The Rigger – Stefan Kempkes, Chris Copestake, Paul Campbell, Mike Carter, Nick Pettigrew, Lee Hamill, Ben Turner, Jack Topher (bonus ten), David Bawden, Brad Adams, Jonathan Collins

Tonight I was in Newcastle under Lyme for the Funhouse gong show. There were a lot of regulars there whom Spiky Mike had spoken to a few times before, which made compering a bit more tricky than usual. However, he was lucky in having two trainee teachers sat at the front which gave him something to work with and then when their truck driving friend joined them later that helped a lot. Soon enough, though, the room was ready for our first contestant.

Stefan Kempkes

Kempkes didn’t have a great night. He opened with what was by implication, a rape joke and this wasn’t ideal. It was also too soon for the audience to judge how it fitted in with his comedy persona. This was followed by a decent enough first impression gag, but then the next couple of jokes (pescetarian and five a day) were both pretty hack. Kempkes managed to further alienate the audience by an old fashioned fat joke and he was voted off at the first vote. Whilst this set wasn’t fantastic, if he were to rewrite it and inject a bit of energy into his delivery, he would do better.

Chris Copestake

Copestake did well. Compared to the previous act he was immediately likeable and his first joke was a good one. The tall material was decent, with a nice bit of misdirection involved – it was also pleasant to see a touch of room work in a gong show. When he was shouting to add emphasis, he would probably be better served by moving the mic away from his mouth, as there was some overkill when he shouted down the microphone. His material on nicknames was good, although when it came to the teachers using them that was the archetypal pull back and reveal and I think he can do better than that. This was a good performance that earned him consistent laughs and Copestake easily made the final. Unfortunately he misjudged the one minute he had in the final, but he still finished a probable joint runner up. I liked what I saw.

Paul Campbell

Campbell was an act that I found hard to get engaged with. He performs as a character act, playing it as a loser who lives with his mum and hasn’t got a girlfriend and without much nuance over the five minutes, it didn’t draw me. If anything, I found it depressing. With a bit more balance I would probably have enjoyed his performance more. Having said that, his text conversation was good and the rest of the room liked him enough to vote him through to the final, where he carried on from where he had left off.

Mike Carter

Carter had a great night. He opened with a couple of lookalike gags that despite this being a well worn trope, actually felt a bit of a cut above many similar vague celebrity resemblances. This gave him a strong start, which he built on with some solid material about a trip to see the Terracotta Army. The callback went down beautifully and he received the first applause break of the night. Throughout Carter’s set he was getting big laughs and my feeling was that rather than being there to specifically win the gong show, this was a skilled act who was perhaps more interested in being seen by Mike. Carter breezed through into the final, where he carried on the good work and finished as an impressive winner.

Nick Pettigrew

We resumed after the intermission with Nick Pettigrew, who was performing for the first time ever. He came to the stage chock-full of nervous energy and performed full of adrenalin, pacing about and jerking his arms. This was something that the audience responded to positively and it helped him with his performance. The material was a bit varied as you’d expect for a first ever attempt, but there was a lot to like, especially his routine about giving up. This was the stand out of his set. I thought Pettigrew had done enough to make the final, but he went off to a split vote at the final hurdle, which was a shame, as this was a very creditable first attempt.

Lee Hamill

Hamill started well with a great callback to Mike’s compering and his line about acting garnered him some applause. There was a nice pause on KFC, which helped sell the line, but I was a touch surprised when he didn’t go with bucket for that reveal as I was expecting, but in fairness his punchline was stronger. I thought he lost a bit of impetus when discussing walking down the aisle, but this was soon regained with applause for google. There were a lot of laughs during this set and Hamill made the final, where despite not having a great last minute, he was probably joint second.

Ben Turner

Turner began well with a strong opening joke and he added to this with the topper and the next couple of gags which rolled from the back of it. Burslem has potential and there were some decent lines in this set, but unfortunately there were a couple too many pull back and reveals and this diluted their impact. With a slight rethink this set will be improved.

To close the middle section we had a bonus ten spot, which wasn’t part of the competition:

Jack Topher

Topher made a deliberately slow start, which built up a lot of comedic tension. This worked well and he gained laughs for it. Tonight Topher was doing some new bits of material and the lines about his mum and dad being dead worked well in the context of his character props. Colour blind has potential and if he can get a few more jokes to run from it, then he will have a very good routine there. Topher’s pacing is spot on and if he can work on the material to keep the pace but so that the laughs come more quickly, then he will do very well indeed.

David Bawden

We began the final session with Bawden who started by talking about his upcoming 30th birthday and then moved into talking about his life as an Emo child. I found that this material didn’t really draw me in, nor did the performance. There were a couple of nice visual gags and a good line about wrist bands, but I didn’t think that this really rose above being amiable instead of funny. However, the audience disagreed and Bawden made the final.

Brad Adams

Next was the Canadian, Brad Adams. I struggled a bit with his accent and found I was sometimes playing catch up. Just as I was getting used to it, his time was up. Brad gave us a mix of short jokes and one-liners. There were some good gags in here, such as last day and proctologist (which went over a lot of heads, sadly), but ambulance wasn’t that great. Brad did well, but did seem to run out of steam a bit before the end of his time, however, he had done enough to get through to the final.

Jonathan Collins

The final act of the night was Jonathan Collins, a Gothic transvestite, which will inevitably bring Andrew O’Neill, a pro comedian who is also a Gothic transvestite to mind. Collins was a lively act who had a lot of energy. Perhaps, too much, as within 20 seconds of commencing his spot, he had left the stage and was shouting a punchline directly into someone’s face. He followed this up by sitting in the audience, perhaps on someone’s knee – it was hard to tell from where I was. The total combination of this did seem a bit in people’s faces and considering that Collins had only told one joke, he hadn’t really done enough to give the audience a reason to keep him on and he was an early gonging. Collins may have lasted longer if he had toned down the energy and had gone with a few quick jokes to get people onside.

Advertisements

Admiral Rodney (Wollaton) – Mike Dryburgh, Lindsey Santoro, Aaron Simmonds, Scott Bennett (new material), Tom Taylor and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was in Wollaton at the Funhouse Comedy night at the Admiral Rodney. This was a hot and humid night and I was glad that the pub had the door open, even if the noise from the occasional passing motorist was a bit intrusive. Numbers were buoyant, with, as usual, just as many people watching the show from the tap room as the snug. Fran had a good night compering, with gardening forming the mainstay of his work at the top. I was very impressed with his tale of going to a vegan exposition, which he used later, and feel that he has the basis of a solid routine here. It is also one that will work well when compering, as every room he works in is bound to have a vegetarian or vegan present and this routine will feel like a superb ad lib off of the back of chatting to one, if he plays it right. Whilst Fran was compering it was nice to see that none of the acts were checking their phones and were all paying attention. Things like this set a good example to the audience. There was a great moment where a member of staff took some condiments through and realising he was highly visible he ducked so low he almost looked like a ninja crawling into position, except in his case a ninja who still managed to stand out like a sore thumb.

