Acts that have impressed me the most – September

This month has been great. I’ve seen forty-five acts and the quality has been fantastic.

The highlight of the month was chatting on Radio Derby about comedy in the area. I’ve been invited back and this looks like it will become a monthly thing. The lowlight was a first time ever performance, that even after making every allowance, was still 3 jokes that took 5 very long minutes to get out.

These are the acts that have impressed me the most:

Aaron Simmonds

This was a performance that demonstrated that Simmonds is making great progress. I’ve seen him do two different tens and I think the next time I see him, he’ll be doing a twenty.

From the night:

Simmonds had a smashing night. He opened with a reference to Mike being on crutches, immediately announcing that he was the second most disabled act of the night, which gained him a big round of applause and the immediate confidence of the audience. He never let up from this, as he began a string of strong routines that concerned a date gone awry, his girlfriend and an encounter with her father. This was a different set to what I saw in Wollaton a few months ago and it is greatly to Simmonds’ credit that he has so much first class material. He’s plainly someone to watch for the future. The delivery was good too (great pause on lied), although he did have a slight habit of saying right a few times, but this smoothed itself out after the first few minutes. I was impressed with how well everything in the set came together as a whole. Simmonds got three lots of applause and I’d have happily liked to have seen him on stage for longer.

Andrew Bird

This comic should be a household name. I’ve never seen him do anything less than take the roof off.

From the night:

Headlining was one of my favourite acts, Andrew Bird. He’s a prolific writer of new material and he has an uncanny ability to bring a routine to a crescendo and to then slide in a topper that ramps the mirth up to yet another level. His writing is amazingly strong, with no end of surprises and little twists to the stories that keep the laughter going. The delivery is also great, with very slight pauses to let the audience keep up and Andrew acting out what he is saying. Tonight he got off to a bit of a false start when mid joke one chap, late back from the bar and bent over with his head tucked into his shoulders to make him invisible, dashed across the corner of the stage to take his seat. Bird paused in what he was doing and much to everyone’s delight and without any malice, he made this trespasser to the stage his topic for the next couple of minutes. The material was great, with every routine a winner. My favourite, out of a cracking field, would be the Millwall supporter. This is a routine that I would happily hear Bird do at every gig. This was a splendiferous performance.

Christian Reilly

A brilliant act who had something for everyone to enjoy.

From the night:

Headlining was Christian Reilly, wearing spectacular golden shoes and his straw hat. Reilly is a great singer who has the ability to sing with various accents whilst, when it suits, screwing his face up or marching on the spot. All of this adds no end of value to the performance as he manages to impart a lot of characterisation without ever having to go over the top doing so. I’m not that into music, yet tonight I found it extremely easy to get onboard – the rest of the room were already there, giving big laughs right from the start of his set. A lot of consideration has gone into these songs and they are put together extraordinarily well. They were all pretty much bang up to date, too, with a wonderful Tommy Robinson song that could only have been written in the last couple of months. To me, the standout was the song about Trump, as this not only seemed to hit the political nail on the head, but it was hilarious, too. At the end of what had been a superb performance Reilly finished to loud cries for more.

Martin Mor

Versatile and extremely funny.

From the night:

Looking slimmer and fitter, Mor came to the stage and delivered a set that was charming, interesting and incredibly funny. There are some people who are living an interesting life and you could listen to them just chat for hours without getting bored. Bob Slayer, Nick Page and Phil Nicol all spring to mind. All three of these can captivate a room just by telling what they have been up to for the last month or so. Martin Mor is similar. Tonight he spoke about Trump and protests, using this as a framework whilst he addressed comments to audience members rolling with whatever came up from these brief conversations. This was a powerful approach, as it left him free to go in whatever direction he wanted and it also felt very much of the here and now. There were tons of great moments, such as Mor dashing off of the stage to shake the Canadian’s hand, the discussion about what was Bramhall Lane, foot jobs, the value of a history degree and the bafflement concerning a degree in human geography. In-between all of this, he would come back to his material about his dispute with Trump and a protest. This was a belter of a set.

Honourable Mentions

Alex Farrow, Cally Beaton, Che Burnley, Doug Carter, Jonny Awsum, Radu Isac

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The Rigger: Ian Jones, John Boileau, Ciaran Mullins, Dan Baines, Paul Clarke, Shaun Paczkowski, Ben Sherlock, Craig Dixon, Patrick Mackridge, Doug Carter, Louise LeVell, Stuart Thomas, Phil Carr

Tonight I was in Newcastle Under Lyme for the Funhouse gong show at the Rigger. This was a fairly full room, with a twenty strong birthday party forming a large part of the audience. Despite being sat mostly facing each other, these weren’t especially disruptive, which was a bonus, although they were increasingly given to having quick whispered conversations amongst themselves as the night went on. Mike gave his ankle, newly liberated from its’ pot a workout by announcing himself from the sound guy’s area and then having to across the pub and onto the stage. He had a lot of fun chatting to a stilt walking, fire eating circus performer and a guy who was a harmonica playing session musician. Before long we were ready for our opening act.

