The Maze – Jaspal Singh, Nick Gwynne, Josh Crosse, Wendy Leadbetter, Ryan Lewis, Peter Barnes, Tommy Wager, Callum Battlemuch, Matt Edmonds, Romaine, Ian Peskett, Richard Newell, Lulu Reubens, Jay Droch

Tonight I was at The Maze for the final ever Funhouse Comedy gig there. It’s a shame that this venue is closing down, it’ll be missed, but at least it went out in style. Number’s weren’t bad either and it was nice to see Michelle Harrison supporting the night, too. Spiky Mike had a fun time compering, discovering a lady who dealt with sex offenders, which prompted his next question, to her boyfriend, enquiring if that was how they met. There was a lady who dealt with holistic beauty, which involved something to do with electricity and a guy with the fake names of Eric and Leroy. Very quickly, the room was read for the first of our fourteen acts.

Jaspal Singh

Wearing a suit, which reflected his job in banking, Singh came to the stage and pretty much compered the room, improvising a lot of stuff from people Mike had been chatting to a few moments before. On the plus side, this did feel of the here and now and it was relatable, but on the minus side, it made his actual material feel very flat. Singh repeated himself, almost doing a recap of what he had said so far of his material, after a few of the spots of room work and this didn’t help him build momentum. The end result was that this didn’t feel like a set that was going anywhere and he was voted off.

Nick Gwynne

Gwynne’s set had potential. He had material about having OCD, Dyspraxia and Asperger’s, plus a nice line in jokes that edged towards the darker end of the spectrum. Most got laughs, some got groans and a few got a mix of both. A few even received applause. He has the basis of some decent material here. His down at heel persona didn’t quite sell all of his material, but he didn’t have a bad gig, being a late gonging. However, calling a member of the audience a sex offender, even in jest, is a high risk move. Luckily for Gwynne he picked an act and booker who is good natured, but even so, I doubt calling him a sex offender is the best way of getting onto one of his nights.

Josh Crosse

Crosse is much improved over when I last saw him. The writing was more inventive and he had more stage presence. The opening gag was an odd one. It was a rule of three, with no 2 being predictable (out of character, considering the freshness of the rest of the set), but no 3 being well thought out. Crosse made the final without any trouble and gave the room a great routine there.

Wendy Leadbetter

Leadbetter opened by singing the first lines of Que Sera, Sera and it was pretty obvious where she was going with it. Unfortunately this could be said about a lot of the rest of the set. It was thin on surprises. Whilst you might not guess the exact punchline, it wasn’t hard to spot where Leadbetter was going. She did lose her place, but in a new act that wasn’t the end of the world and it did win the sympathy of the audience. However, it couldn’t compensate for the lack of energy or lift in the delivery. Leadbetter also delivered her set whilst backing away from the audience and this just made it look as if she was trying to leave the stage. Largely thanks to generous judging, Leadbetter made the final.

Ryan Lewis

Lewis came to the stage full of confidence and performed his set without needing to use the microphone. I say performed rather than delivered, because the feeling was less of a comic and more of an actor filling a role. The material was ok, especially the bit about gongs and gongings, but it was the sense of performance that stood out. This was still a fun set and Lewis made the final, but there wasn’t a great feeling of comedy in this performance.

Peter Barnes

This was Barnes’ first ever gig and he didn’t do badly. He received laughs, but the material would require a bit of a rethink if he were to continue. Alluding to Grantham as being anywhere unpalatable to live in a town that is worse isn’t ever going to ring true and whilst his material on Thatcher being a bit unpleasant got a lot of support, there was a definite sound of low hanging fruit being plucked. Newton was more original and I was interested in where Barnes was taking us with his routine about teaching in Germany, but he ran out of steam here and was gonged.

Tommy Wager

Wager has a pleasingly eclectic approach to material and I like that. It’s refreshing. Unfortunately tonight he did manage to miss an open goal, though. Act 2, Nick Gwynne, had pointed out Wager as looking like a sex offender and he could have used this to win the support of the audience, through some timely and relevant callbacks to it. Unluckily for Tommy he didn’t tee it up by reminding the room of what had occurred one break and 4-5 acts ago and so when he got his reply in, it felt like he was attacking an act at random. This was a shame, because he’s a likeable chap and this would have helped him win over the room.

Callum Battlemuch

This was Battlemuch’s second ever performance and first ever gig and he was splendid. Wearing a dickie bow, jazzy shirt and a waistcoat he looked like a comedy magician and I was surprised to find that he wasn’t. He opened by referencing his attire, got big laughs for it and never really looked back. Granted, he had friends in the audience, but he wasn’t gifted laughs, he earned them with some strong material and a very engaging delivery. Battlemuch managed to nail how to use the tone of his voice and which syllables he laid the stress on in a word to get the most out of what he was saying. I was gobsmacked when he was voted off at the last minute, as was much of the audience. This was an incredible split decision by the judges. If Battlemuch can do so much correctly so early on, then with consistent gigging, he could well have a career in comedy.

Matt Edmonds

Edmonds suffered a bit from following Battlemuch. This was Edmonds 6th or 7th gig and whilst his material at the moment isn’t quite punchy enough to stand out at a gong show, he is a good writer and this will stand him in good stead. Edmonds got a big laugh for his first joke after the audience had had a few seconds to digest it and he was doing alright, but lost a bit of momentum before a vote and off he went.

