The Little Last Laugh – Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Kai Humphries (Edinburgh Preview)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at the Lescar for The Little Last Laugh. Whilst not as busy as usual (possibly due to the heat and the local students having gone home), it was still standing room only. In contrast to my last few visits there was no Big Shaun compering, which was a shame as I was looking forwards to seeing how he was coming on.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean

I’d only seen Pritchard once before and that was in Edinburgh, where she was a panellist on Paul Savage’s Hell to Play, where owing to a solid format and strong regular cast, she hadn’t really had much to do. However, seeing her name on the bill was a bonus, as there are some acts that you hear good things of, but who seldom seem to cross your path.

Pritchard announced at the top of the show that she was feeling unwell, but with any luck her having a good gig will have helped her recovery. She had a cracking gig and I doubt that if she hadn’t mentioned it that anyone would have guessed that she was under the weather. Pritchard received consistent laughs throughout her set and her timing on the topper to having gone vegan and noticing she was feeling better was superb. The pause was just long enough to get the most from that.

Pritchard spoke about growing up in Anglesey, her father, weekend gigs, after gig meals and about waxing (70’s theme was a clever line). However, the vast bulk of her material was sexually explicit in nature. This wasn’t done in a salacious way, but more in a matter of fact way and somehow this made it feel less relentless than what it would have done coming from a less skilled act. The tale of Siri, her and her boyfriend actually came off as pretty heart warming. Kiri discovered another Welsh speaker amongst the audience and I was surprised by this as the odds of that can’t have been very high. The line about audience intelligence and Blackpool was good, but this could have been improved if she had tied it to a local shit town, such as Doncaster, but that’s a minor point.

This was a very enjoyable set that everyone got behind and it was a shame that Pritchard wasn’t on longer.

Kai Humphries – Team Smug (Edinburgh Preview)

Following the intermission it was time for Kai Humphries’ Edinburgh Preview, entitled Team Smug. I’d not seen Humphries before, but I’d heard a fair bit about a lot of good work he does for disadvantaged people with his Punch-Drunk Comedy promotions. Owing to a lack of stage time, partly caused by world cup disruption, this was more of a work in progress than a full preview, which was fair enough.

Humphries opened with some light hearted comments about last night’s semi final loss to Croatia and these were well judged as it would have felt odd if no one had mentioned that match and because he didn’t dwell on it, he also kept the mood upbeat. This led smoothly into his material on having moved to London, which was a fun routine (minutes was a great line) and then from here we were into what I expected to be the meat of Humphries’ show: his upcoming marriage.

In some ways this was an unusual performance, because on the one hand, you could probably count the number of swear words on that one hand, but on the other, a fair bit of the material was cock related. It’s impossible, though, to feel offended by anything that Humphries says because he looks so cheerful on stage. He has a very pleasant grin and is so bright and buoyant delivering his material that even the line about the sock felt exuberant.

There were some cracking routines in this show. Men and Motors was very relatable to anyone of a certain age (and from his description it was rendered easily accessible to those under 30) and the channel change was a brilliant line. The levitating teacher was a superbly vivid scenario. The difference between how someone is described in life and in death has a heck of a lot of mileage in it – this could possibly even be fleshed out into a longer routine with some tangible celebrity versions for people to get their teeth into before he moved onto his Granddad. Similarly the inclusion of Mrs Brown’s Boys in the dvd wallet could be added to, as that seemed to slip out almost under a few people’s radar – it certainly deserved more than it received. The routine about Andy was also very strong.

I liked the tale involving Berocca, but having never touched the stuff, I got the context from the joke. I may or may not be in a minority on this, but perhaps beetroot might be a more accessible alternative? There were a few moments during some of the set ups where the energy dipped a bit, but if these were tightened up so as to be a touch less wordy then I think the energy levels would be maintained.

This was a buoyant performance that felt refreshingly cheerful and upbeat. I think once it is finished Humphries will have a funny and amiable show on his hands that brightens people’s lives up for an hour.

Advertisements

Queen Crafthouse – Tom Little, Dean Coughlin, Caislin Boyle, Freddy Quinne and Red Redmond (MC)

Tonight I have been at Red Redmond’s gig in Doncaster at the Queen Crafthouse. It was a cracking night that unfortunately involved a horrible member of the audience being asked to leave after he became obnoxious, which is unusual as people in the midweek are usually chilled. The venue itself is a rock pub, with a similar vibe to The Maze or The Rigger and it has a laid back casual atmosphere. The audience were a colourful bunch and either seemed to be fairly young or pretty old, with the middle aged in a minority. Whilst most of them were up for the comedy, there were 3-4 who were a little bit prone to shout out and became more so as the night went on. Amazingly it only cost £2 to get in, which is stupendously low priced to see some of the acts that were on.