Ian Jones

Jones began well with a callback to Mike’s compering before giving the room a few routines which mostly concerned incidents arising from him having Parkinson’s. These were all ok, but were more humorous anecdotes than anything especially stand out. Jones’ delivery was interesting. It reminded me of some of the acts from the 70’s, in that he would give a short sentence and then pause completely as if to let it sink in before resuming. This seemed to slow him down and he didn’t get out a huge number of jokes in his time. However, he did enough to get through to the final.

John Boileau

Boileau was an interesting act. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that he has watched a lot of comedy and learnt from it, probably being very good at the theory of what makes something funny, but he hasn’t quite nailed down bringing it all together on stage yet. He opened with remarks about the room, wished the birthday girl a happy birthday and then deplored her taste in coming to this gig. On paper, this was a promising start. He had made topical references that were tangible to the room and had involved the biggest group in the audience in his set. However, none of it seemed to have that bit of bite that would have raised it beyond feeling like admin. His material was intelligent and showed promise, with the oddments of Netflix being especially good. I also liked his ideas about the AA and God. These weren’t particularly punchy for a gong show, but I can imagine both working well over a longer slot. Boileau could do with working on his delivery a touch, as his voice is a bit dry and doesn’t really scream enthusiasm or comedy, but this will come with stage time. He made the final.

Ciaran Mullins

Apart from the Lennon gag, which was great, Mullins was let down by weak material. The swapping of locations on Banjo repair probably didn’t surprise many people, jokes about Liverpool being rough or Liverpudlians on the dole felt like they belonged to a past stereotype last seen in Bread. Spotting was very basic with no twist to lift it beyond that and I think we all saw a variety of jokes on Facebook during the world cup about it looking like an EDL march due to the flying of lots of England flags. With stronger material, Mullins would do better.

Dan Baines

Baines, despite bumping his head on the way to the stage, had a decent night. He opened well with a good joke about sponsorship and then launched into a set that largely concerned his size. There were three well built lads on the bill who all had a take on this and to some degree he was lucky in being the first of the three, but in all honesty, he had enough stage craft to do well. A reference to Stoke that he had been given to use fell flat, but Baines picked up good laughs for rolling with that. The joke about looking for someone in the pub was especially good. Baines made it through to the final.

Paul Clarke

Clarke seemed to take a while to settle down and in truth never really looked comfortable on stage. He wasn’t helped by having a poor mic technique, holding it too close to his mouth and speaking too loudly into it. He also spoke too quickly and seemed to trip over his words in his rush to get them out. The material largely covered two areas. Jobs were you wouldn’t expect to hear the word mother-fucker used in and a putative name for a Brazilian footballer. The construction for Mofos was odd; usually a comic will abide by the rule of three, with the third one having the twist that provides the punchline, or if more gifted, the comic would do something creative with it. Instead, Clarke just gave us a list of inappropriate jobs to use that word in. Also, telling the audience three times in less than five minutes that he knew what they were thinking was perhaps a bit much.

Shaun Paczkowski

Paczkowski did pretty well, with a lot of positives in his set. Benefits was a solid gag that quickly gave him credibility with the audience. Toys contained a nice twist that worked well, Facebook event has a lot of potential and the tale of being woken at 3AM was particularly tip top. Paczkowski also looked relaxed on stage and happy to be there. He was one of the first acts, apart from Baines, to build some momentum. This was a sterling set. He made it through to the final.

Ben Sherlock

Sherlock has potential. His routine concerned school shootings in America and unlike some topics, this isn’t one that many comics are doing material on. As a result it felt fresh and interesting. It was obvious from early on that it was going to be a dark set and probably also intelligent and this drew me in. The fact that Sherlock can do an American accent is a bonus that should have helped his delivery. However, Sherlock’s delivery didn’t really have enough energy to help him sell what he was saying and he seemed to pause a lot. Without the pauses and with a bit more vibrancy he’ll do better.

Craig Dixon

Dixon had a good night. He began with some dark jokes, hoovering up a lot of laughs and getting the only applause of the show for what was the standout routine of the night – a joke concerning drinks that went down a treat. This is a real keeper. He did come a bit unstuck when he struggled with the names of a couple whom Mike had spoken to at the top of the night and this did hurt his impetus, but he bounced back from it. The royal wedding material was decent, but not of the same quality as his earlier jokes. This was an improved set from Dixon whom the audience took a shine to.

