Notts Comedy Review end of year round up and predictions for 2019

This has been a superb year for comedy. Owing to work, I’m only off 180 or so nights of the year, but I’m happy to have gone to almost 100 gigs and I’ve seen a lot of great acts.

I was very pleased with the Notts Comedy Review Awards:

Lindsey Santoro receiving £50 for the best performance

Jack Topher, £25 most improved act

Doug Carter, £25 new act of the year

The highlights of the year have included:

Seeing some excellent English Comedian of the Year heats. This contest seems to have really taken off and there has been some amazing heats that have attracted some top acts.

Scott Bennett – he has been fantastically consistent in his ability to smash every room I’ve seen him in.

The Parapod Live was another excellent show in front of an audience full of love for the two stars, Dodds and Boldsworth.

It’s been nice to be invited onto Radio Derby to chat about comedy in the area so often.

The predictions for 2019:

Breakthrough year: Adam Rowe will be on telly before the year is out.

Radu Isac, Rahul Kohli and Steff Todd will all hopefully breakthrough this year.

Great year for career progress:

Aaron Simmonds, Chris Jones, Doug Carter, Eric Rushton, Harvey Hawkins, Jamie Hutchinson, Kathryn Mather, Lindsey Santoro, Lukas Kirby, Mark Grimshaw, Mike Carter,

Newer acts who have impressed

Daniel Eagle, Lauren Walsh, Oscar Roberts

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Book Review – Last Orders by Caimh McDonnell

This was a book that I’ve been wanting to read for ages, but one that I forced myself to refrain from buying so that someone could get it for me as a Christmas treat. The previous three books in this trilogy, A man with one of those Faces, The day that never Comes and Angels in the Moonlight are all solid gold treasures. This book is a fourth.

With the three previous books (including the prequel) there was now a lot of backstory and it would not have been human for the events of these not to have made an impact upon the characters. McDonnell handles this brilliantly. He uses the after effects and legacies to create this story, bringing everything together in a splendidly rounded way. Naturally, the flip side of this is that if you are trying to avoid spoilers, then this isn’t the book for you, but then only a fecking eejit would start with the fourth book in a series, anyway, so they get what they deserve.

The story in this grabs you from the off and it is easy to become engrossed in it. This is a book where you don’t want to read it all at once; instead you find yourself taking it steadily just so that the pleasure lasts longer. As a pro comedian Caimh has a superb eye for a story and knows just how it is the little details that add the laughs along the way that can turn a funny story into something fantastic.

As with all of McDonnell’s books, every character, no matter how small, feels like a real person, with reasonable motives for what they are doing and even the more eccentric behaviour of some is still in-keeping with their character and the situation that they are in. This gives the stories a great deal of authenticity. The Dublin of Bunny, Paul, Bridgit and Phil feels like a real city, where these things happen.

I am thoroughly looking forward to reading Disaster Inc, which was another Christmas present. I also have hopes that McDonnell will eventually compile the short stories that people who have signed up to his site (http://whitehairedirishman.com/books/) into a paperback, as these all have a lot of charm.

This is a cracking book and if you are looking to get someone a present, then get them the first book in this series, or the prequel and let them thank you later.

December – acts that have impressed me the most

This has been a bit of an unbalanced month for comedy, with a fair few gigs in the run up to Christmas and then a break for the festive period.

The highlight was either the Funhouse Champion of Champions gong show final, which was an incredibly even contest, eventually won by David Smith OR it was watching Diane Spencer taking the roof off at the NBT.

These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:

Billy McGuire

I saw McGuire twice this month and both times he had an absolutely smashing time. I don’t see McGuire on as many bills as what his talent deserves.

From the night:

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.

Diane Spencer

This was one of the best performances I saw during the entire year. Spencer should be far better known than what she is.

From the night:

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.

Tom Houghton

Houghton is an incredibly reliable act who is very funny and also hard working, writing lots of new material.

From the night:

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.

Honourable Mentions

Adam Elmi, Chris Jones, David Smith, Mike Carter, Morgan Rees, Pete Teckman,

Blessington Carriage – Alex Farrow, Chelsea Birkby, Adam Bromley, Billy McGuire, Khalid Winter and Paul Ricketts

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Comedy night. Despite it raining very heavily numbers were good and there were some great audience members present. Sat on the front row were two lawyers, a friend and the daughter (Georgia) of one of the lawyers, who was at Uni training to become a lawyer. In a gift from the comedy Gods, her mother immediately shopped her by getting Spiky Mike to ask her what she was writing her dissertation on; the answer being extreme pornography. This gave Mike a lot to work with and he tied it into some existing material very well. In an added bonus, these ladies had recently completed a charity nude calendar. There was a lot of laughter during Mike’s compering and very quickly the room was ready for the first act of the night.

Alex Farrow

I saw Farrow in Nottingham a while ago and he had impressed me then. In a pleasing contrast he did a totally different set tonight and it’s nice to see two good, but very different tens in such short succession. I don’t know if Farrow does much compering, but I suspect he would be pretty nifty at it. Once again he demonstrated his awareness of who was whom in the room and didn’t put a foot wrong when addressing people by name. He used the fact that Georgia and her party were mostly lawyers as an intro into some material, which was a nice touch and then he moved into the meat of his set. This was a game of is it me or is it God? This added a lot of energy into the room and although he did address most of the questions to the front row, which may have left a few people feeling a bit left out, this was a sensible move, as they had already proven to be up for being spoken to. This game took up most of his time and he received a lot of laughter for it. Usually things like this can outstay their welcome, but Farrow didn’t suffer from diminishing returns, which was good going. This was a very good set from someone who is certainly bookable.