Red Redmond (MC)

Red was a nicely relaxed compere, who in a clean and largely unsweary opening, brought everyone onboard. To begin with, though, he was bedevilled by a bit of music playing quietly through the speakers (Rainbow and then The Eagles), which led into an accurate observation of The Eagles being classic ‘dad music’. Red struck a bit of gold with the idea of Yorkshire entering the Olympics as a separate entity and I shouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a short routine just in that premise alone. He got a big laugh for some strong ad-libbed lines about emos, which went down a treat with the rock crowd. I enjoyed the Taylor Swift story; Red’s face lit up with enthusiasm and I think everyone bounced off of him being so happy about seeing her. The audience were pretty chilled apart from one bloke sat near the front, who upon being asked what he did, claimed to be a comedian. I don’t know why people do that. It’s not as though proper comedians won’t know they are trying to fake it, as they’d certainly know them if they had any kind of profile or industry reputation. Upon being asked where his next gig was, he answered the Frog and Parrot in Manchester and Red was rightly derisive. This chap, though, would come back to haunt the show during Freddy’s set. This was low key, stress free compering that was enjoyable to watch.

Tom Little

Little is an act that I’ve always appreciated seeing. He has a pleasantly quirky sense of humour and if you buy into his style then you are in for a splendid time. Tonight he started off well with a callback to The Eagles, mentioned by Red during his compering and moved smoothly from this into a good joke about Metallica, which came alive when he started to sing. This was then followed by a couple of jokes before he discussed his accent, where he received a shout out about Cumbria from an old Geordie sat in the middle of the room. Little dealt with this by quoting a bit of Wordsworth – with added twist – which was a solid joke and the follow up involving the phone call worked well, too. The routine concerning long words seemed to be just a touch too long for some people and I think he lost a couple along the way, which was a shame, as there is a lot to like about it. Perhaps if he were to add in some comedy definitions for some of these words as he builds the joke it might help with this. One person asked him to tell a joke, I couldn’t see who it was from where I was sat, but I believe it might have been the person who had claimed to be a comedian when Red was chatting to them. This interruption could have been irritating, but Tom had a ready made knock knock joke that led into his closing routine. This was a congenial set that whilst it didn’t carry everyone in the room all the way to the end, still had a lot to admire in it. On a side note, it was nice to see Little staying till the end to support the other acts through his presence in the audience.

Dean Coughlin

We resumed after the intermission with Coughlin, an act I’d not seen before. Without any preamble, which made a nice change to seeing some acts spend a few minutes compering the room before beginning their set, he launched straight into his. The material concerned wildlife documentaries and the genitalia of animals. This was delivered in a low energy way that I liked. However, despite octopus aliens being a great idea (I’m surprised that facehuggers from Aliens were mentioned during the picnic scene) and there being some good lines in this routine, I thought that the law of diminishing returns did kick in a bit. In fairness, the writing was strong with a good eye for the funny details and the audience enjoyed it, but it would have been nice to see something with a bit more variety. An entire set about nature and the genitalia of animals seemed to prove that you could have too much of a good thing.

Caislin Boyle

Next was Caislin Boyle, who in contrast to Coughlin, who stayed more or less within one topic, never seemed to find a topic that she did more than just make a short visit to. Breast milk, fitbits, her sexuality, her brother, the world cup, her father, gay marriage and muffs, amongst other things, all featured in her set and Boyle may have been better off just concentrating on a few of these things and digging a little bit deeper instead of going through them all. The world cup was topical, but it would be nice to hear a joke about Columbia that doesn’t feature cocaine. Muff, however, was a great routine that is unique and showed a lot of promise. Boyle’s delivery had a few erms in it, which isn’t disastrous, but when combined with her telling people that she’d come to a particular topic in a bit, quite a few words that didn’t add anything to what she was saying and her going off on the odd tangent when she was distracted, it made it hard for her to build momentum. This was a performance that felt disjointed partly due to the number of topics and also due to the unfocussed delivery. Boyle received laughs and I liked some of her stuff (particularly muff), but I think with more stage time and a more focussed delivery she’ll be a stronger act.

Freddy Quinne

Our closing act was Freddy Quinne, an act whom I really like to see, but who owing to geographical reasons, I don’t see as much of as I’d like. He opened with a wonderfully daft prop gag brought on by spotting a fitting in the room and followed this by saying that if you liked that, then you’d enjoy….. naming an act who specialises in daft prop gags, which was a delightful Easter egg for anyone in the room who follows UK comedy. This was then followed by a brief, but relatable bit of material about hay fever and then a routine about people transitioning. I’d read a bit on facebook about this routine, mostly comments from people who hadn’t seen it and were assuming that Quinne had taken it in a particular direction. It’s a solid routine that makes some valid points in an inoffensive way and there were plenty of laughs along the way, with George getting a very big response.

