Acts that have impressed me the most – October

This has been an amazing month of comedy. I’ve seen 50 acts and the standard has been brilliant. The highlights have included two English Comedian of the Year semi-finals and being interviewed on Radio Derby again. The low light was a vintage comedian who had dated material and whose heart didn’t really seem in it. As always, acts that have recently made the list are time barred.

Rahul Kohli

Strong writing and an exciting delivery.

From the night:

After Simmond’s strong start, I don’t think that anyone was really relishing going on next, but this task fell to Rahul Kohli, one of the favourites to go through. He had smashed his heat in Sheffield and so it was reasonable to expect more of the same tonight and he didn’t disappoint. He saw Simmond’s energy level and raised it, hitting the room like a whirlwind. This set contained a lot of great stuff as Kohli mixed established material with new, got the right town for the dodgy dealers, chatted with various audience members and even managed to get applause for the topper to a joke that had just received applause. He was very sweary for an Ashby audience, but whilst this might have held some acts back, this didn’t seem to make any impact on Kohli’s appeal. Everyone was probably laughing too much to really notice the mofos. There was a potentially tricky moment where he asked a member of the audience a question and he was badly left hanging for perhaps ten seconds whilst she racked her brains for an answer. However, Kohli bounced straight back from this, which was good going. His closing routine which was a lot more wordy and not as punchy as his earlier material, but again, he pulled it back with a great callback to close on. This was an extremely strong set from someone who is in with a good chance of winning the final. He went through in second place tonight.

Tom Taylor

Delightfully quirky and guaranteed to liven up any room.

From the night:

To say that Tom Taylor had a good night would be putting it mildly. The room took to him from the off and one lady sat behind me was laughing her head off as soon as he walked into the room. Taylor began powerfully with some great jokes and then when he started with the songs everyone was enthralled and were all invested in seeing just what he was going to do next. Taylor’s stage persona is of someone who is delightfully unusual and this was a real winner as it gave him ample scope to play with the conventions of comedy. One of the highlights of the entire night was Tom jumping off of the stage and sitting in a spare chair on the front row and clapping a song before getting back on the stage and carrying on. Taylor very much had his wits about him tonight, with a joke about the street that the New Barrack Tavern was on, an aside concerning a lady’s prominent cackle and a great ad-lib remarking on a passing ambulance. All of this helped him build up loads of momentum, but in truth the heavy work had already been done by a cracking mix of great material and a well honed delivery. Taylor was the only act who could have done equally well opening or closing and in a lot of ways the show peaked with his performance. This was a splendid set and he was simply on fire tonight.

Tony Cowards

Great jokes and a very genial presence.

From the night:

Tony Cowards moving up here from down south continues to be a huge bonus for the local comedy scene. He’s a pro act who writes no end of jokes and he likes to get on stage as often as possible to try them out and so he is adding a touch of class to a lot of new material nights. He had an absolutely smashing time tonight and although our paths cross pretty frequently it’s always great to see him and also, to watch the audience whilst he is on. During his performance, not only was there a lot of laughter, but he had one person splutter, ‘Jesus Christ!’ to a reveal and another lose part of his pint when he unwisely took a sip just before a punchline. It was great to see Tony bring Adam, the sound man, into the set with a beautiful joke about Nirvana that scored massively. Another thing that I appreciate about Cowards is that he credits audiences with intelligence and he’s not frightened of relying on them having some knowledge to get the jokes, such as Picasso. This was a brilliant set.

Honourable Mentions

Brian Bell, Callum Oakley, Chris Jones, Lukas Kirby, Mo Haroon, Tom Lawrinson

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Ofton Funny – Sham Zaman, Sam Moult, Tony Cowards, Sean McBurney, Sam Mo, Mo Haroon and Tommy Wager (MC)

Tonight I was in Alfreton for the opening night of Ofton Funny, named for the local pronunciation of Alfreton and an enjoyable pun in itself. The venue for this was Made @ no 18, which is a nice cafe with the comedy taking place in a separate performance area at the back of the cafe, in what could have been a stable a few years ago. Despite the ceiling being pretty high, this was a room that generated a fair amount of atmosphere and it’s a pleasantly quirky room. There was a bar in that room, but it was closed whilst the acts were on and the only drawback to the bar being there was a semi-regular noise coming from some machinery, but that wasn’t the end of the world. The audience were colourful, with a lot of interesting hair in evidence and if you were to draw a Venn Diagram showing comedy and rock audiences, there would be a lot of overlap. They were pretty much all you ask for from an audience, being polite, attentive and above all, up for enjoying the acts.

Tommy Wager (MC)

Wager had the hardest role to perform of the night. It can’t be easy compering a room where a lot of the audience are family or personal friends. If he were to do the usual things, such as asking people their names and what they did for a living then it would strike an odd note, because he so obviously already knew stuff like that. Instead, Wager kept it light and went with references to Halloween and people already looking as if they are dressed for it. This worked pretty well. He made a good choice with Mansfield for the local shit town, but where he did better with it was in chatting to a chap who went by the name of, Sir Wizard. Wager was able to get quite a bit from him, which all added to the genial atmosphere. In the second and third sections, Tommy went with a bit more material and fonts was a standout here. It was nice to see him do the rules and perhaps one suggestion for the future would be just to get a tiny bit of cheering going to build the energy up before the opening act. Wager had a good night and held things together ably.

Sham Zaman

Sham Zaman is a high energy act and he was an ideal choice for opening the gig. He’s also more than happy to break the 4th wall and directly speak to members of the audience and this can really bring people onboard. Sham does speak extremely quickly and this is a bit of a double-edged sword. It can help build up the energy levels, but when he goes into warp speed it can be a bit tricky for everyone to keep up with. Perhaps if he were to slow it down a touch and keep the warp speed in reserve for the climax of a monologue it may work better. Tonight Sham gave the room a cracking routing about Robocop and considering that he is a film buff with knowledge of pretty much every film ever made, there are all sorts of directions he could go with this, all of which would be good. When it came to Robocop there are plenty of iconic scenes that can be mentioned (windscreen wipers was probably the best line of his set) and because it is such a popular film it can be used for years to come. He probably didn’t need to repeat all of Robocop, though when speaking to another audience member, but it still went down a treat. I was a bit surprised when he asked a lady what her favourite film was, that he didn’t tell her that she had 20 seconds to comply…. The rest of the material was more of a mixed bag. Stags and Hen do’s fighting was good, but suicide pact was an idea in search of a better punchline. One thing that Sham was probably mistaken in was referencing my presence, as none of the audience knew me or anything about me and so they got nothing from it, but that’s is a minor point. This was an enjoyable set and I’ll be very interested to see what Sham does with the film angle, he could be onto a goldmine with that.