Mike Dryburgh

Opening was Mike Dryburgh whose set came in two halves, the first talking about his newly born kid and the other half featuring his wife. Both segments had their positives, with his wife perhaps being the newer material. Of the baby section, the time spent in labour was good, but hipster and vegan was the most promising. I enjoyed the section about Mike’s wife, with the make up present being decent and the final routine about her being picked up being great. However, the build to the final line didn’t feel quite as though it really did that line justice, but this routine was altered owing to time constraints, so seen in full it would probably be fine. The final line definitely deserved more than it received, though.

Lindsey Santoro

Last week Santoro had an absolutely smashing gig at the Ashby English Comedian of the Year heat and I shouldn’t be surprised if she picks up a few bookings off of the back of that. Tonight she started quickly and never looked back, getting strong laughs all the way through her set. She wasn’t even badly hurt by the noise bleed from the birthday party in the best side of the pub. Her routine about how she met her boyfriend was great, with ‘your choice’ really pushing it. The hotel visit provided a very powerful closing routine. One of the things that impressed me the most tonight was how Santoro got the audience involved in her set – this ensured that everyone was engaged and helped to boost her performance. This was a cracking set.

Aaron Simmonds

We resumed after the intermission with Simmonds who began by bouncing off of Fran’s introduction. He then moved into some chair based material which succeeded on two levels. One, it referenced the obvious without making a big deal of it and two, it was a very funny start to the set that established his credibility with the audience. There was some very good material on offer here, with his meeting with ‘Jesus’ being a big stand out. Everyone was hanging on his every word when he was discussing this encounter and the reveals didn’t let anyone down. Delivery wise, this was also very good. I enjoyed his elongation of the word ‘too’ in too far and felt that that added a lot to the delivery of that joke. However, ‘not particularly proud’ is a bit of an overused line. This was a very good set that seemed to be over all too soon.

Scott Bennett

Next was Scott Bennett who is polishing segments of his Edinburgh show. Having Scott on the bill like this is the equivalent of an extra headliner and everyone benefits from it. Bennett has a superb presence and when he opened with a bit of room work, it landed very very well. His set construction is amazingly strong and he is the sort of act that anyone wishing to learn about comedy should sit and watch. Tonight it was obvious that his routines were more closely tied in to the theme of his show and I think everyone could feel the direction and how it would come together. There were only two minor improvements that I could suggest; one is going a bit more specific about what his daughter will do whilst he is at Ikea and the other was a bit of alliteration on crime scene. I love the conspiratorial tone his wife uses when talking to their baby and the new section about the coffee group has a lot of potential; more so following a cracking suggestion from Simmonds. Baby sign language is a work in progress, but it’ll get there. This was a lovely set.

Tom Taylor

Taylor isn’t an act that I see as much of as I’d like. He’s a musical act, but rather than spending a lot of his set singing, he uses his keyboard as a framework to fit the jokes around and this balance works extremely well. Taylor presents the room with a delightfully oddball persona and this gives him a lot of latitude with his material, as he goes from well written intelligent jokes to well written daft jokes. One common denominator is that the reveals come out of the left field and another common denominator is that they all got a big laugh (in particular, Scott Bennett was laughing his head off at Taylor’s set and it’s great to see the other acts enjoying each other’s work). I felt that the asides added a lot to what Tom was doing and I appreciated the fact that he had been paying attention during the show and was able to do callbacks to various aspects of the night. This was a fast moving set that stayed fresh and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ashby – English Comedian of the Year Heat – Mo Haroon, Katie Pritchard, Tom Houghton, Harry Miles, Stephen Carlin, Lindsey Santoro, Chelsea Hart, Dimitri Bakanov and Simon Feilder

Tonight I was in Ashby for another Funhouse hosted English Comedian of the Year heat. These have been uniformly superb shows, with some of the best up and coming comedians in the country taking part and tonight featured a wonderfully strong and artistically diverse bill. There were three acts that I’d not seen before, but there is quite a buzz around one of these and so I was especially looking forwards to seeing her. Numbers were very good, too, which added to the atmosphere, but as is generally the case in these heats, the voting was a trifle one-sided as the audience were voting for their favourite three acts. This meant that theoretically someone could be the 4th favourite of 100 people and not get a single vote, whereas equally theoretically someone who 20 people loved and 80 just wanted to finish as soon as possible would get 20 votes. Tonight, though, the votes weren’t that one-sided and every act bar one picked up a good respectable amount.

TLDR

Stephen Carlin – winner by a big majority

Lindsey Santoro – a very impressive second

Tom Houghton – a strong third

Mo Haroon

Haroon is a good act, who doesn’t have a huge profile in the industry, which is a shame, because he is a skilled comedian and has always done well when I’ve seen him. Tonight, I did wonder if he had drawn the short straw in opening, but his material is such that it would work equally well first or last. His opening joke initially felt a bit wordy on the set up, but it was worth it for the reveal and his second joke, which rolled off from the first, gained him a very early round of applause. Haroon’s writing is first rate and his references were topical, which really helped them to land well. The intelligent writing ensured that Mo did very well, gaining a lot of laughs. The only bit that I didn’t think worked as well as it might have was ‘Wales’ which felt a bit flat in comparison, but that’s a minor point. Haroon’s low energy delivery wasn’t quite as strong as his material and I did wonder if a more deadpan approach would be worth exploring, but that is something perhaps for the future. Tonight he did very well and despite the audience having seen a lot of acts between him and the vote, he did well when it came to people remembering to vote for him.

Katie Pritchard

Going on early in a competition can run the risk of being forgotten by the audience, but there was no chance of anyone forgetting Katie Pritchard. Between the props (Joan of Arc with helmet, axe and fake cigarette in holder [a charming touch]), the singing and the sheer amount of fun that Pritchard exudes, no one was going to forget her in an hurry. Her set was splendidly different and stood out. In the 7 minutes allotted to each comedian she used the time to give the room two songs, one about Joan of Arc and another about Lettuce to the tunes of Bonnie Tyler and Beyonce. Both of these songs were very good and I really enjoyed the asides. I did feel that Katie may have slightly split the audience a touch and might have been better with a bit more chatting as the few people who weren’t onboard for the songs had nothing else to get their teeth into. However, the majority of the room were with her and people were crying with laughter. This was a very good set from someone who is on their way up in the world.

