Tonight I was in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. I’m not sure if this had sold out, but I’m damned if I could see any empty seats in the room and everyone was in for a treat. This was one of those shows where all four acts did incredibly well. Mike had a good night compering, chatting to Charmaine, who was happy enough to admit that she was a commercial estate agent specialising in pubs, but who was strangely reticent about naming her company. I’ve no idea why people do that, as no one is going to abuse their company or do them any harm, but either way, Mike was experienced enough not to push her on it. He got a huge laugh for the next person he spoke to, who was Charmaine’s PA, as he quickly came out with a rhyming couplet. There were further laughs from Mike speaking to George, who was 6’5 and only 16 and also from when he spoke to a Canadian marine biologist and although the Coronation Street specific joke was a tiny bit niche, fans of the programme loved it.
Following the demise of Ian D Montfort, we had a replacement in Chris Thomas, who was rather similar looking, but without the Wearside accent. Thomas took to the stage, wearing a suit and jacket and opened with the sort of joke that was powerful enough to have everyone onside within 2 lines. This was just the beginning of a superb set. There were some excellent set pieces that were incredibly well thought out and had everyone laughing. These included doing spirit drawings from a book of famous stiffs (Peter Stringfellow was a wonderfully timely addition) that two audience members had secretly chosen, guessing star signs and most spectacularly of all guessing the lines on a random page in a book. Times have moved on since acts took a book to a show for this and instead Thomas had a kindle with the complete works of Shakespeare on. All 61,000 pages of it. Three audience members picked out the digits to give a page number and a random audience member then checked it and Thomas had to guess what the first line of that page was. Incredibly he was able to recite a good few lines of it. There was one person who attempted to be creative with his answers to the questions, but Thomas dealt with him easily. This set was delivered with an assured confidence and went down a storm.
Hawkins had a cracking night. His opening joke worked very well at drawing people in and getting them listening, as everyone wanted to know how things turned out in this story. When the punchline came, it landed with a lot of force, getting him his first laughs and applause of the night. Hawkins was very aware of whom Mike had been talking to during his compering and was twice able to tailor his material to tie it to individual members of the audience and this worked brilliantly in adding extra impetus to what he was saying. I loved it when Hawkins played with the conventions of comedy when he announced that he would ‘tell the audience about me’. In a comedy literate room like this, it worked a charm. In contrast to an act I saw last week, Hawkins has a slow delivery and a crystal clear voice and in consequence no one missed a word of what he said and so everyone was laughing a lot. A hell of a lot. Very quickly we were at that lovely stage where every time he finished a sentence the whole room laughed. This was a smashing set and Hawkins never put a foot wrong all the way throughout.
On a read through of the topics that Phillipson spoke about, lads, his dad, smelly visits to the loo, masturbation and girlfriend’s parents, it sounds very laddish, almost FHM in tone. However, Phillipson is a very subtle writer of comedy and he fashioned these topics into something nuanced, creative and very enjoyable. He was assisted in this by tackling each area from a different angle to what you’d expect and his skilful use of toppers was a joy to see. This was a set that whenever you thought he’d peaked with a routine, Phillipson would then add in just one more line to ramp up the humour. My personal favourite was admin, which seemed to strike a big chord with a lot of people in the room. Despite saying ‘right’ a few times, this was a very well delivered set and I’m surprised that he didn’t run out of breath on a couple of occasions. This was a performance where the laughter and applause flowed very easily for Phillipson.
The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue
For three years I’ve been hearing great things about this double act. I’ve heard about them getting standing ovations from tough rooms and about how they have smashed pretty much every gig, yet whenever they’ve been performing near me, I’ve always been at work. So I was massively looking forwards to seeing them tonight. There was a slight delay in them taking to the stage, owing to a technical hitch, but once this was resolved, they began their performance. The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue are a musical prop double act who will act out the lyrics of songs or do brief sketches based on lyrics. It’s not necessary to have any knowledge of the song excerpts they perform to (probably just as well, as I only recognised half of the songs) as you get everything you need in the way of exposition just from the lyrics themselves. Mike alerted everyone to the fact that they are a very visual act and so pretty quickly a good number of people were moving to get a better view. This is a performance where there are any number of things that could cause a hiccup, such as fumbling a prop, banging into each other on the stage, mistiming an action or even a speaker cutting out, but they pulled it off triumphantly. Raymond and Mr Timpkins have superb timing and coordination. Whilst the props and the music do the obvious heavy lifting, it is the superb acting of this duo that really sell their performance. The expressions pulled and the various moves with each prop pushed this to the maximum. After spending 3 years in anticipation of seeing them, I regret to say that although it is magnificent, it wasn’t really my cup of tea – I’m not that into musical comedy and I found it very hard not to try and second guess what they were going to do on the songs that I recognised. However, the audience loved every minute of it and I was surprised that there wasn’t a standing ovation. This was a magnificent performance and I can see why they have such a good reputation.