Patrick Mackridge

Mackridge became the nth student/ex student to open a set by telling an audience of the impractical degree they are/have studying/studied and then saying how it looked like they weren’t going to get a job or hadn’t spent their money well, etc. This is a well travelled area and it is hard to make it feel different to what we’ve not heard a version of already.

Doug Carter

When I last saw Carter here, although he was inexperienced as an act, he had done impressively well and he has progressed nicely since then. He looked plausible from the off, opening with a dark joke and then continuing with fairly short routines that took in the C bomb, gangster kids and ice cream. I enjoyed the actions that Doug would do whilst talking and feel that these added to the performance. There was a superb moment when he broke the fourth wall, bouncing off of the audience and the gig seemed to really come alive. I shouldn’t be surprised if he found that doing this more often would work really well. There was a lot to like in this set and Carter has definitely got presence. He’s a likeable chap and is someone to watch for the future. The last time he was here, he was a contender – tonight he was the champion.

Louise LeVell

LeVell was an odd act. On the one hand, she’s a pleasant presence and the room warmed to her. She also isn’t afraid to go out on a limb with her comedy, opening in French, killing time doing a power pose and, tonight, wrestling with the mic stand and cable for far longer than most people would have. There is also a happy level of surreality to a lot of her material, where you just don’t know where she is going to take it. However, just when you are expecting a punchline to appear there isn’t one. If she can match some killer reveals to the interesting set ups, she will do well. LeVell made the final.

Stuart Thomas

Thomas was a lovely surprise. He gave a powerful performance with some solid material. He opened by deliberately taking his time methodically untangling the mic stand from the cable and this built up comic tension. I was surprised that he didn’t reference this, as I felt that a well chosen comment would have brought him a huge laugh. He then began his set, doing jokes about his size. This was followed by him talking about being Welsh (he dealt easily with a shout out over this) and his farmer brother. This was all well written and delivered with a calculated slowness. This allowed each gag to almost flow around the room, being savoured by people before he began the next one. He reminded me strongly of Billy Lowther (based on the other side of the country), who has a similar style. Although the room was a bit restive due to it reaching a tipping point, Thomas had enough presence to hold them and quality material to get decent laughs. He made the final.

Phil Carr

Carr was very unlucky in being the second act in a row to open with a joke about their size and the third of the show to reference Jacamo. If the running order had been different and he had gone on before the other two, this may have worked in his favour. In an ideal world Carr might have perhaps rejigged his set to take into account what Thomas had spoken about, but it would have been very tricky for someone who despite making progress, hasn’t been going for that long, to change their set 5 minutes before show time. As it was, Carr’s material is well written and he managed to do that routine without suffering too badly from diminishing returns. The rest of the material was nicely different and worked very well, with the list of holiday activities getting a lot of laughs when the reveal came. The punchlines had nice twists to them and this added to their impact. Carr isn’t scared of pausing for comic effect and he made good use of this in his delivery. This was a promising set from an act that I can see making progress. Carr got stronger as his time went on and made the final.

The Little Last Laugh – Josh Pugh, Martin Mor, Christian Reilly and Big Shaun (MC)

Tonight, on a stormy and wet night, I was up in Sheffield for the Little Last Laugh at the Lescar. I did wonder if the weather might have put a few people off, but as usual, numbers were pretty damn good.

Big Shaun (MC)

Big Shaun had a fun night compering. He began by chatting to the three lads sat at the front, getting a break when one of them revealed that he worked for Wetherspoons. Shaun, asked which one and this was a further gift, that gave him plenty of stuff to talk about. Shaun knows Sheffield like the back of his hand and this is where he is strongest. I doubt there are many pubs or districts that he hasn’t heard of, or knows the character of and if he can capitalise on this knowledge then he will always be able to find something relatable and funny to say to people in the room. I especially liked how he dropped into a Manc accent when talking about the party. Shaun’s ability in chatting to folk is coming on and as ever, I’ll be interested in seeing how he does the next time I see him.

Josh Pugh

Pugh is a cracking act who is destined to go far. He has a style all of his own. He’s an original thinker, who if you gave the same topic to 100 comics to write a joke about, you could put money on his being different to anyone else’s. Pugh manages to temper his offbeat style with an accessibility that ensures that he doesn’t lose the audience when he plays with their expectations. The jokes have short set ups and this meant that in twenty minutes, he gave the room a lot of jokes with a very good hit rate. The only one that vanished into the ether was calligraphy – a rare miss. Probably the biggest laugh came for his suggestion of the best place to end it all. This was a very enjoyable opening set that left the people sat near me commenting on how good it was. It’s lovely when you hear people sat in the audience saying nice things about the acts.

