The Lescar – Craig Murray, Njambi McGrath, Pete Selwood, Jonny Awsum and Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at The Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. This is a belter of a gig in front of an appreciative audience. There was one person there tonight, who had had a little bit too much to drink and whilst not abusive, did have a tendency to shout out some pretty bizarre things and this led to some great reactions from the comedians.

Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

Stellingwerf got the night off to a good start through a mixture of hard work and talent. Almost the moment he took to the stage he received a laugh for announcing that he was from New Zealand (it’s always good when acts address anything that might get people’s attention, like an exotic accent) and then a shout out from a chap at the back of the room. This wasn’t anything that you’d perhaps expect to be shouted at a New Zealander, but it was some factual information about the strength of the Ozone Layer above that part of the globe. Stellingwerf wasn’t taken aback, he replied with a witty put down and some factual information of his own, outdoing his interlocutor. Every once in a while, this person would shout out something pretty random, but Stellingwerf handled him adroitly, showing who was in control, but not being brutal about it. Other people he spoke to included a lawyer and a nutritionist and he got quite a bit out of them. In the second section Matt went with more material and this was all great stuff, with flags, All Blacks permutations and the British Museum all landing well. Stellingwerf has quite a bubbly and pleasant personality and he managed to impart a sense of fun into the proceedings. I’m looking forwards to seeing him again.

Craig Murray

Murray had a night of two halves. He began by talking about buying a newly built house, moved on to a being vegan/gay comparison and then talked about being a father and the travails of parenthood, which formed the mainstay of his set. The material was competent, but I’ve heard a few people do routines about similarities in coming out as vegan and coming out as gay and there are simply too many comics doing routines about the challenges of being a parent for it to feel fresh unless the material is very strong. Murray’s material wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything that really stood out. In contrast, Laser Quest was a lot more unique and this was a really good routine. Where Murray did excellently, though, was in his room work. He was as sharp as a pin here. Every time he interacted with a member of the audience I wanted him to carry on. For every comment or curveball he received, Murray had a very quick witted reply and seemed to be 3 steps in front of whoever he was speaking to. I can easily imagine him being a great compere.

Njambi McGrath

Based in London by way of New York and Kenya McGrath had a fascinating backstory and she made use of this in a set that demonstrated her ability to write intelligent, penetrating comedy. However, at times it felt like a cross between a lecture and a bit of a telling off for the issues of Imperial Genocide, British Colonialism and the slave trade with a bit about immigration and Brexit, too. There was some good stuff in here, but perhaps with a slight change in tone so as not to feel that the audience are catching it for the sins of our past leaders, this would perhaps have a bit more bite. When talking about other areas, such as sex and Mills and Boon, McGrath was just as sharp, funny and a lot more enjoyable.

Pete Selwood

Selwood and Stellingwerf look like brothers and Matt made the most of this by giving Pete a great build up as the best looking comedian on the circuit. I really liked this as it added a nice touch of ‘this is live’ to proceedings. However, as Selwood took to the stage, the drunken chap from earlier shouted out ‘Aurora Borealis!’ at him. An unusual shout at any time. He then followed it up with a comment about Selwood’s Simpsons Tshirt. Selwood was on him in a flash, arms in front of him, pointing out that of all the things to notice about him, that was the one thing that this guy picked out. For anyone who knows Selwood, this was an absolute blinder of a line and it received a huge laugh. I was laughing so hard that I hurt my ribs. From here Selwood began his set and I thought him talented when I last saw him, but he’s come on a lot since then. His material flowed smoothly and he went down very well with the audience. His intonation on ‘a bit of a’ was absolutely spot on to sell that line. This was a great performance.

Jonny Awsum

There can’t be many acts who are as good as Awsum in creating a joyous atmosphere in a room. He looks cheerful, which the audience bounce off and he’s unthreatening, so everyone is happy to play along with him. His songs are good, with catchy tunes and he keeps the audience participation simple and straight forwards, so it’s easy to get involved. He closed the night in fine style sending everyone out into the cold January night with a smile on their face, including me.

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