Tom Houghton

Houghton was my favourite to win the most votes. He was one of the few acts on the bill who would be just as dangerous over twenty as he would be doing seven. He has great punchy material, a flamboyant delivery and has the sort of charisma that wins people around in next to no time. Tonight he began well with a quick spot of room work, before moving onto some new (to me) material about the names of groups of people and this was a brilliant start. He then moved on with even better material. This was peppered with asides to Ed, sat on the front row and everything he was saying was getting a laugh. The closing routine was a magnificently brave choice: an audience sing-along, with Ed the recipient of his own anthem. Getting the audience involved could have backfired, but there was never a doubt that they wouldn’t play along with Houghton and this paid off handsomely. I was sure that Houghton was going to hoover up almost every vote, but when it came to the vote counting he finished as a strongly supported, but surprise 3rd place.

Harry Miles

We resumed after the intermission with Harry Miles, who despite being in a good slot didn’t really capitalise on it. His opening joke wasn’t that great and when he followed that up with getting each half of the room to cheer it didn’t lead into anything and this ended up feeling a bit inconclusive. Diabetes wasn’t bad, but when discussing his brother and exposure he had probably his best line of the night. Films was good, but in going with three different takes on the joke he approached overkill and would probably have been better tapping out after the first one and using the time gained more constructively. This was a pretty pedestrian set that tonight didn’t really cut the mustard and on a bill with such talented acts it simply wasn’t enough to capture the imagination of the audience.

Stephen Carlin

Carlin was the most experienced act on the bill and this showed with an excellent set. His topics would have sounded a trifle grim on a read through, but his superb writing got the most out of them and his delivery really brought them to life. Heroin had an odd kind of logic to it and gay was very good indeed. This was a set that built up to a very powerful climax, gaining a couple of rounds of applause on the way. When it came to the vote counting, Mike had to stop, as it was obvious that pretty much everyone in the room had voted for Carlin.

Lindsey Santoro

Santoro had an absolutely smashing night. Her down to earth charm and more near the knuckle content struck a real chord with Ashby, despite them usually being a touch reticent about sexual material. She began well by addressing her accent and followed it up with the skilful use of pausing and letting the audience fill in the missing word. The topper on hole was brilliant and ring size (a personal favourite of mine) landed beautifully, seeming to shimmer on the edge of applause. This was a very impressive performance that had obviously been appreciated by the audience. I had enjoyed the set, but wasn’t sure how the voting would actually go, but in a lovely show of appreciation Santoro picked up 68 votes and finished in second place, between two pro acts. By any margin, that is absolutely smashing.

Chelsea Hart

There is quite a buzz around Hart and so I was especially interested in seeing her perform and I’m very pleased to say that she didn’t let anyone down. She had a good opening line and this led into a strong set. Her intonation on ‘nothing’ was superb and this made the line work all the better. Her Scottish accent was well thought out (the apology to the Scottish Stephen Carlin was a nice touch) and this built up very well. Hart managed to make Alaska seem almost exotic as she briefly discussed small town life. Hart was one of the acts that would have benefited from a longer spot, as her closing routine was definitely spectacular, but it really ate into the amount of time she had and I couldn’t help but wonder if she may have been better off tonight, going with shorter and more punchy material for the last 3 minutes or so. However, despite not winning tonight, I really liked what I saw and would like to see Hart do a longer set as it is obvious that there is definitely some gold here.

Dimitri Bakanov

I’d only seen Bakanov a couple of times before and he had impressed me both times and so it was no surprise that he impressed me again, tonight. His writing is very good and his material is certainly well considered. It was evident that he could read the room well, too. Bakanov’s opening line was solid and he never really looked back from that. His material concerned his heritage, his girlfriend, Brexit and racism and it had a lovely refreshing feel to it – this all felt like something new and unique. Bakanov was the only act to drop the C bomb, which can be a risky move in Ashby, but because the room liked him, he thrived on it. I was happy to see him have the confidence to ask an open question to an audience member and even happier when he didn’t get bogged down in the reply. A lot of the tone of Bakanov’s set was pretty grim, but he delivered it with a big grin that disarmed any possible harm that this may have done. There was a lot of laughter during this performance and I thought that Bakanov might have edged getting into the top three, but despite getting a lot of votes he didn’t make it.

Simon Feilder

Feilder came to the stage and for the first minute or so rode the wave of good will created by Bakanov, but aftet that it was his own skill that kept the energy levels flowing. Feilder spoke about drinking and Nutri-bullets and there was a lot of good stuff in here, all being delivered with a bouncy charm. I especially enjoyed the couple of different ways he name checked Ashby de la Zouch, with ‘A de la Zee’ being a crowd pleaser. Despite going on last when the audience had seen 8 other acts and were perhaps a bit laughed out, Feilder still did very well.

Blessington Carriage – Josh Pugh, Lorna Shaw, AJ Roberts, Ian Crawford and Al Lubel

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was the 3rd time in as many weeks I’d been in this room. I was slightly surprised at how many people had turned out for the show. Despite it being a bank holiday and a roasting hot day there was a fair sized audience. It would have been nice if we could have just moved the gig outside into the cool, as it was very hot upstairs. There is something about all day drinking that seems to bring out the worst in people, but for a change, this was one of the few bank holiday gigs I’ve been to where there hasn’t been a fight break out or it feel as if it was going to kick off. The only people who had been drinking were a charming couple on their first date who gave Spiky Mike no end of material. Jasmine was a magician’s assistant and had the sort of cheerful affability that made her ideal for him to chat to. Very quickly the audience were ready for the acts.

Josh Pugh (new material)

Opening was Josh Pugh who was treating the room to some new material. This was a mixture of new stuff being polished and some things that were possibly being said for the first time. The majority of this was very strong. I really like the change in energy from Oggy to his following line and this works very well. The doctor and the eye test extra were both great, as was magic trick. When he was talking about his wife talking in her sleep, I did wonder if there was possibly the chance of a callback to what he was not at the doctor’s for, but I think the route Pugh went was more punchy. I enjoyed the games jokes, but felt that Guess Who was the stronger of the two, especially the 2nd and 3rd jokes. The indie DJ is brand new and although it isn’t there yet, I feel that it has legs, and if fleshed out a bit more could be a very good routine. I enjoyed watching Pugh and whilst, as to be expected, not every new line was an instant hit, his consistency in creating strong new routines is much to be admired.