Martin Mor

Looking slimmer and fitter, Mor came to the stage and delivered a set that was charming, interesting and incredibly funny. There are some people who are living an interesting life and you could listen to them just chat for hours without getting bored. Bob Slayer, Nick Page and Phil Nicol all spring to mind. All three of these can captivate a room just by telling what they have been up to for the last month or so. Martin Mor is similar. Tonight he spoke about Trump and protests, using this as a framework whilst he addressed comments to audience members rolling with whatever came up from these brief conversations. This was a powerful approach, as it left him free to go in whatever direction he wanted and it also felt very much of the here and now. There were tons of great moments, such as Mor dashing off of the stage to shake the Canadian’s hand, the discussion about what was Bramhall Lane, foot jobs, the value of a history degree and the bafflement concerning a degree in human geography. In-between all of this, he would come back to his material about his dispute with Trump and a protest. This was a belter of a set.

Christian Reilly

Headlining was Christian Reilly, wearing spectacular golden shoes and his straw hat. Reilly is a great singer who has the ability to sing with various accents whilst, when it suits, screwing his face up or marching on the spot. All of this adds no end of value to the performance as he manages to impart a lot of characterisation without ever having to go over the top doing so. I’m not that into music, yet tonight I found it extremely easy to get onboard – the rest of the room were already there, giving big laughs right from the start of his set. A lot of consideration has gone into these songs and they are put together extraordinarily well. They were all pretty much bang up to date, too, with a wonderful Tommy Robinson song that could only have been written in the last couple of months. To me, the standout was the song about Trump, as this not only seemed to hit the political nail on the head, but it was hilarious, too. At the end of what had been a superb performance Reilly finished to loud cries for more.

The Saracen’s Head – James Dowdeswell, Aaron Simmonds, Al Lubel and Noel James

Tonight I was in Southwell at the Saracen’s Head for the Funhouse comedy night. This is a cracking gig made all the more sweeter by being so close to home. Mike had a great time compering in his home village, especially chatting to a family who had named their (now grown up) children, Sissy, Cash and Clemmy. The story of Mike’s broken ankle picked up a lot of laughs, as did him using his crutches to point at people.

James Dowdeswell

With his gentle Somerset accent, smooth delivery and colourful descriptions, Dowdeswell gave the room a strong opening set. He began by referencing his lazy eye and followed this with enough jokes about it to get a good routine out of it. The fact that he would talk directly to certain members of the audience helped to bring people onboard. I especially enjoyed his depiction of his parents’ pub and the characters who drink in it. Perhaps because he has spent time in a village, Dowdeswell seemed to have a greater appreciation of the ins and outs of Southwell than many other acts and this helped him in pitching his material. The story of the mugging was delightful, with a lot of good lines, although I may be in the minority in preferring that to the rapping that he did to close. The only thing that struck me as odd about this set was when he referred to the group of electricians who worked for the national grid, who were sat on the second row, as working for the gas board , but this didn’t make much of a difference. This was a clean set that everyone could enjoy.

Aaron Simmonds

Simmonds had a smashing night. He opened with a reference to Mike being on crutches, immediately announcing that he was the second most disabled act of the night, which gained him a big round of applause and the immediate confidence of the audience. He never let up from this, as he began a string of strong routines that concerned a date gone awry, his girlfriend and an encounter with her father. This was a different set to what I saw in Wollaton a few months ago and it is greatly to Simmonds’ credit that he has so much first class material. He’s plainly someone to watch for the future. The delivery was good too (great pause on lied), although he did have a slight habit of saying right a few times, but this smoothed itself out after the first few minutes. I was impressed with how well everything in the set came together as a whole. Simmonds got three lots of applause and I’d have happily liked to have seen him on stage for longer.

Al Lubel

I saw Lubel a few months ago in Derby, where he had opened by singing. Tonight he was more conventional in his opening and I think that he had read the room and changed the tone of his set as a sensible response, making it slightly less surreal. Lubel’s material has an impeccable logic to it and he reminds me of Dave Allen in his deconstruction of life. It was interesting to hear people sat near me saying things like, ‘that is so true!’ The homeless material was great, although I did wonder if there was a slight slip, as he gave the room the opening line to his routine about his name and then immediately changed direction and resumed with a bit more about homelessness before resuming talking about his name. The routine about his name was one that built up a lot of impetus, although I preferred his material about his days as a lawyer, as this was wonderfully funny as well as snappier. Lubel closed with a few cracking jokes about flying which got a big round of applause.

Noel James

James had a very good night. His style is a lot of short jokes and puns delivered quickly, but with enough on every topic to give him a whole routine on each. This made for a powerful style performance and if a particular joke wasn’t for you, then another one would be coming along in a few seconds. I’d hate to hazard a guess at how many individual gags there were in this set, but the number was extremely high. Some you might be able to guess, a few were groaners, but most were clever and well thought out. Whilst the odd joke didn’t please someone, there wasn’t anything that pleased no one and as a result there was consistent laughter throughout the set. The impressions were fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed his non use of the guitar. That was creative, surreal and remarkably funny. This was a performance that the audience really bought into.

