Glee (Nottm) – Junior Simpson, Susie McCable, Keith Farnan, Barry Dodds (MC)

This wasn’t the gig I was hoping to be at tonight, but as my original plans didn’t work out this time, I was looking for an alternative. There were a few gigs that I could have gone to, but seeing that Barry Dodds was on at Nottingham Glee that was enough to make me pick this one above others. Numbers weren’t massive, but as it is the August holidays, this was pretty much to be expected. There were two stag parties present, but despite one being very noisy in the run up to the show, both settled down beautifully whilst the acts were on. I got there in time for the last entry, but this did give me half an hour to kill prior to show time. I can understand that the venue wants no disruption from late arrivals, but all the same I was glad that I had taken a book with me for this bit. Four minutes before show time, the music is turned up to eleven and the lights flash on and off. This certainly kills conversations in time for the compere to take to the stage, but I ended up closing my eyes before I got a headache. Perhaps a couple of minutes less would be enough to silence everyone.

Barry Dodds (MC)

Barry Dodds came to the stage and without being particularly forceful, he still managed to take no prisoners tonight. Within seconds he had the room cheering for various things and this welded the disparate groups into an audience and it also established his authority extremely quickly. His ability to so demonstrably take control like that silenced any potential hecklers or disruptive elements. From here Dodds got to know a few people. Tindy and Indy, sat close to the stage were a nice gift to him as were the couple on their second date and for one moment I did think he was going to get a proposal from another couple. Dodds was very sharp thinking with his replies to the people that he spoke to. He was also very adept with sensing the mood currents throughout the room. The level of disparagement he put into his voice when he said, ‘it’s in Leicestershire,’ upon someone claiming De Montfort Uni as an exotic place was wonderfully done. I was impressed by how Barry handled the big stag party from Chesterfield. He used his local knowledge to make enough jokes to get them laughing, but even better, he kept them onside and subtly neutralised any desire of theirs to shout out by encouraging them to cheer whenever he mentioned Chesterfield, this outlet for their energy seemed to work wonders. In between working the room, there was some great material delivered, with middle lane drivers being a stand out. Dodds’ bubbly personality was infectious and he received a lot of laughs for some strong compering.

Junior Simpson

Simpson is a well experienced act and has a good reputation as someone who suits weekend clubs and I can see why. There was a broad appeal in his set, with pretty much something for every demographic to enjoy and nothing too niche to leave others out in the cold. On the downside, I unfortunately found him to be a bit unchallenging. His material had the feel of a well established set and whilst there were some good lines in there (ginger, breakfasts, etc), there also wasn’t a lot that made me sit up. There were a few pull back and reveals, which I’m not that keen on personally, but in fairness, they all received good laughs from the audience. The closing routine about blowjobs was one that built up a lot of momentum and had everyone on board. Whilst Simpson wasn’t particularly for me, the rest of the room liked him and I can easily understand why he was booked.

Susie McCabe

McCabe was a lovely surprise. I’d not heard of her before the night, but she proved to be something of a prize packet. She’s got a great combination of material that draws you in, making you want to hear more and a sparkling delivery that really sells what she is voicing. Her material was autobiographical and it is very well written with great pacing. There aren’t huge gaps between the laughs and even the set ups are fun to listen to because what McCabe was talking about was so interesting. McCabe has a soft Glaswegian accent that seemed to be perfectly in tune with what she was saying. Her hand movements and little actions that she did added a lot to her performance. There were a lot of excellent lines in this set. I was astounded that she didn’t get an applause break for the serial killer’s plans and I was pleased when she received one for the topper. This was a massively enjoyable set, the stand out of the night, and I’m amazed that McCabe is not a pro comedian. 

Keith Farnan

Farnan had a good night. He opened with a splendid callback to the diversity of the line up, which went down well and this was followed by early applause for North and South. There was a fair bit of applause for this set, with some good lines being present. DUP was fun, the obtaining of a chap’s email address was adroitly done (I liked the callback to it) and I really enjoyed Farnan delivering material about the various seating sections. This kept everyone on their toes, just in case he spoke to them. Farnan has a wonderfully soft and soothing Irish accent and this didn’t do him any harm at all when he was talking to people (Ewok was a cracking line). The material based around his name was ok, but I didn’t feel it quite as strong as the rest of his set, especially homophobia – that was a great routine. Farnan received consistent laughter and ended the night well.

