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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Canal House – Dan Nicholas, Nathan Gibbons, Mustafa Fecto, Oscar Roberts, Mark Row, Ben Clover, Hannah Silvester and Adam Coumas (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. It was nice to see so many acts new to me on the bill, with there being a fair few London based acts that had travelled up. Whilst the room was quite as full as what it usually is the audience were in a fine mood and well disposed towards having a great night.

Adam Coumas (MC)

Coumas did well tonight, finding a good balance between room work and material. He began by working in references to the local shit and rival towns, which gave him some credibility quickly. This was then followed by chatting to the audience, with most of the lads sat on the front row giving the highly suspect profession of ‘lollipop man’, apart from one genius who claimed to be a road safety warden. Following this, Coumas went with material to get people out of interactive mode and into listening mode. I could have done without hearing about vegans being malnourished, as that has become a bit too well used, but everything else was sound. Vaping was strong and names was even better. Coumas made good use of his eyes and facial expressions in selling what he was saying and this added a lot to his performance. During the second section, he discovered a couple who were on a rebound date following a dramatic Boxing Day split and here he trod a fine line between roasting the guy and insulting him, but he pulled it off to huge laughs. This was very good compering that was only slightly let down by overrunning a bit and doing a bit between each act. Beyond that, all was good. I’d like to see Coumas do more compering, as he’s obviously got a talent for it.

Dan Nicholas

Nicholas is superb performer with an eye for the unusual. Tonight, he made his way to the stage slowly, shaking hands, high fiving people and demonstrating a mastery of being funny without saying anything. I don’t know of many acts who could stay silent for the first 2-3 minutes of their set, keep most of the audience and get laughs. Nicholas got a heck of a lot out of miming and silently teasing the audience. From here he went on to talk about weddings, which whilst it was good, after his dramatic opening, felt a touch anticlimactic. This was unfortunate as there was a lot of decent stuff in there.

Nathan Gibbons

Sporting a big Afro, Gibbons began with a series of lookalike gags, which were ok, but nothing that no one wasn’t really expecting. From here he went on to talk about schools, soft drinks and sexuality. You could see the structure of the set, but Gibbons didn’t really pull it off. He wasn’t helped by holding the mic too low, but his biggest problems came from not really having enough swagger in his presence and the material being a bit low powered. The best part of his set was the notion of the walk of shame, but I wasn’t too keen on the joke about not being able to give someone a name and still giving it, as it is overused.

Mustafa Fecto

Fecto was a lovely surprise. He’s not got a huge amount of presence and this is a shame, because his material was excellent. Speaking with a surprising American accent, he gave the most tightly written set of the night. The Farage joke was great, pescatarian was fantastic and there was nothing that fell flat or felt forced, apart from saying ‘hear me out’ twice. For someone who is an elegant writer, he can do better than using that well travelled phrase after he has said something challenging. There was one moment where I thought the room came close to becoming a verbal free for all when lots of people gave their opinions on Nottingham Trent, but he got everyone back. This was a very strong set from Fecto.

Oscar Roberts

Roberts had a good night. His opening jokes all landed well and he received big laughs. The new material did swimmingly and his use of language is improving. He does speak a little bit quickly at times and I think a few people might have missed the odd word here and there. The PE routine is getting better, but coming almost out of the blue, it’s quite a change in pace and he’s still not keeping everyone for it. However, everything else worked extremely nicely.

Mark Row

Coming to the stage full of energy Row didn’t seem to put a foot wrong. His jokes were good, his timing great and the game of ‘would you rather’ was magnificently refreshing. This in particular was something different to a comic doing routines and there was a definite enthusiasm for him mixing the format up a bit by including it. This was a powerful performance that was very well received.