Lorna Shaw

Shaw delivered her material without any umms and ahs, which was nice, but despite this, I didn’t feel that she made a big connection with the audience and failed to draw people in as much as what she might have done. There were some decent jokes in her set, such as the book and dumped, but a lot of it was more amiable instead of hugely funny. T shirt had potential and mild wasn’t bad, but didn’t really rise above being any more than just mild. I didn’t so much mind Dubai being a pull back and reveal, but felt that the exposition afterwards didn’t add much of value to it. The bulk of the material was ok, but it needed something more to push it further. This was a set that was in need of a big routine that everyone would remember. Shaw was a fast speaker, who delivered her material sort of semi crouched and leaning towards the audience, but if she were to edit down her set ups, she would probably find the space to say a lot more, as the builds were pretty wordy. Also, I wouldn’t have minded her not opening with ‘tell you a bit about me’ as this is overused. A lot of this sounds negative, but this wasn’t a bad set; there was some pleasant stuff in it, but it just wasn’t a stand out set. Hopefully with a bit more stage time everything will be just that bit better.

AJ Roberts

We resumed after the intermission with AJ Roberts who became the second act to tell us a bit about him. However, despite this passé opening line he gave one of the stand out performances of the night. He had a solid opening joke and I’d say that within a minute of him taking to the stage he had the room fully invested in him. A lot of his set concerned Cockneys and London and usually this doesn’t fare well up here, as outside of London no one really cares much for London-centric material, but he pitched this exactly right as an outsider looking in and it was absolutely splendid to see. The journey into work wasn’t quite so nuanced, but he delivered it with such verve that it went down a treat, with the topper being superb. This was a very impressive set that everyone thoroughly enjoyed and I’d like to see more of him.

Ian Crawford

Following Roberts could have been tricky, but Crawford managed it very well, giving the room a health and safety brief aimed at reducing cutlery related mishaps. I’d heard some good things about his act and so I was chuffed to see his name on the bill. He came to the stage overdressed for the weather and in just taking his jacket off and then moving it away from the lamp he got his first laughs of the night. Crawford is a deceptively physical comic. He doesn’t make huge moves with his limbs, nor does he dance about the room, but just through little actions and mannerisms he is able to subtly convey the humour in what he is doing. The material did what it said on the tin: it was a brief about the dangers of cutlery and there was real joy in the pedantry and minutiae of someone taking a seemingly frivolous topic so seriously. Crawford’s timing was impeccable. This set had the feel of a mature set, but I’m not surprised, as when something is as right as what this is, it must be very difficult to tinker with. As with Roberts, this was a performance that everyone enjoyed.

Al Lubel

Headlining was the American Al Lubel who opened by singing. This was well thought out, but went on too long for my liking and I was quite relieved when he changed direction. A lot of his material involved him dismantling various premises using the power of logic and this was very good. His slow conversational delivery and relentless logic strongly reminded me of Dave Allen. I really enjoyed these routines, even if the material on his name outstayed its welcome (the callback was good, though). Possibly my favourite routine was confusion, although his practising law was a close second. This was a good set, even if a few sections were a touch drawn out.

Bluey’s – Joe Zalias, Matt Fong, Tony Cowards, Alfie Moore and Aaron Twitchen (MC)

Tonight I was at Bluey’s in Alfreton for the FaF Comedy night. It’s a real shame that I can only make one in two of these gigs, as I love this venue. It’s great when the landlord is so behind the night and between him and Leonie they really go out of their way to make the acts feel welcome. Numbers were pretty good tonight and that is always nice to see.

Aaron Twitchen (MC)

This was the first time I’d seen Twitchen compere and he is very bright and bubbly and it is impossible to dislike someone who is just enjoying life on their own terms like he is. However, in a surprise, Alfreton didn’t immediately take him to their hearts and he had a slow start. He began with room work and then material, but the audience weren’t biting. I don’t think this is down to a lack of skill on his part, as he’s a very engaging person, but it was more down to a lack of common ground. It might perhaps have helped if he had been briefed on who was who in the room before the night began so that he could have tried to work in some local references, but I don’t think it would have made a huge difference. The audience just didn’t warm to him to begin with. However, at the end of the first intermission when Twitchen quickly drained two glasses of wine on stage, the mood of the audience flipped almost as if a switch had been tripped and they really took to him after that. From here he received regular laughs and things that might have got little back earlier went down a treat. It all turned out well in the end.

Joe Zalias

Opening was a strong act who was trialling some new material and this was naturally an unbalanced set, as he was trying out lines rather than presenting the room with a finished product. The topics on offer included divorce, murder and deaths and it was very bleak in tone. Tonight the bleakness was a bit relentless, whereas when this is fully formed I daresay there will be a lot of lighter stuff in between the darker areas just to keep the mood buoyant. There were some good jokes in here, such as cat and being sat on the sofa with his mind wandering. I wasn’t too sure about Kuerten, though, because whilst I don’t mind material on humans being bumped off, I have a huge soft spot for animals. The room was a bit split on the darker material, but those who liked it were very happy with it. Perhaps when workshopping this, it might be better to include a few lighter areas to give the audience more of a balance, as I think it will help with judging how well it would work in a full set. The pre-existing material all worked wonderfully well and I was pleased that Joe Zalias ended on a more upbeat note. I’m hoping to see more of this act.

Matt Fong

We resumed after the intermission with the impressively dressed Matt Fong. It’s great when an act makes an effort to dress well and audience’s tend to respond well to this. The money joke was nicely visual, but where I felt it did well was in Fong then retrieving it. Laser Quest was good and flat earth is something that not a lot of people are doing material on and I think he could have made more out of it. Fong was pretty wordy and he would benefit from cutting out a few words here and there to make his set more punchy. Fong gave the room an amiable set that had potential, but which, tonight, never really seemed to take off. He got laughs, but there wasn’t much that landed with a knockout blow and this was a shame.

