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.

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