Canal House – Phil Alexander, Chelsea Birkby, Alex Farrow, Joe Melton, Kushai Agrawal, Luke Adams, Sam Moult, Elliot Wengler and Thomas Green (MC)

Tonight I was at the Canal House in Nottingham for the famous NCF £1 night. This is a new act/new material night that consistently gets a big audience in. 110, this evening, with Katie and Sarah having to turn people away when it reached capacity.

Thomas Green (MC)

I massively rate Green as both an act and a compere and seeing him on the bill was a nice little bonus. He had a great night as well, getting a lot of laughs for both audience work and material. I thought that he struck a good balance between both and it was very pleasing to see him helping out the acts in the middle section, which with the exception of Farrow, were all relatively new, by doing that little bit more to give them a boost. The people sat in the first couple of rows all seemed to be doctors, nurses, lawyers and teachers. As a former teacher, with parents in the medical profession and material on both, this was a gift to Green who made the most of it. I did think that he showed great restraint when dealing with the reiki holistic healer, though, as a lot of compere’s would have gone to town on her. Green was fairly sweary tonight, but he had read the room well and they responded well to this. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Green in action. 

Green is appearing in the Nottingham Festival here.

Phil Alexander

Our opening act was the musical comedian, Phil Alexander, who came to the stage carrying a guitar. He began by spending most of his first minute in explaining that the audience could shout cleaner or ruder to determine the level of his next song. This was a decent gimmick, but it did eat up time that he could have made more of. Alexander gave us three songs. These were alright, they had some decent lines in them, but I didn’t think they were that punchy. All of them were fairly long and if they had been shorter they would have made the same point and gotten laughs quicker. Jonny Awsum, one of the best practitioners of this style scarcely has a song that takes more than a minute and it works all the better for it. Also, Alexander would have benefited from having something funny to say between the songs, as this was really under-exploited and his performance came over more as a musician with some amusing songs, than as an actual comedian. Despite a couple of mishaps with the guitar and words, Alexander was a proficient musician with a good voice and he was pleasant enough company, if not, at present, especially funny.

Chelsea Birkby

Next was Birkby, who announced at the top of her set what it would contain. This was ok, but being a bit picky, I’d rather see that time used for something funny, rather than a contents page, unless a joke can be made out of it, as it is dead time otherwise. Birkby’s material wasn’t all relatable. Rappers and rap in general, didn’t go down that well; whereas in contrast, the more tangible elements did very well indeed. I don’t think many people in the audience had heard of a rapper called Pitbull, but as soon as she moved onto more general jokes concerning him, such as googling him and then workplace disputes, everyone could (and did) get on board. Birkby’s stage persona was that of someone a bit nervous and she would raise her voice to emphasise things and this didn’t really sell what she was saying as well as what it could. I think with a bit of a tweak to the delivery she would do better.

Alex Farrow

Farrow gave the audience the stand out set of the night. He crammed a lot into ten minutes or so. He had kept his eyes open since getting there and his wits about him and so he was able to make some funny and relatable comments about the room and mention audience members by name. It was nice to see someone whom you didn’t feel was following a set script. This was great, it emphasised that this was live comedy and it certainly got everyone’s attention. The material was intelligently written and was strong. American English was funny in short order, without dragging the idea out unduly and the tale of the school book built nicely, with the prop being a nice addition to it. I really enjoyed this set, apart from the line about laughing and learning, which is overused by acts. This was a very impressive set and I think I’ll be seeing a lot more of Farrow in the coming years.

Joe Melton

This was 17 year old Melton’s fourth gig and it didn’t go that badly. The material about imagining the audience naked wasn’t that strong, but it did alright. More promising was his routine about Englishness. This had more depth to it and it felt more distinctive. When mentioning the Australians it would have perhaps been nice if he could have tied that in to our compere, Thomas Green, who is Australian, but things like that will come with time. Melton has a base from which to build.

Kushai Agrawal

From India, living in Germany and with an accent that fluctuated between both with a bit of American thrown in, Agrawal wasn’t on the bill. Instead he had turned up to see the show and gotten chatting to the acts, talking about how he’d always wanted to have a go at comedy. In response, Helen had done him a kindness and had given him a bit of stage time. Dressed in a suit, Agrawal didn’t look out of place on stage and with a big build up from Green, the audience were totally behind him. In a film, this would have ended with him smashing it. However, this is reality and what we got was three jokes that could have been told in a minute or so that somehow managed to fill five minutes. It was nice that Agrawal got to fulfil an ambition and it was very good that he was given chance and I don’t know many people who could go on stage relatively unprepared for the first time ever and be outstanding, but it did seem a long five minutes.