Tony Cowards

Next was Cowards who was trying some new material. His moving to Loughborough has proved a huge bonus to the comedy scene up here, as he’s a reliable pro act who is a prolific writer of new material and is always happy to snap up a bit of stage time to try things out. This happy fact means that quite a few line ups are being given an extra bit of polish by him being there. Cowards was the first act of the night that everyone fully got behind and the applause and laughter came quickly. The jokes were clever, with him being happy to assume that the audience were intelligent and would get them and I think that when people comprehend an uncommon reference point they laugh all the harder for it. There were only 2 misses: Indie DJ, which got a huge laugh when he ostentatiously scratched it off of his notes following the silence and dog pound, which is a good joke, but which didn’t seem to capture anyone’s imagination. It was lovely when someone suggested a topper to a gag and Tony stopped to make a note of it whilst nodding his head, to much laughter. Personally, I thought that the arsonist gag might be strengthened by the inclusion of the word ‘notorious’, but I could be wrong. Rampant Rabbit was an absolutely smashing joke. This was a very powerful set that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Alfie Moore

Headlining was Alfie Moore, whose name had sold tickets, with some people coming down on the strength of his presence. His material was partly autobiographical and partly career based and the sum total was very good indeed. There were a lot of great lines in this set. I especially enjoyed his dad’s last words and his one and only pun and both received applause as well as laughter. Moore’s way of dealing with possibly ticklish subjects was novel and fun. The brief visit to the most common ways murder is committed in the UK was very entertaining and I’d heartily recommend anyone who hasn’t seen his show ‘Getting away with Murder’ to do so, as I really liked it. I was a bit surprised that when discussing the driving habits of paedophiles he didn’t go down the route of there being speed restrictions outside of schools, but he got a good laugh for what he said, anyway. Moore’s closing routine was ‘The Head’, which fully deserves capital letters. This is the best routine I’ve heard. Every single line ends with a big laugh and it is very easy to picture the scene. This was a strong set.

April – acts that have impressed me the most

This has been something of a slow month due to me missing a lot of comedy nights due to work and I’ve only seen 32 acts.

The highlight was seeing a first timer at a gong show (TJ Harlott) show a very strong grasp of the art and get a load of material out of things he had just picked up at the gig by keeping his eyes open and his wits sharp. The lowlight was seeing a semi pro act deliver a set that at best failed to rise above pedestrian and at worse was almost a buzzword bingo list of things you’d expect to hear on his chosen topics.

These are the acts that have impressed me the most this month:

Richard Massara

An up and coming act who is reliable, dedicated and very funny.

From the night:

Considering how tricky it was for Massara to get to and from this gig he is showing the sort of commitment that will take him far. This is matched by his ability, so I’ll be very interested in seeing where he is in a year or so. Tonight he came onto the stage and opened with a strong joke and never really looked back. The honeybee was wonderfully drawn out for long enough for the big reveal to get a superb response and this gave him his first of three or four bouts of applause. The material on insomnia was especially good and as well as getting a lot of laughter, I’m sure I saw a few people poking each other in recognition of what he was saying. The mugging was well acted out and this helped to sell it. With his winning smile and confident stage presence Massara gave the room a cracking performance.

Simon Wozniak

A great act who is naturally funny.

From the night:

Next was Simon Wozniak, doing new material. I’ve not seen Wozniak for over a year and in that time he has gone from strength to strength and there is a definite buzz about him. Within 2 minutes of him opening his mouth you can see why. He is a naturally funny person and even things that he had wrote that day, such as condoms were well worth keeping. The routine about the system being down was highly relatable to anyone who has worked in an office and he got a lot of mileage out of it, although he might be able to edit it down a bit and get the same result. I really appreciated his use of the words jeopardy and charades as they just added an extra layer of icing to the cake. Homeless was more chilling than funny, but as new material, it is early days and savings has a lot of potential. The closing routine about driving was a belter. This was a very impressive performance from an act with a touch of quality to him.

Stephen Grant

This was a splendid set that brought everyone on board.

From the night:

Stephen Grant is an act that I was especially interested in seeing. However, to begin with, I thought that he had misjudged the demographic of the audience, as his opening joke about Mansplaining, whilst a totally solid gag, went completely over the heads of most of the room. He easily bounced back from it and then gave the room a set that was perhaps 60% room work and 40% material. This did initially feel a little bit like a continuation of Mike’s compering, but Grant took it in a different direction and subtly swung the interactions in the direction of his chosen topic: marriage and relationships. Everyone was happy to chat with him and he held the room easily, picking up a lot of laughter. There were a few challenges to overcome, such as a lady giving a plausible lie about the number of times she had been married, only to pull the rug from under Grant’s feet when he began to weave something out of it – he rolled with this effortlessly – and then there was a chap who had business in education. The specifics of this took a bit of nailing down and it did feel a bit of a long road that would end in a comedy cul de sac, but much to his credit, Grant managed to make a lot out of it and my fears of a dead end were quite unfounded. The room work was done so well that when Stephen moved into material it felt like a natural continuation and there was no jarring change of direction. The delivery was very fast and there were a surprisingly high number of fucks contained within it. This was a very strong set and I’d love to see Grant compering a room as I can see that he’d be superb at it.

Honourable Mentions:

Adam Beardsmore, Cally Beaton, Jack Topher, Pat Monahan, Steve Royle

Blessington Carriage: Cally Beaton, Daniel Muggleton, Good Kids, Jack Topher, Simon Wozniak and Chris McGlade

Tonight I was in Derby at the Blessington Carriage for the Funhouse Comedy night. Numbers weren’t huge, but the audience was a broad cross section of society. Mike had fun chatting to a chap who had broken his foot kicking a wall when the person he was aiming for had moved out of the way – he turned out to be a martial artist, rather than combative and we were blessed with a lively lady called Martha who worked for BBC Leicester. There was one slightly jarring aspect and that was one of the acts very visibly getting up to pop outside just as the first act was about to be brought on, which wasn’t really playing the game, but fortunately he changed his mind and sat and watched the show.

Cally Beaton

Beaton could certainly be described as ‘Woke’ (google it, I had to when I first came across it) and her set contained a lot of timely, educated and funny references that were socially aware rather than clunkily right on. There were some very good routines and jokes in this set, such as the Netherlands, ‘change’ and being a lady of her age. The opening routine about her son was strong and there was a great moment when someone got a joke just that bit later than everyone else. The closing percentages was ok, but it was very easy to lose track of the specifics, but as the general point was funny this wasn’t the end of the world. Beaton was slightly wordy and might be a touch sharper with an edit of superfluous words, but this is a minor point. She was a very pleasant presence and was well received by the audience, despite drawing the short straw and opening. I’d like to see her again in a longer slot, as I think she has a fair bit to offer. This was a good set.

Daniel Muggleton

Next was the Australian Daniel Muggleton, who had more mixed fortunes. Some of his material was decent, such as terrorism and couch; transitioning was very good, but a lot didn’t really stand out, such as flying, which was more of a whinge or undercover, which felt like a work in progress that hasn’t yet been nailed. His delivery was competent and with more stage time he’ll improve.

