Radio Derby 11/12/18

I was interviewed by Radio Derby again on Monday night, for broadcast on Tuesday. The DJ, Martyn Williams, is interested in comedy within their broadcasting area, ie Derbyshire.

I spoke about the results of the Midlands Comedy Awards, telling people that Barry Dodds and Scott Bennett have upcoming shows in the county and that Doug Carter has played the Bless and will be doing again.

Dave Longley’s book on compering gets a mention (they edited out Freddy’s as he’s not in Derbyshire)

The following nights all got plugged:

Funhouse Blessington Carriage 18/12

NCF Mecca Bingo on the 21/12

Dog and Moon 2/1

Ofton Funny

Bluey’s 29/1


Blessington Carriage – Champion of Champions Gong Show – Mike Carter, Adam Beardsmore, Lauren Walsh, Paul Campbell, Adam Elmi, Jem Braithwaite, Liam Tuffy, David Smith, Oscar Roberts

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Champion of Champions gong show. Every act on the bill had won at least one gong show and this made for a very strong line up. Just upon seeing the list of acts it was impossible to guess who would win and even whilst the voting was in process it was still too close to call. It was nice to see such a full room for the show, too. There were some very interesting people there for Spiky Mike to chat to as MC, such as Miranda who had moved from a bust exotic pizza parlour (goats cheese and rhubarb toppings) to a champagne bar, and Vaughn who was there with his family. Both of these people were referenced by the acts and this made it feel a wonderfully inclusive gig. It was also nice to see Jack Topher there to support live comedy on a night when he wasn’t gigging. In a change to the usual five minutes max of stage time, it was seven minutes tonight, which made things pretty interesting and ensured that none of the acts could just use the set that got them there.

Mike Carter

Carter began a trifle slowly, but he had plenty of presence and held the room easily whilst they awaited the first big laugh. Whilst the list of names received applause, the topper was the real gold and that really deserved a bigger laugh. I liked how Carter directly spoke to Vaughn, sat on the front row. The tale about the dog was very good, although I did think he had moved a bit away from it during the build, but when he came back to it, he came back strong. Carter set the bar high with this performance. It was a great opening set and if he had gone on later in the night, he would have been a real contender for the win.

Adam Beardsmore

Beardsmore delivered this set with energy, having a loud clear voice that everyone could hear. There was a gratifying amount of new material in this set, too. Cbeebies was good, the assault was a real high point, his multitasking wife, not yet the finished article and the £1 bets was something that built up very nicely. This was a good performance that saw him through into the final.

Lauren Walsh

This was Walsh’s 4th ever performance and it was a real credit to her. She’s naturally funny and this came across well. As you’d expect in someone with so few gigs under their belt, there were a couple of things that you wouldn’t perhaps see in more experienced acts, such as superfluous repeating of a punchline (which, in fairness, can sometimes work well) and saying ‘do you know what I mean?’ a lot. However, there was a heck of a lot here to like. The opening gag about a murderer on the loose was timely and relevant, her skill with accents added a lot, tourettes was interesting and funny. Walsh received a lot of laughs for a set that was delivered with charm. Although she didn’t make the final, with more consistent gigging she’ll do very well in comedy.

Paul Campbell

Campbell came to the stage carrying half a pint of skimmed milk, something that I think everyone was expecting would form part of his act, but he never mentioned it the once, which was a surprise. He began well, getting laughs for just standing there and moving awkwardly whilst he established his comedy persona, that of a loser in life. This is a character that he brings to life remarkably well with both his writing and his mannerisms. I thought the very specific terms of reference, such as Chase and the holiday destination worked really well. The crowd work was also a nice change in pace, whilst still keeping the substance of the act. Although I found the persona to be on the depressing side, the audience really enjoyed it in a big way and Campbell received a lot of laughs. For a while he was a credible contender for the title.

