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.

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