Ben Clover

Initially, I wasn’t that impressed by Clover. His opening question about dry January felt very dated now that we’re in April, but I was wrong to judge him so quickly. The material that followed (and was linked to dry January) about his partner was delightful, with the pay off on the meal being especially good. Just when Clover was getting into the swing of things, a couple on the second row returned to their seats very late and he asked them for their reason. The male half announced that they’d been delayed because his partner had been bent over the canal. This was a gift to the quick thinking Clover, who without seeming to pause for breath, improvised a five minute routine about this chap being a sex God. Living in the moment, Clover had a wonderful time painting a vivid picture of this person’s prowess and got massive laughs in response. After this it was impossible for him to go back to what he had been talking about and he carried on ad-libbing and the laughter was perhaps all the greater for it. This was a magnificent performance.

Hannah Silvester

Silvester gave the room an enjoyable closing set. Mixing new material with established she did very well. Her opening remarks concerning the younger guys sat on the front row were well judged. Confidence was a fun routine, where her ability to bring life to each thought was a big bonus. It was nice to see Captain Marvel used as a bang up to date reference. The material about Cadbury’s was entertaining, down to earth and interesting. Despite the room having reached a bit of a natural tipping point, Silvester received good laughs and had a great night.

The New Barrack Tavern – Lindsey Santoro, Adam Elmi, Jen Bower, Max Poole, John Scott and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was back up in Sheffield at The New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Comedy night. Numbers were a touch down on last week, but not disastrously so. As always, it was nice to see Wayne and Lou there.

Fran Jenking (MC)

Last week Fran had done very well and he continued the good work this week. There were enough new members of the audience present that he didn’t speak to anyone whom he chatted with last time. In fact, he largely chatted to two groups of people, but both had a lot of comedy value. There was a firefighter and his partner and Ozzy the Owl, or rather the man behind Sheffield Wednesday’s mascot. Both parties were interesting and Fran, with his easy going nature and people skills, got good laughs from them and we were soon ready for our opening act.

Lindsey Santoro

There was a lot to like in Santoro’s set. She’s down to earth and her performance carried a level of authenticity that people enjoyed. Whilst the room seemed a little bit reticent at first, perhaps due to her material being a bit near the knuckle so early in the night, they still liked her a lot and once they’d warmed up they got fully behind her. Santoro was very aware that she was performing in front of a live audience and, with good results, worked hard to make them feel part of the show. The material itself was strong, with sacred triangle and the bath bomb both being standouts. This was a great set that I enjoyed, but if she had edited it down a touch, she would have done even better. Santoro is an act that is going places.

Adam Elmi

Like Santoro, Elmi did very well when he broke the 4th wall and it would be nice to see more of that. I get the impression that Elmi can also think on his feet and I shouldn’t be surprised if he could get a lot out of audience interaction. The material was very good and he remains one of the few acts who has an excellent McCann joke that doesn’t feel forced. Tonight Elmi had a good gig and is progressing very nicely.

Jen Bower

Bower is a new act and although inexperienced, didn’t have a bad night. At the moment a lot of the material is in the form of anecdotes and needs a bit of work to get the most out of it. Some parts could do with editing down, cutting out the extraneous words so that people get to the funny sooner. A lot could do with a twist, or a topper, to really ramp up the humour. The strongest line was involving the number of children she has and this was definitely a good one. Bower’s a new act, but she didn’t look out of place and has a base from which to build.

Max Poole

Speaking in short concise sentences, it was very easy to follow all that Poole was saying. His set had a great structure to it and everything came together nicely. I was surprised that he didn’t close on a callback to the heart, though. The material felt original and was fun, with the odd touch of dark, so it was no surprise that he received consistent laughs. One improvement, suggested by Wayne Bamforth (Last Laugh) was that the routine about the names would work better if Poole were to keep the specific film names secret until the airport, as the added element of surprise would ensure that the jokes landed a lot harder and I’m in full agreement. This was a strong set that could be improved further.

John Scott

Headlining was John Scott, who was not only looking in good shape physically, but had a great mental sharpness to him, too. Scott had a flying start and never let up the pressure. This was a performance where the laughter rolled throughout the length of the set. The well written material could be divided into three areas, life in general, politics and mental health. All three were very strong and I was amazed he had to wait as long as he did for his first applause break. This was a fantastic performance.