Good Kids

After the intermission we had Good Kids, a musical sketch double act. Their name is ok for the moment, as they are still fairly young, but in coming years it may begin to seem a bit incongruous. They have good voices and work well together. To begin with, they did a spot of room work, which felt like a cross between compering and admin, but were stronger when they began with the songs. These were all original and matched up to their personas remarkably well. The humour was gentle and went down a treat with the audience. They aren’t the finished article, but they had a good night.

Jack Topher

Topher was thoroughly enjoying Good Kids and so wasn’t fully in the zone when he unexpectedly found it was time for him to take to the stage. He began by telling the room how much he had enjoyed their set and then he opened with material. This was all good stuff. Part way through his set he came out of his persona to chat with Martha, the lady who worked for BBC Leicester, discussing his favourite disc jockeys on the wireless. This did make this section very much directed at the one person, with everyone else onlookers and it could have gone very badly, but despite the part about his father not going anywhere, Topher easily kept the room with him. This wouldn’t have happened six months ago. He then pulled it back without any trouble by resuming his material. This was a good performance, but I do think that Topher works best wearing his coat, as that, allied to the pauses, builds up a lot of comedic tension, but I’m happy to see him try new things, such as chatting to the audience. I look forwards to watching him develop as a comedian.

Simon Wozniak

Next was Simon Wozniak, doing new material. I’ve not seen Wozniak for over a year and in that time he has gone from strength to strength and there is a definite buzz about him. Within 2 minutes of him opening his mouth you can see why. He is a naturally funny person and even things that he had wrote that day, such as condoms were well worth keeping. The routine about the system being down was highly relatable to anyone who has worked in an office and he got a lot of mileage out of it, although he might be able to edit it down a bit and get the same result. I really appreciated his use of the words jeopardy and charades as they just added an extra layer of icing to the cake. Homeless was more chilling than funny, but as new material, it is early days and savings has a lot of potential. The closing routine about driving was a belter. This was a very impressive performance from an act with a touch of quality to him.

Chris McGlade

Headlining was Chris McGlade who gave the room a high energy and lively performance. At times the room seemed too small for him and he resembled someone who had been cooped up for too long as he alternated prowling amongst the audience and sitting on the edge of the stage. Sometimes he would chat at a conversational level and at other times he would shout. A stand out moment was when he popped out onto the fire escape and bellowed some of his lines out into the night from there. His material felt like an abbreviated Edinburgh preview; a 20 minute synopsis concerning the issue of PC in comedy and how it is being used to artificially divide the people. At times, he did veer into political polemic, but would always top those sections with a powerful joke, although I did feel that sometimes the message did get in the way of the funny. There were some nicely visual jokes in this set, especially the shoe bomber, which worked very well. McGlade more or less finished on a new song, which gave a satisfying feeling of closure to the night, with his last couple of comments providing an epilogue to his performance.

New Barrack Tavern – Hector Walker, Luke O’Leary, Grenville Glossop, Patrick Mackridge, TJ Harlott, Tim Brudenell, Alex Dunlop, Danny Adams, Mickey McKay, Donny Otemod and Adam Beardsmore

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse gong show. Although there are gong shows closer to home, I’d invited 4 other people simply because this is a bloody lovely pub and there it always has a fantastic atmosphere and I wanted them to see a gong show under the best of conditions. A bonus to the night was seeing Wayne Bamforth (Last Laugh) in the audience, as it is always wonderful when such comedy fans are present. Mike had a great night compering, mostly talking to Dan, who worked in a call centre who kept feeding him lines to build material with. Probably the biggest laugh, though, came from a well built lad sat with Dan, who was asked if he was a darts player, to which he reposted that he’d need to borrow Mike’s shirt for that. This compering provided plenty of material for callbacks from the acts during the night.

Hector Walker

Our opening act was Hector Walker, whose material has potential, but he’s not yet worked on it enough to get the most from it. On the debit side, the jokes about Coventry being a crap town aren’t anything we’ve not heard about any other town, the line ‘suck its’ own dick’ was a bit jarring and the Isis goat was a digression, but on the credit side of the ledger, Coventry as City of Culture and the Aldi loyalty card are very novel topics and he should be able to get a lot of mileage out of them. Although having said that, the loyalty reward might need changing to something funnier, as I’m not convinced the present reveal is strong enough (perhaps some bizarre object that they’ve not been able to shift?). Walker displayed some good room work upon the votes and it would be nice to see him inject more of his personality into the rest of his delivery as he seemed to come to life more in those moments and it really added to his presence.

Luke O’Leary

O’Leary was an oddity. He has funny bones, but no material and tonight his performance veered from superb to boring. He began with a downbeat opening that worked surprisingly well, he built on this with a fantastic comment that his dad had made on his comedy and then followed this up by chatting to Dan on the second row. O’Leary seemed the most surprised of all the people in the room when he received 5 green cards at the first vote, but he was doing well and as so much of his work involved the audience everyone was paying full attention. He was a bit sweary and commented a few too many times about having no material, but what killed him off at the final vote was that just working the room can only take you so far, even in a home town gig in front of a friendly room and the audience simply grew bored of there being no framework of material for him to base this off. This was a shame, because with just a few minutes worth of material O’Leary would have made the final.

Grenville Glossop

The penultimate act of the opening session was Grenville Glossop. Tonight he had a change of style from what I’ve seen before and came to the stage with an A3 folder full of visual gags. The opening joke was smashing and even if he discards the rest, he should keep that. The rest of the gags featured cuttings from the local paper and whilst he could have built something out of them, there wasn’t really enough in it to impress the room, but it is entirely possible that in a longer set it would work better. I think he could be onto something in incorporating some more visual jokes into his set, even if the press cuttings aren’t what he ultimately goes with. I like Glossop, but this wasn’t his night.

Patrick Mackridge

Mackridge gave the New Barrack Tavern an uneven set. The first few minutes, despite having a nice start and convinced being a good line, wasn’t especially strong and he was more of an amiable presence than really funny – he was receiving giggles, rather than laughs. When he came to ‘bombs’ his set took off and the final few minutes were much improved. He managed to get enough support in these minutes to secure a place in the final, which he wasn’t able to capitalise on due to having to catch a train back to Manchester.

