The Blessington Carriage – Alex Love, Andrew Thompson, Stuart Thomas, Josh Baulf, Tony Wright and Philip Simon

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. There was quite a nice sized audience and it was lovely to see so many familiar faces there. One of the nice things about this gig is the audience. Apart from being friendly, they are a great mix of ages, occupations and level of comedy experience. A large number are regulars and are very clued up about comedy, but there are enough that are fairly new to balance this out and that helps to make this a very good gig for the comics to give new material a fair assessment and for Spiky Mike to get an appreciation of what an act can do. Mike had a good night compering, chatting to a group of students and a couple who he was hoping would get engaged that night.

Alex Love

Opening was Alex Love. He began with a fairly lengthy gag that whilst it got the energy levels up, wasn’t immediately funny enough to fully establish his comedy credentials, although the topper was nice. The follow up joke about his appearance was ok and the topper to that was great. Love used to be a reporter on a local paper in Stroud and this is material that felt fresh. However, although there were a few nice lines in this, I found that you could usually guess the direction Love was going with a joke and this did rob his material of a lot of its force. Whilst I don’t think his material stood out, being more amiable than great, what did impress was the energy and life that he brought to the room. Love was energetic and likeable and if he can match this with stronger material he’ll be much improved.

Andrew Thompson

I last saw Thompson doing a gong show at the Kayal and over five minutes he’d done well. He’d held the room and easily made the final that night, so I was curious to see how he fared over ten. Thompson speaks slowly, with his Scottish accent helping the words roll along and his style could be described as dead pan, surreal and with elements of anti-comedy. There are some nice ideas in this set, especially the renamed pub and you can definitely see what he’s trying to achieve. However, over ten minutes, the laughs didn’t come often enough to keep the audience and for those who weren’t onboard with his style, it was hard for Thompson to win them over and I think that even those who had enjoyed the first 5-6 minutes, perhaps found ten minutes to be a bit too much of a good thing for them. I believe what Thompson is trying to do has potential and it’s nice to see an act doing something different, but tonight he didn’t manage to pull it off. I think that with a bit more work on increasing the joke rate he’ll have more success.

Stuart Thomas

I saw Thomas put in a good performance in Stoke last year and it was nice to see him again. His material is well thought out and I enjoyed the routine about addiction a lot. The section on activism was even better, with the pun being a fun, knowingly silly, joke. I thought the ‘small country’ line deserved more than it received. The mathematics of the loaves and the fishes was as impressive as it was impeccable, but the set up did eat up a lot of time and whilst the pay off was decent, I’m not sure Thomas couldn’t have gotten more laughs in that time if he had done something different. However, if he were to expand it into a longer routine the time spent might perhaps be better justified, or if he were to edit the gag down it may work just as well and leave him more time for other jokes. This was a good set from someone who, whilst he isn’t there yet, is going in the right direction.

Josh Baulf

Baulf had a belter of a night. The first thing you notice about him is his accent, but before you’ve even finished taking that in, you’re already having a great time. He has a wonderful mix of charisma and solid material. This was all relatable, or rather made to feel that way. Groupon was very good, but the drunken night out was superb. This was pushed even further along by Baulf’s performance. Without going overboard, he acted out a lot of what he was saying and this made it all feel very real to everyone. Baulf broke the 4th wall to chat to the audience about Derby train station and even this was top notch. There was a heck of a lot to like about this comedian. He’s definitely a bookable act.

Tony Wright

The stylishly dressed Wright opened by talking about his appearance and background, which felt natural and addressed what might have become an elephant in the room. Quite often if an act looks exotic or has a hard to place accent, a fair percentage of the audience can be sat trying to work out their background, rather than actually concentrating on what they are saying and Wright did well to make a benefit of it. The material was enjoyable, especially his encounters with people in clubs and toilets. Wright has got a very clear voice and this carried nicely throughout the room. He also looked very comfortable on stage. He felt like a raconteur telling stories and I got the impression that he’d make a very good story telling comedian. He’d certainly have no problem drawing people in. There was a lot to like in this set.

Philip Simon

Simon gave the room a delightful headlining set. It was obvious that he’d spent his time listening to whom Mike and the other comedians had been talking to and so he was very clued up on what had been said to whom and was able to not only make use of that, but he didn’t put his foot in it by getting the wrong person. This was a welcome professional touch. The jokes were fun, involved a nice level of misdirection and came thick and fast. For much of his set, Simon’s work rate was close to that of a one-liner comedian and this helped to ensure that there was constant laughter. He seemed to skirt on the edge of applause for ‘conference’ and it would have been nice if he had received an applause break, because he certainly deserved it. Probably the funniest moment came when he asked the audience about online dating and one honest person admitted that they’d done it. Upon him enquiring about which site she used, the reply came, ‘it’s called tinder,’ spoken as if she’d be surprised he’d ever heard of it. Philip jumped on this and gently got a lot of laughs from it. This was a splendid performance from a skilled comedian who should gig up here more often.

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