Luke Adams

Closing the middle section was Adams. He began with double and triple negatives, which was a good premise that he might have been able to make more of. The later callback to it was very nice, though. The story of a mugging was ok, but needed more to make it really work as material. As it was, it sounded more like an anecdote that someone would relay at work when asked what they’d been up to last night. With a bit of work on the delivery and some more work on that tale, Adams will do better. He got laughs, but has a bit more to do, which as a fairly new act is fair enough.

Sam Moult

We began the final section with Sam Moult, who was stepping in at very short notice to replace an act who had dropped out. Moult was working with some new material. Some of this was in his notebook, which is fine and other parts were so new, that I wouldn’t be surprised if he had thought about them whilst having his tea, which again isn’t a problem. Moult has a good confident stage presence and he dealt well with the ups and downs of how the material fared. As new material, it would be unrealistic to expect it all to be golden, but there were definitely a few nuggets there. Fish and chips has a certain amount of mileage (whale and the gags that went with that were very good), but the real gold is with following pornstars on social media. I think he can craft something that becomes a standout routine with that. This was a fun set that promises a lot more for the future.

Sam Moult is appearing twice in the Nottingham Comedy Festival, here and here.

Elliot Wengler

Wengler has improved since I last saw him. Tonight he was more confident, with better material and a sharper delivery. He began well by managing to extricate himself from a conversation about birthdays and his native High Wycombe which had come about following his query about whether anyone else in the room was from there. He probably didn’t need to ask the question in the first place, but to be fair it was still impressive how he managed to avoid getting bogged down. Primark was a nicely relatable topic that everyone was able to follow and the flip flop was a good piece of material. Hangers was ok (nice to see a prop, even if only the first few rows got the full advantage of seeing it used), but it probably ate up more time than the routine deserved, even if it was delivered with passion. Pokemon was particularly good and with a few exceptions, it’s not an area that is spoken about by many comedians, so it felt fresh. This was an improved performance.

Elliot Wengler is appearing n the Nottingham Comedy Festival here

Lyric Rooms – Jonny Awsum, Cally Beaton, Ryan McDonnell and Andrew Bird

Tonight I was at the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was a sold out show, which was lovely to see. Mike opened his compering with much waving of his crutches and addressing how he came to have a broken ankle, which went down well with everyone. In a nice touch some of the acts shook his crutch instead of his hand before taking to the stage. Owing to him being familiar with so many people in the audience, it was tricky for Mike to find someone whom he hadn’t spoken to before, but he found a plasterer and had some fun with him before bringing our opening act onto the stage.

Jonny Awsum

The last time I had seen Awsum in Ashby he had given the room a tiptop time by bringing ‘Fake Ray’ onto the stage. This was a very much of the moment event and it brought the house down. I was hoping that ‘Fake Ray’ would have been in the audience for another duet, but sadly it was not to be. Jonny did spot a Harry Kane lookalike and had a quick chat with him before beginning with his opening song. This was a great little number that eased everyone into getting involved with the singing. There were some great comedy songs in this set, with the extra work song and the one about his son both being very funny. Sexy noises was a real crowd pleaser, though, and this is the one that I think everyone will have in their head tomorrow morning. This was a high energy and lively opening to the show from a very strong act.

Cally Beaton

Beaton, as a new act to this gig, had created a good impression before going on stage by asking pertinent questions about the venue and the audience. This was a nicely professional touch, as it really jars when an act mispronounces a town name, or asks something that everyone knows the answer to because the compere has already spoken about it. Beaton began her set well, too, by making a joke out of shaking Mike by the crutch when she got onto the stage. From here she carried on the good work, delivering her material in a relaxed manner, with one arm resting on the mic stand. Cally was quietly spoken, but this wasn’t any kind of drawback, as the material flowed well and was strong enough to do the heavy lifting and it wasn’t any surprise that she picked up consistent laughs, getting applause for lie in and a few other reveals. The asides were a nice bonus. I thought that she was more concise than when I saw her previously, but I could be wrong. Either way, Beaton did very well and I can see her progressing.

Ryan McDonnell

Ryan opened by referencing the fact that he was the second ginger act of the night and this led nicely into material on being ginger. McDonnell has a Northern Irish accent that is hard to miss and he was smart enough to not only have a couple of powerful bits of material on it (doddle being really good), but he was even more astute in moving onto other areas and not dwelling on the troubles. I felt that the energy levels dropped a couple of times during the set, but only momentarily. I was particularly impressed with the line about the greatest fear and thought that McDonnell skirted along the edge of an applause break for that. The ginger bum hair was vividly described and was another cracking line. Acapulco was a very good story that everyone was invested in. This was an enjoyable set that was delivered with confidence.

