Acts that have impressed me the most – July

This has been a fun month for comedy. We were in full on Edinburgh preview season and although I only saw 31 acts, I did see some absolutely brilliant shows.

The highlight of the month was Red Redmond squaring up to an obnoxious heckler. Red is one of the smallest built people I’ve met and this bloke could have done him a nasty injury before the rest of the room intervened, so this took guts. The lowlight of the month was a drunk who kept complaining about one act’s otherwise well received set, saying ‘didn’t get that’ or ‘what?’ after most of their jokes. You can’t please everyone, but she seemed to be really going out of her way to let people know she wasn’t onboard. Naturally during the intermission she went over and told the act that they were dead brave…..

These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:

Justin Moorhouse

This was an amazing show. His timing was perfect, his writing was impeccable and he kept the energy up all the way through.

From the night:

Moorhouse came to the stage full of energy and received a rousing reception from the audience. To say that he hit the ground running would be a huge understatement – he hit the room with the speed of a steam locomotive and he never slackened the pace throughout the entire hour. He began by discussing the title of his show, with a brief talk about being Northern, where he showed a firm grasp of northern rivalries, before moving onto the joker part. This show was full of stories about his life, his children getting older, Brexit and Puffin Island. Every single routine was full of charm and extremely funny. There were no lulls, Moorhouse just seemed to go from highlight to highlight.

Too many areas stood out for their excellence, so this list is far from comprehensive. There was a great joke about being vegan, what Trump has done for middle aged men was superb, especially the line about the fence, his whole foray into Brexit was magnificent and insightful. However, when it came to table sauces and Brexit, Moorhouse demonstrated true genius; this was sublime writing. Even Brezhnev received a mention and got a laugh, something that can’t have happened recently in a comedy show.

Moorhouse’s delivery was superb. He has a great rhythm of delivery and he could probably read out a shopping list and still get laughs just from how he did it. His timing with the pause on the motives of Brexit voters was great. This was a show where not only was there a lot of laughter and applause, but people were still laughing long after the punchlines. I’ve a feeling that I will still be laughing at this days later. This is a winner of a show.

Laura Monmoth

Monmoth has the basis of a very good twenty here. It’s not yet the finished article, but with tighter writing and a different closing routine she will have something special. It’s already got bags of charm.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Laura Monmoth. I’ve seen Laura compering and doing her Edinburgh show, but I’d never seen her do a twenty before. A lot of her material was delivered via power point, which made it very easy to follow. There were a lot of jokes to be seen. Even the screen saver, prior to her beginning contained a good number of jokes for anyone who gave it more than the once over. Laura was very astute in taking pre-gig photos of the audience and the landlord and using them in her set, as this grabbed everyone’s attention and made her set feel special. Equally wise was her use of Mansfield for the local shit town. I and everyone else were hugely impressed by the power point crafted callbacks to Roger’s set. These were elaborate and must have been very time consuming for her to create, but they landed with the force of a sledgehammer. Laura’s attempts to improve reality were charming and very funny, receiving good laughs. The closing routine featured Bohemian Rhapsody and she’d benefit from acquiring a conductor’s baton to push the sing-along along. This is a good closing routine, but it’s a very long song and it does eat up a lot of time that she might be able to make better use of. For anyone not invested in it after the first minute, there isn’t much to hold them for the next five, but in fairness, Laura received good laughs for it, especially the more surreal names. This was a very good set that held the room well. It was creatively constructed and the laughs came regularly. Monmoth is certainly a bookable act.

Simon Lomas

Simply a fantastic act with amazing comic instincts.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Simon Lomas who is the best new act to hit the circuit in the last few years. He was here to try some new material not long after winning the biggest monetary prize in UK comedy history. As he stood on the stage about to begin his set, Lomas received a wolf whistle, which, with a voice dripping with dryness, he thanked the lady for. He then launched into his set, getting his first applause break after his first joke. From here it became almost Pavlovian, with Lomas talking and then the audience laughing and applauding every time he finished speaking. I adored the visual gag with the notebooks and I shouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t get a second bite of that cherry by having a third book about his person. There were two new jokes that could perhaps be improved; Alton Towers and the following joke, which might perhaps work better with stayed at home. There was a cracking moment when a girl was foolish enough to shout out, asking if he needed a hug – his response to this was beautiful and the joke that he closed the set on was tremendous. This was a brilliant set.