Romaine (Sandra Hale)

Next was a character act, Romaine, who was Londoner with a slightly questionable domestic life. There were some nice lines in here, such as the names of the kids – the third artist was a great joke – and it was a pleasingly upbeat set. Personally, I wasn’t that keen on it, but the audience liked it and I was surprised that she was another late gonging.

Ian Peskett

I only saw Peskett last week and he continued the good work this week with an eloquent performance tonight. He gave what was probably the best judged final minute of the show. Peskett was runner up tonight.

Richard Newell

Newell had a great night. There was a heck of a lot to like in this set and he looked plausible from the off. Newell delivered his material partly bent towards the audience and this helped to make a connection with the room. On top of this he made good use of his vocal range and this added life to what he was saying. He also has likeability, which did him no harm at all. Beyond that, was a well constructed set with some strong material. The comment about the person on the stag night L….. was a superb line. This was a polished performance and Newell breezed into the final.

Lulu Reubens

Reubens gave the room a strong set. In a show with a fair few good performances this was another one that might have won on a different night. The opening joke was fun and there was a lot of great stuff here, such as Bradford, hair, brother and especially dick pics. I did get to the bath reveal first and Trump is a slightly easy target, but these both got big laughs. Reubens made the final and was well supported there. I’ll be interested in seeing her develop as a comic.

Jay Droch

Droch is a natural performer and audience’s take to him in a big way. His room work was well thought out and landed heavily – he even managed to get an Amen from everyone. Droch has improved his material and whilst it isn’t yet the finished article, it is far better than when I saw him in Leicester. This is a performer who oozes energy and atmosphere and who could probably make reading a shopping list exciting. Droch was the winner of the show.

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The Kayal – Ben Aveling, Alexis Coward, Max Hallam, Ian Peskett, Sergi Polo, Mo Magaleo, Huw Saunders, Jacob Hussain, Alyn Ashby, Oscar Roberts, Jenny BSide, Marvin Alan and Houssem Rhaiem

Tonight I was at the Kayal in Leicester to see the Funhouse Comedy gong show. There was a pleasant audience that comprised digger drivers, a European officer, an engineer and a young lad who worked with endangered animals, such as Snapping Turtles. It was great to see Jack Topher and Ishi Khan there to support the night.

Ben Aveling

Aveling had some nice ideas, but his material is badly in need of an edit. He spoke a lot, but the set ups were a bit wordy and the gaps between punchlines were, at times, lengthy. Helmets was a decent line, as was the sponsored run (good call back there), but the idea of Easter being a stag weekend is something that I’ve seen a few variations on facebook over the last few weeks and it didn’t feel especially new. Aveling improved the longer he was on and he made the final.

Alexis Coward

I don’t know if Coward has done any acting, but her performance felt more like an actor delivering their lines to an audience rather than a comedian doing a set. The material was ok, with some decent ideas, although it could have done with more punch. However, the delivery let her down and I don’t think she really formed a connection with the audience.

Max Hallam

Hallam was another act who had long set ups that could do with editing down so that the punchlines hit harder and came faster. The joke about the brother’s names was good and he had some interesting ideas concerning qualifications, but ultimately the material was not strong enough to keep him on and nor did his delivery have enough bounce to rescue him.

Ian Peskett

There was a lot to like in Peskett’s set and he shows promise. His opening joke was good and it sounded like it was something he was going to return to later in his set. For his second joke, he received the first applause of the evening. Bees was a novel routine and the material about drugs was powerful. The section on his surname was decent, but would have benefited from a stronger final reveal and the horse felt a touch laboured. Peskett has a good command of the English language and the construction of this set showed that a fair bit of care and attention had gone into it. His delivery was well pitched; visually he looks a tough customer and this helps to give his delivery a bit of an edge. He also has a grin that is pretty infectious. Tonight Peskett was joint runner up and he’s certainly worth giving stage time to.

Sergi Polo

From London by way of Barcelona, Polo had material that on a simple read through, shouldn’t have worked. It was bleak and involved the deaths of animals and should have been very challenging. However, he delivers it with enough charm to make it work and it is very funny to listen to. He got big laughs throughout his set for this mix of original and dark writing and his buoyant playful delivery. Polo was the deserved winner of the night.

Mo Magaleo

Magaleo was another act who had a good night. He had some engaging material concerning his face, being Muslim, Moroccan news and dictatorships/democracy. This material felt fresh and there was no end of great stuff in this set. I especially enjoyed his thoughts on serial killers and I was impressed by his route from pork into slaying extra people. This was a good performance that easily made the final.

Huw Saunders

Saunders didn’t have a great night. He opened with a prop joke that probably read well on paper, but which felt a bit neither here nor there on stage. The fact that this joke didn’t feel like part of the rest of his set only added to the feeling that it was a bit throwaway. The meat of Saunder’s set concerned him having OCD, but unfortunately the humour didn’t really flow that well and the overall feeling was of a talk with a few jokes here and there.