Andrew Bird

Headlining was one of my favourite acts, Andrew Bird. He’s a prolific writer of new material and he has an uncanny ability to bring a routine to a crescendo and to then slide in a topper that ramps the mirth up to yet another level. His writing is amazingly strong, with no end of surprises and little twists to the stories that keep the laughter going. The delivery is also great, with very slight pauses to let the audience keep up and Andrew acting out what he is saying. Tonight he got off to a bit of a false start when mid joke one chap, late back from the bar and bent over with his head tucked into his shoulders to make him invisible, dashed across the corner of the stage to take his seat. Bird paused in what he was doing and much to everyone’s delight and without any malice, he made this trespasser to the stage his topic for the next couple of minutes. The material was great, with every routine a winner. My favourite, out of a cracking field, would be the Millwall supporter. This is a routine that I would happily hear Bird do at every gig. This was a splendiferous performance.

Queen Crafthouse – Josh Jones, Che Burnley, Shell Byron, Vince Atta and Red Redmond (MC)

Tonight I was up in Doncaster for Red Redmond’s gig. This takes place at a rock pub, the Queen Crafthouse and it’s a little gem of a gig. The audience are fairly young and don’t seem to mind having a midweek drink and this made for an atmosphere that stayed on the fun side of lively. As is usual, the room filled up from the 3rd row back and so Red moved a few people forwards to fill the front couple of rows. Oddly, this is a gig where a lot of people arrive part way through and without causing any disruption, the room filled itself by the end of the night.

Red Redmond (MC)

Red compered with a light but assured touch, not spending too long on stage at the top. By this he succeeded in setting the room up without either making the night about him, or unbalancing it and this worked very well. Red found some interesting people in the room, such as Yuri, sat at the front, who assured him that he had 100% Soviet blood. Red suggested that Yuri was KGB and when it transpired that he worked in meat distribution, this only added to the scene that Red had been sketching out. The line about plutonium was very nice. I was similarly impressed with Red’s quick wits when it came to a well built chap who worked in an office and thought that the joke about gang and Thailand was a splendid example of a compere thinking on his feet and getting just the right line. Red picked up a lot of laughs when he discussed the diversity of the line up. This was very enjoyable compering.

Josh Jones

Opening was Josh Jones, an act new to me and whom I was looking forwards to seeing. A lot of Jones’ material comes from his own life experiences and this gave it a nice level of depth. This is combined with his disarming persona and it all works out rather well. There were quite a few good routines in here, with lesbian porn being a particular standout. Jones would benefit from tightening up his delivery, though, as there were a few occasions where I thought that the joke was getting lost amongst extraneous words, but in fairness, some of this was new material. There were also a few times when Jones described what he was going to do next, which was ok, but I thought that he could probably do something more productive with the time that he spent on that. He is talented at changing his voice and this helped him when he was adopting a more rough edged character. Jones did well and the room warmed to him swiftly. I think that he’s someone worth looking out for.

Che Burnley

Burnley had a cracking gig. He made a good start and never looked back, speaking quickly and delivering his material almost like he was getting in fifteen minutes worth in ten. His voice was a bit hoarse following Edinburgh, but oddly I felt that this added something to his performance. Burnley spoke to the audience a lot, interacting with them, bringing them into his set and being an affable presence. This did make me wonder if he had done much compering, as I can imagine him being pretty decent at it. The material was strong and it felt nicely varied, never staying on any one subject for too long. The shower story was great and he built up loads of impetus, hoovering up laughs from the audience. This was a cracking set that seemed to be over all too soon for me.

Shell Byron

Byron has potential. She can certainly write a good routine – ruin is very strong indeed and she delivers it with conviction. This is a fairly uncompromising routine, but it works through the power of her delivery. The audience thoroughly enjoyed it, with one girl shouting out in a broad Yorkshire accent, ‘Ah like er’. The next routine was about suicide and although there were some good lines, this was very dark, especially when it got to who had cleaned up and I felt that the audience didn’t stick with her for it all. This was unfortunate, as the next bit of material (concerning a date) was a touch lighter, even if it was perhaps a bit too graphic for everyone. There is room for comedians with dark material and Byron has some interesting stuff to say, but I’m not sure that tonight it was for everyone.

Vince Atta

Headlining was Vince Atta, who was back by popular demand. I was sat next to a couple from the West Midlands and they’d asked me about the acts that were on and I’d told them that they’d love Atta and so I was sat there knowing what was coming and feeling a lovely thrill of anticipation as to how much they would enjoy it. He didn’t disappoint anyone, either. Stood on stage, with a big grin, looking like he’s having the time of his life, he had the audience on side within seconds. His enthusiasm was, as ever, infectious. There was lots of solid material for everyone to enjoy and it was nice to see the people stood near the back swaying in time to the beats. There was some great new material on display, such as Dorian Gray and I really liked the callbacks to Jones’ set. The closing set piece worked wonderfully. This was a magnificent performance.