Sam Moult

Next was Sam Moult, trying some last minute material prior to his shows at the Nottingham Comedy Festival (Saturday at the Old Cold Store, Vat and Fiddle). Tonight I think that Moult erred a bit with the running order of his material, as opening with anal sex is always a bit risky. The room went with it, but it would have been better, as with most things anal, if it had been eased in. A lot of the material concerned sexual experimentation and I think that this is a topic that has a lot of legs. As long as the material doesn’t get salacious or, at the other end of the scale, preachy, this is something that will grab a lot of people. The notion of the day to day life of masochists was a real winner and the Karma Sutra was interesting and from how Sam was describing it, I did think he was going to refer to it as the clickbait of the sexual world. When it came to the closing routine, personal grooming, there was a good level of physicality in this that drew people in. I think that there may be some mileage in describing the process from the point of view of the razor as that could add an extra facet to what has the makings of a fun routine.

Tony Cowards

Tony Cowards moving up here from down south continues to be a huge bonus for the local comedy scene. He’s a pro act who writes no end of jokes and he likes to get on stage as often as possible to try them out and so he is adding a touch of class to a lot of new material nights. He had an absolutely smashing time tonight and although our paths cross pretty frequently it’s always great to see him and also, to watch the audience whilst he is on. During his performance, not only was there a lot of laughter, but he had one person splutter, ‘Jesus Christ!’ to a reveal and another lose part of his pint when he unwisely took a sip just before a punchline. It was great to see Tony bring Adam, the sound man, into the set with a beautiful joke about Nirvana that scored massively. Another thing that I appreciate about Cowards is that he credits audiences with intelligence and he’s not frightened of relying on them having some knowledge to get the jokes, such as Picasso. This was a brilliant set.

Sean McBurney

Having two one-liner comedians on the same bill is unusual and having them both on in the same section makes it tricky. Luckily McBurney was different in tone to Cowards, as his jokes were darker and more sexual, which at least made for something of a contrast. There were some good lines in here such as porno and basement. Also on the positive side, McBurney has a good mic technique. What he could benefit from, though, is when he is a bit more experienced, not writing the jokes on his hand, because every time he paused to check, it broke the immersion in his routine and the room partially reset. Also it would be nice if he looked at the audience a little bit more, as he seemed to look at the floor or above the audience and this never helps to form a connection. This was a promising set and I’ll look forwards to seeing McBurney again.

Sam Mo

We began the final section with Sam Mo, whose orange jumper made for a nicely visual opening joke that established his presence. The rest of the material was more of a mixture, with some good lines in there, such as frothing and the topper which was even better, the string of hand jokes and the description of his area’s diversity. However, a lot of the jokes got a bit lost amongst the set ups. These were a touch wordy and convoluted. Perhaps with a slower delivery and a bit of work this could be turned into a positive attribute, as in the case of Tom Wrigglesworth, but I do wonder if more direct set ups might work better at the moment for Mo. This wasn’t a bad set, there was a lot of good in it and it’ll be nice to see how Sam Mo progresses.

Mo Haroon

Headlining the night was Mo Haroon, who despite having a touch of flu, managed to give the show a satisfying conclusion. Haroon is a gifted writer and it was agreeable to see him progressing to a paid twenty. His ten is tightly written and whilst this wasn’t quite as consistently strong, there was still a lot to like and he went down well with the audience. The throwaway lines were a joy that added a lot to his set and gave him scope to include some good punchy jokes. In addition to the powerful satire, there were a few jokes that were a bit of a work in progress, such as white Asian and African players, but these were the exception. This was a set that showed promise and Haroon had a good night.

Blessington Carriage – Jed Salisbury, Tom Lawrinson, Carl Carzana, Chris Jones, Paul Campbell, Rich Austin and Matt Rees

Tonight I was in Derby for the Funhouse comedy night. Numbers were good and although there is often a large percentage of Rolls Royce employees who attend this gig, for this show there were even more than usual. Over fifteen years or so it’s become a running joke that Spiky Mike knows nothing about engineering or Rolls Royce and the sheer preponderance of RR employees created a lot of laughter. In chatting to someone else, Mike didn’t necessarily improve his situation, because she turned out to be a lady who worked with disabled children. Fortunately she had met her other half on a tinder date and he had erred on the side of optimistic when describing his age and between this and Helen, a teacher, the room was swiftly warmed up. This was a very nice audience, who were very much up for having a good laugh.

Jed Salisbury

Salisbury began by getting different sections of the room to cheer, which made for a lively start, although as Mike had just finished compering I’m not sure it was the best use of his time, although it did tee things up nicely. This was then followed by three jokes, where Salisbury established his presence. Jed’s material tonight was a bit of a mixed bag; there were some nice lines in there, but there were also a few that could perhaps have been improved. However, in this performance, his biggest problem was pacing. Salisbury is used to doing longer spots and I’ve seen him do very well with more time and tonight he seemed to be speaking extremely quickly, almost as if he was in a rush to get as much of his usual set in as he could within ten minutes. Whilst speaking quickly can build up energy and momentum, I felt that the end result was that people were having to race to keep up with what Jed was saying and this diluted the impact of his material. Things I’ve seen get big laughs elsewhere didn’t land so well. A slower delivery would have allowed people to enjoy the jokes and laugh more without worrying that they would miss the next one. This mistiming was perhaps the reason why Jed seemed to run out of time before he finished his last routine. Salisbury has a good comedy persona and stage presence, but unfortunately he didn’t make the most of that tonight.

Tom Lawrinson

When I last saw Lawrinson performing at the Canal House he had given the room a smashing time and he was just as good tonight. He’s got a quirky persona and is an original thinker, which makes for a powerful combination. You never know where he is going to go with a joke and this is a real strength. Lawrinson isn’t frightened of chatting to audience members one on one, either and this is another string to his bow. I was a bit surprised, though, when he was talking about dating apps and he didn’t reference the tinder couple in the audience. This was a very impressive set. The material was interesting and funny and I think everyone was intrigued by him. I felt that the joke about the foal deserved a lot more laughter than it received, as this was a very clever piece of word play. This was a cracking set.