Honourable Mentions:

Fran Jenking, Freddy Quinne, Josh Pugh, Phil Nichol, Red Redmond,

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Edinburgh Special 2018

I’ve not seen as many Edinburgh previews as I’d have liked owing to work, distance and the weather. However, these are the ones that I have seen over the last month or so:

Ahir Shah: Duffer

Tom Houghton: Tom Houghton the Honourable

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas

Will Mars: Candid Cafe

Danny Ward: Dansplaining

Josh Pugh: The Changingman

Lost Voice Guy: Inspiration Porn

Kai Humphries: Team Smug

Chris Washington: You Beauty!

Scott Bennett: Leap Year

Gary Delaney: Gagster’s Paradise

Bethany Black: Unwinnable

Alistair Williams: Great White Male

Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Adam Hess: Seahorse

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

The thing that struck me the most out of what I saw was just how underprepared some of the shows were. In fairness, some were early-ish previews in June and a few were billed as works in progress, which is fair enough and I wasn’t expecting perfection in any case. Even so, it was amazing how many were 2-3 months preparation behind what I’ve seen in previous years. This wasn’t people working off of notes, but instead, miscellaneous routines without a lot of structural narrative holding it together. The end result was that at worst, some felt like a series of random routines instead of a show. 

This isn’t to say that they weren’t funny and that the audience didn’t enjoy them, because by and large they were and they did, but it was very much a case of being served a chocolate bar with the wrapping still on. 

There were some exceptions: Bennett, Moorhouse, Pugh, Mars, Houghton, Delaney and Ridley all had shows that were ready for Edinburgh and from day one, audiences will get the full experience.

The funniest three previews I saw were:

Scott Bennett: Leap Year

This show is the best that I’ve ever seen. The jokes come almost with the pace of a one-liner comedian and there is a huge level of coherency to the whole that leaves you with a nice warm feeling of fulfilment. If there is any justice in the world, this will be Scott’s breakthrough year into becoming a household name.

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

This is very close to Bennett’s in quality. The writing is superb. It is insightful, hilarious and with Moorhouse’s down to earth delivery, the end result is amazing. This show has 5 Star written all over it, unless some git writes it off (probably before they even see it) as a Northern comic’s club set. This show is absolutely piss funny.

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas

Ironically I saw this show under adverse conditions. The room was boiling hot, everything had been delayed, the audience were drunk and just wanted banter and it was at an early stage. However, there was a lot of great stuff there and Green has the magnetism to bring it all together in a most satisfying way.

Previews that I’d like to have seen, but didn’t:

Roger Swift: Pun-U-Matic (the second leg)

I like Roger, he’s an underrated act who is better than he thinks he is. I did have chance to see this last night, but it was too bloody hot to travel for 90 minutes.

James Cook: Sarcasmic

Cook is one of the most technically excellent acts that I’ve ever seen and should be a lot better known than what he is.

David Callaghan: Dead Man’s Chest

I’ve only ever seen Callaghan once and that was at a gong show (he won), but I’ve got a strong feeling that there is a lot of gold here and this should be good.

The Little Last Laugh: Adam Hess and Justin Moorhouse

Tonight I had a trip to Sheffield in the midst of sweltering heat, however it was totally worth it considering the quality that I saw.

Adam Hess: Seahorse

Hess began by warming the audience up a little bit, telling them about how a robot had taken his job earlier in the year (the later callback to this was good) and he then gave us a brief list of quirky facts about himself to add a bit of context to the show.

The show itself was a work in progress, but the mainspring of it seemed to be that owing to a setback he has had to move back in with his parents and this seems to have reminded him of various things that occurred during his childhood. I could be wrong with the narrative arc, as he jumped around a lot and the structure wasn’t that easy to discern. A lot of the show consists of stories from his earlier years, with his brother and mum playing fairly large roles (I really liked the tale of his mum buying tickets to one of his previews), but these weren’t in any particular order and every so often he would jump to an anecdote from recent years or even this month. There were some strong routines in here such as shrunken salad, stethoscope, shrapnel and under the bed. All of these were very good and received good laughs.

