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.
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.
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.
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.
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.