Adam Elmi

Elmi had a great gig. His material was sound and improved from when I saw him the other week ago. Train tickets was sound, race card great and when he singled Vaughn out for a comment it really emphasised just how much of the best stuff in live comedy is in the moment. His enunciation on sign-me-up was absolutely spot on to get a laugh from what would probably read as a straight forwards line. The callback to the ticket situation in the closing routine was smashing and really added a lot to that routine. Elmi emerged as a very deserving runner up.

Jem Braithwaite

Braithwaite gave an impressive performance that despite being easily the most surreal of the night, was one that also kept the majority of the room onboard. Leaning forwards at an alarming angle and swinging from side to side as if he were impersonating a lighthouse, Braithwaite was getting giggles before he even started. These giggles soon became consistent laughs. The material was well thought out and it was great to see some new writing evident. New material is a comedian’s lifeblood and so it’s very encouraging to see. The last time that Braithwaite performed at the Bless, he had run out of material a minute before the end, but still held the room. This time he ran out just 5 seconds before the end, but it did him no harm at all and he bounced back with a very strong minute for the final, finishing the night in third.

Liam Tuffy

After three acts had been voted through in this section, it was inevitable that Tuffy would face a higher level of scrutiny from simple judge psychology – after voting through a few acts, judges tend to get stricter. Despite doing a lot right, such as having a punchy opening, changing the dynamic of his set to introduce more audience work (good shout on speaking to Miranda), Tuffy was voted off. However, even with that in mind, it was easy enough to see his ability.

David Smith

This was a set where the performance was as strong as the material and the resulting combination held a great feeling of it all coming together for Smith. He had a fairly long opening joke about H&S, which felt a bit convoluted until he got to the pay off, which involved an extremely astute local reference that everyone in the audience from Derby (ie, probably 95% of them) could get. This immediately established Smith as a force to be reckoned with and from there it was all a breeze for him. His description of chippy teas was relatable, the bath was vividly drawn, the prop added an extra dimension and the physicality of rearranging his hair was very visual. This was all powerful material. However, as good as the material was, the delivery matched it. Smith had loads of little mannerisms, actions and vocal changes that emphasised the various parts that needed it. His face during the playground routine looked positively villainous. The final minute was timed to perfection and Smith was the convincing winner of the night.

Oscar Roberts

Roberts opened by referencing how although he looks about twelve years old, he is actually eighteen and this was a smart move on his part, because his material was very dark. In fact it can’t be often that Elmi has the second darkest material on a bill. There was some good material here, although I did think that exercise ball split the room a touch. The line about hitting things was good, although I did think it may have been improved, perhaps, if Roberts had said that he hadn’t even hit puberty yet, as this would have worked as a good callback to his earlier material about it. This performance was going very well until he dried up and despite getting a lot of love and encouragement from the audience, Robert’s called it a day at that. Despite how it finished, this was a good set and Roberts shows a lot of potential.

The New Barrack Tavern – Morgan Rees, Billy McGuire, Dan Barnes, Diane Spencer and Tom King (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse comedy night. As always, this gig was a pleasure. This is a real comedian’s gig, where the audience are up for it and the acts can relax knowing that they are playing to an appreciative room.

Tom King (MC)

King began well with a nice visual joke and then began to talk about his beard. This made for something tangible that the audience could see and relate to when he commented about the various insults that hit has attracted. Being from Sheffield, King did a bit of locally topical material about the tram now going to Rotherham, but unfortunately this didn’t fare so well. Where Tom scored big was in his second section, when he did the meanings of audience member’s surnames. This is something that needs to be carefully timed for the maximum affect of getting people invested in the night and the minimum risk of becoming a free for all. Also, too soon in the night and the audience may be reluctant to talk, too late and people have gone the other way. Tonight, it went well. There was one lady who seemed inclined to dispute the point about her surname, but this was easily handled and Tom did very well with Mr Jahal. The dark stories from the hospital could, with a small bit of work, become excellent. The cannibal restaurant was nicely thought out and funny. This was enjoyable compering, that kept the night on time.

