cheerful than you’d have expected – I really liked his style. The material was good, too, with cancer being solid and Muslim weather a real beauty. Allyson June Smith had done material on marijuana and this could have hurt Hollins’ routine about it, but as they both took it in different directions the law of diminishing returns did not come into play. There was a lovely throwaway line of ‘look it up’. The better than routine was fun, but I felt that it sat a bit awkwardly with the rest of the set as it really slowed the pace down. To close, Hollins played his guitar, using it to frame short routines and this gave a nicely definitive ending to what had been a good performance.