Blessington Carriage – Michael Capozzola, Daisy Earl, Riordan DJ, Becky Brunning, Jeremy Flynn and Radu Isac

Tonight I was over in Derby at the Funhouse comedy show at the Blessington Carriage. This was a very warm and well attended night, with extra chairs being brought out. A chap from Radio Derby was there to record segments of the show, which will be a treat for their listeners. With his lower leg still in plaster, Spiky Mike climbed up to the stage on his crutches, but luckily this impediment didn’t get in the way of his compering. There was a nicely varied audience present, with a tattooist, a pregnant lady with two weeks to go and a lodger with his landlady. They proved to be a lot of fun when the tale of how their arrangement worked unfolded. Before long, we were ready for our opening act.

Michael Capozzola

Originally from New York and now in London by way of San Francisco and looking like a slimmer version of Matt LeBlanc, Capozzola made an instant impression with an ad libbed line delivered directly into not the mic on stage, but the extra one being used by Radio Derby. The set that followed contained some very good word play and he received applause for his line about tweets. I enjoyed the joke about the Australian, but when it came to a bloke carrying four beers, I got to the punchline before he did. The set up on Sean Connery was a bit long, but not massively so. This was a good set that the room enjoyed.

Daisy Earl

Next was Daisy Earl who had some good material. I liked the reverse French brands and the tale of the gig in prison was nicely different. Where she did very well was in her method of fending off telesales. This was great. When Earl started talking to members of the audience about questions to ask to make new friends, I wished that she had been watching Mike compere, because I find it a touch jarring when an act asks people who have already been spoken to for a while only 20 minutes ago their name again. Earl began a routine on internet dating, asking who in the room did it and upon one chap being brave enough to admit it, she asked him which site he used. By a lovely slip, he misheard her and thought she had asked him his size, which led to a bit of confusion which Earl, thinking quickly, managed to make the most out of. She then demonstrated a nice bit of stagecraft in realising that the moment for the material she had been about to do had gone and adjusted her set accordingly, finishing with a quality story about a mishap in Bulgaria. This was a very pleasant set and I’d like to see more of Earl.

Riordan DJ

After the intermission we resumed with Riordan DJ, who gave the room a wonderful time. Riordan’s set comprised lots of jokes with short set ups and as these linked together, they flowed extremely well. This was a fast moving set with a lot of laughter. It was also an impressive set on a technical level, too, with the construction being well thought out. Swearing was a great routine and provided something of a framework for what followed. I enjoyed the misdirection on the bath and thought that the joke about incest was very cleverly done. The only thing that I wasn’t keen on was ‘flashed’ which was strangely unimaginative considering the quality of the rest of his jokes. This was a smashing set that had a very high hit rate from someone with a future in comedy.

Becky Brunning

Brunning opened by getting the audience to cheer a couple of things, before invoking the rule of three on the third ‘give me a…’ Unfortunately, the third element just landed awkwardly, with no one really knowing what to do for the best with it and this had a tangible negative impact upon the atmosphere. I think that with a few quick jokes just to emphasise their skill, another act might have been able to bounce back from this, but Brunning’s delivery isn’t like that. Instead, she is very wordy, with long set ups and long gaps between punchlines and the laughs came in direct inverse proportion to how many words she used in the set ups. Ironically, when she discussed reverse me too, Brunning kept the set ups down to the bare minimum and she built up momentum here, getting the audience back on side with some swiftly flowing jokes. This was by far the stand out routine in her set and the more graphic she got, the more the audience enjoyed it. If the rest of her set had similar pacing she would be a much improved comedian. However, after that bright moment, she reverted back to overly describing and lost that momentum.

Jeremy Flynn

Flynn gave the room a strong performance. He began by discussing his size (Christmas was a sterling line) and I’m not sure if he’s lost weight since writing it, because I’d have described him as burly, rather than fat, but either way it all still worked very well. The material about the office was strong, with mambo being a lovely line that deserved a lot more appreciation. Where he hit top gear, though, was in describing throwing a sickie. This was a splendid routine and the more convoluted it became, the funnier it was. I shouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t add more to it. I really enjoyed that. The material on rum Jeremy’s was very well done, with a nice ambush on no2 that got him out of the tricky position of possibly splitting the room with any comments on that particularly divisive Jeremy. There was a lot to like in this performance.

Radu Isac

Headlining was Radu Isac, an act that I can see going far. I’ve never seen him have a bad night yet and he gets better every time I see him. He began powerfully and maintained the impetus all of the way through his performance, getting consistent loud laughs. Isac is not only an intelligent writer, but he has his own unique way of looking at the world and this gives his material a wonderfully different feel to anyone else’s. There were a lot of highlights in this set, but perhaps the standout was a new bit of material on dresses – this was extremely strong. This was an excellence set that ended the night on a high.