Adam Elmi, Hassan Dervish, Adam Beardsmore, David Eagle, David Luck, Kathryn Mather and Jem Braithwaite with a headline set from Tony Jameson, Rik Carranza (MC)
Winner David Eagle, second Kathryn Mather and third David Luck
Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the Nottingham Comedy Festival new comedian of the Year. This was a sold out event and it was great that so many people got to see such a good night. The format was seven entrants who had all qualified by having stood out at the NCF £1 night, all doing five minute sets and all being fairly new to comedy. Judging was by a mixture of industry and event figures, plus an audience cheer off for their vote. Whilst votes were worked out, there was a twenty minute pro set from Tony Jamieson. Our MC was Rik Carranza.
This was the first time I’d seen Carranza MC and I was impressed. He began nicely with a very well realised mock double take at being announced to the stage and showed a deft touch throughout. He chatted to a few people, but sensibly kept it light, not chasing anyone too far into the nitty gritty of an answer. I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t ask everyone on the front two rows what they did for a living. When Rik asked about who had travelled the furthest and he discovered a Jock proved to be a nice springboard into material on his background, which proved interesting to everyone. The only thing that I wasn’t particularly keen on was the jokes about vegans not having energy, as way too many comedians are doing a version of this. To be fair, it still got a laugh, but it would be nice to see something different. Carranza handled Nico adeptly. Nico was his chosen cheerleader for the first section and he was extremely confident, first standing up and cheering, then getting a slow overhead clap going and then for his final stint, getting 100 plus people stamping their feet and clapping to the opening tune of ‘We will rock You’. This could have gotten out of hand, but Rik kept on top of it. Getting the audience back on stage so that they could be reminded whom they were voting for was a good idea. This was relaxed, but confident compering by a comedian who struck a good balance between authority and comedy.
Volunteering to go on first in a competition is a risky move. Doing that when a lot of your material is dark takes that risk factor and multiplies it. Yet, that is what Elmi did tonight. Elmi had a mixed night. Some of his material worked very well, such as spreadsheet, his comments about an English degree and Portugal. However, not everything landed that well and his closing routine about a gig in Liverpool was pleasant, but really needed to be stronger to close on, as his set seemed to end on a low key instead of with a bang. It would be nice if he could work on his delivery a bit too, because a lot of his lines were delivered as if it were up to the audience to take it or leave it and this didn’t sell them as well as what it could have done.
Dervish had a good night and going on early was perhaps the only thing that stopped him from being a contender for a top three placing. He gave the audience two poems set to music and these were pretty good. I’m not into poetry or music, but I could see the quality in the work and so could plenty of others. His delivery reminded me of the rapper MC Pitman and it held the room easily. Although he didn’t place tonight, Hassan certainly demonstrated ability.
Hassan Dervish and Kathryn Mather have a joint show on at the Nottingham Comedy Festival on Friday at 9pm at The Lord Roberts: http://www.nottinghamcomedyfestival.co.uk/calendar_235574.html
Coming to the stage to the sounds of 100 and more people stamping their feet to the tune of ‘We will rock you’ Beardsmore opened with a quick quip about that. This was then followed by some great material about his daughter, which was short and punchy with a lovely topper. Skip is a nice routine, but £1 bets perhaps wasn’t as suited to a five as it is to a ten. The alternative suggestions were good, but would have been perhaps improved if he had name checked local rival town Derby as where they originated from, as this would have given them added relevance. The rejigged closing routine shows a lot of promise, but isn’t yet the finished article. Shouting, walking into the audience and climbing on a chair was eye catching and built up a heck of a lot of impetus. I really thought that that added a lot of energy to the set. However, after that, the final reveal felt a bit of an anticlimax, simply because it is hard to follow standing on a chair and shouting. This was an enjoyable set.
Eagle opened by talking about being blind and the different perspectives this gives. He then followed this up with some other examples, which were all very good, although Darlington may have been one example too many. This was then followed by some very strong material about being in Australia, which he sold well with a credible Australian accent. The chat up lines were superb. Braille was another good routine, which although it might have been a bit snappier, still generated a lot of laughs. It’s possible that using ‘reveal’ instead of ‘punchline’ for braille on his knob might work even better, but that’s just a thought. This was a very well written set, where even the set ups were enjoyable to hear. Eagle has a similar voice to Wrigglesworth and the construction of his set is also fairly similar and this made for a lovely combination. Eagle won the audience vote by a mile and was voted overall winner by the judges, taking home a trophy and a crate of Castle Rock beer. Eagle shows a lot of promise and is well worth booking.
Luck gave the audience some clever one-liners, most of which contained a dark twist. A lot of these were very strong, but there were a couple of groaners, which puzzled me. Although a groaner does get a reaction, getting a laugh must be better and Luck is a talented enough writer to not need the groaners when he can write stuff that gets a laugh. David is an act who has skill, but could be improved. He comes to the stage with a clipboard, which I think is a great touch. It gives him the air of a prefect, or a manager, overseeing or auditing the audience and this was reinforced by his gentle admonishments when the room went with a dark joke (Specials was the line of the night). This could be worked upon to establish a great comedy persona. If Luck were to wear a suit to buttress the clipboard, drop looking nervous and develop into a slightly high status act and giving the odd gentle rebuke as an aside, then I think it would work extremely well for him. The trick would be in getting the balance right, but he already has the material to support it with. Luck had a good night and came 3rd.
Mather had a night of two halves, starting poorly, but pulling it back to finish on a high. The opening material didn’t seem to fair that well, which was a surprise, as I was expecting a lot from her. However, when Mather went into a story from a woman’s magazine she found her stride and gave the room some very good material, which she delivered clearly and confidently with just the right tone. This went down extremely well and Mather came second in both public and judge’s voting.
Kathryn Mather and Hassan Dervish have a joint show on at the Nottingham Comedy Festival on Friday at 9pm at The Lord Roberts: http://www.nottinghamcomedyfestival.co.uk/calendar_235574.html
Braithwaite split the room a bit tonight and although he got more people onboard the more he spoke he ran out of time before he managed to grab everyone. Braithwaite has original material and a quirky delivery, which work well together, plus a solid command of the English language. He is always enjoyable to watch, although pensioners shoes is probably not a line I’ll see him use again. Despite not placing in the top three tonight, I look forward to seeing him continue to work upon his material.
Tony Jameson – pro headliner
Whilst the votes for the competition were counted the audience got to see some new material from Jameson. Years ago I saw Jameson’s show, Football Manager ruined my Life, and it was tremendous, so I was hoping for some great stuff from him tonight. The new material was like most new material: a mixed bag. End of the world needed more, but could be good, the connection between Brexit and Boaty McBoatface has been mentioned a few times and condemning people who start getting ready for Christmas in October sounded more like a whinge. However, the biggest issue was the delivery. This was forceful, almost aggressive, with Jameson spitting out words instead of saying them. It was also overly sweary when it didn’t need to be. I found the delivery to be off putting and I don’t think we saw him at his best tonight. The established material about giving a sperm sample was better, even though it is a topic that a few acts have covered. Private practice was a good line, though and the audience got on board with this.