The New Barrack Tavern: Craig Deeley, David Eagle, Matt Bragg, Sean Percival and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Comedy night. This gig is very popular with comedians who have done it and I’m not surprised. Kev (sadly not present tonight) and Steph who run the pub are very enthusiastic about comedy and this rubs off on the audience who are very much up for a great night.

Fran Jenking (MC)

Fran had a great night compering. He’s a very gentle and affable MC and people are more than happy to chat with him. His people skills are very strong and folk take to him very quickly. Within moments of coming to the stage he had everyone singing happy birthday to Andrew, who had spent all day in bed with a migraine. Jenking was very quick thinking tonight and in every interaction he had, he very swiftly found the funny in it. There were a lot of funny moments during Fran’s work, such as his voice on ‘I bet it was’ when discussing the highlights of a spa weekend, or when he was working out the logistics of custard pieing someone. A wonderful addition to the night was Amy, who was a giggler. She was a real joy to have in the room and I think every act wanted to book her for their upcoming gigs. During the second section Fran perhaps did a touch more than was strictly necessary, but he was getting laughs and everyone was enjoying it, so that’s no big deal. This was quiet, but skilled compering and I enjoyed every minute of it, including the free sweets.

Craig Deeley

Deeley is a great joke writer and this came to the fore tonight, with some excellent gags, such as the Irish Bar, the threesome and the Grandfather clock. These were all top notch jokes that stood out. The rest were all pretty good, too. However, to begin with, he didn’t generate as much momentum as I was expecting. The audience were laughing at what he was saying, but didn’t seem to commit to him for the first couple of minutes, but after that, they were all onboard. Speaking quickly and pacing the stage with tons of energy, Deeley delivered the goods and made for an adept opening act.

Craig is one third of the trio (with James Cook and Phil Pagett) who comprise the News with Jokes podcast, one of the rare podcasts I don’t like to miss and it is always well worth a listen:

https://newswithjokes.podbean.com/

David Eagle

When I last saw David Eagle he was being crowned NCF’s new comedian of the year at Canal House and although I’ve not seen him since, I’ve heard off of a few folk that he’s been doing well. Although being introduced as a local lad didn’t do him any harm, the audience’s enthusiasm for Eagle came through his likeability and innate sense of humour. This is an act who has a great feel for the funny and he made an immediate impression on everyone. He’d been listening to what Fran had been saying and was able to address audience members by name and tailor material to them. It’s always impressive when acts can do that. After a solid opening the laughs came very easily for David, throughout this set, with only a slight lull on shipping forecast, which was mostly due to it being a change of pace. The callback that he closed on was a unique and splendid way to finish what was a strong set.

Matt Bragg

Bragg is a comedy technician. The construction of his set was great. His material was cleverly written and his deliberately slow paced delivery was pitched to get the most from all he said. This was a performance where everyone was listening, enjoying and waiting for punchlines to fall. Bragg’s obviously put a lot of thought into what he was doing and it paid off handsomely. Even the little touches such as moving the microphone away at one point added a heck of a lot to the performance. There was some new material being tried tonight and I liked what I saw. The platform joke was deliciously dark and although it got a good laugh, it deserved a lot more. This was a performance that was too short for my liking. I really wanted to see more.

Sean Percival

Percival is a superb headliner. He sells his material wonderfully. Percival delivers his material with such enthusiasm and joy that it looks as if he’d only wrote it that morning and has been itching to try it out all day. This requires a lot of skill and it is magnificent to see. He builds up tons of momentum and energy in the room and this results in big laughs. He closed the night on a high.

Acts that have impressed me the most: March

This has been a bit of a quiet month for comedy, but the acts have been superb. These are the ones that have impressed me the most:

Alan Hudson

A fantastic comedy magician who has a lot to offer.

From the night:

Headlining was Alan Hudson, who is equally adept at magic and comedy, which makes for an ace combination. Hudson has self-awareness in spades and not only does this keep his act well grounded, but it comes across extremely well as he acts a little bit unsure of how things are going to turn out on stage. His not taking himself too seriously is a diamond bonus to his stage persona. Another boon is his accent. Every so often a little bit of Yorkshire would creep into his voice and this really appealed to me. At the heart of the performance is the magic and this was spectacular. Whilst this was occurring his affability and wit kept things flowing nicely. Hudson’s an extremely talented act whom I’d love to see in more clubs.