Carl Carzana

Brighton based Carzana’s material was inconsistent. He had some good jokes, such as drawing and the buffet topper. He also had some material that could be improved, such as food for you and barber. Plus there was the material about Jason Statham, which felt a little bit pedestrian. In addition, plot would have benefited from some misdirection if possible, because it is never a good thing when someone in the audience says the reveal before the act does. So whilst the material wasn’t the strongest, that is nothing that can’t be improved. Carzana is a pleasant presence and does have a level of likeability, so with more consistently good material he’ll do a lot better.

Chris Jones

Glaswegian born, now living in Manchester, Jones is someone to watch for the future. This is despite a questionable opening joke that I think a lot of people got to the punchline of before he did. The vast bulk of his material was very strong, with pronouncing his name, the applause winning musical gag and for this gig only, the Rolls Royce joke, all being standouts. The routine about Copenhagen, though, was the real highlight. I did wonder if a slight re-ordering of the joke might make it work even better, with the detail of the upgrade being described before the reason for it, as I think that would give greater force to it, but I could well be wrong. Jones had a cheerfully upbeat delivery and this set was a real pleasure to see.

Paul Campbell

Campbell is a character act, playing a comic loser who lives with his mum and who is a disaster with ladies. He realises this character very well, moving about awkwardly on stage and looking ill at home there. However, the same as when I saw him in Stoke, he failed to draw me in. At the moment, I don’t think the material is powerful enough to really carry the character without veering into being depressing. However, in fairness, over ten minutes the audience, although not initially onboard, warmed to him and there were some good lines in this set, such as auditioning and an astute mention of Rolls Royce.

Rich Austin

Austin was given an early gift with a bit of apparent confusion over his name and his comments regarding who was most sure of his surname were very funny and created a warm atmosphere for the opening of his set. There were some decent lines in this set, such as the jacket, orphan and the Trainspotting/Star Wars material. The song at the end was a lot of fun and provided a definitive closing to his set. However, a lot of the reference points are a bit dated and although they still got laughs, I can’t help but wonder if he’d get bigger laughs with more contemporary ones. Austin has an unusual delivery. It’s almost matter of fact, with no real tone to it. In some ways this works very well with a lot of what he says, especially the bits where he is talking as a parent. I’m not sure if it wouldn’t get a bit dry over a longer period, though. Austin isn’t the finished article, but he had a good gig and he is getting better every time I see him.

Matt Rees

Rees was a joy to watch from his very good opening joke all the way through to the closing routine. His pacing was spot on. He was totally unhurried in what he was saying and despite it being later at night, the audience were more than happy to stay with him and to give him their full attention. The material was very strong with a lot of high quality writing in evidence. This was a set where every word added value to what was being said. Rees had a very dry delivery and his stage persona was almost aloof. He delivered his material giving no reaction to his jokes, almost as if he wasn’t aware of just how funny the things he was saying were. This mix of low energy and being reserved worked so well because of the juxtaposition with the powerful writing. This was a cracking set.

Canal House – Josh Pugh, Roger Swift, Tony Cowards, Donald Mackerel, Dave Bibby, Callum Oakley, Mickey Sharma and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. To begin with, the omens were good, as extra chairs were sourced to seat the 100 plus people present. This is a big crowd for a new material night and it was nice to see industry figures such as Jem Braithwaite, Graham Newcombe and Nick Mellors present. However, owing to a lot of the audience being sat quite far back from the stage, the room never seemed to fully settle down. This was exacerbated by the presence of Jade and her party sat at the front. These were drunk, charmless, had no sense of self awareness and chatted consistently throughout the night. Not just whispers, but loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. They were so bad that they either thought that they were helping out the night or just didn’t notice everyone cheering when they were told to shut up. This is a friendly gig and I’d like to see it stay that way, but I think if there had been a call to form a posse to bounce them, then there would have been no shortage of volunteers.

Fran Jenking

Fran’s a very affable chap who is at his best when just chatting to people in the audience. In the Summer when this gig started in daylight, he had an advantage in being able to see much of the room. However, owing to the lights he could only see the first two rows and was reliant on these people being interesting and they pretty much let him down. There was a strong international contingent of exchange students, but alas, none of these had a particularly interesting backstory. There was Jade, who managed plumbing call outs for some London landmarks, but as she was a gobshite with no self awareness, there wasn’t a lot to be gained from chatting to her. However, as she became more and more disruptive the more she drank, Fran got loud cheers and lots of applause for when he slammed her later in the evening. Naturally, she failed to pick up on this and just bounced back. There was a lovely moment when during his last session, Fran gave the audience a chance to shout out at him instead of the acts and one bloke shouted, ‘you’re a great guy!’ He wasn’t taking the piss or trying to be funny, it was just a nice compliment. Fran was unlucky in there being no one that fascinating to chat to. He did what he could with Jade and Co, but they were beyond help.

Josh Pugh

Pugh was doing new material and it’s always a treat to see this. The last time I saw him he was opening at the Lescar in Sheffield and he’s definitely progressing nicely. He’s a confident presence and this transmits itself to the room. I liked how Pugh tied in the magic trick to the exchange student from America and the physical actions he does on that gag tickle me no end. Of the new material, vinegar was good, but it might realise its full potential with a topper to the punchline, as it didn’t feel as if it was completed on the existing reveal. Fate is very good indeed, as is smear – both of those are pretty much the finished article. The village hall is a lovely set up that draws you in, but I’m not sure that the current reveal really gets the most from the set up. As with most acts tonight, Pugh’s set was hurt by Jade talking, although he did get applause for a natty put down he delivered to her.

Roger Swift

Swift was trying some new material tonight and whilst he didn’t hold all of the room for all of the time, I feel that there is a lot he could learn from this performance. The new opening was nice to see, but he may be best swinging round so that everyone can see the visual gag or maybe getting a bigger container so it’s easier to see. Starting off with mostly powerpoint gags hasn’t got the in your face and grab you by the nads energy that his usual puns have and he may be better off with capitalising on the manic start that puns give him. Possibly because he started with powerpoint, or maybe it was just this audience’s taste, but tonight they got behind the powerpoint gags more than anything else and seemed to be waiting for the next slide before they let themselves go. However, Roger could do far more with the powerpoint than he is at the moment. He has a lot of good jokes, such as golf club and count, etc and all of these could be sent to the next level if as well as delivering it as per normal there was also a creative slide showing the punchline. The more surreal the better. Swift’s biggest selling point is his perceived oddness and if he were to build on that with these slides then it would do very well. Roger is used to splitting audiences, but getting the most out of every gag like this, if it works, could be just what he needs to get everyone on board.