TJ Harlott

We resumed after the intermission with TJ Harlott, who was performing his first ever gig and who, by and large, did almost everything right. This is despite there being an excruciatingly awkward moment when at the top of his set he asked the audience to give it up for the acts they’d already seen, which got absolutely fuck all from everyone. To his credit, he didn’t go to pieces at this total lack of enthusiasm and he bounced straight back from it with a callback to Walker’s material about Coventry being the City of Culture. It was also evident that he’d been listening to the rest of the performances, as he had remembered Dan’s name and had something funny to say about him. Harlott had also kept his eyes open in the pub and was able to make some very relevant comments about the cocktails on offer. This was all very impressive and it tied his performance in to the audience wonderfully, as they could either see or relate to everything he was saying and it felt incredibly of the here and now. Harlott did forget some of his prepared material, but everyone was happy to forgive this as he had charm and had remembered enough to get by. He made it into the final very easily and here he treated the room to an improvised minute of comedy based around why Sheffield is great. This had more than a whiff of wikipedia having been googled during the intermission, but as with his earlier material, it was charming and above all relevant to the audience and he ended the night as a close runner up. For a first ever gig this was very impressive and if Harlott can match his nous at getting the most out of the environment with some material to fall back on, he will do very well.

Tim Brudenell

With his massively varying energy levels Brudenell was something of an acquired taste. He began full on, bouncing around on the stage, burning up calories at a frightening rate as he jumped up and down upon it, only to then send the energy levels through the floor as he began to talk about his girlfriend. Unfortunately, imaginary girlfriends are a fairly common trope and this didn’t go down that well and then when he ramped the energy back up for the next routine it was more jarring and bewildering than a comic contrast. This fluctuating energy felt like it had come from a drama workshop or something and the girlfriend material was a mood killer. The persona adopted by Brudenell felt forced and unnatural and when he let the downbeat and odd mask slip, he seemed quite cheerful and this was a much more attractive stage persona.

Alex Dunlop

Dunlop is a fairly new act, only having been gigging for 6 months and I think he has potential. The mainspring of his set was being black and middle class, with the tale of a gig in Leeds forming the rest of his material and there was some great stuff in here, such as Jesus, which was a cracking line. The timing on lawyer could have been a bit improved with a shorter pause, but it worked well. The joke about Trump having small hands felt a bit last year, but it still received a big laugh, all the same. Aside from the good material, what struck me the most about Dunlop’s performance was the delivery. He addressed the room with a big warm smile and I think that everyone was able to bounce off of this; he looked like he was having a great time on stage and only the most churlish of people wouldn’t have responded in kind. Tonight he made the final. There is some gold here and I’ll be very interested to see how Dunlop develops.

Danny Adams

Adams began by tying his opening line into Dan, sat in the audience and despite snapchat being a fairly novel and curiously underused topic, his set was pretty flat. Routines about Tinder were done to death in 2015 and it is incredibly hard to say something about it that hasn’t been said a dozen times already and I think most audiences can explain how it works after seeing so many acts describe it. Luckily this was only a short part of his set and he soon moved onto snapchat. The broken bed was ok, but it really needed more, being an anecdote at present. This wasn’t a great set, but Adams has something to build on.

Mickey McKay

McKay didn’t half remind me of a younger Tony Cowards, being tall, facially similar looking with having stubble, glasses and doing one-liners. However, in contrast to Cowards, McKay is in his early stages as a comedian and his material wasn’t that strong, feeling more like ideas than something that is the finished article. This will all improve in time, though. Tonight, possibly thanks to a slightly generous audience, he made the final, but wasn’t the winner.

Donny Otemod (Mark Richardson)

Otemod was a character act and visually arresting, wearing shorts, shirt and waistcoat with a dickie bow (non rotating, alas) and a flat cap. He began by describing a childhood incident and ‘Friday’ was a good line with the rest of that routine being a logical progression that was ok, but perhaps needed a bit more. Where Otemod came unstuck was when he came out of character to mention comedy experience and this felt like an aside at best and a road to nowhere at worst. As it was, coming out of character fatally weakened him just as a vote was cast.

Adam Beardsmore

A lovely bonus to the night was seeing Beardsmore who is very much on form at the moment and seemed much sharper than when I saw him last. Possibly this was because he had already gigged tonight and was totally warmed up (this double was a happy coincidence of him being in the area and Mike being short of an act), but having said that the lady sat next to me had seen him in January and thought him much improved, too. Tonight he opened with a solid joke and never looked back, with pretty much every gag landing with the force of a punch, getting big laughs all the way. Beardsmore flew through to the final where he came back on stage and continued the good work. Instead of his usual closing joke, he did a new routine which went down well and Bearsmore finished the night as a worthy winner of the show.

NCF – Mecca Bingo, Sheffield – Tony Cowards, Vikki Stone and Barry Dodds (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield for the first comedy night held at Mecca bingo. The Mecca in Mansfield is located on a trading estate with loads of car parking, so I was rather hoping for the same thing. However, this was in the city centre and parking was next door in a NCP car park and I’m thankful that Mecca had come to an arrangement with them to offer free parking, as otherwise it would have cost everyone £10. My ticket to the show only cost a fiver and there is something wrong in life if you can see top comedians perform for half the price it would cost to park.

The venue itself was what you’d expect for a bingo parlour – the room was the size of an aircraft hanger. The ceiling was really high up and the room was huge, so building any kind of atmosphere was going to require a lot of hard work. The audience was younger than I was expecting, with a 70/30 female male gender split. The biggest issue with the audience was that they weren’t really there for the comedy. They’d gone out for a night of bingo and basically someone had turned their parlour into a comedy club and so their investment in the night wavered dramatically. As they weren’t regular comedy goers, despite Barry explaining the rules, people showed a distressing tendency to chat and in that room, it didn’t half echo when someone at the back spoke. Also, people were more than happy to get up and wander off to the loo or outside partway through sets and one bloke even had the disgraceful manners to get up and walk right in front of the stage and stand and queue at the bar, ready for when it reopened. This was a first time gig here, so hopefully as the crowd become more comedy savvy this will improve.

Barry Dodds (MC)

Barry put a lot of hard work into building atmosphere and making tonight function. He began by getting the room cheering, which built up some energy and almost forged a collective out of the individual tables. He then explained how the night would work, doing the rules, before finding out who was present. Dodds spoke to a few people, using his local knowledge to good effect and he had a lot of fun with a chap who had travelled from Cheshire to see his partner, even getting him to go down on one knee and pretend to pop the question to her. Barry has bags of charm and this helped him in building a rapport with folk. After the intermission he went with more material and this went down especially well with the audience, particularly the routine about becoming an uncle. This was good compering in a venue that was unfamiliar with comedy.