Jacob Hussain

Hussain’s material seemed to veer between old to merely a few years behind the curve. He began with a 1980’s joke where the punchline was that blondes aren’t meant to be that bright. This was then followed by a I’m single, so ladies…. comment that was also well travelled and he got as far as not needing a satnav when he has a girlfriend, which was something that a few comedians talked about a decade or so ago. There wasn’t really anything here that no one hadn’t heard a version of before and so he didn’t make the final.

Alyn Ashby

Ashby stood out on this bill for his gravity, his timing and his deliberately miserable stage persona. This persona helped him to sell his material and really suited his dry sense of humour. The belt routine was good, as was his ability to get the audience invested in his set. Ashby made the final.

Oscar Roberts

Roberts continues to improve. Tonight he was more confident and had almost a swagger to his delivery and this was great to see. The material has been worked on and is more punchy and he got big laughs all the way through his set. I particularly liked his new bit on buying pants, as did the rest of the audience. Roberts was joint runner up.

Jenny Bside

Carrying her guitar to the stage, Jenny immediately looked visually different as the only musical act on the bill. She began promisingly with a good song and continued this with some short tunes that worked well as punchlines to what she was saying. The song about sex was longer and wasn’t as immediately funny as the previous tracks, but still received good laughs. Jenny added a nice touch of variety to the show and between the good singing and delivery she held the room, making the final.

Marvin Alan

The last time I saw Alan he had done a comedy magic act where everything possible had gone wrong. This was hilarious, but not in the way that he intended it. Tonight he did straight stand up, but unfortunately his ideas concerning a non-Irish accent fell flat and he didn’t make the final.

Houssem Rhaiem

Rhaiem had a cracking night. He gave the audience one-liners and these worked really well for him, with laughs for every joke. This is probably the strongest performance I’ve seen him give. He made the final, but didn’t quite get the support that I thought he’d get.

Platform One – Shepshed – Edd Hedges, Michael Dryburgh, Hannah Silvester, Garrett Millerick and Thomas Green (MC)

Tonight I was in Shepshed at the Pied Bull for the Platform One comedy night. This is a nice old pub and the comedy takes place out in the marque extension at the rear. The audience was made up of people who knew each other and this gave them a confidence to shout out a lot. A heck of a lot. At times the front row seemed to be blissfully unaware of just how much they were getting in the way of the comedians getting their material out. No one was unpleasant or rude, they were friendly and the atmosphere was buoyant, but it would be nice to see a bit more discipline in the future.

Thomas Green (MC)

I shouldn’t be surprised if Green ends up with a residency. The audience loved him. Green’s a charismatic act and this was fully in evidence tonight. He chatted with a few people, found out who did what and so on and he smoothly used this to steer the talk towards his material. Green got to Vegan extremely deftly. The audience were very happy to interact with him and Green got a lot out of these exchanges. There was a great moment in the second section, where the term ‘Tena lady’ was sprung on Green and it being new to him, he thought the man had said ‘tenner lady’ and started an impromptu auction for the lass in question. It was nice to see Green listening to the other acts and watching the audience’s reactions and this helped him with immediately relatable comments, such as one off of the back of the high five. It might have been beneficial if Green at the end of his compering, had stressed the no talking rules, but given how chirpy (Michael Dryburgh hit the nail on the head with that description) this audience was, I’m not sure it would have quietened them for long. As always, it was a joy to see Green.

Edd Hedges

There was a lot of laughter during Hedges’ set, but the majority of it was caused by members of the audience rather than him. He began by talking directly to people, almost as if he were continuing Green’s compering. However, despite having been in the room when people were spoken to, he had to search them out and this felt a bit jarring. One of the chaps was a young farmer and talking to him was presumably going to be used as a lead in to Hedges’ material on being from a rural area. However, this guy turned out to be an ex-farmer and so he was asked why he wasn’t farming any more. This was a risky question, with a low chance of a funny answer and the comedy Gods weren’t with Edd, because the answer was that the guy lost his job through illness. Most acts would have cut their losses here, but Hedges carried on, asking what the malady was and as it was a serious case of glandular fever there wasn’t any humour in this, all he seemed to be doing was digging himself in deeper. Lightning can strike twice, because very soon after, Hedges was talking to another guy about his partner giving birth and was getting nothing back at all, but carried on digging there, too, well after it had become apparent that it was a dead end. Following this, Edd opened up a conversation with the front row. These were very much given to shouting out and he probably would have been better off not encouraging them to think they were involved in the show. However, he asked one lad a sexual question and with perfect timing, this chap strung out his answer and when he delivered it with total conviction, the audience went nuts. It was a great fake answer that brought the roof down and left Hedges looking flat footed and totally outwitted. Showing the same misplaced perseverance as earlier, Edd then moved on and asked the same question to another chap who turned out to be the first guy’s brother, again chasing it down well beyond the time that he should have given it up for a lost cause. This was a set where Hedges seemed to be more a facilitator for the audience being funnier than himself.

Michael Dryburgh

Acknowledging the weirdness of the gig, Dryburgh began by leaning back and giving the audience a long, wary, silent stare. This worked well in getting a big opening laugh and combined with him slowing his pace a touch and not speaking too much directly to talkative punters, he got people listening to him. After Hedges it was nice to see an act getting to deliver material. It wasn’t all gravy, he did have to silence a chap on the front row, but it was done effectively and without much risk, as Michael had got the room with him by then. There was some decent material here. Child birth was good, but it was the activity day that really drew everyone in. This was a good set.

