Tonight I was in Southwell at the Saracen’s Head for the Funhouse comedy night. This is a cracking gig made all the more sweeter by being so close to home. Mike had a great time compering in his home village, especially chatting to a family who had named their (now grown up) children, Sissy, Cash and Clemmy. The story of Mike’s broken ankle picked up a lot of laughs, as did him using his crutches to point at people.
With his gentle Somerset accent, smooth delivery and colourful descriptions, Dowdeswell gave the room a strong opening set. He began by referencing his lazy eye and followed this with enough jokes about it to get a good routine out of it. The fact that he would talk directly to certain members of the audience helped to bring people onboard. I especially enjoyed his depiction of his parents’ pub and the characters who drink in it. Perhaps because he has spent time in a village, Dowdeswell seemed to have a greater appreciation of the ins and outs of Southwell than many other acts and this helped him in pitching his material. The story of the mugging was delightful, with a lot of good lines, although I may be in the minority in preferring that to the rapping that he did to close. The only thing that struck me as odd about this set was when he referred to the group of electricians who worked for the national grid, who were sat on the second row, as working for the gas board , but this didn’t make much of a difference. This was a clean set that everyone could enjoy.
Simmonds had a smashing night. He opened with a reference to Mike being on crutches, immediately announcing that he was the second most disabled act of the night, which gained him a big round of applause and the immediate confidence of the audience. He never let up from this, as he began a string of strong routines that concerned a date gone awry, his girlfriend and an encounter with her father. This was a different set to what I saw in Wollaton a few months ago and it is greatly to Simmonds’ credit that he has so much first class material. He’s plainly someone to watch for the future. The delivery was good too (great pause on lied), although he did have a slight habit of saying right a few times, but this smoothed itself out after the first few minutes. I was impressed with how well everything in the set came together as a whole. Simmonds got three lots of applause and I’d have happily liked to have seen him on stage for longer.
I saw Lubel a few months ago in Derby, where he had opened by singing. Tonight he was more conventional in his opening and I think that he had read the room and changed the tone of his set as a sensible response, making it slightly less surreal. Lubel’s material has an impeccable logic to it and he reminds me of Dave Allen in his deconstruction of life. It was interesting to hear people sat near me saying things like, ‘that is so true!’ The homeless material was great, although I did wonder if there was a slight slip, as he gave the room the opening line to his routine about his name and then immediately changed direction and resumed with a bit more about homelessness before resuming talking about his name. The routine about his name was one that built up a lot of impetus, although I preferred his material about his days as a lawyer, as this was wonderfully funny as well as snappier. Lubel closed with a few cracking jokes about flying which got a big round of applause.
James had a very good night. His style is a lot of short jokes and puns delivered quickly, but with enough on every topic to give him a whole routine on each. This made for a powerful style performance and if a particular joke wasn’t for you, then another one would be coming along in a few seconds. I’d hate to hazard a guess at how many individual gags there were in this set, but the number was extremely high. Some you might be able to guess, a few were groaners, but most were clever and well thought out. Whilst the odd joke didn’t please someone, there wasn’t anything that pleased no one and as a result there was consistent laughter throughout the set. The impressions were fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed his non use of the guitar. That was creative, surreal and remarkably funny. This was a performance that the audience really bought into.