Pat Draper

Draper is an act who isn’t on as many people’s radar as he should be. I’ve never ever seen him have a bad gig.

From the night:

It would be lovely to see Draper gigging more often. He’s a very talented act who I always see have great gigs, but who isn’t as well known as what he should be. He has a well honed delivery, that is dry and knowing, plus great timing. The material is also strong, with an adept use of props. This couldn’t have been easy tonight, with the audience sat to his left, front and right, necessitating him rotating as he spoke so that everyone could see the charts. Draper is a relaxed performer and this did seem to encourage a few people to shout out, but he handled this very nicely. The ad lib of ‘I saw you!’ was a brilliant moment that had Brent nearly falling out of his chair with laughter. This was a cracking set.

Peter Brush

An absolutely superb act who mixes novel concepts, intelligent writing and accessibility to create fantastic sets.

From the night:

Brush is an act that I like to see gigging. He is an excellent writer of cerebral comedy who can surprise everyone with the reveals. Whilst his delivery isn’t as concise as some, I find a real joy in listening to his use of language as he builds up a scenario for the audience. He is very much like Tom Wrigglesworth in this, as both are such a pleasure to listen to. With material of this quality he was always going to have a great gig, but I’m not sure if even he wasn’t surprised at having to pause for such a long time after the second Christmas to let the laughter die down before he could continue. The routine about hobbies was a real gem and again, Brush managed to find a lot of depth in the topic. There was a lovely moment when he phrased what should have been a rhetorical question of ‘do you masturbate’ and a lady answered with enthusiasm: ‘yes’. This was a thoroughly enjoyable set by a cracking act who should be better known than he is.

Honourable Mentions:

Lukas Kirby, Phil Pagett, Raj Poojara, Sean Collins,

The Blessington Carriage – Scott Bennett, Phil Pagett, Louise Leigh, Paul Mutagejja and Pat Draper

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse comedy night. There was a nice sized audience that for once seemed a little bit slow to warm up, but a tale involving raspberries being blown worked very well and soon we were ready for our opening act.

Scott Bennett

Opening was Scott Bennett, who was on a Monday night double, trialling new material. The topics tonight were children and family life and there was a massive feeling of coherency and completeness to this performance. Even the (timely) comments about the Brexit march were totally on point. The routines had a natural flow to them and this set seemed to pass in the blink of an eye with the room wishing for more. The sweet and savoury line was brilliant, as were the toppers to it and I feel that the routine concerning Red Tops has no end of scope to it. It’s already funny, but it’s not hard to imagine Bennett working in callbacks for every example he uses and I can see that being a stand out. This got the night off to a flying start.

Phil Pagett

After the intermission we resumed with Phil Pagett, a very skilled joke crafter. Tonight he was treating the audience to a new direction. The one-liners were still there and they were as good as ever (including some very nice dark ones), but he had constructed a narrative to suit them. This worked really well. The jokes were powerful, there was enough misdirection to keep people guessing and the story format made it feel more than the sum of its parts. Pagett’s delivery on the comment during sex really brought that line to life and the music was a very nice touch. This was a very good set.

Louise Leigh

Leigh had a great night. She began by singing, which got everyone’s attention and although the first punchline took a little bit of time to arrive, she managed to keep everyone. The material was decent, with the pram being a good routine and legs being very well acted out. However, where Leigh did extremely well was in her performance skills. She was lively, cheerful and had a joy of life that came over very well and was infectious. The audience were very much onboard for her set.

Paul Mutagejja

Looking plausible, Mutagejja had a decent gig. He’s got some nice lines in his set, such as the distance to Skegness and the possible shirt sponsor and he is also a pleasant presence. He got laughs and entertained everyone, but with some stand out lines that take the roof off he would progress more quickly.