Hannah Silvester

Silvester is a skilled act, but for the first quarter of her set, the audience didn’t get the full benefit of her ability due to a couple of people chatting and a few folk getting up to go to the loo. This was a shame, because there was some good material for them to listen to. However, due to the disruptions this wasn’t happening. Hannah took on the two conversationalists, asking if they were alright. With such a close knit audience this could have been tricky, but she got their attention, which helped everyone else to buy into her set. This exchange was then quickly followed by a cracker of a routine about visiting a shop and all of a sudden everything was plain sailing for her. She picked up a lot of laughs throughout the rest of the performance and closed on a song.

Garrett Millerick

Visually imposing (similar in looks to Doug Segal) and with a style not a million miles different to Nick Page, Millerick was always going to stand out. His powerful voice and polished delivery did full justice to a well written set that was chock-full of well developed routines. The topics covered included parents, technology, flights and military gigs. Some of these have been covered by other comics, but Millerick seemed to dig deeper and find a unique view point. The only gag that I felt I got to a reveal in front of him involved fraud, but even here you could enjoy the delivery – his change of tone on the word ‘fraud’ was magnificent. The office scene was brought to life in a big way. In fact, all of the routines felt tangible due to intelligent writing and solid performance skills. This was an excellent set.

Southwell – Richard Morton, Morgan Rees, Steve Day and Rob Deering

Tonight I was at The Saracen’s Head in Southwell for the Funhouse Comedy night. This attracts a very nice and pleasant audience, with a slightly more senior demographic than many clubs. Tonight the audience included a lady who taught cycling, a chap with the unlikely first and middle names of Larne Tobias and a used car salesman, who told Spiky Mike about how one of his cars was owned by a vicar. This was a night made particularly memorable by two very strong middle acts, which reflected the shows increased budget.

Rich Morton

Opening was Richard Morton, who came to the stage with bags of energy. He made an immediate impression through his cheerfulness and early jokes, especially the one about supporting Evans, which he set up beautifully. Morton’s an experienced comedian and this showed with his adept room work. He mixed this with material and songs and it worked very well. The cherry on top was his ability to work in local references. These all landed a treat. This was a fun set that everyone bought into.

A while ago Morton did a show all about TV theme tunes on the BBC and it’s an excellent listen: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05tq6zy

Morgan Rees

We resumed after the intermission with Morgan Rees, who had a fantastic gig. Sporting a bit of a rockabilly look, which I thought added quite a lot visually, he began with some quick jokes. These very swiftly established his credibility and the fridge gag is the best joke that I’ve heard all year. From here he moved into routines and these were all top quality, too. Welsh animals was spot on, as was his gran. Rees was sharper than when I saw him last. His timing wasn’t bad before, but it was even better tonight and there were lots of little extras that he had added into his delivery. The way that he’d flash a quick, but eloquent look to the audience with his eyes, almost as if to check that all was well, after a particular line and the asides, all formed a big connection with the room. This was a cracking set and Rees has very much progressed.

Steve Day

Listening to him, you wouldn’t have guessed that Day was performing with a sore throat. He managed to somehow ignore it and give a smashing performance. This was a set that was very easy to relax into and it appealed to everyone in the room. He began with some jokes about the venue , the village (the bar gag was a particular joy) and a superb joke about Mike’s shirt, which were all highly relatable and supremely funny. This was then followed by some tightly written routines and the laughs came quickly and without any lulls. Whether it was talking about making up a trio with some other comedians, the London Paralympics, his family or cruises, Day received big laughs. The delivery was well pitched with the right facial expressions and body language for what he was saying. There was nothing that anyone could dislike about this set and a heck of a lot for everyone to enjoy. This was a great performance.

Rob Deering

Headlining was Rob Deering, an unusual second musical act on the bill. Deering is a very talented performer. Between singing, using the looper and guitar playing he covered a lot of ground and the set stayed fresh. His take on classic rock guitar riffs was the standout from the set, but the running joke was another delight. This was a well constructed set that the audience enjoyed.

Hoofers – Richard Massara, William Collishaw, Paul Mutagejja, Sol Bernstein and Cokey Falkow (MC)

Tonight I was in my home town of Mansfield for the FaF Promotions comedy night at Hoofers, located at the One Call Stadium. There was a nice audience, who were there for the comedy, albeit there was one lady who did a lot of shouting out. Nothing obnoxious enough to warrant throwing her out, but she did become irritating over the course of the night and a few of the comedians on later had to close her down.

Cokey Falkow (MC)

When Falkow took to the stage, the audience were reluctant to chat with him. This was a bit odd, because he’s a likeable guy who is warm and welcoming, rather than threatening. He discovered a few people with interesting jobs and got some fun from them, but as the room wasn’t in a mood to interact, he swapped to material. There was a lot of great stuff here. The Texas routine in particular was brilliant. Falkow is a wonderfully talented physical comedian. Seemingly without effort (in other words, he’s highly skilled), he can contort his limbs and face in such a way as to reinforce whatever he is saying and this works extremely well. I don’t see enough of this act. I feel that he’s got a lot of talent.