Quinne then moved into discussing an ex of his with eczema, which led to one guy shouting something out about crisps. Freddy dealt with him pretty firmly, spending a couple of minutes verbally working this guy over. Whilst this may have brought his set to a momentary halt, it was a joy to watch and it didn’t half inject some energy into the room. Just as he was about to resume, Quinne noticed an older guy with a mullet and commented on it, pointing out that he didn’t look like he’d get into an opera house. To this, the chap replied that he actually had some of his artwork hanging in an opera house. To Freddy this was game on, as he had a few doubts about this man’s claim and so he paused the gig whilst he googled him, keeping up a great running commentary that had everyone fair wanting to know how things stood. The result was that the man with the mullet was indeed a genuine artist, so Freddy did the square thing in apologising to him for doubting him and resumed the gig to big laughs.

However, just as he began to carry on, the old Geordie who had heckled Tom for being from Cumbria then shouted out to Freddy again, having misheard his age earlier: ’38? You must have had a hard paper round.’ This was uncalled for and not particularly pleasant. Quinne had noticed him earlier upon his first shout out and had created the character of him being an old soldier who voted brexit whilst simultaneously living in Spain and he returned to this theme by quoting in full the current Royal Navy recruitment advert (born in Carlisle, etc), for which he received an applause break.

Realising that his set had been comprehensively derailed by 3-4 people shouting out things, Quinne switched to room work, starting an impromptu Q&A with the audience. It was at this point that the bloke at the front who had claimed to be a comedian earlier switched from being disruptive to becoming a repugnant bell end. He shouted something obnoxious at Freddy and got booed by the audience for it and then in an effort to put Freddy on the back foot chased it up with an accusation that he was transphobic because of his earlier routine (it wasn’t). It was at this moment that Red Redmond appeared from nowhere and stood in front of this man and told him categorically how things stood. The heckler then tried to give Red a bit of lip and was asked by Red if he wanted to leave, which he then did. Red Redmond is one of the smallest built people on the circuit and so for him to square up to someone who is sat with at least one friend, it shows real guts on his part.

There was only a few minutes left of the set and Freddy did well to continue and see it out. Despite all of the interruptions there was a lot of laughter, too. Quinne’s room work was impressive as was the material he managed to get out.

Quinne has a dvd out, which is available here.

Regardless of the interruptions, which were a bit of a one off, this was an enjoyable show and it’s fun night. It’s well worth acts applying to perform here.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Lost Voice Guy – Inspiration Porn

Whilst I can’t claim to be a big fan of Britain’s Got Talent, I am a big fan of Lee Ridley. His Radio 4 series, Ability, is a real joy to listen to. Judging from the numbers that had come to see him it looks like he is having a most excellent year.

Making full use of a projector and a screen, he opened with a montage of disabled superstars doing incredible things. He then brought everyone down to earth by describing his own position. I liked the line about the shoes, even though it was hard to see them from where I was sat.

In such a tech heavy set, which proceeds at the pace of the delivery chosen on his iPad (slow enough for everyone to follow and also slow enough to draw people in), Ridley is able to add to the delivery through facial expression, stance and how he holds his hands and arms. This works very well and he is able to add quite a lot of emphasis to what he is saying.

The tone is sarcastic, with Tory cuts to disability allowances getting a very pleasant and deserving kicking. Also in the firing line are inspirational quotes and the Paralympics, with some very funny things said about them. A lot of the material is autobiographical in nature, dealing with Ridley’s life as a man with a disability and also with his past girlfriend. There is a good balance in this and you get a feel for the man himself, seeing beyond the obvious.

There were some extremely good routines here, such as the blind horse, fire risk, the gameshow (a wonderful set piece) and the trip on the train, which was excellent. The section in the cafe was a bit hard to follow, but that was the only section that I had trouble with. This was a very funny show that a lot of people will enjoy.

Tickets for this Edinburgh show can be found here.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Josh Pugh – The Changingman

In preparation for the closing act, Lost Voice Guy, the beer garden of the New Barrack Tavern was quite a bit busier now and this didn’t hurt Josh Pugh at all.

Pugh got the energy going with his opening routine and never looked back, following it up with some short jokes to build up the momentum. Josh is a skilled writer, whose material is offbeat with some lovely unexpected reveals. There were a lot of standout routines in this show and as a result there was a lot of laughter. Whilst the nursery joke is a pullback and reveal, it is such a fun gag that it was a real bonus to the show. The Ibiza routine was very strong, but one possible improvement might be to describe what he is wearing after the other two have been described, as I don’t think doing it before really got the most from that line.