However, because Hess seemed to be going in three different directions at once and would get distracted and go off on what looked to be a tangent at the drop of a hat, I never felt that I’d got to grips with what the show was about. He spoke a lot – I can’t fault his work rate – he kept it light hearted and fun and I think that when he’s worked on the structure the stories will click into place and it’ll become bigger than the sum of its parts.

Tickets can be found here.

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

Moorhouse came to the stage full of energy and received a rousing reception from the audience. To say that he hit the ground running would be a huge understatement – he hit the room with the speed of a steam locomotive and he never slackened the pace throughout the entire hour.

He began by discussing the title of his show, with a brief talk about being Northern, where he showed a firm grasp of northern rivalries, before moving onto the joker part. This show was full of stories about his life, his children getting older, Brexit and Puffin Island. Every single routine was full of charm and extremely funny. There were no lulls, Moorhouse just seemed to go from highlight to highlight.

Too many areas stood out for their excellence, so this list is far from comprehensive. There was a great joke about being vegan, what Trump has done for middle aged men was superb, especially the line about the fence, his whole foray into Brexit was magnificent and insightful. However, when it came to table sauces and Brexit, Moorhouse demonstrated true genius; this was sublime writing. Even Brezhnev received a mention and got a laugh, something that can’t have happened recently in a comedy show.

Moorhouse’s delivery was superb. He has a great rhythm of delivery and he could probably read out a shopping list and still get laughs just from how he did it. His timing with the pause on the motives of Brexit voters was great.

This was a show where not only was there a lot of laughter and applause, but people were still laughing long after the punchlines. I’ve a feeling that I will still be laughing at this days later. This is a winner of a show.

Tickets can be found here.

Canal House – Ryan Mold, Hassan Dervish, Simon Lomas, Katie Mitchell, Red Redmond, Ben Bridgeman, Scott Bennett and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night, which continues to be a superb show. There was a really big audience in, which added to the atmosphere and luckily the room was quite cool, which made it even sweeter.

Fran Jenking (MC)

Fran had an excellent night compering and the audience loved him, despite his overrunning a couple of times. He began just by using his powerful voice, as there was a glitch with the microphone. Referencing the hot weather was nicely topical. I was very happy to see Fran talking about the dark web and unboxing, as I’ve not heard a lot of material about these and it felt fresh. This was combined with some very strong room work. Everyone whom Jenking spoke to was happy to chat with him and he was able to build a heck of a lot from their responses. Particularly entertaining was the guy who had been working in a warehouse for a few weeks and didn’t have a clue what the full name of the company was. Jenking was responsible for creating a very amiable environment for the acts to perform in and this was the best that I’ve seen him. He added a lot of fun to the night and generated a great atmosphere.

Ryan Mold

I’d seen Mold previously and my thoughts then were that he has good performance skills, but weak material and my opinion hasn’t changed. He opened by talking about a new year resolution and as we head towards August, that felt distinctly past its use by date. From here he moved onto Aldi and the alleged speed that their staff scan goods. This is an area that I’ve seen used at a lot of gong shows and you could just tell that he was going to go for broke with Aldi and reference the bizarre items on the special aisle next. He did this in the next sentence. The audience participation, where he acted out a routine was fun, though, even if he still wasn’t breaking any fresh ground with the topic The next routine featured a builder and shirts was a nice line, but this routine petered out when he forgot the second half of it. I found this slip of the memory easier to be tolerant of than the Aldi material, which has been done to death. Whilst the material was weak, the audience enjoyed it and this was because of Mold’s skill as a performer. If he were to write more potent material he would be immeasurably improved, as there is nothing wrong with his delivery.

Hassan Dervish

Dervish stood out for his unique style. He’s a musical act and his set alternated between brief moments of him talking whilst background music played and him singing softly or doing a poem to music. Whilst the audience were fully onboard, it wasn’t really my cup of tea and if you don’t like musical comedy then despite his evident skill in writing and performing, it’s hard to become invested in it. However, this was nicely different and the vast majority of the room enjoyed it a lot. Dervish is certainly bookable and worth seeing.