Richard Massara

Massara had a great gig. He’s got a relaxed delivery that you can settle into, sit back and enjoy. He’s also a very good writer. The Brexit joke was nice, although I’m not sure some of it didn’t go over a few people’s heads. The routine about body’s falling apart was very well pitched for the demographic and this landed very well. I really liked his stuff on insomnia; the acting out was a pleasant touch and the questions were splendidly off beat – spuds was a standout. I thought he was going to get applause earlier than what he did. The closing routing, concerning discipline, was well thought out and closed his set on a high. Massara has a welcome level of quality about him.

William Collishaw

Collishaw continues to improve. His opening joke does eat up a bit of time, but he built up momentum when it segued into lookalikes. Fat dating could be expanded upon a bit, as I think it’s an original premise that no one else is doing much on. The postman routine is good, but the link into the next one is a bit abrupt and could be worked on. I like the pizza set piece and perhaps if Collishaw was to do a bit more audience work before selecting his volunteer it would help to tee it up more. The volunteer he chose, Chris, was a good choice – his ad lib was spot on and it was good to see Will build on it. This was a good set from an act who has potential.

Paul Mutagejja

Mutagejja cleverly used Falkow’s compering and Collishaw’s set in a couple of callbacks to open with. This was a welcome bit of continuity that helped the night to flow. The material about football did very well as did Grimsby and Scunthorpe. Paul has a polished delivery and this is a real bonus to his set. He coped well with a table talking about incest – probably not something he was expecting when he paused to ask what they were chatting about.

Sol Bernstein

I’d not seen Bernstein prior to this gig and that is very much my loss. He’s a superb character act, with every element absolutely nailed. The Brooklyn accent is there, his use of Jewish phrases, the sense of style and even his movements scream authenticity. I’d be amazed if the audience even guessed that he was a character act. Sol hit the ground running and his confident, sure footed audience work had everyone onside immediately. His age and presence give him a licence to pepper his set with casual insults to particular members of the audience and he got a lot of laughs for this. The first five minutes consisted of quick jokes delivered whilst he continued to work the audience. This was a powerful start. From here, Bernstein slowed the pace down a touch, but this didn’t result in any slackening of the quality. He continued to mix routines and audience work, getting laughter and applause. Even a loud woman sat near the front couldn’t derail his set. This was a fantastic performance.

Ashby de la Zouch – Glenn Moore, Carrieanne Guthrie, Al Lubel and Mike Gunn

Tonight I was at the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse comedy night. As usual, the room was packed out. There were a couple of interesting people in the audience. Unfortunately the estate agent wasn’t particularly forthcoming when it came to his best way of describing a shit hole. However, Spiky Mike received loud laughs and applause when chatting to a young mechanic called Jack when he enquired if he was named after one of his tools. Usually the bar is closed whilst the comedians are at work, but tonight a few people sat in the audience were given waitress service and this didn’t make things easier for the comics as it was a bit distracting.

Glenn Moore

With his youthful looks, shirt, tie and cardigan, Moore looked a touch like a 6th former. He opened well and gave the room a set that mixed wordplay, misdirection and shortish routines in a technically adept set. There were some very good lines in this set, such as bucket list, which was nicely logical, stepdad and Clapham Junction – which was the sort of wordplay that Ronnie Barker would have been proud of. There might have been one too many jokes relying on misdirection, because after a while you began to expect them. The attempted murder routine was very interesting, but I’m not sure it totally came off tonight. This was a good set.

Carrieanne Guthrie

Guthrie has an infectious giggle and this had got people laughing before she had said a word. Her opening joke was a smart callback to Mike’s compering and this, combined with the laughter caused by her giggle, won her early applause. Guthrie’s material concerns her background (North Carolina), her present (Norfolk), her appearance, sexuality, diets and serial killers. This is quite a lot for ten minutes, but it does ensure that she doesn’t get bogged down in any particular area and the time went very quickly. Whilst her giggle is infectious, I found that over the course of the set you could have a little bit too much of a good thing and towards the end I wouldn’t have objected to hearing less of it. So whilst the giggle is a real asset, perhaps if it was used more sparingly she would get more out of it. There was some good material here that was delivered with verve and this was a set that the audience got behind.

Al Lubel

Low energy, quietly spoken and looking visually distinctive, Lubel was a change in tone. I’ve seen him a couple of times and whilst I’d enjoyed him, there were bits that I wasn’t previously totally onboard with, but tonight I was knocked back by the quality of his writing and delivery. Lubel has a dextrous mind and this gives his writing an intricacy that is deep, but also easy to follow. There is a strong sense of logic in his material and he can remorselessly deconstruct a premise, reducing it to the absurd, finding laughs along the way. After he has done this, he will utter an almost throwaway line that pushes the humour even further. There were some wonderful routines here, of which the standout was homeless. This was full of logic, original and extremely funny. The construction of this set was most impressive. For me, Al Lubel’s was the set of the night.

Mike Gunn

Gunn’s a solid act whom I’ve never seen have a bad night. Tonight he opened with a joke that deserved a round of applause. This was followed by a set that combined the hit rate of a one-liner comic with the smooth delivery of someone doing longer routines. The end result was almost constant laughter as the jokes came quickly and with no misfires. This is a performance without a lot of swearing. Gunn adds the odd fuck here and there, but this seems to be used more to add force to those jokes and it works very well. My favourite routine of Gunn’s concerns the tube, but his Christmas holiday is a close second. This was a splendid headliner performance.