Every so often a particular joke would perhaps go over someone’s head, or might not have been to their taste, but there was never an instance of a joke falling flat. Pugh is quirky, but also accessible, which isn’t the easiest combination to pull off.

There was only one bit that I thought was a touch jarring and that was when Josh was discussing being a changingman: including relationships in that after announcing his happy marriage following a long term relationship felt odd and I daresay a couple of people may have mentally queried it. If this were to be swapped out for something else, the more ridiculous the better, then this hurdle would be jumped.

Pugh has a confident stage presence and I think everyone could relax into his show easily. I particularly enjoyed his ‘can’t win them all’ expression upon the second visit to his gran. This is a good and funny show.

Tickets for Edinburgh can be bought here

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Danny Ward – Dansplaining

This was my second preview show of the day at the NBT and by now it was beginning to cool down nicely. Numbers were pretty good all day, with a few people going home for tea and more arriving to see the shows. It was great to see Wayne Bamforth (Last Laugh) there for the duration, although the chap who was watching the match on his phone whilst simultaneously watching Ward did take multitasking too far for my liking. After Stephanie had done the introduction it was time for the show to begin.

Although he has performed various routines from it before, this was Ward’s first full preview of Dansplaining, which he did alert the audience to at the top of the show. The finished article will make use of a projector and screen, but these were missing today.

Ward opened by asking by show of hands, how many people in the audience were familiar with the phrase ‘mansplaining’. Surprisingly this seemed to be around about 30%, which was far lower than I was expecting. Following this, he then launched into the show.

There were some very good routines present, such as escape room, languages, Big Issue, F1 hotel, and the game of paper, scissors, stone. There were also some that showed promise and with a bit more work will become stronger, such as triumphal jumping, which required a bit more and the Amsterdam Cafe, which was a great premise that just needed a better reveal to get the most from it. Milkman was a tad obvious, but it got a decent laugh, nonetheless.

However, at present, the biggest issue with this show was just how disjointed it all felt. In fairness it’s early days and this was more of a work in progress than a preview, but there isn’t yet the feel of it all coming together and the routines connecting up. This might be due to the missing projector and screen, as they may have helped provide a framework to tie the jokes to. There were also a few moments where there seemed to be a bit too long a gap between punchlines, but this pacing will be resolved with more previews.

Ward did seem a bit distracted in his delivery. This wasn’t because he was working off of notes, which I’m fine with on an early run through, but partly due to the audience. He had one lady on the front row who seemed to give him feedback after most lines, there was the guy watching football on his phone and people who wandered off to the loo before returning.

There were a lot of funny routines here, which he got laughter for, and once Ward has given Dansplaining more stage time to iron out the wrinkles he will be able to take full advantage of them and create a show bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s not there yet, but I’m sure it will be.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Scott Bennett – Leap Year

This afternoon I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Edinburgh previews. It was 29 degrees according to the thermometer in my car and I didn’t doubt it. Luckily the previews at the NBT take place in the beer garden, which despite being quite enclosed seemed to attract quite a regular breeze and this helped to cool everything down. The first preview I saw was Scott Bennett’s Leap Year.

Being born not a million miles away and a firm favourite at the NBT, this must have felt a very comfortable gig for Bennett. He certainly started in top gear, hoovering up laughs quickly and consistently. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the regularity of the punchlines came so thick and fast that they almost approached that of a one-liner comic.

I’ve seen a lot of this show already, as Bennett has been working on it for a long time, honing it, changing the odd word here and there and polishing it into what it has become. This is an extremely tightly scripted show where there is scarcely a word that doesn’t add comedic value (‘idiot’ was the only word that I thought could be changed for a funnier alternative). The material is relatable and very easy to follow. There were some very nice extra touches, such as the physicality that accompanied waving, which sold that line tremendously well.

The delivery was sincere and it’s easy to tell that this is a show that personally means a lot to Bennett. To him it’s not just a jaunt up to Edinburgh because that is what August is for, this is a show that he is heavily invested in. Scott did have a habit of saying ‘man’ a lot when he delivered something particularly heartfelt, but frankly rather than being a tic, I found this endearing and it just emphasised the passion behind the show.

There were a lot of callbacks in Leap Year, which I adored and they were used well to bring out the narrative arc. Everything tied up and came together with a feeling of completeness. When you consider just how coherent this was as a story and the incredible laughs per minute ratio, this show is a triumph. In Leap Year Scott Bennett has created a masterpiece of comedy.

Tickets for this show in Edinburgh can be bought here