Pat Draper

It would be lovely to see Draper gigging more often. He’s a very talented act who I always see have great gigs, but who isn’t as well known as what he should be. He has a well honed delivery, that is dry and knowing, plus great timing. The material is also strong, with an adept use of props. This couldn’t have been easy tonight, with the audience sat to his left, front and right, necessitating him rotating as he spoke so that everyone could see the charts. Draper is a relaxed performer and this did seem to encourage a few people to shout out, but he handled this very nicely. The ad lib of ‘I saw you!’ was a brilliant moment that had Brent nearly falling out of his chair with laughter. This was a cracking set.

The Kayal – John Rands, Kevin Hudson, Janis Haves, Aaron Levene, Trevor Bickles, Lewis Taylor, Pete Nash, Simon Benham, Raj Poojara, Nick Adamson, Sean McBurney, Sadia Azmat, Jay Droch and Jo Fletcher-Cross

Tonight I was in Leicester at the Kayal for the Funhouse gong show. Although the audience wasn’t as large as usual, they were enthusiastic and this added to the atmosphere. Mike enjoyed himself chatting to people, especially John, who claimed that he worked for an admin company which did death certificates.

John Rands

Rands opened with a timely bit of material about Saints’ names, which whilst topical on St Patrick’s day, wasn’t hugely funny. From here he moved onto the meat of his set, which concerned him having lost a lot of weight. There were some imaginative lines here, such as sudden death, which was great, but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to transform this material into a set. It felt more like a motivational talk with added humour than an actual comedy performance. Rands wasn’t bad, he got laughs, but he wasn’t hugely funny that quickly and off he went.

Kevin Hudson

Hudson was a one-liner comedian with patchy material. He had some good jokes, such as energy provider and heels, but the toppers were fairly weak, stretching the topics too much and for every good joke there were a couple of poor ones and a few groaners. With more consistency in his writing, Hudson will be a better act.

Janis Haves

Haves did a lot right on the performance side of things. She remembered the names of people in the audience and used them, making it feel as if she wasn’t on auto-pilot and she performed as if she was actually in front of people, rather than just doing a set. However, once you got by the fact that a lady of advancing years was talking about shagging, there wasn’t a lot in the material itself; certainly not enough to keep her on and Haves became the third act to be gonged off.

Aaron Levene

Levene had more confidence than the previous acts and this came over to the audience. He also had a set that stood up well, too. The material consisted of some good ideas, such as different types of Jew and soft tourettes, but I’m not sure he’s making the most of this originality. These routines ambled along nicely, but without the killer punchlines that would really hammer home the funny. Levene did well and was one of the few acts that made the final, but I think he could still achieve more.

Trevor Bickles

Bickles gave the room fast jokes and received regular laughs, making it into the final without too much trouble. The biggest problem was a lack of originality. Most of his jokes had an air of familiarity about them and whilst you may not have heard the exact joke, you’d have heard a version of it, or something that close to be essentially the same.

Lewis Taylor

Doing his first ever gig, Taylor had a good night. He has an engaging personality, his material was pretty decent and whilst the audience were supportive, he deserved to make the final on merit. His opening joke wasn’t that great, though, being a bit old, but when he spoke about the lottery he was on firmer ground and this went down very well. The ninja routine was a touch bleak towards the end, but again, it was interesting and fun. I was impressed with Taylor including a callback to close on and this worked really well. He looked confident on stage and it would be good to see him carry on gigging as I can see he has potential.

Pete Nash

I last saw Nash at The Kayal and he’d had a very mixed night then. Tonight he continued this. He opened by talking a lot without actually seeming to say anything. This was then followed by him doing an impression of a nun by pulling his jumper over his head and pretending that it was a habit. This didn’t get anything, but full credit to the man, despite all the evidence that he was dying on his arse, he persevered with this until he was voted off.