Simon Lomas

We resumed after the intermission with Simon Lomas who is the best new act to hit the circuit in the last few years. He was here to try some new material not long after winning the biggest monetary prize in UK comedy history. As he stood on the stage about to begin his set, Lomas received a wolf whistle, which, with a voice dripping with dryness, he thanked the lady for. He then launched into his set, getting his first applause break after his first joke. From here it became almost Pavlovian, with Lomas talking and then the audience laughing and applauding every time he finished speaking. I adored the visual gag with the notebooks and I shouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t get a second bite of that cherry by having a third book about his person. There were two new jokes that could perhaps be improved; Alton Towers and the following joke, which might perhaps work better with stayed at home. There was a cracking moment when a girl was foolish enough to shout out, asking if he needed a hug – his response to this was beautiful and the joke that he closed the set on was tremendous. This was a brilliant set.

Katie Mitchell

The hard job of following Lomas fell to Katie Mitchell who was trialling a new routine. This featured a pumpkin paperwork. It was very similar to her existing routine about bread, being two sides of the same coin and it would be difficult to use them both in the same set. The props were nice, but not that easy to see fully from the back. You could make out ‘society’ but not the detail of the drawing under it. The Tim Allen reference was ok, but I daresay there were a few people in the audience who had to think who he was for a moment.

Red Redmond

Red was here to try some new material and there was a lot of good stuff here. Supersize and super skinny was a nice premise, Gemma and Karen was good, the dog routine was very good, Chris Rock was interesting and gender fluid was genius, but Queers, Colonialism and Genocide was a tougher sell. However, the gay army already has legs, but it has the potential to become an absolutely amazing routine. There are loads of ways in which Red can develop this, but I can easily see it becoming a standout. I’ll be very interested in seeing where he takes it. This was a very enjoyable set that had the feeling of a real performance to it.

Ben Bridgeman

We began the final section with Bridgeman, whom I’ve seen a couple of times before. His set was a bit of a mixed bag. He’s low energy, but at the moment his material isn’t really strong enough for him to make the most out of that and there were a few lulls in his performance. His opening routine didn’t make an instant impression and it took a while to get to the pay off, which he pretty much left hanging and this made that routine feel a bit inconclusive. There were some better lines in there, such as long term robbery, the progressive friend routine, the cheeseboard and what he loved was very good; however, ‘that would get a cheer in America’ is overused. Bridgeman has improved since I last saw him, but it may be an idea for him to go through his entire set and examine each line to see if he can tighten it up and improve on it. He’s going in the right direction, but his material needs more work.

Scott Bennett

Headlining was Scott Bennett, a man whom I’ve seen more of in the last six days than I have of my parents during this entire month. However, despite already being a top level act, he somehow manages to become even better after every gig. He has an incredible work ethic. His room work was great (I’ve never seen Bennett compere, but I can easily imagine that he’d make a lot out of a residency) and he quickly launched into the material he was working on. This was, as you’d expect, all fantastic stuff. There were two moments were Scott ad-libbed and these showed great presence of mind. The first one involved someone dropping some glasses whilst he was talking about bin days and as quick as a flash, he shouted out, ‘no it’s not glass bin day’ and this got a huge laugh. He then repeated this five minutes later when the bar phone rang, fitting this into a routine concerning a trip to the dentist. To be able to weave chance events into material so seamlessly was excellent on both a comedic and a technical level. After he had finished his set, Bennett was assailed by cries for an encore, so he concluded with a tale of crazy golf and this brought everything full circle and completed the night.

Bar One – Edinburgh Previews, Alistair Williams: Great White Male and Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Alistair Williams: Great White Male

I first saw Alistair Williams in Edinburgh in 2016. He was in the right place at the right time for me and in I went. This was very fortuitous for me, as I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hence I was really looking forwards to seeing him again today.

The theme of this show is that whilst women and other groups are finding pride in themselves, it’s not that bad being white and male, either. In the hands of a less likeable comedian, this could be a challenging concept that could go in several unpleasant directions, but with Williams we are in a safe pair of hands. He has plenty of charisma and a ready smile that wins crowds over pretty quickly.

At the moment, the arc of the show sits loosely on top of the routines and there isn’t a huge feeling of there being any message or narrative, but I don’t particularly mind that. Where Williams scores is with the routines themselves. These are never, with one exception, anything less than captivating. This was a show with a good amount of laughter. His dad’s comments about his dwelling were superb, the Chinese chip shop equivalent was marvellous, lottery and sharks was great and McDonald’s was a stand out. The one bit of material that I didn’t like came in a rather good routine about us and Europe and concerned claims to the Falklands. I’ve very recently watched a documentary about the events of 1982 and after seeing the casualties being evacuated, it was a little bit too close to home for me and strangely felt like it was too soon.