Chelsea Birkby

Birkby’s set was a bit uneven, albeit much improved since I saw her last. There were some really good lines in here, such as Groupon, empowering, songs not people, accident and so on. However, there were other things such as loose leaf and Pit Bull, which went over people’s heads (although in fairness, once she moved onto the wider pit bull jokes, all was well). The end result felt a bit patchy. If she could build on the strong areas and keep her set at that level of consistency, then Birkby would be a very promising act.

Adam Bromley

Bromley had some good stuff, but he covered a few well travelled topics. The acceptability of drinking at airports at anytime, facing neighbours when repeatedly putting empty bottles in the bin and not laughing but learning are all areas that have been spoken about by a fair few comedians. Bromley did get laughs, especially for the airport; however, he was on more original ground when chatting about himself and our relationship with France. These areas were a lot stronger. I especially enjoyed the little physical action of him wiping his fingers on his trousers. This wasn’t a bad set, but I think with a bit of work he would be better.

Billy McGuire

I last saw McGuire a couple of weeks ago in Sheffield and he had given the room a smashing time then and he did largely the same set tonight with exactly the same result. Arguably Billy had the best gig of the evening, with lots of laughter, everything landing beautifully and the room being fully with him. This was a very powerful ten.

Khalid Winter

Winter had a good gig. His background with a Pakistani father and a Northern Irish mother is interesting and not a million miles away from Pat Monahan’s Iranian/Irish background. Winter’s strength is in his eye for a good line. Rocky relationship was a beautifully written line with just the right mix of accuracy, understatement and humour. Natwest was also another good one. A lot of the rest was capable, but not as strong and I think people will remember his background more than a lot of what he said. That will change in time, though. Winter isn’t the finished article, but I’ll be interested in seeing how he progresses.

Paul Ricketts

Our headliner was Paul Ricketts, who actually turned up a day early, something that he mentioned to big laughs in his opening. Ricketts was astute enough to tie his material on a past job as a writer in the porn industry to the presence of Georgia, sat at the front and this helped to make it all feel very much of the here and now. I really enjoyed the story of the St Helens gig. The routine about Eastenders was made very accessible to those who have never watched it and he got applause for tube. Ricketts achieved a nice balance in putting individual audience members on the spot and getting laughs without making anyone feel uncomfortable. This was an enjoyable set that ambled along nicely, but which would have benefited from a knock out punch of a routine.

Ashby – Richard Morton, Mo Haroon, Pete Teckman and Gary Delaney

Tonight I was in Ashby at The Lyric Rooms for the first of the Funhouse Christmas specials. The gig had sold out and this is a venue that attracts a comedy savvy audience, so it was always going to be a fun night. Spiky Mike had a great time compering, chatting to the three wise men from Coventry and Toby, who despite his young age, had a fast wit and gave Mike plenty to work with. This is a very well mannered crowd and when it became apparent that one of the speakers was acting up, rather than shout out, the events’ facebook page was politely messaged to inform them. This was a night with a lot of laughter and also applause breaks, with every act knocking up a fair few of these.

Richard Morton

Opening was Morton, whom not so long ago had presented a very good show on the wireless about tv themes. He continued this interest in music by coming to the stage with a guitar in his hand. I thought that he got the balance between songs and comedy right. In twenty minutes he did three short songs and interspersed these with some enjoyable routines. Although I don’t think he pushed any boundaries with his material, and some of it, such as two Geordies being enough for a fight, are well travelled, Morton has such a likeable and bubbly personality that the room took to him from the off. He delivered his set with a lot of joy and I can easily see him making a success out of pretty much any venue. His tactic of getting the audience to complete sentences worked well in drawing people in further to his set, as did him tying the ages of some of the people present into his material. Towards the end of his performance, Morton did some short bursts of songs, accompanying them with almost a one-liner and this worked extremely well, being funny and punchy. I’d have liked to have seen more of them, perhaps spread throughout his set. This was a very enjoyable opening to the night and it went down a treat with everyone.

If you get chance, his show, which I’d like to have seen a series on, really is worth a listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tq6zy

Mo Haroon

Haroon continued his run of good gigs. His intelligent writing ensured that he did very well. There was a slight lowering of the energy towards the end, which he pulled back for a solid closing. I think the probable reason for this little dip was that he returned to a couple of words and things that he had said earlier and these weren’t really strong enough to work as a callback. I also can’t help but wonder, though, if there is room for an extra laugh if Mo were to give a funny example when he says holiday destination. This was a strong set from a very good rising comedian.

Pete Teckman

Teckman really should be better known than he is. Every time I see him he impresses me with his competence, technical ability and comedic skill. Why he isn’t getting booked more is something of a mystery. His self-deprecating material is well written and structured, with a nice theme of predictive text forming the basis of jokes and callbacks. This is delivered clearly in a wonderfully dry manner and he holds rooms very well. There was a lovely moment tonight where he described the lack of dating demand for short bald men only to be enthusiastically contradicted by one lady, who was very keen on them. This was a great set.

Gary Delaney

It’s not often that a room is excited by the presence of an act before they’ve even begun their set, but with Delaney stood waiting to go on, I could feel an energy in the audience and he didn’t let anyone down. He began and finished strongly with a lot of great stuff in-between. There were a couple of props involved, one brought by Gary, the other left on stage as a present by an astute well wisher. This was a bit of chocolate orange, explained by Delaney as being a callback to an online comment he had made about chocolate anuses that had gone viral. After this, he told Christmas one-liners and then moved into new to Ashby material, before finishing with some very dark jokes. These were all delivered with gusto, snorting and a very infectious giggle that had people laughing before he had even got to the gag. This was a splendiferous performance.

Radio Derby 11/12/18

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06r4r3k#t=44m15s

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.