Tony Cowards

I last saw Cowards a few weeks ago winning his semi-final of the English Comedian of the year and tonight he was working on some new material. As you’d expect from such a talented joke writer, these were all great quality. These were a mixture of clever ones that people had to think about for a moment and the pleasingly daft jokes that everyone could instantly enjoy. I especially adored the Stonehenge joke and his suggestion that Jade did a sponsored silence. It was nice to see Tony doing a few asides after jokes as I felt these added more of his personality into the delivery. This was a very funny ten minutes.

Donald Mackerel

Mackerel has a Shropshire accent and it was a smart move for him to address it at the top of his set, as I think a lot of people would be trying to guess where he was from otherwise. This led into some material based upon the area, which felt like a natural link. The line ‘because that is his name’ is used quite often and whilst it got a laugh it would benefit Mackerel if he could think of an alternative. The chicken story was improved from when I heard a version of it in Stoke and this time I don’t think anyone guessed where he was going with it. The set up to the Plenty of Fish routine added pathos, but was a bit depressing and what Mackerel gained from it in teeing up the story of the lady he met, I think he may have lost in the time it took, I may be wrong, but the routine may be more punchy if he were just to say, that he was at his lowest ebb….. so he went on Plenty of Fish and to launch into it from there. Despite this tale being dark, the room lapped it up and it proved to be the standout routine of his set. Mackerel spoke clearly, looked well on stage and had some interesting stuff. Naturally he isn’t the finished article, but he had a good gig and I enjoyed what I saw.

Dave Bibby

Bibby is a bit of an all rounder. He was confident, loud, energetic and very much at home working the room. If he’s not tried his hand at compering, then I suggest he does so. He began with a song sung to the theme tune of Only Fools and Horses, which had everyone clapping along. This was followed by an impression, but as that was a bit rushed, it felt like you’d blinked and missed something; if he were to just stretch it out for a second or so longer then it would do very well. The second song involved birds and he lost me and a few others after the first couple of birds. It’s a fun song, but this may be a case of less being more. The final section involved him getting two volunteers onto the stage to play a banter related game. This got the audience involved, with a few people shouting out suggestions for answers. Although there wasn’t a lot that was massively funny in the set, Bibby was still very entertaining and his set felt refreshing. If he could work on the humour side and bring that up so it is on a par with just how much fun everything else is then he will do well in comedy – he has potential.

Callum Oakley

Oakley is an act that I don’t see as much of as I’d like and that’s a shame as he’s got an air of polish and plausibility about him that I really like. His material is well written and smoothly delivered and the only thing tonight that I thought less than great was his inclusion of this line in response to mentioning where he lives: ‘yes, that’s what it deserves.’ I think he can do better than that. Everything else was top notch. Bad hair day was a cracking line, the story of his trip to France well constructed and the tale of the girl he ended up in a club with was great, especially the closing line. Like pretty much everyone else tonight, Oakley was affected by audience disruption, but he made something from it. I’m not sure whether this was a case of Oakley having material on dick pics that he was able to use or if it was created on the spot. His naturalness in delivering it made it feel like an ad lib, so if it was material he deserves kudos for that and if he was thinking on his feet, then he deserves a lot of credit for coming out with something so good. Either way, he did very well. This was a great set.

Mickey Sharma

Throughout the night, apart from when she’d gone out for a cigarette, Jade and friends had been talking through the acts off and on, but during Mickey’s set she seemed to turn it up a notch. This was a huge shame, as for twenty minutes or so Sharma tried to deliver comedy, but had to break off to address Jade. She couldn’t be ignored, because she was sat at the front and was loud enough that members of the audience sat 2/3 of the way down the room were telling her to shut up. Whilst his put downs garnered a lot of laughs and applause it wrecked his chances of building momentum. The material that he did get out was decent, with Plenty of Fish being fun and creepy guys having a nice air of logic to it.

Lyric Rooms Ashby – English Comedian of the Year Semi-finals – Yazz Fetto, Scott Bennett, Susan Murray, Brian Bell, Gemma Roberts and Tom Taylor

Tonight I was back in Ashby at the Lyric Rooms for the second semi-final in two weeks. This is a very nice venue that attracts a clever and comedy literate audience. The most memorable person that Spiky Mike spoke to this week was a genuine gynaecologist and this led to some strong jokes regarding his profession. There were originally eight acts on the bill, but owing to various issues only six arrived. Despite there being one clear cut favourite to win and an easily foreseeable second place it was going to be interesting to see how the night unfolded. One thing that was different to last week was that the room had a habit of resetting itself during each act and it seemed tricky for most of the acts to build up a lot of impetus due to this.

TLDR

Winner: Scott Bennett by a landslide (only two who didn’t have him as their favourite)

Second: Tom Taylor by almost as many votes

Third: Brian Bell

Yazz Fetto

Opening was Yazz Fetto, one half of the double act, The Monks. He didn’t begin massively well, with a callback to Mike’s compering being a bit rushed in the delivery and so not landing as positively as it might have done. This was followed by some material about Ikea, which as Fetto admitted to the room, didn’t do that well. His comment regarding this was perhaps a tactical error as it drew attention to his slow start and he may have been better just going into the next routine. The material on Fetto’s wife was interesting and probably his strongest lines were contained within this. The tweet and her profession were both good. However, the twist on the desperate part of the world was predictable, even if the exact location wasn’t. Another decent section concerned reviews of the Bible, but this would have been stronger without him announcing his Christianity beforehand. I couldn’t detect any enthusiasm for that and even though he’d lose the rocking out line, Fetto may have generated more impetus in getting into the Bible reviews more quickly. He closed on a good line, which ended his performance well. Whilst Fetto didn’t have an amazing night he had a tough slot as opener, but he got laughs and didn’t look out of place in the line up.

Scott Bennett

Bennett made a cracking and memorable start by discussing the oddities of the room. This was immediately tangible to everyone sat there and they were all onboard probably before he’d taken his third breath. He then launched into a superb medley of his greatest hits. This was a masterclass in cutting down hours of solid material into enough to fill a shorter set and remain not only coherent, but smooth flowing and natural in feeling. There were no awkward gaps or jumps and the rhythm was magnificent. The physicality was subtle, but spot on. Scott would lean in when doing his mum’s voice and when discussing his dad’s technological ability, he would lean on the mic stand, as if mentally exhausted by his ineptitude. In-between the material, Scott would address asides to members of the audience and these were landing with the regularity of a boxer jabbing at an opponent with his left hand, whilst his right prepared the next knockout blow of material. This was a tremendous performance that almost everyone had as their favourite.