Acts that have impressed me the most – April 2019

This has been a fantastic month for live comedy. I have seen a huge number of amazingly talented acts and putting this together has been a real challenge with some very hard decisions being made.

As always, acts that have been mentioned recently are time-barred.

These are the acts that have impressed me the most:

Clayton Jones

Jones is a talented act who should be better known that he is.

From the night:

Jones had a great night. He began well and gave The Lescar a crowd-pleaser of a set that had everyone onboard. Jones’ performance was very well pitched and he managed to bring the audience into his set without making it look like he was working hard to do so and this takes a lot of skill. It was nice to see material on vaping, as that is something hardly ever covered in a set. Sex and songs was great (well acted out, too). Perhaps the best line was about bargains. The reveal on that was superb and would probably work even better the later in the set it was delivered. The only thing that I wasn’t that keen on and I was perhaps the only person in the room, was the use of the word ‘hope’ – it’s a line that is a bit overused. That minor point aside, this was a really good set from an act who is doing very well.

Duncan Oakley

A strong headliner.

From the night:

I’m surprised that Oakley didn’t get encored, as there were a fair few shouts wanting more when he had completed this cracking set. This was a performance that was highly creative, pleasingly light hearted and extremely entertaining all at the same time. It was peppered with puns throughout and involved the great use of a prop and musical instruments. Oakley is a very adept performer and even the little things, such as the movement of his eyes whilst he was giving some fatherly advice, was very expressive. Sometimes you can be enjoying yourself so much that twenty minutes passes all too quickly and this was one of those instances.

Josh Baulf

Lively and brightened up the room no end.

From the night:

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.

Nina Gilligan (MC)

Affable, funny and with very strong people skills.

From the night:

Gilligan is a very skilled compere, who takes her warm personality onto the stage and exudes a cheerfulness that is infectious. She has the ability to make a fair sized gig feel intimate and inclusive, rather than audience and acts being separated by a gulf. There were some interesting people in the room, including Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, whom Gilligan referenced, used for a couple of polite jokes and then left her in peace on her night out, which was very nicely done. The star audience member was a police sgt, whom she made cheerleader for the night.

When I last saw Gilligan there, she had utilised the theme of getting to know people and had gone through the browser history of someone’s phone, which worked really well. She kept things fresh tonight by encouraging the audience to tweet her during the intermission on the theme of ‘extensions’. She asked for what people would like extending and why, with two free tickets to the next weeks’ show as a prize. This worked wonderfully well in not only further getting people engaged with the night, but also added to the feel-good nature of what she was doing. There were also some great tweets, such as Craig’s which was a callback to her compering and one (the winner) requesting an intimate body part being extended so that he could use it as a truncheon. As well as the room work there was a good amount of material being used and vajazzle was a real standout. This was great quality compering.

Honourable Mentions

David Eagle, Fran Jenking (MC), John Scott, Matt Bragg, Mick Ferry, Philip Simon, Thomas Green (MC), Tony Wright,

The Little Last Laugh – Peter Brush, Tony Wright, Rudi Lickwood and Nina Gilligan (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at The Lescar for a cracking night of comedy. The only problem was the attitude of the venue’s management to the show. Despite the comedy bringing in 80 customers every week, most of whom are putting good money behind the bar, it’s hard not to feel as though the night isn’t really welcomed by the management and is there on sufferance. The aircon hasn’t worked for months and it is a hot room even in April, so that will be a real problem in the Summer. The venue don’t make enough chairs available and so a lot of the audience have to stand and worst of all, there is an element of clock-watching, even though the pub doesn’t close for another hour after the show has finished. All of this is a huge shame and makes the job of the promoter a lot harder than it should be. Through good organisation and smart booking, this is still a great comedy night and would be if it had to move location, taking the customers with it.

Nina Gilligan (MC)

Gilligan is a very skilled compere, who takes her warm personality onto the stage and exudes a cheerfulness that is infectious. She has the ability to make a fair sized gig feel intimate and inclusive, rather than audience and acts being separated by a gulf. There were some interesting people in the room, including Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, whom Gilligan referenced, used for a couple of polite jokes and then left her in peace on her night out, which was very nicely done. The star audience member was a police sgt, whom she made cheerleader for the night.

When I last saw Gilligan there, she had utilised the theme of getting to know people and had gone through the browser history of someone’s phone, which worked really well. She kept things fresh tonight by encouraging the audience to tweet her during the intermission on the theme of ‘extensions’. She asked for what people would like extending and why, with two free tickets to the next weeks’ show as a prize. This worked wonderfully well in not only further getting people engaged with the night, but also added to the feel-good nature of what she was doing. There were also some great tweets, such as Craig’s which was a callback to her compering and one (the winner) requesting an intimate body part being extended so that he could use it as a truncheon. As well as the room work there was a good amount of material being used and vajazzle was a real standout. This was great quality compering.

