Black Bull – Jack Topher, Adam Beardsmore, Thomas Green (Edinburgh work in progress) and Thomas Green (MC)

Tonight I was in Whetstone to see a comedy night in the skittle alley of the Black Bull. This is a good room for comedy, with its low ceiling and massing of 70 or so people in quite a small space. Energy and atmosphere built very nicely indeed. Although this night was booked by Jack Topher, Adam Or who runs a couple of nights was present, too and it’s always nice to see people supporting each others nights like that. The rest of the audience was made up of people from Whetstone itself and this was definitely one of those gigs where 95% of the audience knew each other, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it can make people feel more confident to shout out. Show time was pushed back to accommodate a football match, which was convenient for a lot of people, but which had the knock on effect of necessitating an extra break so that people could go to the toilet. With the low ceiling, hot room and pretty well oiled audience there was a definite Edinburgh vibe to the night and like an Edinburgh show, there was no one Scottish present.

Thomas Green (MC)

I’ve only ever seen Green doing his show (2016) or a straight set and although I’d heard some very nice things about his compering, this was a first for me. Green has oodles of likeability, but he has a lot to offer beyond that. He has an agile mind, which meant that he was never caught off balance by anything anyone said to him, he is skilled at directing conversations towards his existing material and his performance skills are remarkable. I was especially impressed by his habit of assuming a separate character whenever he addressed the room with an aside. This was a lovely touch and it was something that everyone liked. Green has quite a vocal range, which not only came to the fore in the asides, but also through him adding little touches of characterisation to people he was describing and also when he dropped his voice to say with sinister menace to someone, ‘and you thought I wasn’t going to talk to you….’ Green has a very good memory for people’s names and this meant that he was able to structure quite a few callbacks to people whom he’d chatted to earlier. When this was combined with the character traits he had assigned to the various people present (many of whom now have new nicknames courtesy of Green) it gave the gig a wonderful feeling of an intimate shared experience. The only thing of substance that I wasn’t so keen on was a joke about vegans not having any energy. It was a good joke and received a big laugh, but this is a pretty well travelled area. That aside, this was excellent compering.

Jack Topher

As the booker of a gig in his home town and performing in front of an audience consisting of people who have known him for most of his life, Topher probably had more pressure on him than anyone else in the room. He dealt with this well, doing lots of special in jokes and taking full advantage of his inside knowledge of all present. However, he did come unstuck a bit from having had a few drinks and losing his place a couple of times, which is a one off as he doesn’t do this at other gigs. He opened by telling everyone that he wouldn’t be as funny as our MC, Thomas Green, and he pitched this with just the right tone to get a good laugh for his admission. This was then followed by him ostentatiously re-jigging his set to compensate for the fact that almost everyone present knew his mum and his usual routine about her wouldn’t fly without the alterations. This went down well, although he was on the receiving end of some pointed comments from his future mother in law. As ever, the pauses on death and brother were excellent. The closing musical joke was quite a long routine, but worked well as a once only in-joke for the his friends. This was fun, but I’ve seen Jack have better gigs.

Adam Beardsmore

No sooner had Beardsmore taken to the stage than he was greeted with a shout out from Callum of ‘don’t pick on me!’ which naturally enough resulted in Callum coming in for some teasing. This, however, was only the starter, as during the interval Adam had had a chance meeting in the toilet with a chap who was waiting to use a cubicle, as this man couldn’t pee in front of people. Beardsmore shopped him to the room in a way that nicely balanced between getting laughs and not making the person look silly. This tale of embarrassing happenings provided a nice link to a new bit of material concerning a shopping trip with his daughter, which led fluidly into his existing material and so on until his first applause break. There was then a break for some pretty nifty room work, where Adam outed Jack’s stage name to everyone, as tonight he had been performing under his real name. This got a laugh and considering that Topher is progressing nicely, it is perhaps something for his friends to be proud of, but it did leave me with more mixed feelings. There was a slight interruption at this stage as a phone went off and the owner tried to reply to a text before being enjoyably castigated for it. This was followed by some more new material concerning double barrelled names. This routine is a keeper, but I’d consider changing the names, perhaps to something in the way of an Easter Egg, like the names of the people who have played Doctor Who, or something similar for the more awake to spot. The acronym isn’t that easy to follow, as no one knew it was an acronym and although it is funny in retrospect when explained, I think it could still be used with the different names, as the end comment is funny enough without the acronym to back it up. As ever, the closing routine, with topper, was superb. This was a good set from someone who sooner, rather than later, will be moving up in the comedy industry.

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas (work in progress)

After the final break we came to the main event, Thomas Green’s Edinburgh work in progress: Doubting Thomas. Owing to the later start, the extra break and the usual difficulty in getting people back to their seats in short order, the night had progressed quite dramatically. Whilst I could handle the bar sounding last orders before the show had ended, I was pretty concerned about the audience reaching a tipping point where their ability to sit still in a hot room and pay attention would fade. By now the audience, whilst still in a great mood, were thoroughly lubricated and had that small town we all know each other confidence to shout out at regular intervals. This could have made the room hard to play, but Green did very well to keep things more or less on track. He did have to burn a fair amount of time in dealing with the shout outs, but he did so in a way that was consistently funny and kept everyone onside. There was one rare slip in his remembering people’s names, calling Helen Holly, but that stood out more for being unusual, as he’d had a 100% success rate thus far, than for being jarring.

There were a lot of jokes and comments that were specific for this gig only and these were uniformly superb and really hammered home just how good live comedy is, as opposed to a dvd, and whilst these quips won’t make Edinburgh, they did demonstrate an impressive ability to think on his feet.

He began by asking who had been to Australia and this led pleasingly into a routine about swimming. The villainous look on his face when discussing finishing swimming with his ex truly sold that line. As before, when compering, Green was able to take full advantage of his vocal range to get a lot out of his material. Just little things, like how he enunciated ‘science’ helped to push his performance, whilst the bigger things, like the theatrical delivery of an encounter with a lady and then her father, worked even better.

One new bit concerning Loki was interesting and a great object lesson in the weirdness of Norse mythology (there is definitely a full show in comparing the more bizarre religious myths of the world), but it didn’t really come off as well as it might have done as just a short routine. The tale of his partner and her ability to remain resolutely down to earth was very good and there may be room to add to it by stressing this ability further, especially if tied in to the final line about the flowers. Tonight that got a lot of applause, but I can see it working even better.

There was a change of pace with the tale of the tiger and this might work better in the middle of the show when energy levels tend to drop naturally. Green may be best to get A3 or even A2 mock ups made of the pages of the book, as the pictures weren’t that easy to see the detail on from 12′ away. If he were to get an audience member to present them at the right moments it would help bond the room with the material and it would free Green to use the microphone more easily, as it was tricky to both show the pages and to keep close enough to the mic to make full use of it. During this routine drought was a nice line, but I think for Britain hosepipe ban would be stronger as it would have greater resonance. Spiders was an excellent closing routine.

Although this was a work in progress, Green has the makings of a great show here. The material is funny and his performance is splendid. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this and will be very interested in seeing the finished article.

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