Susan Murray

Murray had a decent night, but I got the impression that she was a good act who would have been better suited to a different audience. She began well with a visual callback to the gynaecologist Mike had been talking to and she had some solid material, too. Wine was nice, the boiler was relatable and air crash investigations was very welcome. That’s a novel topic and it felt refreshingly different. Murray received a lovely gift when discussing crashes when someone’s phone received a text and went ‘boing’. Without missing a beat she incorporated that into her performance and ad-libbed a great line to it. However, despite getting consistent laughs I didn’t feel that the audience were fully with her all of the time and this was a shame, as she had some good stuff.

Brian Bell

Bell had a great night and he is improving every time I see him. Coming third was no mean feat. He didn’t begin that well, though. His material about catching racism is intelligently written, but not that heavy on laughs and I think it would stand out for that wherever he put it in his set. However, as opening material, it is probably best to go with something punchy to establish his credentials quickly. The other problem was that I felt it was open to possible misinterpretation and could have set the wrong tone to his performance before people had fully seen it. From here on, though, it was all upwards and the rest of the material was very well constructed. The incongruity between what he is talking about (class) and the unspoken comparison to something else works extremely well and the more detailed his reference points the bigger the laughs were – he built up a lot of momentum here. The section on serial killers is a lot shorter, but is a bit of a gem and I wouldn’t be surprised if this wouldn’t work well if it was incorporated into his opening routine. The children he met has potential, but isn’t quite there yet. The third choice and the joke work as they are, but I think it could be improved. Bell’s delivery was well paced. He didn’t rush, he spoke slowly and allowed the jokes to land at a natural stride. This was a strong set and he may well be in line for a possible wild card into the final.

Gemma Roberts

Roberts hasn’t been gigging for long and entered the competition before she was really ready. At the moment a lot of her material is fairly pedestrian, but in an inexperienced act this is to be expected. The crawl was predictable and I think she made a mistake in using her dog as part of the salon scene, as it breaks the immersion within the routine when something so obviously didn’t happen. Another thing that hurt her is that the audience in Ashby aren’t madly keen on sexual jokes unless they are particularly strong and Roberts’ jokes on that topic unfortunately weren’t strong. Although she died tonight, with more gigging, Roberts will improve.

Tom Taylor

The last time I saw Taylor was at the New Barrack Tavern, where he was on fire and he continued his run of great gigs tonight. Coming on to a flat atmosphere and being a delightfully odd act he was initially on the back foot a little bit as the audience seemed to take a minute in making their minds up about him. However, he soon won them over and they took him to their hearts. Taylor works on a lot of levels. He is musical, his whimsy isn’t that deep as to lose parts of the audience, his observations about the room are acute, he has plenty of one-liners that he can throw in as and when it suits the flow of the set and above all he is very funny. Taylor received a good number of applause breaks tonight and had a magnificent callback to Scott’s set that went down a storm. This was a brilliant set that ended the night on a high. Taylor went through in second place with almost as many votes as Scott Bennett.

16/10/18 Interview on Radio Derby

Last night I was interviewed by Martyn Williams on Radio Derby about notable comedians that I’d seen in the area. Here is a list of comedians and new nights that I managed to mention:

Rhod Gilbert – secret gig at the Blessington Carriage

Simon Lomas – the greatest rising comedy star in the country

Scott Bennett – similar to Peter Kay, but better with more appetite for comedy

Andrew Bird – the best story teller comedian in the country

Phil Carr – dark and edgy, unbroadcastable on Radio Derby, Masai Graham – seen pensioners laughing at his dark material.

Steff Todd – compering in Ripley on the 19th, one liner artist, Phil Pagett and her must have very funny conversations

Mo Haroon – headlining in Alfreton, good writing

Jon Pearson – running a showcase for comedy nights

New nights mentioned:

19th Ripley

30th Alfreton

Roundhouse Showcase

I’m on from 39 minutes or so in and can be found here on BBC Radio Derby.

Thanks to Graham Newcombe for sending me the link and big thanks to Martyn Williams for having me on. 

Blessington Carriage – Adam Coumas, Martin Durchov, Phil Carr, Eric Rushton, The Boys from the all night Chemist and Big Lou

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. Numbers were pretty reasonable, but oddly the energy levels were a bit low, which was unusual. It was nice to see Radio Derby present recording segments of the night for Martyn Williams’ show on the forthcoming Monday night. Mike had fun compering, with Liam providing him with a nice gift when in response to being asked whom he was sat next to, replied with a friend – at the moment.

Adam Coumas

Opening tonight was a bit of a tough slot and Coumas drew the short straw. He began with a callback to Mike’s compering, which whilst it didn’t quite come off, was still nice to see. The trip to Bristol was building up well, with the chap recognising him as an outsider, but Coumas suddenly changed direction and began to talk about London. This was a shame, as it felt like Bristol was going somewhere. The topic of people marking themselves safe on facebook is a fertile one and I can imagine this being relatable for a long time to come. It’s possible that Coumas might be able to expand that section. The atheist preacher and the baby shower both also show promise. Kennington, however, was a bit of a mystery to the audience and probably would be to a lot of people outside of the South. I think folk worked it out via the context, but if Coumas were to go with somewhere off of a standard game of Monopoly then he would be on safer ground in the North when it comes to areas of London. This wasn’t a bad performance, but Coumas would have done better going on in a later slot as he didn’t make as much of an impact as he otherwise could have done.

Martin Durchov

Hailing from Bulgaria and hardly putting a foot wrong during his set, Durchov gave an impressive performance. The material was strong and felt novel, which was all to the good. There were a lot of strong lines in this set with the lift being nicely logical and sleeves a good visual gag that skated on the edge of applause. Driving licence was wonderfully meta. The only part where Durchov slightly lost his way was over a scenario where someone overlaid. However, he had already achieved a lot and so this slight hiccup didn’t do him any harm. The delivery was enjoyable and I would have liked to have seen more of Duchov.

Phil Carr

We resumed after the intermission with Phil Carr who suffered the bad luck of having two late comers arrive who probably hadn’t been to live comedy before. They whispered to each other throughout his set and then buggered off before anyone could speak to them when the next interval arrived. They didn’t kill off Carr’s set or anything, but they were a nuisance for those sat close to them for the time that they were there.