Peter Brush

Brush was quite a contrast to the lively and outgoing Gilligan and he used this in a great opening joke that got everyone onboard. Every time I see Brush, I’m thoroughly impressed by the quality of his writing. It has an intelligence and elegance that is rare. He takes highly original concepts and makes them both relatable and funny. A lot of this comes from his attention to the minutiae – he paints a vivid picture – but most comes from his command of the English language. This was a superb set with a lot of laughter.

Tony Wright

I only saw Wright a few weeks ago and liked what I had seen. He’s got an eye for a good turn of phrase and has a lot of ability as a storyteller. Tonight he delivered his material with a tiny bit more force than what he had in Derby and I think that this added an extra bit of ooomph to what he was doing. Lowering the mic when he went off on a comic rant was a good idea, as this helped to make it feel more natural, even spontaneous. Tony’s rhythm of speech was also very beneficial to what he was doing. His habit of using short sentences, rather than just trying to get as much into one sentence as possible helped his timing no end. I liked the idea behind the car shouts, but felt that it needed a little bit more to get the most out of it. Mugging was a cracking story, as was the encounter with the stranger. The receipt joke was superb and I’m surprised that it didn’t get a bigger laugh than what it did.

Rudi Lickwood

Headlining was Rudi Lickwood who gave the Lescar a splendid time. He came to the stage full of beans and this was perfect to lift the energy levels in the room. He began by speaking quickly and talking directly to members of the audience. This established his presence very well and delayed the night’s tipping point, as he gained everyone’s full attention. There was a lot of stagecraft evident in this performance and this helped to push the routines. The material itself was all good stuff and it covered relationships, his house, gigs for the forces, race and Sharia law, which was a high point. Over the course of his set, Lickwood allowed the energy to drop a touch and this wasn’t a bad idea, because if he had kept up his initial pace, it would have left the audience feeling exhausted. As it was, the punchlines came thick and fast as he demonstrated an impressive work rate. This was a strong headlining performance.

Canal House – Ben Turner, Oliver Sillito, Chris Giles, Sarah English, Damon Conlan, Sam Mo, Si Deaves and Thomas Green (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. Despite there being a fair number of no shows from people who had booked tickets, there was still a good sized audience for the night. It was nice to see comedy booker Tommy Wager present and the only slight issue with the audience was one lady. She’d had a bit to drink and when our compere, Thomas Green, spoke to her at the top of the night, she claimed to be a sex worker, which didn’t throw him in the least. However, as the night went on, she did become a bit more vocal, claiming to be almost every trade that any of the acts mentioned. She wasn’t disruptive, but just a bit of a low level nuisance that the acts learnt to ignore.

Thomas Green (MC)

Green put in a stellar performance. Owing to various circumstances outside of NCF’s control, there wasn’t a headliner for the night and I wouldn’t be surprised if Green hadn’t been asked to do a little bit extra. He definitely came up with the goods. Fresh from the Australian comedy festival and oozing charisma with an edge, he had a great night. Green has a natural talent with mimicry and used this to get the most out of his routines. Green has a wonderful level of physicality and this adds a lot to what he does; in particular the play-doh mum was brilliantly delivered and brought the house down. During the 2nd and 3rd sections, Green did more material and this was all excellent. The only slight downer was that he perhaps did too well and the audience wanted more of him and so when he brought acts on, it felt like a bit of an anticlimax. This was a very strong performance from a comedian who is building a career out of comedy.

Ben Turner

Turner had a decent night, delivering one-liners and short form jokes. Whilst his first gag wasn’t of the same standard as many of his others, the following 3-4 jokes were all very good and he may have been better opening with them. Turner received applause for the topper on child, but knitting split the room 75-25 in his favour. In fairness it’s hard to tell dark jokes without losing at least a few people, especially when you are the first act on and Turner’s darker jokes were all good rather than gratuitous. I thought that Ben perhaps lost a bit of momentum when someone shouted out that his fly was down a bit, but it didn’t hurt his set too badly. It would benefit him, though, if he were to increase his pace a little bit, with shorter pauses between jokes, as this will help him maintain his impetus. This was a good start to the night.

Oliver Sillito

Returning to comedy after a period away, Sillito still has his performance skills. His rhythm of speech was absolutely spot on and that aided his delivery no end. He also has a likeable presence and that helped him get the audience onboard for a fun stunt. I wasn’t massively sold on some of the material, but I enjoyed the performance. It was nice to see him close on a call back.

Chris Giles

Giles was impressive, appearing warmer and demonstrating better performance skills than seen before. He had a good opening joke and followed it up with a very relatable routine about a pilot from Barnsley. Hailing from Doncaster, Chris has the perfect accent to do that routine justice and it got big laughs. The meat of the set concerned an unfortunate occurrence and this was very carefully set up to ensure that Giles wasn’t punching down. He succeeded in pitching this just right. The preamble to it did take a bit of time, but it was necessary and if it could be fortified with a few more jokes it would work even better. The actual event itself was brought to life very well and he got a lot of laughs for it. He has a powerful routine here. There was a lot to like about this set.

Sarah English

The audience liked English a lot. She received plenty of laughs and had a good night. Her material was well written and the physical action on choking was great. Personally, I found her a touch depressing, though. Well written as it was, her material was mostly pretty negative and her performance didn’t have a lot of energy, which in fairness, was in tune with the topics she was speaking about. So whilst she wasn’t really my cup of tea, pretty much everyone else was onboard and she has plenty of reasons to be happy with how the night went.