Morgan Rees

Rees had a great night. He began with a solid age gap joke and followed this up with some fast gags that established the audience’s confidence in him. There was a huge laugh when he gave an audience member a fact in return for a question. Welsh stereotypes was done very well and Rees extricated himself with dexterity from what could have been a minefield when he asked a chap from Bradford what the stereotype was there (answer: multicultural). I was surprised that he didn’t get applause for ‘no’ as he seemed to hover on the edge of it, although this did come quickly after for LGBTQ. The jellyfish was something of a highlight and I liked how he leaned in towards the audience when was asking them about Welsh animal names. This little action just seemed to add so much to the mood. The closing routine about his nan was sharper than when I saw it in Ashby and this whole set was a pleasure to see from start to end.

Billy McGuire

It’s been ages since I last saw McGuire and tonight he had a belter of a gig. Even allowing for how nice a room it is and him being on in the sweet spot, this was extremely well received. He opened with puns, all delivered with great timing and a voice that seemed to challenge the audience to dare not to laugh at them and this worked wonderfully well. There was a genuine surprise on best friend and that got a lot of laughter. Hope was a bit of an overused line, though. The big closing routine about the Book S. was done incredibly well. This not only drew people in and built up, but there were plenty of laughs along the way. This was a real audience pleaser of a set and I think everyone was sorry to see McGuire leave the stage.

Dan Barnes

Barnes hasn’t been gigging as frequently lately and this showed a touch tonight. He has the basis of a good set, with some decent routines, but not everything hit home as well as it could have done. The mugging routine is ok, with knock one out being a great line. However, Barnes doesn’t look like a group of people are going to find him an easy target to mug and he may perhaps benefit from when he is saying how rough an area it is, to acknowledge that even someone who looks like… is in danger there. Identikit is a good idea, but a bit wordy for the reveal to really land with a lot of force, so perhaps just cutting to the chase might actually work better for pacing. Safari park is solid. The guide dog has potential, but if he were to edit out the comments about not being a nice person the punchiness would improve and it does feel like a digression after he’s already given just cause in the description of the lady. Similarly, frozen doll could have been made tighter by saying put her favourite Barbie in the freezer. The shot dog line is something that is pretty much guaranteed to lose any dog owners in the room. The twin brother routine was good and shows a lot of promise and I think he could get more out of it. Barnes got laughs and didn’t do badly, but I don’t think he really showed the room what he is capable of doing.

Diane Spencer

Spencer was superb. This was an expertly written set, with barely a wasted word and everything coming together with a tangible feeling of completeness. There was even a cracking Beatles joke that a few people may have missed in the laughter. Spencer established her comedy persona within moments of getting to the stage and without seemingly doing any hard work, either, which usually means that they’ve worked incredibly hard to do it so swiftly. She comes over as well mannered, well educated and slightly naïve about what she is saying and this works extremely well with her material. Quite a bit of what Spencer talked about was very sexual, yet what could have been salacious, or for shock value only, in other acts, felt completely natural and above all clean and even wholesome as she chatted about it in a voice that screamed jollity. I believe that she could make almost any subject seem classy. The delivery massively added to the performance, as Spencer would include thumbs ups, winks, smiles and other actions. The only line I wasn’t keen on was about being available for children’s parties. It’s a well travelled line, although it did get a big laugh. This was a set with consistent loud laughs all the way throughout and Spencer received a lot of love from the audience. This was a superb set from an act I’d very much like to see again.

Barton’s – Julian Deane, Kate Smurthwaite, Robert White and Stevie Gray (MC)

Tonight I was in Beeston for the Funhouse comedy gig at Barton’s, a converted bus depot. As you’d expect with a room used for storing buses, it was a big space with high ceilings and this could have made it tricky to play. Instead, though, it was lovely. There were 180 or so people in, all sat facing the stage, the lighting was laid out well, the bar was closed whilst acts were on and the sight lines were great. The pre gig music was mellow, rather than energetic, but I was just grateful it wasn’t Christmas songs.

