Blessington Carriage – Josh Pugh, Lorna Shaw, AJ Roberts, Ian Crawford and Al Lubel

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was the 3rd time in as many weeks I’d been in this room. I was slightly surprised at how many people had turned out for the show. Despite it being a bank holiday and a roasting hot day there was a fair sized audience. It would have been nice if we could have just moved the gig outside into the cool, as it was very hot upstairs. There is something about all day drinking that seems to bring out the worst in people, but for a change, this was one of the few bank holiday gigs I’ve been to where there hasn’t been a fight break out or it feel as if it was going to kick off. The only people who had been drinking were a charming couple on their first date who gave Spiky Mike no end of material. Jasmine was a magician’s assistant and had the sort of cheerful affability that made her ideal for him to chat to. Very quickly the audience were ready for the acts.

Josh Pugh (new material)

Opening was Josh Pugh who was treating the room to some new material. This was a mixture of new stuff being polished and some things that were possibly being said for the first time. The majority of this was very strong. I really like the change in energy from Oggy to his following line and this works very well. The doctor and the eye test extra were both great, as was magic trick. When he was talking about his wife talking in her sleep, I did wonder if there was possibly the chance of a callback to what he was not at the doctor’s for, but I think the route Pugh went was more punchy. I enjoyed the games jokes, but felt that Guess Who was the stronger of the two, especially the 2nd and 3rd jokes. The indie DJ is brand new and although it isn’t there yet, I feel that it has legs, and if fleshed out a bit more could be a very good routine. I enjoyed watching Pugh and whilst, as to be expected, not every new line was an instant hit, his consistency in creating strong new routines is much to be admired.

Lorna Shaw

Shaw delivered her material without any umms and ahs, which was nice, but despite this, I didn’t feel that she made a big connection with the audience and failed to draw people in as much as what she might have done. There were some decent jokes in her set, such as the book and dumped, but a lot of it was more amiable instead of hugely funny. T shirt had potential and mild wasn’t bad, but didn’t really rise above being any more than just mild. I didn’t so much mind Dubai being a pull back and reveal, but felt that the exposition afterwards didn’t add much of value to it. The bulk of the material was ok, but it needed something more to push it further. This was a set that was in need of a big routine that everyone would remember. Shaw was a fast speaker, who delivered her material sort of semi crouched and leaning towards the audience, but if she were to edit down her set ups, she would probably find the space to say a lot more, as the builds were pretty wordy. Also, I wouldn’t have minded her not opening with ‘tell you a bit about me’ as this is overused. A lot of this sounds negative, but this wasn’t a bad set; there was some pleasant stuff in it, but it just wasn’t a stand out set. Hopefully with a bit more stage time everything will be just that bit better.

AJ Roberts

We resumed after the intermission with AJ Roberts who became the second act to tell us a bit about him. However, despite this passé opening line he gave one of the stand out performances of the night. He had a solid opening joke and I’d say that within a minute of him taking to the stage he had the room fully invested in him. A lot of his set concerned Cockneys and London and usually this doesn’t fare well up here, as outside of London no one really cares much for London-centric material, but he pitched this exactly right as an outsider looking in and it was absolutely splendid to see. The journey into work wasn’t quite so nuanced, but he delivered it with such verve that it went down a treat, with the topper being superb. This was a very impressive set that everyone thoroughly enjoyed and I’d like to see more of him.

Ian Crawford

Following Roberts could have been tricky, but Crawford managed it very well, giving the room a health and safety brief aimed at reducing cutlery related mishaps. I’d heard some good things about his act and so I was chuffed to see his name on the bill. He came to the stage overdressed for the weather and in just taking his jacket off and then moving it away from the lamp he got his first laughs of the night. Crawford is a deceptively physical comic. He doesn’t make huge moves with his limbs, nor does he dance about the room, but just through little actions and mannerisms he is able to subtly convey the humour in what he is doing. The material did what it said on the tin: it was a brief about the dangers of cutlery and there was real joy in the pedantry and minutiae of someone taking a seemingly frivolous topic so seriously. Crawford’s timing was impeccable. This set had the feel of a mature set, but I’m not surprised, as when something is as right as what this is, it must be very difficult to tinker with. As with Roberts, this was a performance that everyone enjoyed.

Al Lubel

Headlining was the American Al Lubel who opened by singing. This was well thought out, but went on too long for my liking and I was quite relieved when he changed direction. A lot of his material involved him dismantling various premises using the power of logic and this was very good. His slow conversational delivery and relentless logic strongly reminded me of Dave Allen. I really enjoyed these routines, even if the material on his name outstayed its welcome (the callback was good, though). Possibly my favourite routine was confusion, although his practising law was a close second. This was a good set, even if a few sections were a touch drawn out.

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