Simon Benham

Benham didn’t have a great night. He opened with a joke about losing his glasses, which ended with an anticlimax of a reveal that left you thinking of all the possible punchlines, this was the one that he decided to go with? From here he went on to speak about being a lifeguard and had just crowbarred in a standard McCann joke when he was gonged off. There were a lot of acts on this bill and I doubt that anyone will remember Benham being on stage. If he were to inject a bit of personality into his delivery, add some energy to it, then it would help and if he were to write material with stronger reveals, that would benefit him, too.

Raj Poojara

One of the strongest acts of the night, Poojara was very impressive. Despite having only been gigging for five months, he’d got material that held together extremely well and a delivery that was slow, quiet, but also commanding. His self-deprecating remarks gave his performance a nice balance, whilst his father’s advice was very funny. This was an enjoyable performance and I’d like to see more of Poojara, as he definitely has ability. He made the final, where perhaps a less good 60 seconds hurt his chances of being a winner. I certainly had him down as a possible champion.

Nick Adamson

Adamson opened with comments about looking like an avatar, which were serviceable, but not hugely comical. He followed this up with a routine built around the saying ‘if you fail, try, try and try again’. I daresay there is a routine to be had out of this phrase, but this wasn’t it. Adamson gave the room some material based on that saying, but this wasn’t that funny, and then to prove the point, he then repeated the routine (albeit with a few small changes) as the second try and it was even less amusing second time around. Louis Theroux was a more interesting concept, but rather than cut to the funny, this was pretty wordy and off he went.

Sean McBurney

McBurney is a very interesting act. He’s a one-liner comic,who writes some great jokes, with a dark edge to them. Whilst not every joke got big laughs, quite a few did and if he carries on writing, sifting out the weaker jokes, he will soon have a formidable set. It would benefit him to work on his delivery a touch, as he looks slightly apologetic on stage and a bit of swagger may help his performance. He won the show tonight and given his ability to write powerful jokes, I’m going to be very curious to see how he develops.

Sadia Azmat

Azmat opened well by talking about the correlation between twitter abuse and fame, which made for an entertaining start. However, after that, she spent the vast majority of her set talking about sex. There was a bit of shock value in seeing someone in a hijab talking about swallowing sperm, but after the initial surprise had worn off, it was just another sex routine and it quickly began to feel a bit one note. A lot of comics do routines about sex and as with any well used topic, it’s hard for the material to feel fresh unless it is particularly good. Azmat had some really interesting material about her dad towards the end of the set and this was intriguing, original and funny. If she had concentrated on this, she may well have done better.

Jay Droch

If he could get a bit of material, Droch would go far. He’s got superb performance skills. He took to the stage full of beans and made an immediate favourable impression as he oozed energy. He can sing lines, do accents and impressions. He’s a man with a big smile and an even bigger personality. Despite not having much in the way of material he took the room by storm and was a shoo in for the final. If he can match his skills as a performer with some material, then he will go far.

Jo Fletcher-Cross

Although Fletcher-Cross didn’t do that well tonight, she still managed to create a favourable impression. Her material concerned living in Scotland as a kid, with bad television and the excitement that Eurovision brought to this existence. There weren’t any punchlines, there was a lot of exposition, but she was bubbly, upbeat, likeable and pleasant to listen to. The material wasn’t punchy enough for a gong show, but it’s not hard to imagine her making a good host.

Southwell – Ignacio Lopez, Wouter Meijs, Peter Brush and Sean Collins

Tonight I was at The Saracen’s Head in Southwell for the Funhouse Comedy Night. This is a big room that sells out well in advance and as a consequence it is full with a comedy savvy audience. Mike had a great night compering, not needing to dip into any material, but chatting to a guy who chose ‘Barry’ as a false name and a well lubricated German lady who wasn’t quite up to speed with what was being said.

Ignacio Lopez

Opening was Ignacio Lopez, who gave the room a solid set and a well polished delivery. Although Mike pronounced his name correctly, Lopez used that as a springboard into talking about the times when comperes had mangled it and this bought him a lot of laughs. This was followed by more laughs when he discussed shit holes and Southwell, with a great piece of misdirection providing the punch. Comparing Spain and Wales/Britain was a well thought out piece of material and this worked nicely when combined with Lopez’s slightly high status persona. The insurance based pun was a fun joke. The closing song gave a nice feeling of completeness to what had been a very good performance.