Stevie Gray (MC)

Wearing a Christmas jumper and oozing energy, Gray took to the stage and got the show on the road by finding other people in the audience dressed in festive apparel. He managed to get a couple of these people to the stage and through showing that he had no qualms about singling people out, he imposed his authority on the room quickly. In truth, I doubt this was ever in question, because as he has compered this room a few times, Gray has already established a strong rapport with the audience and they’re very keen on him. Being based just up the road, Gray has a real edge when it comes to knowing the area and he was able to make a few topical local references. Some of these came from the local paper and they were lapped up, apart from the Jimmy Nail mural, which I think he will say Auf Wiedersehen to. The work song was good, although perhaps the guitar was a bit too loud to make it easy to pick out every word clearly, but it still built up the energy. For his second section, Gray arrived on stage to the sounds of All along the Watchtower, with the unfortunate line, ‘There must be some kind of way out of here’ playing just as he picked up the microphone. Fortunately this didn’t reflect the views of the audience and he continued from where he left off with a brilliant piece of crowd work. Gray has a genius for getting people involved in the night and this time it was a case of him singing 12 days of Christmas and individual members of the audience filling in the lines with either their favourite Christmas present or sex toy. This worked extremely well and everyone played along. This was fun and enjoyable compering.

Julian Deane

Deane opened with a slight gaffe in asking if it was Chilwell or Beeston, but recovered very swiftly with a string of quick gags. Deane’s material is very tightly written and he has gone through it all, punning every line or word that he can. Whilst some of the resulting jokes feel a bit contrived, they work well and the end result was an almost constant series of chuckles from people as he built up to the big gags. This kept the atmosphere buoyant. The jokes themselves were generally very good, with some that were excellent, such as broccoli, tomato and transgender. There were some that would have perhaps benefited from a spot of misdirection, though. The only two jokes that I disliked were one about vegans having no energy and the way that he drove to a speed awareness course. I wasn’t keen on those because I’ve heard a lot said about them by plenty of comedians. These were pretty fresh to the audience, though and Deane got laughs. This was a good set that the audience enjoyed.

Kate Smurthwaite

Smurthwaite was a lively performer who made full use of the stage. She began well, but did get interrupted a couple of times by audience members shouting out during her set. Nothing obnoxious, just unwelcome, like a loud comment about it being cold when she mentioned Sweden. The meat of the set concerned debates that Smurthwaite has been involved in through her appearances on telly debates, the resulting abuse she has had online, her being named in The Guardian as an influencer of pubic fashion and her taking part in a reality TV show. There were some good lines in here, such as those concerning formal sex. However, I didn’t feel that the audience were totally onboard throughout it all. Smurthwaite didn’t do badly at all, but I don’t think she really enthused the room.

Robert White

Visually interesting in checked trousers and a tank top and brimming with what looked like nervous energy, White made an instant positive first impression. He opened with some good puns that were delivered with an infectious enthusiasm and then he began the set. White mixed jokes, singing, music and props in a performance that kept the rooms’ energy levels up high. The songs were pleasing, but his little corrections that he added were a real joy. This was a set with a lot of sexual content and it was all delivered with a tongue in cheek charm that ensured that no one felt that his foil for the night, Will, was being picked on. When White read out a letter, this did perhaps go on a couple of jokes too long, because he wasn’t looking at the audience and maintaining his connection with them whilst he was doing it. The running joke about the previous nights’ gig was a cracker that got funnier throughout the set. The finale involved getting Will up to the stage for a song. This was a very accessible set that received laughter and applause.

The Notts Comedy Review Awards for 2018

These are only open to non-pro acts and this year the categories and prizes are:

Best performance of the year £50

Most improved act of the year £25

New act of the year £25

The prize money will be remitted through Paypal or in cash when I see the act, or if our paths don’t cross, I can pop a cheque in the post to them.

