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 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.
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.
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.
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.