Wouter Meijs

I last saw Meijs in Sheffield and he had done very well there and tonight he was even better. He hit the ground running and never looked back. The opening joke about his height was one that carried on giving for 5-6 different punchlines, each getting a bigger laugh than the last. Meijs’ ad-libbing was very welcome and he showed that not only was he very fast mentally, but that he had a great feel for it – it would be interesting to watch him MC. At first, though, I thought that he may have made an error in speaking to the drunk German, as she wasn’t very forthcoming, but Meijs got a lot of laughs out of him extricating himself from that conversation and this got even better when he spoke to a Czech lady. The line about Amsterdam was outstanding. Brexit proved to be a fast moving issue, with Meijs’ comments about the 29th having been out of date by 2 hours. The running joke about trains was solid and I liked how Meijs didn’t need to repeat all of it more than once to get the effect over. This was a strong performance and just like in Sheffield, there were cries of aww, from people wanting more when his time was up.

Peter Brush

Brush is an act that I like to see gigging. He is an excellent writer of cerebral comedy who can surprise everyone with the reveals. Whilst his delivery isn’t as concise as some, I find a real joy in listening to his use of language as he builds up a scenario for the audience. He is very much like Tom Wrigglesworth in this, as both are such a pleasure to listen to. With material of this quality he was always going to have a great gig, but I’m not sure if even he wasn’t surprised at having to pause for such a long time after the second Christmas to let the laughter die down before he could continue. The routine about hobbies was a real gem and again, Brush managed to find a lot of depth in the topic. There was a lovely moment when he phrased what should have been a rhetorical question of ‘do you masturbate’ and a lady answered with enthusiasm: ‘yes’. This was a thoroughly enjoyable set by a cracking act who should be better known than he is.

Sean Collins

Headlining was the Canadian Sean Collins. He performed sat on a chair, looking relaxed and at ease. His quiet and dry delivery was well suited to his material, especially when he discussed British attitudes to weather. His sarcasm here came over extremely well. Collins got a lot of laughs for dealing with the pronunciation of Southwell, which is divided between those who live there pronouncing it as it is spelt and the rest of the area who pronounce it ‘Suvvul’. His take on this led into some good material. The routine about golf was solid, as was the cat, but the material about the back rub was even better. This built up very nicely with the final reveal being a great surprise. I was astounded, though, that he didn’t receive an applause break for the soldier’s comments concerning Nottingham. This was a powerful closing performance.

The Lyric Rooms – Scott Bennett, Lukas Kirkby, Stuart Mitchell and Alan Hudson

Tonight I and a friend went to The Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was a packed out gig with a great atmosphere. Spiky Mike discovered a wonderfully happy couple who had recently been on a tour of the East, spoke to a large number of IT workers and very quickly the room was ready for our first act.

Scott Bennett

Bennett, doubling with Lichfield, opened proceedings with a bang. He began with some comments about the room and the audience, which were had everyone onboard from the off and followed this up with a set that was perfectly pitched for the audience. Knowing Scott’s material, it was fascinating seeing how he had structured his set so as to enable him to go in various directions at certain points. This gave him the flexibility, if needed, to change direction and from a technical perspective this was excellent. Bennett is a real professional and approaches every gig intending to be the best that he can be. He has loads of first class material and had carefully selected the routines to make the most of his time. This was an incredibly punchy set that made the best use of every second on stage.

Lukas Kirkby

Kirkby continued his run of good gigs. He did three songs in a set that seemed to be over too quickly. The first was maths based and he did well to fit in all of the phrases and terms into it. The second song was the funniest and this was simply brilliant, whereas the third song, whilst not as funny as no2, was funny and well thought out. His pauses and facial expressions really sell what he is doing well. This was a feel good set that livened the night up and Kirkby is definitely a bookable act.