For anyone who isn’t aware, Dodds is one half of the Parapod, the best podcast I’ve ever heard. If you’ve not listened to it, then I’d recommend you do so. It’s so good they even have a film coming out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuTsp3itCRw

Tony Cowards

Cowards does intelligent and clean one-liners, with the odd darker joke thrown in and he will deliver his puns in strings, almost like a boxer with combination punches. These are strong jokes, with blood groups being my personal favourite. He varied the pace a bit, slowing it to conversational for the set ups and then increasing it when he hit the punchline and toppers. I did wonder if he might have been better off keeping the pace fast, as he may have built more momentum, but I don’t think it would have made a huge difference, as he took a bullet by going on first. The audience partly listened and laughed a fair bit, but what I’ve seen get a 9 or a 10 on other nights was only getting 6s or 7s and this was due to a combination of people talking and just not feeling that involved in there being a show on. This was bad luck for Tony and I think that this was simply the result being the first ‘turn’ as I’m sure most of the audience would have described him, of the night.

Vikki Stone

Stone gave the room an opening routine based around her footwear and this went down well, before singing the first of 4 songs, which she accompanied on keyboard. This wasn’t a bad song and I enjoyed the callback to her earlier material. That song revolved around her unrequited love of a celebrity and the second song was basically a variation on this, being another song about her unrequited love for a different celebrity. These were well written and sang very well, but I was glad when the 3rd and 4th songs were totally different. Stone was helped a bit by the demographic of the audience being in her favour, but the biggest boost she had was that the audience had settled down into the night during the intermission and the balance of the room was now with the people who wanted to listen and be entertained. Stone is a talented musical comedian, but didn’t really do it for me. Not through any lack of ability, she has plenty of that, but simply because musical comedy really isn’t my cup of tea; the audience were happy with her.

The Saracen’s Head – Stephen Grant, Adam Riley, Edd Hedges and Steve Royle

Tonight I was at the Funhouse gig in Southwell, which owing to the Admiral Rodney being refurbished, had moved 200 yards up the road to the Saracen’s Head. This is a grand old hotel with a touch of class to it. The comedy was in a big room, which lacked the intimacy of the Admiral Rodney as the audience were sat in rows, rather than arrayed around the stage. In common with the Adm Rodney, though, was the lack of a signal on people’s phones. Mike had a fair bit of fun with a birthday group that were there for the first time. It’s not often you come across a PE teacher who claims that his speciality is golf and Spiky Mike received applause for a swiftly ad libbed line when he caught him talking just before he brought on our opening act.

Stephen Grant

Stephen Grant is an act that I was especially interested in seeing. However, to begin with, I thought that he had misjudged the demographic of the audience, as his opening joke about Mansplaining, whilst a totally solid gag, went completely over the heads of most of the room. He easily bounced back from it and then gave the room a set that was perhaps 60% room work and 40% material. This did initially feel a little bit like a continuation of Mike’s compering, but Grant took it in a different direction and subtly swung the interactions in the direction of his chosen topic: marriage and relationships. Everyone was happy to chat with him and he held the room easily, picking up a lot of laughter. There were a few challenges to overcome, such as a lady giving a plausible lie about the number of times she had been married, only to pull the rug from under Grant’s feet when he began to weave something out of it – he rolled with this effortlessly – and then there was a chap who had business in education. The specifics of this took a bit of nailing down and it did feel a bit of a long road that would end in a comedy cul de sac, but much to his credit, Grant managed to make a lot out of it and my fears of a dead end were quite unfounded. The room work was done so well that when Stephen moved into material it felt like a natural continuation and there was no jarring change of direction. The delivery was very fast and there were a surprisingly high number of fucks contained within it. This was a very strong set and I’d love to see Grant compering a room as I can see that he’d be superb at it.

Adam Riley

I last saw Riley a year and a bit ago at a tough gig and I’d liked what I saw then, so when he came to the stage I was curious as to how he’d improved. He has a dry voice and a slow delivery, with some very well timed pauses and this works well with the slightly cantankerous stage persona he adopts. He scored points with me by having listened closely to Spiky Mike and Stephen Grant and so he was able to address audience members by name – this had the effect of making what he was saying feel all the more personal to the audience. I’m not a huge fan of pull back and reveals, but Riley had written his opening jokes skilfully enough that they worked very well and it was lovely seeing how dark he could go with exposure. The line about helping his wife’s addiction was absolutely smashing, as was the one about people not indicating, although I was surprised that he didn’t take it a bit more specific and go with BMW drivers not indicating. Ginger Bond was another strong routine, but probably didn’t really need him to ask the audience for their suggestions for the next Bond, because whilst it set the routine up, I think it possibly adversely affected the pacing, but I’d like to see it again, as it might have just been the audience tonight where this occurred. This was a very good set that I thoroughly enjoyed and Riley is definitely going in the right direction with his comedy.

Edd Hedges

There are two ways to pronounce Southwell. South-Well, which is the one that the inhabitants prefer, or Suvvhull, which is the way that a lot of people in the surrounding areas pronounce it. One of these pronunciations tends to annoy the inhabitants of Southwell and I think you can guess which one Hedges was unfortunate to go for with almost his opening line. This led to a good proportion of the room correcting him and more seriously, it seemed to put him on the back foot. Hedges is a country boy and this featured in his early material, but in referencing inbreeding and extra fingers (odd choice when a lot of his later material was about his dad having fewer fingers and less would have made his point just as well and tied in better) he wasn’t treading any new ground. The same could be said when he talked about his dad being a man’s man, whilst he himself isn’t a manly man – this scenario has been pretty much done to death and I’d be surprised if even the casual comedy goers haven’t seen a few routines based on it. The routine about the Australian OAP with the Cornetto was original, but sadly it would have benefited from a bigger ending and the end result was that it felt quite pedestrian. Hostel and Barclays weren’t bad, but like a lot of Hedges’ material they seemed more like an anecdote than first class material. On the plus side, Hedges got some laughs, he didn’t die, he was an amiable presence on stage, but he just didn’t seem to really cut the mustard tonight.

Steve Royle

Royle is a very talented comedian and he hit the ground running with the room taking an instant liking to him. He had a musical opening, which led into him juggling and then into the jokes. Royle is a dynamic act and like Gary Delaney he has the endearing habit of snorting when something has tickled him. He mixed the jokes up with some very good room work that tied it all together. In his delivery he would repeat a good proportion of lines to add emphasis to what he was saying and he did a similar thing with a few of the early punchlines, stooping down to patiently explain the joke to someone sat near the front. This gave him a second bite at the cherry with these jokes, but I think he was wise to tap out after doing it three times. I enjoyed seeing his skill in working in four or five punchlines to the upholstery gag. To close, Royle did a big and spectacular routine involving music and props and this went down an absolute storm with the audience. Whilst I admire Royle’s ability and talent he’s not really for me, but I was probably the only person who felt this way. Everyone else was massively invested in it and having a whale of a time. Royle definitely ended the evening in dramatic style.