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Two Gates, Tamworth – Chris Purchase, Rory Jones, Jack Topher, Alfie Moore and Andy Gleeks (MC)

Tonight I was down in Tamworth for Darren Mortiboy’s night at the Two Gates Sports and Social. My night didn’t get off to a great start, because we had to have a pet put down and so five minutes before I came out, I was in the garden digging a grave for him. However, it was nice to get out and go and see some live comedy. Two Gates is a big room. It has a high ceiling and room to sit a heck of a lot of people. Like most nights at this time of year, numbers were down, but with the tables spread out a touch, the room still seemed to be pretty full. This, combined with the high ceiling did make it hard to build up the energy levels, but you can’t have everything. This is the first time I’ve seen a radio mic being used and I can understand why not many people use them, as it didn’t seem to be without its’ issues. It was good to see the booker, Mortiboy, busy amongst the audience, chatting to people and making everyone feel welcome before the show started. He did a couple of minutes of plugging upcoming nights before he introduced our MC, Andy Gleeks.

Andy Gleeks (MC)

This wasn’t ever going to be an easy room to compere. It was a big space and with people sat up to 40 yards away from the stage, Gleeks was limited to the handful of people sat close enough to the front for him to be able to easily hear their replies. When I’ve seen him compere in the past, I was impressed by him playing a game called claim to fame, which had worked really well, but oddly he didn’t do that tonight. Instead, largely chatting to the people about how they met and doing material. A lot of his material concerned him coming from Northern Ireland and there were two issues with this. The troubles, over here anyway, feel increasingly distant as every year passes and for anyone under twenty it must seem like history. The other issue was that Gleeks has some good stuff on it (in particular his own Good Friday agreement and the kerfuffle), but because he did so much about being from Northern Ireland this diluted the impact of these. Gleeks has quite an interesting background and he may do well to exploit these other areas of his life. I thought that he was on firm ground when talking about his family and the loo roll routine is a solid banker. Gleeks did put himself down a couple of times after jokes and whilst this can be done once and get a good reaction, any more times risks convincing the audience that you aren’t doing that well. I think that Andy has the makings of a good compere; he has a quiet confidence, a nice manner and authority about him that stands him in good stead. With more varied material to back that up, he’ll do fine.

Chris Purchase

The audience warmed to Purchase very quickly. He began strongly by announcing a celebration. This had a fairly long set up, but it was totally worth it, as it achieved three, but not four things tonight. It got everyone listening to him, it established Purchase’s comedy credentials and it was very funny, but surprisingly it didn’t get an applause break, which I fair expected it to. There was a lot of good material in this set. Who you gonna call? and the subsequent variations were nicely interactive, the carpet was good and genital percentages fun (a shame 69% couldn’t be worked into it somehow). However, the real standout was Pokemon. For something that is played pretty widely no one seems to be doing any material on it and so this was both distinctive and funny. On the other hand, I wasn’t convinced that Milton Keynes was that unpleasant a place to live; he could have gotten away without explaining the maths on vaccination and ‘In American that would have got a cheer’ is overused, even though it got a laugh. This was a very entertaining set that was well delivered.

Rory Jones

I last saw Jones up in Sheffield where he’d had a good night. Tonight, I could see improvement in his joke and set construction with more strings of gags on the same topic, which was all to the good. However, his delivery seemed to be a bit slower and I’m not sure that this was a benefit when it came to building up momentum. Also, Jones did comment on a few jokes that missed, such as saying ‘one for the older people’ and this not only served to emphasise that that particular joke hadn’t fared well, but even worse, it used up time where he could have been telling a joke that would hit. There were some strong gags in this set, the make up and morning jokes work very well and these seemed to get everyone onboard, particularly one lady who laughed long and loudly at all of the jokes to the point where she was setting other people off. Ket was good, but probably only needed one hurrumph and a stamping of the feet for people to get it. This was a promising set.

Jack Topher

Back in February I saw Topher have a storming gig during the Southwell English Comedian of the Year heat, but he had an even better gig tonight. He came to the stage and paused, standing there looking around, as if he was puzzled to find himself there. Topher then followed this up with a bit of sartorial prop work and this built up a lot of comedic tension. From here, he never ever looked back. He had the audience just where he wanted them. The first half of his set is the more punchy, but the second slower paced half works well, too, with some big jokes. Topher received the first applause of the night for Ashley Cole and then more applause for his observations about the layout of the audience and the presence of the big stage behind him. The comment about the people of Tamworth was a pearler. I did think that his usual line regarding the playing with the cards was stronger than the one he went with tonight, but that’s a minor point. This was an excellently delivered set, with some well considered pauses. Topher had a smashing gig and the end result was a hell of a lot of laughter.

