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. 

Advertisements

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.