Carr’s a promising act who writes some joyfully dark material and he had set the tone of his set by his third joke. There was a hell of a lot of good jokes in this performance, some of which got just as many groans from those shocked as huge laughs from those who were on his wavelength and Carr kept the vast majority of the room with him throughout. Well written dark jokes, that are genuinely funny and not there just for the sake of shocking people, can work extremely well and Carr has certainly got it right with his material. His delivery is quite subdued and it works well with his material, but it might prove beneficial in longer sets to show a few chinks in the persona. An aside to the audience after a particularly dark joke, such as ‘even I’m appalled by that one,’ would probably work wonders for him. I really enjoyed this set.

Eric Rushton

Rushton’s an interesting act that I hadn’t seen for quite a long time, although I’d heard some nice things about him on the grapevine. He’s already got his comedy persona nailed down and it is now a case of him polishing it. On stage he plays it as low status, seeking reassurance from the audience and he does this in a way that feels refreshing. It’s good to see him being cheerful about speaking directly to members of the audience, even putting them on the spot, when he seeks their opinions about him. This brings the audience into his show, adds a touch of excitement as he obviously has to deal with whatever is said to him and it keeps the set fresh. Some of the material is a bit wordy, but frankly I think that by and large this works well for Rushton as it fits in well with the persona. The only times I felt he might have been a bit more concise was with the football/nurse routine, where he could have gotten to the pay off faster and got more of an impact and arguably councillor may have been stronger without the explanation as I think 95% of the room got the gag. This was a good set from someone whom I can see progressing sooner rather than later.

The Boys from the all night Chemist

This was a musical duo, who with a guitar each, seemed to fill the stage to capacity. It was good to hear them singing original songs rather than parodies of existing works. The songs were all pretty good, even if a touch long too keep me fully invested in them. What I felt was missing during this ten spot was any interplay between them betwixt songs and audience work. Without any real attempt at performing any lines to the audience or even banter between themselves they felt more like a musical duo who do a few comedy songs dipping their feet into comedy. If they were to broaden their material to include more than just songs then it would prove useful to them.

Big Lou

Headlining the night was Big Lou, who brought the show to an end on a high. There was a lot to like about this set. The delivery was polished and smooth, the material very relatable and down to earth and it was also very adept technically, too. The misdirection on shower scene was very well done and the toppers timed beautifully. This was a set that built up a lot of momentum. Big Lou has a solid feel to him and his confidence transmitted itself to the audience very quickly. The material was well thought out, with Wythenshawe providing a good opening routine (bloom was a cracking line) that he doesn’t flog to death, but instead moved on from to talk about other topics. Shakespeare was good, as was the special guest at the golf club and the closing routine about the swimming baths had a lot going for it. This was a very enjoyable set.

Ashby – English Comedian of the Year Semi Final – Aaron Simmonds, Rahul Kohli, Tom Little, Mo Haroon, Faye Treacy, Stephen Carlin, Tony Cowards and Harvey Hawkins

Tonight I was at the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for one of the Funhouse Comedy hosted English Comedian of the Year semi-finals. Despite this being a venue that easily sells over 100 tickets for the monthly comedy night, numbers weren’t that high tonight and that’s a shame as people missed some brilliant acts. Present in the audience for Spiky Mike to chat to whilst compering were a few interesting people, such as Doug (not to be confused with Doug Lumley of Derby) who had been raised in South Africa, a PE teacher and a professional wrestler who had made a career in Kentucky.

The quality of acts is always great at these nights and tonight was no exception. There were perhaps a couple of comedians who might be expected to do well, but all things being equal, the vast majority of the acts were in with a chance if things fell right for them. As is always the case, the audience were to vote for their favourite acts of the night and this meant that whilst someone could have been high up on everyone’s list, but no-ones top pick, then they would end up with very few votes.

TLDR

Tony Cowards – 41 votes

Rahul Kohli – 39 votes

Both make the final

Stephen Carlin (28 votes) may get a possible wildcard

Aaron Simmonds

Simmonds volunteered to open which was a risky strategy. However, he got the gig off to a flying start. He opened with a callback to the wrestler that Mike had been chatting to during his compering and then followed this up with a strong line describing the non-disabled. I especially liked how Simmonds had been listening to the compering, because he was able to address Doug in the audience by name and this always goes down well. The material was original, well thought out and it built up momentum very nicely. Automatic was a great line, the toppers added a lot to the set, as did the asides and the closing routine about an encounter in a train station was delicious. Simmonds was high energy and went down an absolute storm. I was expecting him to place highly in the votes, but this time that wasn’t to be. Perhaps if he had gone on later he would have been a finalist, despite that, this was a great set by someone to remember for the future.

Rahul Kohli

After Simmond’s strong start, I don’t think that anyone was really relishing going on next, but this task fell to Rahul Kohli, one of the favourites to go through. He had smashed his heat in Sheffield and so it was reasonable to expect more of the same tonight and he didn’t disappoint. He saw Simmond’s energy level and raised it, hitting the room like a whirlwind. This set contained a lot of great stuff as Kohli mixed established material with new, got the right town for the dodgy dealers, chatted with various audience members and even managed to get applause for the topper to a joke that had just received applause. He was very sweary for an Ashby audience, but whilst this might have held some acts back, this didn’t seem to make any impact on Kohli’s appeal. Everyone was probably laughing too much to really notice the mofos. There was a potentially tricky moment where he asked a member of the audience a question and he was badly left hanging for perhaps ten seconds whilst she racked her brains for an answer. However, Kohli bounced straight back from this, which was good going. His closing routine which was a lot more wordy and not as punchy as his earlier material, but again, he pulled it back with a great callback to close on. This was an extremely strong set from someone who is in with a good chance of winning the final. He went through in second place tonight.

Rahul was also responsible for the funniest part of the night. Earlier Aaron Simmonds had commented about how able-bodied people would always sit in his wheelchair and it would just topple back because it is very light. Rahul spotting the empty chair located in a convenient position to see the stage sat in it and was immediately tipped backwards as if the chair had spat him out, going arse over tit and landing on his arse. Whilst painful for his coccyx, it was an amazingly funny but accidental piece of physical comedy. You probably had to be there.

Tom Little

Little was disadvantaged by the running order. After two high energy acts had been on, a change of pace to a lower energy and more measured delivery wasn’t ideal and if he had raised his own energy level then it would probably have been too much of the same for the room to have a great appetite for. Little started with some material about crisps, which he tied in nicely to someone who had just finished a pack off, but unfortunately this didn’t grab the audience. I’ve seen Little a few times and he’s got a belting routine about animal feed (not the most likely of subjects, but it really is good) and I did wonder if he might have been better opening with a cut down version of this, as it would have been relatable to everyone there, instantly gettable and it would have established his credentials. Little’s set came to life with Wordsworth and then took off when he was talking about the longest word in the English dictionary. From here he built up impetus and ended well. I think Little is an act that would have benefited from a longer slot, doing fifteen instead of ten as this would have given him more time to build with. Tonight he didn’t really show the room just what he is capable of.