Going forwards, although I don’t mind the loose narrative arc, it would be improved if the structure of this show was tighter, as it does feel like an album of Williams’ greatest hits, rather than a show and it would be nice to see a big closing routine that brings everything together. However, I still found it quite delectable to watch. There is a lot of joy in just sitting there and enjoying what he performed. The routines are a splendid bunch that got a lot of laughter. It’s a shame that Williams is based down south, because he’s an act that I’d like to see more of.

Tickets can be found here.

Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Phil Nichol has the sort of infectious enthusiasm that would enable him to sell a pink elephant to anyone. He has also had an interesting life and I think a lot of people would really enjoy listening to a hour of him just chatting away about his experiences.

At the moment, this show is a bit of a work in progress, but it’s already something glorious. It is something of a sequel to his 2017 show, Your Wrong, which was based on a facebook argument with someone who believed the earth was flat. This brief preamble gave us a great running joke about things that were ‘a globe, by the way’ and it’s a shame that this wasn’t revisited a few times later as a callback in the rest of the show, as it was a banker.

Your Wronger followed some tumultuous events in Nichol’s life. His religious Canadian upbringing, the beautiful story of how his father was welcomed to Canada, his first love, his marriage, subsequent lows and then a wonderfully happy story in Australia, which brought everything full circle and which gave a most satisfying feeling of completeness to it all. There is a lot of backstory to all of this and whilst it’s not hard to keep track of who is whom and what is happening, there were a few bits that could have perhaps have been edited down to keep that narrative and the funny without using up quite so much time.

Nichol’s delivery was amazingly strong and despite him feeling that he had lost his way at one point, when he asked the audience for their opinion he was rewarded with a massive vote of confidence from the entire room.

There was a lot of laughter and it’s impossible not to take a real interest in Nichol; presently there is the basis for a great show here. However, with a little bit of tightening this show will be splendiferous.

Tickets can be found here.

Bar One – Edinburgh Previews, Gary Delaney: Gagster’s Paradise and Bethany Black: Unwinnable

This afternoon I was in Derby at Bar One for the Funhouse Edinburgh Preview all dayer. There was a big crowd there to see the shows, with many familiar faces from the Bless, such as Doug and Elaine Lumley, Brent and up from Leicester, Neal Sullivan. There was even a chap from Radio Derby present. Although the show was outdoors, we were under a cover, but as the sun moved around it didn’t half get hot sat there and I flitted seat a couple of times in the hope of starting and ending a show sat in the shade. There were six shows on, of which I saw the middle four, as I saw Scott Bennett on Thursday just gone and Danny Ward on a few weeks ago. The first show I saw was:

Gary Delaney – Gagster’s Paradise

Delaney took to the stage in front of an eager audience. He began by explaining the format of the show and telling everyone that he was still doing quality control on a few of the jokes. Naturally no one objected to any of this, because anything that Delaney is confident enough to say in public is guaranteed to be worth hearing.

The show began with excerpts from a documentary about Gary, Indiana, which worked wonderfully on more than merely the level that the director had intended, as it was linked back to Delaney himself.

The main body of the show was split into nice easily digested sections, with one-liners being alternated with power point slides. This broke the wall of jokes up and kept everything fresh, preventing the room from being laughed out too soon. The jokes were all absolute corkers with, as ever, the darker gags getting the largest laughs. The power point slides were hard to see due to the angle of the sun (this won’t be a problem in Edinburgh), but owing to Delaney’s descriptions they all worked well, apart from The Shard, which I think you probably did have to see to get the most from it.

Delaney’s delivery was superb and his habit of snorting at a funny gag was massively endearing, as was his evident joy in sharing well crafted jokes. Particularly enjoyable were his digressions into explaining why a joke was or wasn’t correctly placed in the running order and so on. These were fascinating and helped to give a more rounded experience.