Alfie Moore

Moore is a reliable act who has a solid presence. His material has a nicely dark slant to it and his background not only gives him insights unavailable to other comedians, but it is something that the audience finds tangible. When Moore talks about ne’er do wells, the room knows what he is talking about. There was a lot of good stuff in this performance. The callback to Topher’s set was strong, the Diane Abbott joke timely, names great, tasering superb and earliest memory received an applause break. The excerpt from his show, Getting away with Murder (well worth seeing), was very impressive. On the other hand, Asbo needed a bigger ending, but that was the only routine that didn’t hit home hard. I think the radio-mic had a sweet spot where the signal was picked up easily, but not so well a couple of feet either side of that zone, as Moore looked as if he was wedded to that particular spot and didn’t move or lunge as much as what I’m used to seeing. The closing routine was ‘The Head’, which is the strongest routine that I’ve seen. It is deliciously dark, draws everyone in and there is a laugh with every line. This is a beautifully crafted closing routine. This was a cracking performance that everyone enjoyed.

The Little Last Laugh: Quincy, Big Shaun, Barry Castagnola and Danny McLoughlin (MC)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield, having a great time in the Lescar. Numbers had dipped a touch from last week, but with holiday season being in full swing, this was to be expected. There were still plenty of people present to create a great atmosphere.

Danny McLoughlin (MC)

McLoughlin is as down to earth as they come and this means that not only are his reference points easily accessible to audiences, but that he feels like someone they can all relate to. Tonight he began by using the mic stand and backdrop to teach spelling to a chap sat at the front, before starting to chat to the audience in earnest. There is always an interesting mix of people at the Lescar and he found John, a retired interior designer who tried to be evasive (if you don’t want to be spoken to, being evasive really isn’t going to help you), Dave, who was a para-legal and another Dave who was the manager of a leisure centre. One Dave was from Clowne, which led to a belting line about the contents of their Gregg’s. Oddly, it took a while for the energy levels to rise, despite McLoughlin getting a lot of laughs, but I think that this was probably down to the heat. During his second session, he went with more material and scored some big hits with this; Kebabs was good, but pens was superb. Danny using Dave, as a foil, though, was the highlight of the night. Whilst easily staying on the side of acceptable, he managed to get a lot of fun out of ‘Beige’ Dave, getting a well earned round of applause. The lines about how Dave proposed to his partner were superb – she had the look of someone who was wishing that they were recording this ripping to show their friends. The only thing that I wasn’t keen on was when McLoughlin casually announced that he was just going to ‘talk a bit of shit’ as I felt that that really under valued the solid work he was putting in. He announced the next shows, thanked everyone for coming and it was nice to see him remember Wayne, who was doing the door, when name-checking those who had assisted with the night. McLoughlin has great comic instincts and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him. He should be better known than he is.

Quincy

Opening the show was Quincy, who was doing some new material. As you’d expect with new material, it was something of a mixed bag, but you could see the potential in it. He began with some timely remarks about the weather. Flip flops was a nice line that led into a decent section about how it’s hard to look hard under certain conditions. The name for an illness was good, but the mainstay of his set were the routines about boxing and his kids. A comedian who boxes is refreshingly novel and despite there being a few lulls in the routine, it easily held everyone’s interest. There were a number of strong lines in this, but I was a bit surprised that Balboa and Drago didn’t get referenced as white boxers fighting it out for the world heavyweight belt, though. The routine about kids and home life wasn’t as distinct as boxing, as a few comics have covered this, but there was still obvious potential in it. If Quincy were to tighten up the wording then he would maintain his momentum in these routines, but he’s certainly already got something to work with here.

Big Shaun

Big Shaun took to the stage wearing a cowboy hat, neckerchief and waistcoat, which were part of his opening gag. Whilst this didn’t work out as well as he might have hoped, it was worth experimenting with. Shaun is a big presence and this stands him in good stead. The call centre material has potential; when he asked the room if anyone worked in one I thought there was mileage in him taking that further and asking what sort of call centre, as he’d be able to bounce off of their response. The snapped clothesline was a good line, but it could possibly be improved further by him changing out towels for failed to hold up my clothes without me in them. Big Shaun is a work in progress, but he’s getting there.

Barry Castagnola

Closing the night was Castagnola, up from London. He opened with a well remembered Wikipedia history of Sheffield, which was delivered with plenty of knowing charm and then a strong topper. His material covered a lot of ground, not dwelling on any particular topic overly long and this seemed to keep everything fresh and might explain why his set seemed to pass by all too quickly. This was a set where I’d have liked to have seen more. There were some lovely lines present, with shoes being a standout, although the closing routine about The Krankies came close. Castagnola gave a very interesting performance, both visually and audibly. Visually, he never seemed to be still for a moment and this helped inject energy into the room. Castagnola has a lovely manner of speaking. He would lay the stress in certain words in unexpected places and I found this really endearing and it was a real benefit to him in emphasising the keywords in a routine. This was a very good set.

Acts that have impressed me the most – July

This has been a fun month for comedy. We were in full on Edinburgh preview season and although I only saw 31 acts, I did see some absolutely brilliant shows.