I have excluded pro acts because it is nice to give something to the up and coming acts who don’t (yet) earn a living through comedy. Past winners are excluded so as to give other acts a chance.

Best Performance of the year:

This goes to Lindsey Santoro for her set at the Ashby heat of English Comedian of the Year on the 9th of May. There was a strong line up here that included some very experienced pro acts as well as some powerful up and coming comedians, yet Santoro gave such a mighty performance that she scooped second place with a massive number of votes. The audience in Ashby don’t really go for sexual material unless it is very good and Santoro had them in the palm of her hand, which made her performance all the more impressive. I’m surprised that she isn’t booked more than she is. Lindsey Santoro gets £50 for the best performance of the year.

Honourable Mention: Aaron Simmonds, Chris Kehoe

Most Improved Act of the Year:

Jack Topher‘s always been a fun act to watch. However, this year he has really discovered his comedy mojo and has visibly progressed in ability. He’s gigging a hell of a lot more and this shows in his performance skills. He’s not yet as good as he will become, but he is on his way. Jack Topher is the most improved act of the year.

Honourable Mention: Brian Bell

New Act of the Year:

This can only go to Doug Carter. He has got an amazing presence and a rawness about him that works really well. Usually when an act is a bit rough around the edges they polish up, but I think in Doug’s case he would lose the uniqueness that comes with his persona. Instead, with more experience, he will gain the ability to sell himself to different audiences and progress to bigger gigs. He is certainly someone to watch. Doug Carter is the Notts Comedy Review new act of the year.

Honourable Mention: Oscar Roberts

Previous winners have included:

2017: Simon Lomas funniest act, Jamie Hutchinson most improved act, Stevie Gray best performance.

2016: Phil Pagett written comedy, Moses Ali Khan most improved act, Jim Bayes best compere, Roger Swift funniest act,

2015: Billy Lowther funniest act, Wayne Beese best compere, Chris Giles most improved gong show act.

NCF, Edwinstowe – Aaron Levene, Mr Anonymous, Chris Jones, Adam Elmi, Tom Houghton and Rik Carranza (MC)

This was a night of polar opposites, with one act storming it and another dying the worst death I’ve ever seen. I was in Edwinstowe for the new NCF gig at Launay’s which is an upmarket restaurant. The room was well set out, with the majority of chairs facing the audience, who were predominantly middle class, albeit not that used to live comedy. However, their behaviour was impeccable, with no rudeness. The only issue was the feedback from the microphone, but this wasn’t the end of the world.

Rik Carranza

Carranza is an up and coming compere. He is methodical in his preparations, checking the pronunciation of names and getting the local shit town right. In addition to this, he has a pleasant demeanour and this comes across well on stage. To begin with, though, he had his work cut out. Things that I’ve seen get an 8 on the laughter scale were coming back with a 6 and it was only when he asked one chap how long he had been married for and he got it wrong, that the audience seemed to loosen up. From here, though, it was all plain sailing for Carranza. During the course of his evening, he talked about his own marriage proposal, moving into a flat and Australia. These are all good, reliable routines that went down well with the audience. Although Rik isn’t a sweary act and he avoided the C bomb, there were perhaps a few too many F’s for the room. That aside, this was enjoyable compering. Carranza had a good feel for the energy levels in the room and was a definite attribute to the night.

Aaron Levene

Levene used Carranza’s talk of weddings as a springboard into his own routine about marriage. This was a nice link and it was a good idea. However, the fourth line or so in the set concerned him losing his virginity to a prostitute in Amsterdam and it was just too early for a middle class virgin comedy audience to want to go with. The material about dating wasn’t enough to lift the mood and there was a moment when Levene hefted the microphone as if he was using it as a dumbbell and this didn’t have much in the way of humour. He got some of the audience back on board when he discussed lookalikes, but it wasn’t enough to inject energy into his set, nor did cancer/aids bring it to life. I know that this was used as part of an explanation for the next routine, but he may have been better keeping the exposition to a minimum and moving straight into the balls routine. This was unique material that by rights should have been great, but instead it ended up dry and medical. Asking someone in the audience cork or plastic was never going to lead to anything worth having. I was surprised that Levene didn’t mention any alternatives that he would have liked installing, such as crystal, or balls of steel, or even gold for a money shot gag. That routine could and should have been a great one, but Levene isn’t getting the most out of it. Levene got laughs, but I think that with tighter and more imaginative writing he would be a lot better.