There was just one hiccup where he went a little bit out of sequence, but he’d got a lot of goodwill and no one was fazed by this. The ‘clapta’ is a great idea and landed well. The penultimate routine, greetings cards, is an absolute cracker and there must surely be a lucrative market for them? To close with Delaney gave the room a few jokes from the dungeon, where only the darkest of jokes were kept. These were all magnificent. There was no arc, or narrative to this show, but frankly who cares when something is as funny as this? This was a champion show that is worth seeing not because it’s someone from off the telly, but because it is by a comic who is at the top of his game.

Tickets can be found here.

Bethany Black: Unwinnable

The backdrop of this show was the various ailments and afflictions that Bethany Black has acquired over the years and there is a pleasing subtext of her being happy within herself despite them. She opened by talking about the weather, which made for a topical start to her show. This was followed by her discussing how she looks, of which the disbelief was very strongly acted out.

The various topics discussed included relationships past and present, pornhub, self-diagnosing using the internet and more uniquely, her gender. The first three areas have been covered by a lot of comedians and these were alright, but not a lot of what she had to say stood out from what anyone else has said, despite the pleasant delivery. There were some deep and funny lines concerning gender and the recent London Pride demonstration and I really enjoyed this part. The standout line of the show concerned the death of Roger Moore and this was a smasher of a line, although the 12,000 line did run it close. Another bonus to this show were the asides. These added quite a bit to what she was saying.

Whilst this show wasn’t that tightly worded yet, I’m sure it will come together fully in time for Edinburgh. At the moment it ambled along agreeably enough without any lows, but also without hitting any big highs.

Tickets can be found here.

The Shinnon – Roger Swift, Laura Monmoth, Steve Shanyaski and Joe Zalias (MC)

Tonight I was in North Wingfield at The Shinnon for the FaF Promotions comedy night. As before, the room was packed out and there was a great air of expectancy from the audience. The vast majority are regulars and although they knew they were in for a good night, they didn’t know what to expect from the acts until they got onto the stage.

Joe Zalias (MC)

Compering the night was Joe Zalias, who was a confident presence. He began by asking where people were from, with most being local and someone from Nottingham almost being considered exotic. He hit gold discovering a girl from Leeds and chatted amiably with her for a moment before remembering he’d spoken to her the last time he was there and then moving on to other people. There was a brilliant moment when Mr Zalias discovered the unusual ‘punishment’ a man on the front row had given his partner for not having done the pots that morning, which fully deserved the round of applause. It was nice to see a compere only asking one person what they did for a living and Joe struck gold with finding a trainee sport scientist. His impression of him attempting to explain how to win to Bradley Wiggins was hilarious. Quite a few of Joe’s jokes were sexual in nature, but just when I thought he may be getting a bit near the knuckle, he’d pull back and change gear, which was good to see. I was impressed with the pretty dark dropped joke, which went down very well during his final compering session. Zoe Zalias did the rules, kept the night on schedule and warmed everyone up. This was good compering that didn’t overpower the rest of the night.

Roger Swift

Roger had a good night; people were laughing just as the sight of him as he made his way to the stage. His first 3-4 jokes got an equal mix of laughs and groans, but as his set progressed, the proportion of laughter increased. There was consistent laughter throughout all of the twenty minutes. Some of the gags would have 90% plus of the room onboard and he still managed to keep 60% of the audience even on jokes that didn’t land so hard and on average he had 75% of the room with him, which is good going. There was one lady, however, who early on decided that Roger wasn’t for her and she had an annoying habit of saying loudly, ‘I didn’t get that’ or ‘what?’ to a few of the punchlines, which got old pretty quickly. As ever, the asides did well, although I did wonder if Roger might have over egged the pudding a little bit in some of his self-deprecating comments. Whilst there was a lot of laughter for him announcing the amount of time he’d spent on an elaborate prop, he did run down his act a few too many times for my liking. Due to football getting in the way of a lot of comedy nights, this was Roger’s first twenty for a while and he did begin the set up to a gag that wasn’t on the power point, but that didn’t cause too much of an hiccup. The new shake the room joke is tremendous and I wasn’t surprised when he received applause for it. This was a very enjoyable set from an act that I can see developing further.