Stuart Mitchell

The Glaswegian Mitchell gave the room an impressive set. He is an adept story teller who had everyone listening to him as he discussed a physical issue, his mum and dad, his partner, dogs, an Edinburgh show and medical paperwork. The set up for his mum’s comment was a great way of getting life out of the reveal and he received applause for it. The comments from the lady after his show in Edinburgh were superb and the closing routine was totally solid. This was a well written set that was delivered with great pacing. There was only one slightly off key moment and that was when someone made a comment about dogs and Mitchell spoke to the person, but it didn’t lead anywhere, but that was more in the nature of the comment than any lack of skill on Stuart’s part. This was an enjoyable set from an act I think I’ll be seeing more of.

Alan Hudson

Headlining was Alan Hudson, who is equally adept at magic and comedy, which makes for an ace combination. Hudson has self-awareness in spades and not only does this keep his act well grounded, but it comes across extremely well as he acts a little bit unsure of how things are going to turn out on stage. His not taking himself too seriously is a diamond bonus to his stage persona. Another boon is his accent. Every so often a little bit of Yorkshire would creep into his voice and this really appealed to me. At the heart of the performance is the magic and this was spectacular. Whilst this was occurring his affability and wit kept things flowing nicely. Hudson’s an extremely talented act whom I’d love to see in more clubs.

Acts that have impressed me the most: February

Due to work this has been a slow month for comedy. I’ve only seen 34 acts. The highlight was Tommy Wager’s gig in Alfreton. I’ve never known such a supportive audience. Their default setting is that every act is a superstar and this results in a huge atmosphere and gives every comedian a lovely warm experience.

As always, acts mentioned recently are time barred. These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:

Eric Rushton

Rushton is a young act who has already found his voice and will blossom further.

From the night:

Rushton continues to impress. He is unique thinker and his material is highly original, employing a lot of misdirection and intelligent reveals (perhaps was a very clever piece of material). Rushton is also a very engaging performer who speaks directly to audience members as he switches between low and high status. In short, there was a heck of a lot to like in this performance and he didn’t put a foot wrong, although I did prefer it when he didn’t explain why he had a stuffed tiger with him. I think that leaving it unexplained is possibly better in the long run as it adds an air of mystery to this talented act.

Jayde Adams

She’s destined for big things. Probably on telly.

From the night:

I shouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t Adams’ breakthrough year. The topics that Jayde discussed were her native Bristol, her size and celebrity. Bristol was very entertaining and hearing her strong Somerset accent was refreshing up here. The reactions to the earthquake were a mix of the loopy and parochial, all made very funny. Not being skinny was pitched at just the right level and there were a lot of laughs in it. I wasn’t totally with the celebrity material, not because it wasn’t good, but simply because beyond the names of the people mentioned, I didn’t have much of an idea about them otherwise – everyone else was fully onboard. What made Adams stand out so much was her personality. Sometimes acts are on autopilot, or are subdued, but there was no mistaking that Jayde was present, happy to be there and bags of fun to have in the building. She injected no end of personality into her performance and I think she managed to build a rapport with everyone there. It’s not hard to imagine a full show from her being a real experience. This was a champion performance that ended with a few people giving her a standing ovation and a few cries of more. This is someone who is going places.

Sully O’Sullivan

A fun and skilled act whom I’d like to see more of.

From the night:

Sully is a solid act that I don’t seem to see that often. He’s also a highly skilled compere and this came through very strongly in his set. He began with a couple of fast observations about the room that were instantly funny and this established his comedic credentials within the first 20 seconds. He also looked sharp as if he was ready for anything that the audience had to say and that nothing would faze him. This came to the fore when towards the latter part of his set he was talking about insults and in response to a question, received two answers simultaneously. He took them in turn, dealing with each one, getting laughs and keeping everything easily within his control. O’Sullivan talked a little bit about colonialism and by coincidence a month or so ago another act had discussed that in The Lescar, but where it then had felt like we were being lectured for the sins of the past upper classes, Sully’s was totally different in tone and a lot funnier. This was a well delivered and funny set that got the night off to a strong start.

Honourable Mentions:

George Zach, Rich Wilson, Rory Jones, Wouter Mejis