Mr Anonymous

This was a terrible death. Although, someone did say they heard some laughter, I can’t say I heard anyone laugh for the whole of this set. He performed to the sound of his own voice in a silent room and what made it worse was that this was a polite audience, who just sat there listening and not reacting in any kind of way. He may as well have been performing in a vacuum for all of the reaction he got. As bad as it sounds, at least if someone had got up to go outside, or even check facebook, it would have shown that at least they hadn’t all gone to their own little happy places. This was his second ever gig. He had been booked to do ten off of the back of an astoundingly good open five and whilst it’s nice to see people being given the opportunity to progress, this was perhaps an optimistic booking. Carranza did the square thing and gave him a big, supportive introduction, getting the audience behind him and then he announced him to the stage. As a new act, he misjudged his walk on and was perhaps 8 feet too short for the applause to end naturally as he reached the stage. These things happen. In his first gig, he had improvised a lot and worked the room, but this time, under the pressure of the bright lights, he took a different route. He opened by plugging his podcast, which if done, is something best done at the end of a set when an act has demonstrated that it is worth listening to. At the top, it just feels like an extra set of adverts inflicted on you before the film starts at the cinema. The material concerned his dad and his own career as a lab technician. However, it was mostly a series of anecdotes that would only be of real interest if you knew, or were invested in, the folk involved. There was an awful amount of waffle. If he were to get his set, underline the punchlines, and then delete as much as possible of the set up as he could then it would be punchier. Further to this, he would do better to embellish the stories and exaggerate them more for comic effect. This would get a lot more out of them. Every comedian will die a few times and hopefully he will bounce back.

Chris Jones

Following the opening acts not doing as well as could be hoped, Jones was moved up the running order. He’s a comedian who more people should know about and the idea was that a strong performance from him would set the night back to rights. Jones opened with a good callback to Rik also being Scottish and never looked back from there. Stood on stage with a big smile and a slow, clear delivery, he radiated confidence and it was great to see him getting applause early on with the joke about his name. This was a well written set, with drone strikes being a lovely line that struck an especial chord with those who had neighbours with cats. The story of a friend of his who did well out of a trip to Denmark was great and the use of music really added a nice little extra to this set. This was a cracking performance that the whole room enjoyed.

Adam Elmi

Elmi was moved down the bill as his dark material would have more chance of success following Jones instead of going on after an act had died. This worked out very well, as Elmi had the best gig I’ve seen him have. Adam has some acute observations and an original eye and this comes out in his material. Lie in was good, spreadsheet was great, he got applause for 2-2 and pretty much everything seemed to land well. His delivery was more engaging than last time. Elmi received some big laughs. The closing routine about the gig in Liverpool still needs more, though. Perhaps if he were to make the callback to fares stronger and end on that it may work better. This was a good set.

Tom Houghton

Houghton gave the room a smashing performance and was the perfect booking for an audience largely made up of comedy virgins. His charisma had everyone with him from the off. He opened by commenting on how posh the area is and this was a great lead into his routine about posh names and being posh himself. Instead of the room resenting his good fortune, they loved him for it. He is such a likeable man who is completely at ease with himself that it’s impossible for a room to not take him to their hearts. The material was amazingly strong with the Tower of London being a standout. The line about Thomas More was genius and daft in equal measure, but totally brilliant. I liked how everything in this set came together and it felt less like a club set and more like a mini-show in a lot of ways and every single way being to the benefit of the night. Houghton closed with a song, which gave the evening the ideal big ending.