Laura Monmoth

We resumed after the intermission with Laura Monmoth. I’ve seen Laura compering and doing her Edinburgh show, but I’d never seen her do a twenty before. A lot of her material was delivered via power point, which made it very easy to follow. There were a lot of jokes to be seen. Even the screen saver, prior to her beginning contained a good number of jokes for anyone who gave it more than the once over. Laura was very astute in taking pre-gig photos of the audience and the landlord and using them in her set, as this grabbed everyone’s attention and made her set feel special. Equally wise was her use of Mansfield for the local shit town. I and everyone else were hugely impressed by the power point crafted callbacks to Roger’s set. These were elaborate and must have been very time consuming for her to create, but they landed with the force of a sledgehammer. Laura’s attempts to improve reality were charming and very funny, receiving good laughs. The closing routine featured Bohemian Rhapsody and she’d benefit from acquiring a conductor’s baton to push the sing-along along. This is a good closing routine, but it’s a very long song and it does eat up a lot of time that she might be able to make better use of. For anyone not invested in it after the first minute, there isn’t much to hold them for the next five, but in fairness, Laura received good laughs for it, especially the more surreal names. This was a very good set that held the room well. It was creatively constructed and the laughs came regularly. Monmoth is certainly a bookable act.

Steve Shanyaski

Our headlining act was Steve Shanyaski, whom I last saw at Bluey’s where he had been asked to do an encore by popular demand. Tonight he had another cracking night. Shanyaski is a charismatic comedian, with a happy expression on his face and the room liked him from the off. He is also a lively performer who brings a nice level of physicality to his delivery and his ability to alter the tone of his voice added a lot of life to the various characters that he sketched out. This was a fast moving set that dealt with life, people and relationships. There was a slightly surreal edge to some of the routines, but Shanyaski easily kept everything relatable. The pacing was fast and he built up and then maintained his momentum all the way throughout. There were some cracking lines, such as expression pencil and spiked, both of which deserved applause. The closing song gave a fitting end to what had been a great night of comedy.

The Little Last Laugh – Chris Washington and Scott Bennett (Edinburgh Previews)

  
Tonight I was up in Sheffield again at the Lescar for The Little Last Laugh. It was cooler than last week, which made for a very pleasant environment. This is a belting gig with a lovely atmosphere and the audience were well up for a night of entertainment. We began with Chris Washington.
 
 
Chris Washington – You Beauty!
 
Washington was nominated as best newcomer in Edinburgh last year and this is the tale of his year since: a celebration of a good year. Washington has a lot of natural charm and his conversational, subtle delivery sits well with his material to create a relaxed ambiance.
 
There were a lot of nice bits to this show, such as the wrong cd in the box, the benefit gig in Blackburn (which through a slip of the tongue turned into Blackpool – not the end of the world), the physicality of using the mic stand as a door and bullshitters. However, it is when discussing his Edinburgh experience that Washington went up a gear. This section was very good indeed, with the reactions of his parents and friends providing a great backdrop to his personal achievement. This great run of material is continued when Washington carried on talking about the events upon his return from Edinburgh, both at work and at home. The callbacks really tie things together well here.
 
The timeline of the show was a bit odd, as Washington started with events that had occurred in the year since his nomination, before talking about the nomination and then resuming with post nomination events. This wasn’t a big deal, but it did feel a bit unusual and I did wonder if he may have been better served by opening by describing his Edinburgh experience, as this consisted of some very strong material before discussing his post Edinburgh life and then finishing with his career choices since, as this would start and end the show with what were (to me) the most powerful elements of it.
 
Although this show is pretty ready for Edinburgh, it would benefit from greater concision in the delivery, as some parts were still a bit wordy. With a touch of editing Washington will reach critical mass with this material a lot quicker. I enjoyed what I saw of it tonight and there was a lot of good stuff here, but I can imagine it being a lot more powerful after a few more previews.
 
 
Scott Bennett – Leap Year
 
I only saw this show a few weeks ago, but even in that time Bennett has made quite a few changes to it. Leaving work early is great – it’s a tangible element that everyone can understand, the dentist was entertaining and the closing speech defining who he is was definitely rousing. This show is as tight as a drum with no flab that can easily be cut off without losing something worth keeping. Considering the topics discussed it might be an idea for Scott to look into acquiring a huge novelty plastic Peppa Pig bowl for the bucket collection. This is one of the best Edinburgh shows that I’ve ever seen.
 
Pretty much everything I said the other week can be said again about this performance:
 
Bennett 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. 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.
 
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.

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.

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.