Damon Conlan

Conlan is a comedy magician and I was curious as to how he would find performing in a big room. The answer was pretty straight-forward. His tricks were visible for everyone and didn’t involve anything that would have lost those sat 60 feet away. There were three tricks performed, one involving rope, another a vanishing egg and an extra bonus one right at the end. These were all done with skill. Where Conlan fell down was on the comedy side. There were a couple of nice lines, such as the hashtag, but this is a set in need of more jokes or witty asides. A lot of promoters like acts with a difference and if Conlan can strengthen the comedy side of his act, then he will be very bookable.

Sam Mo

I think the room had reached a tipping point when Mo took to the stage and this hurt the reception that he got. Mo had done well when I saw him last, performing in Alfreton and tonight he had some very good routines, such as the pharmacy and the methadone. There were a few that required a little bit more, though. The school stuff early on didn’t quite work, Keele would have been better swapped for a Uni local to the gig and perhaps Hindu Kush made more explicit by going with Afghanistan, as I think a few people didn’t quite get it. Mo isn’t the finished product, but he’s definitely got some good ideas.

Si Deaves

Like Sam Mo, Deaves was hurt by the running order. Going on late, after the room had gone beyond the tipping point, Deaves didn’t do as well as what he would have done otherwise. The idea about anthropomorphised animals is novel and he could have got a lot out of it. However, throwing it open to the audience at that particular time didn’t really work. For every sensible suggestion he received, there was a ludicrous one and pretty quickly the whole thing looked like it would get out of hand. Deaves was wise to tap out of that and move on. A shame, because he’s definitely got something there. The phone call was very well written and like the earlier routine, original. Deaves received laughs and applause, but under different circumstances he would have done better. His ability was obvious and I would like to see him gig again.

The Little Last Laugh – Mick Ferry, Sean Moran, Clayton Jones, Duncan Oakley and Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at The Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. The venue was packed out and it quickly became very hot, but luckily this didn’t affect the audience’s enthusiasm for live comedy.

Matt Stellingwerf (MC)

In a superb touch, Stellingwerf opened his compering by telling the people on the front row that they were safe from him speaking to them (cue the house lights coming on) and that he was going to chat to the people stood at the back. He made a point of talking to the guy stood the furthest from the stage and this was wonderful. After this, Stellingwerf went with material, rather than room work and it felt less like he was compering and more like there was a bonus act on the bill. However, given the strength of his material and Stellingwerf’s skill in making it not feel like part of his regular set, this was very enjoyable. There were a lot of great routines being performed, such as the name of sports teams, dating (received some very nice applause) and a spot on section on Americans and war. Stellingwerf got a heck of a lot of laughs and it was lovely seeing him.

Mick Ferry

I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Ferry, but I’d not actually seen him perform until tonight. The first thing that strikes you is his presence. This is an act who carries himself in such a way that he’d stand out in pretty much any room. The second thing that you notice is the force of his delivery. Whatever he’s talking about, whether it be a birthday party, a mishap in his past or Parkinson’s, Ferry grabs your attention. The material was all good stuff and I got the impression that he could have carried on for a lot longer, going in all sorts of directions with what he was saying. This was a very strong set from a skilled performer.

Sean Moran

Stellingwerf received a lot of laughs during his second section and he may have inadvertently made it a little bit difficult for Moran to follow him. The change from the lively and energetic Stellingwerf to Moran was quite a difference in style and this possibly put him on the back foot. However, Moran didn’t make quite as big an impression as I think he would have liked. His material was decent enough, although I got to the odd reveal before he did and whilst Shawshank is an iconic film, it is 25 years old now and it felt a bit dated as a reference point. Performance wise, it would help if Moran had something more distinctive about himself. Being of average build, etc, he’s not physically notable, his delivery was conversationally mild and his material was all pretty mild, too, with nothing to really grab the audience by the balls and distinguish him from many other acts. This is a shame, because he didn’t do badly, he got laughs, but he didn’t stand out at all and unfortunately I think a lot of people there will have trouble remembering much about him or his set.

Clayton Jones

Jones had a great night. He began well and gave The Lescar a crowd-pleaser of a set that had everyone onboard. Jones’ performance was very well pitched and he managed to bring the audience into his set without making it look like he was working hard to do so and this takes a lot of skill. It was nice to see material on vaping, as that is something hardly ever covered in a set. Sex and songs was great (well acted out, too). Perhaps the best line was about bargains. The reveal on that was superb and would probably work even better the later in the set it was delivered. The only thing that I wasn’t that keen on and I was perhaps the only person in the room, was the use of the word ‘hope’ – it’s a line that is a bit overused. That minor point aside, this was a really good set from an act who is doing very well.

Duncan Oakley

I’m surprised that Oakley didn’t get encored, as there were a fair few shouts wanting more when he had completed this cracking set. This was a performance that was highly creative, pleasingly light hearted and extremely entertaining all at the same time. It was peppered with puns throughout and involved the great use of a prop and musical instruments. Oakley is a very adept performer and even the little things, such as the movement of his eyes whilst he was giving some fatherly advice, was very expressive. Sometimes you can be enjoying yourself so much that twenty minutes passes all too quickly and this was one of those instances.