Mo Haroon

Occupying the sweet spot after the intermission was Haroon, who has been having a good year, making the finals of a few competitions and progressing from open middles to paid closing spots for small rooms. Tonight he began with a few callbacks to Kohli’s set before going into his main material. Haroon is a writer of talent and there were a lot of insightful lines in this set. The taxi driver material is a crowd-pleaser that everyone can get on board with. Europe was insightful and the section on Britain stronger for excluding Wales. The comments about Russians were timely and Islamic Estate has a lot of potential, even if it isn’t yet the finished article. There was an odd moment when Haroon said ‘tell the difference’ and from the rhythm of his delivery I and perhaps a few others were expecting a punchline there, but there wasn’t one. The material on the unification of India was clever and the bus shelter was fun, with a possible improvement involving putting messages on walls. This was a promising set. Haroon can clearly write formidable material, but he may benefit from working on his delivery and presence a bit more to get the most from it. Considering the intelligence of his writing, I’m wondering whether wearing a suit would help with establishing his comic persona for the audience?

Faye Treacy

Next was Faye Treacy, the only comedy trombonist in the country, if not the world. Treacy is certainly adept at playing the trombone, but the comedy isn’t as well developed. Her material was largely autobiographical and because she has an interesting backstory it is pretty fascinating, but unfortunately it doesn’t have a lot of comedic bite. Moon crawl was a good line, but seemed to be mostly overlooked by the audience. If she were to work on her writing then she would be a stronger act. However, Treacy is enjoyable and she entertained the room and there is definitely room for unique acts like hers in the comedy world.

Stephen Carlin

Next was Carlin, the most experienced act of the night. Carlin was smartly dressed and looked imposing on stage, which when combined with his polished material made for a good performance. He gave the room largely the same set that he had used in his heat in Ashby, but that was long enough ago not to be an issue. The material was good, with meal deal and priest both being strong lines. Tonight he came third with the chance of a possible wildcard to the final.

Tony Cowards

Looking dapper in his suit, Cowards was the only one-liner comedian on the bill and he had a blinder of a gig. His well paced delivery and very powerful jokes generated consistent loud laughs. Tony would repeat the odd line during the set ups, partly to make it clear what the scenario was, but also perhaps to let people’s brains catch up with his jokes, which were all erudite. Rampant Rabbit and blood groups were both huge hits, but nothing missed, he got laughs for everything. Tony demonstrated his tactical flair by opening up the floor to the audience and inviting them to suggest topics for him to pun on. This was a formidable ploy, because it put him on his mettle. Having an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of jokes is great, but all it takes is one bright spark to double six him for it to all become awkward and of course, for the audience, that is all part of the challenge. On the other hand, it really emphasises Tony’s talent to everyone and goes down an absolute storm when it goes well, which it invariably does. Tonight’s suggestions were South Africa – response: a great joke about Cape Town, Football: two gags for the price of one, Germany: a fast comeback relating to kinder eggs that hit home hard and (unbelievably) the Sinclair C5: a joke concerning a crash on the road. The last one was the only gag that was a bit of a stretch, but Tony got laughs for pointing out the crowbar he’d used to get a joke based on the Sinclair C5. This was a set that was joyously different to the others and got a hell of a lot of laughs. Tony was the winner of the semi and will be in with a chance to win the final, especially if he opens it up to the audience again.

Harvey Hawkins

The closing act was Hawkins whom I last saw in Ashby, where he had had a very good gig. It’s always nice to see how Harvey is getting on, because he has the potential to become a very good story telling comedian. He has mastered the ability to tell a story with the utmost sincerity, sketching it out in such a way that without being verbose, he still manages to make you feel that events are unfolding before your eyes. Even with the room’s energy being low at this point everyone was hanging on his every word. His opening story built up loads of comedic tension that was released with a big laugh. The next few routines were shorter, but played with the comedy conventions and went down a treat. This was a very good performance that tonight didn’t get him through, but in a year or so, I can imagine him being a contender.

The New Barrack Tavern – Tom Taylor, Charlie Hopkinson, Steve Harris and Lukas Kirkby (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse comedy night. Owing to adverse shifts, it’s been a while since I was here and that’s a real shame as this is a lovely pub and the atmosphere is always great. Numbers weren’t bad and it was nice to see Wayne of the Last Laugh in the audience with his partner, Lou. Kev, the landlord, thanked everyone for coming, did the rules and introduced our compere to the stage.

Lukas Kirkby

Kirkby had an interesting night compering. The first lady he chatted to sounded like she was having an attack of the giggles and her friends had to reply on her behalf, outlining what she did for a living. When this lady eventually spoke, she mentioned that she wasn’t keen on being spoken to and so Kirkby did the decent thing and moved on to someone else. This turned out to be a bus driver who whilst pleasant, was pretty taciturn and his replies were brief enough to make getting any material out of him tricky, although Kirkby did managed to weave a fair bit in. Owing to a hiccup there was a bit of space in the second session and Kirkby stepped up to the mark and gave the room some very good material. This consisted of two songs with altered lyrics, both of which were sung very well. Stepping into the audience to sing was a nice touch that added a bit of personality to proceedings and these songs were both creative and fun crowd-pleasers. Anyone who can jog on the spot and sing at the same time is doing well. The only thing I wasn’t too enthralled about was his habit of saying ‘lovely stuff’, but that’s a minor point. Kirkby is likeable and talented and has the makings of a very skilled compere. I’m surprised that this is the first time I’ve seen him perform.

Tom Taylor

To say that Tom Taylor had a good night would be putting it mildly. The room took to him from the off and one lady sat behind me was laughing her head off as soon as he walked into the room. Taylor began powerfully with some great jokes and then when he started with the songs everyone was enthralled and were all invested in seeing just what he was going to do next. Taylor’s stage persona is of someone who is delightfully unusual and this was a real winner as it gave him ample scope to play with the conventions of comedy. One of the highlights of the entire night was Tom jumping off of the stage and sitting in a spare chair on the front row and clapping a song before getting back on the stage and carrying on. Taylor very much had his wits about him tonight, with a joke about the street that the New Barrack Tavern was on, an aside concerning a lady’s prominent cackle and a great ad-lib remarking on a passing ambulance. All of this helped him build up loads of momentum, but in truth the heavy work had already been done by a cracking mix of great material and a well honed delivery. Taylor was the only act who could have done equally well opening or closing and in a lot of ways the show peaked with his performance. This was a splendid set and he was simply on fire tonight.

