Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Comedy night. This is a lovely pub and I’ve never had anything less than a great night here. The room was pretty full, too, which was great. Present in the audience were Lou and Wayne B (Last Laugh) and my best friend, Bill and Donna. Spiky Mike had a cracking time compering, discovering a lady who was happy to be from local shit town, Rotherham and another lady whose given profession was that of ‘undertaker’ upon being challenged, this changed to hairdressing before she finally confessed to being a supply teacher. No one was doing dry January, which received a big cheer and Mike’s new bit of material comparing Theresa May to a hopeless sportsman went down well. There were 14 acts on the bill tonight, with a wide sweep of styles amongst them. Ten made it through to the final and whilst a couple of these were a bit generous, the judges were pretty much spot on. There was a lot of talent in this room tonight.
Wood opened the night by talking about anal sex (with a pretty standard punchline about who received it). Apart from an ironic cheer, this got nothing. He then went on to give the audience some one-liners about a new lady in his life, but it was too early on in the night for this material and apart from laughter coming from the green room, it didn’t get a lot. In fact at the first vote it was touch and go whether he went. However, after that he did a routine about being taken too soon and this was a total contrast to his earlier material. It was witty with unexpected reveals. This was good stuff. It could have perhaps been improved if he had changed the order a bit so as to reveal the lady was Glaswegian earlier, as that would have made it more punchy. That aside, this was a very good routine and it saw him through to the final.
I last saw Dalton in Stoke and he’d not had a stellar gig there. Tonight he continued this pattern. He opened with material on Easy Jet and things being optional extras. This topic has been done to death over several years and it’s hard to sound original unless the material is really good. This wasn’t. It was then followed by some material about God opening coffins and this was too odd for the audience and off he went.
Brown opened with a joke about a donation that he made to a homeless man and not only was this a bit bleak, but it was too soon in his set for the room to have really grasped his persona. As all of the sympathy was with the homeless man, it didn’t endear Brown to the audience. This was followed by a disparaging quote and as the source of it was his mum, it didn’t feel like anything no one hadn’t heard of a version of before. Attention spans was shaping up to be more interesting, but there just weren’t enough jokes in it to keep the judges with him and as a vote came up, Brown was off.
Becky Heaviside had a great gig and easily made the final. Her delivery and well written material drew the audience in and she was the first act of the night that had everyone onside. She also had a very nice visual habit of pulling the mic away from her mouth when she was swapping character in her routines and this worked very well. The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was ‘sadder than that’ which is a pretty common line. However, with her eye for a nice turn of phrase and well measured delivery I really enjoyed her set and I’d like to see her perform again.
I saw McKay a few months ago and whilst he reminded me of a young Tony Cowards, not everything came together and he was much more of a work in progress. However, tonight, he was great. He received a laugh for his opening joke and never really looked back. He kept the one-liners coming, not rushing the delivery, but just letting them arrive at their own pace with pauses for the laughter. He was the only act to receive a shout out – when he said about being single and a star wars fan, he received a ‘yes!’ from a lady in the audience and his well timed response of ‘fuck you,’ which was said with a grin, went down nicely. The gag about kick boxing was extremely good and the joke about Birmingham train station was solid, but if he were to just swap Brum for wherever the local shit town is to his performance, it would land twice as hard. McKay continued the good work in the final, where he delivered a punchy 60 seconds and made it through to the cheer off, arguably in second place.
Husband is possibly the first folk music comedian I’ve seen and he added a wonderful element of difference to the night. He sang songs, accompanied by guitar (later squeeze box) and these stood out on a diverse bill. The songs were self-deprecating and pretty raw with how they painted him. However, instead of being depressing, Husband was very funny and received a hell of a lot of laughs. He’s got talent and it will be interesting to see how he develops as a comedian. Tonight he not only made the final, but was in the cheer off for top spot.
Issa opened well with a rhetorical question about how to follow a folk music comedian and this showed not only that he was aware of what was happening on stage, but also a certain generosity of spirit, which was well received. What jumped out the most from this set was the quality of the writing. Issa has spent a lot of time working on this set and it has a great logic to it. There is nothing discordant about any of the routines, they don’t segue into something odd, but instead they all hang together very nicely. There was also a refreshing newness about his chosen topics, too, with Fusion Foods being a standout. There were a few ways that he could have taken this, but the familiar and the odd, exaggerated for comic effect worked extremely well. The delivery was also solid, with Issa changing pace and adding emphasis at just the right moments in his set. Issa was a well deserved winner tonight and I think I’ll be seeing a lot more of him in future.
Poulter gave the audience one-liners. Some were groaners, some were Christmas Cracker style jokes and a couple were really good. The fortune teller gag was excellent and if the rest were as good as this he’d have lasted much longer. Audience’s will tolerate the odd groaner (more so if it is clever), but they are there to laugh and if the groans outweigh the laughs, it becomes tricky. Poulter banged the gags out one after the other, but his lack of a connect with the audience was fatal. Poulter didn’t really look at the audience or form any kind of connection with them and if he were to at least acknowledge the roomful of people or find a way to make them want to invest in him as being worth their time he would do far better.
Watson has potential, but at the moment is a work in progress. His biggest problem was a lack of concision. His set ups and sometimes the reveals, were that wordy that the funny got lost amongst the talking. He wasn’t helped by a long pause after a (sadly guessable) reveal, where it wasn’t clear if he had lost his way or was pausing for affect. The material about LGBTQ+ was unique, interesting and a lot more fun. With more stage time Watson will improve.
Chalmers-Morris could become a good act. He’s only 19, looks younger and has an engaging stage persona. His material was pretty well thought out, too, with some nice lines. ID was a great one. Chalmers-Morris made a shrewd use of the local shit town. Chalmers-Morris made the final and although he didn’t win, there was plenty to enjoy in his set.
I last saw Baines in Stoke, where he had done pretty well. Tonight he continued from where he left off with a good set that saw him through to the final. Baines has a solid stage presence and this helped him in his performance. A lot of the material concerned his build, but he had a lot more to offer and spoke about his tastes in life. Slap in the face was a great line and morbidly was even better. I was impressed when he tied some material into the supply teacher discovered during Mike’s compering. This was a good move and made his performance feel very much of the here and now. There was regular laughter during this set.
The Canadian Ehler delivered her material in a slow calm and deadpan manner. The topics included Amanda Knox and drama school and these were all interesting, making the audience curious to see where she was going. The laughs came consistently during Ehler’s set and she made a good impression on everyone. I expected her to be better supported during the final, but this time she didn’t make the cheer off.
This was the fourth time that I’ve seen Jimbo and tonight he received laughs for the right reasons. Aged 75 and dressed like an extra from Last of the Summer Wine, he stood out on a bill that was notable for its diversity of style. The jokes largely concerned the troubles of getting old and these went down very well, with him making the final without any trouble.
The Australian Anna Spark had some superb lines and ideas, such as haunted, which was a fantastic premise. However, she did split the room with her shock material approach. Spark suffered from her material all being either overly sexual or overly dark. Whilst a fair number of lines were strong, it all began to feel pretty much of a muchness and that it was shock for the sake of shocking. If it had led further, ie, into something that wasn’t sexual or dark then it would have drawn more people in. In fairness, she made the final, there were some great lines, but I’m not sure how many people would have wanted much more of what became fairly samey sounding material.