Charlie Hopkinson

Hopkinson is an accomplished impressionist and he’s smart enough to season this with a framework of good material. I especially enjoyed the dark pay off on his first impression and the callback to Kirkby’s singing was very timely. I appreciated the Peaky Blinder’s material as I’ve not heard many acts doing stuff about that programme and it fitted in well with the topic he was discussing, feeling part of it, rather than crowbarred in. The section where Hopkinson taught the audience a few impressions was pleasantly interactive and made the fun seem nicely communal. This was ten minutes that passed pretty quickly and I shouldn’t have minded him doing more. Although Hopkinson isn’t yet the finished article, he’s on his way and is certainly bookable.

Steve Harris

The closing act was Steve Harris, who split the room a touch. The physical side of his delivery was top notch and amongst the best that I’ve seen. He knew exactly what sort of face to pull, how to lean backwards or forwards, when to glance to one side or look scared and the timing on the pauses was superb. This could be because it is an established set that is well practised or it could be that he has put a lot of work into perfecting the performance so that it totally compliments the material. However, any set that involves a couple of counts of bestiality, drowning a daughter and drops the c bomb on the 3rd line with the liberal use of swearing thereafter is bound to challenge opinions. Harris kept the majority of the room with the more challenging material (there was a heck of a lot of laughter from this group), but did far better with the general and cleaner topics. The story of the gig in Afghanistan and the subsequent events was great and far stronger than the routines that weren’t for everyone. He received applause for the joke that he performed at Camp Leatherneck and the routine about London flooding built up a lot of impetus.

Two Gates, Tamworth – Dave Dinsdale, Wilson Milton, Phil Butler and Andy White (MC)

Tonight I was down in Tamworth for the Morti-fied comedy night. I’d decided that I was coming here at the start of the week and hadn’t checked back since, so I had missed the fact that it had sold out. Luckily a space was found for me, which was highly fortunate and ruddy convenient as it is a good way from home. This was a gala charity night and when I sat down, the booker, Darren Mortiboy, was hosting a game of bingo in aid of St Giles Hospice. I was expecting a bit of a break between the bingo and the comedy as it can be hard to go straight from one to the other, but I think that owing to time constraints the show had to follow.

Andy White (MC)

I was looking forwards to seeing White. When I last saw him performing in Nottingham he had had a cracking night and so I was expecting to have just as good a time. Tonight, rather than opening or closing, he was compering and he made a very good job of it, indeed. He began by referencing the bingo game and then mixed material with crowd work. The venue has a proper stage that’s high up and I think that this makes it tricky for the performers to interact with a large part of the audience, so White did well to bring everyone into the night. Being from Birmingham, just down the road, his comments about that city were close enough to be relatable and to feel relevant, with the Brummie Lord of the Rings being a huge hit. The material concerning the comb was great, but perhaps my favourite was his joke about Pistorius and his escape from execution. This was delightfully dark and hilarious. The oohs and ahs helped to build up the energy before the first act came on and he finished on a high. This was good compering.

Dave Dinsdale

For Dinsdale this was a fairly local gig and he made the most of that by mentioning most of the towns and most of the major football teams in the West Midlands during the course of his set. This went down very well with the audience. If he could work in so many local references for gigs in further flung places then it would work equally well for him, but naturally if he were to do a Brum centric set in Yorkshire or somewhere more than 20 miles from Birmingham then it would be a much harder sell. The game of higher or lower got everyone’s interest (the twist on card four was great, although it might only have a shelf life of a few more years), but it perhaps went on a bit too long to keep that interest all the way through. Some of the reference points in the rest of the set were probably lost on anyone under their forties, as it has been a while since anyone has heard the Waltons mentioned or Bo Derek used as shorthand for an attractive woman and even Bo Selecta was on telly a good fifteen years or so ago. This was a performance that felt a bit old fashioned in other ways, too, with ‘gypo’ used as part of a joke, a gag based on an Indian name, a fat woman being the butt of another, plus bandit being mentioned alongside ‘no – not that kind’. Ironically, the actual joke about the bandit was very good and everyone liked it. Whilst this set wasn’t for me, a lot of the room enjoyed it and Dinsdale got laughs, but I did feel that it wasn’t for everyone in there.

Wilson Milton

Milton had a great night. This was a performance where you could feel the applause building up throughout, with a few more people clapping after each joke. Eventually this built to a point where he was getting full applause for the jokes. Milton began well with a quick joke that had everyone with him. This was then followed by a fair few routines, some longer than others, that took in a lot of topics. These included, amongst others, ageing people who still speak in a gangster patois, South London, school, foreign cultures, films, his dad, his partner, driving and a trip abroad. This was quite a varied list and whilst I wasn’t too keen on the school pullback and reveal (the room loved it), the quality was consistently very strong. When Milton was talking about the best parts of movies it was nice to see people in the audience pointing at their neighbours with a ‘you do this’ expression on their faces. I could see potential in a few of the routines being expanded, which was great. Milton’s routine about driving was perhaps my favourite, with the later callback being a joy. His delivery was leisured and he spoke very clearly which allowed everyone to hear and get what he was saying. This was a very enjoyable set and Milton certainly has a future in comedy.

Phil Butler

Butler was perhaps the most surprising act of the night. With his black suit, white shirt and black tie he had the look of a funeral director and not having seen him before I was expecting a deadpan act. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Butler hit the stage with a load of energy and then built this up further by getting the audience to join in with some cheering. Once he had done this he began his performance and revealed himself to be a one man variety act. He has a great range that he uses throughout his set. There were props, audience interaction, jokes and what could have been a touch of magic. This was a performance where no one could guess which direction Butler was going to go in next. It never seemed to stand still and as a result after twenty five minutes it still felt totally fresh. The routine featuring Siri was a lot of fun; it was well acted out, with Butler demonstrating great timing with his ‘not far’ and it came to a logical closure. The trick with the £5 note something that had everyone guessing all the way through to the end. Pleasingly, the mystery envelope was big enough for everyone to see, which was an advantage. The closing routine using the props from Mothercare gave this performance a strong ending. This was a very good set that kept everyone’s attention.