The highlight of the month was Red Redmond squaring up to an obnoxious heckler. Red is one of the smallest built people I’ve met and this bloke could have done him a nasty injury before the rest of the room intervened, so this took guts. The lowlight of the month was a drunk who kept complaining about one act’s otherwise well received set, saying ‘didn’t get that’ or ‘what?’ after most of their jokes. You can’t please everyone, but she seemed to be really going out of her way to let people know she wasn’t onboard. Naturally during the intermission she went over and told the act that they were dead brave…..

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

Justin Moorhouse

This was an amazing show. His timing was perfect, his writing was impeccable and he kept the energy up all the way through.

From the night:

Moorhouse came to the stage full of energy and received a rousing reception from the audience. To say that he hit the ground running would be a huge understatement – he hit the room with the speed of a steam locomotive and he never slackened the pace throughout the entire hour. He began by discussing the title of his show, with a brief talk about being Northern, where he showed a firm grasp of northern rivalries, before moving onto the joker part. This show was full of stories about his life, his children getting older, Brexit and Puffin Island. Every single routine was full of charm and extremely funny. There were no lulls, Moorhouse just seemed to go from highlight to highlight.

Too many areas stood out for their excellence, so this list is far from comprehensive. There was a great joke about being vegan, what Trump has done for middle aged men was superb, especially the line about the fence, his whole foray into Brexit was magnificent and insightful. However, when it came to table sauces and Brexit, Moorhouse demonstrated true genius; this was sublime writing. Even Brezhnev received a mention and got a laugh, something that can’t have happened recently in a comedy show.

Moorhouse’s delivery was superb. He has a great rhythm of delivery and he could probably read out a shopping list and still get laughs just from how he did it. His timing with the pause on the motives of Brexit voters was great. This was a show where not only was there a lot of laughter and applause, but people were still laughing long after the punchlines. I’ve a feeling that I will still be laughing at this days later. This is a winner of a show.

Laura Monmoth

Monmoth has the basis of a very good twenty here. It’s not yet the finished article, but with tighter writing and a different closing routine she will have something special. It’s already got bags of charm.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Laura Monmoth. I’ve seen Laura compering and doing her Edinburgh show, but I’d never seen her do a twenty before. A lot of her material was delivered via power point, which made it very easy to follow. There were a lot of jokes to be seen. Even the screen saver, prior to her beginning contained a good number of jokes for anyone who gave it more than the once over. Laura was very astute in taking pre-gig photos of the audience and the landlord and using them in her set, as this grabbed everyone’s attention and made her set feel special. Equally wise was her use of Mansfield for the local shit town. I and everyone else were hugely impressed by the power point crafted callbacks to Roger’s set. These were elaborate and must have been very time consuming for her to create, but they landed with the force of a sledgehammer. Laura’s attempts to improve reality were charming and very funny, receiving good laughs. The closing routine featured Bohemian Rhapsody and she’d benefit from acquiring a conductor’s baton to push the sing-along along. This is a good closing routine, but it’s a very long song and it does eat up a lot of time that she might be able to make better use of. For anyone not invested in it after the first minute, there isn’t much to hold them for the next five, but in fairness, Laura received good laughs for it, especially the more surreal names. This was a very good set that held the room well. It was creatively constructed and the laughs came regularly. Monmoth is certainly a bookable act.

Simon Lomas

Simply a fantastic act with amazing comic instincts.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Simon Lomas who is the best new act to hit the circuit in the last few years. He was here to try some new material not long after winning the biggest monetary prize in UK comedy history. As he stood on the stage about to begin his set, Lomas received a wolf whistle, which, with a voice dripping with dryness, he thanked the lady for. He then launched into his set, getting his first applause break after his first joke. From here it became almost Pavlovian, with Lomas talking and then the audience laughing and applauding every time he finished speaking. I adored the visual gag with the notebooks and I shouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t get a second bite of that cherry by having a third book about his person. There were two new jokes that could perhaps be improved; Alton Towers and the following joke, which might perhaps work better with stayed at home. There was a cracking moment when a girl was foolish enough to shout out, asking if he needed a hug – his response to this was beautiful and the joke that he closed the set on was tremendous. This was a brilliant set.

Honourable Mentions:

Fran Jenking, Freddy Quinne, Josh Pugh, Phil Nichol, Red Redmond,

Edinburgh Special 2018

I’ve not seen as many Edinburgh previews as I’d have liked owing to work, distance and the weather. However, these are the ones that I have seen over the last month or so:

Ahir Shah: Duffer

Tom Houghton: Tom Houghton the Honourable

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas

Will Mars: Candid Cafe

Danny Ward: Dansplaining

Josh Pugh: The Changingman

Lost Voice Guy: Inspiration Porn

Kai Humphries: Team Smug

Chris Washington: You Beauty!

Scott Bennett: Leap Year

Gary Delaney: Gagster’s Paradise

Bethany Black: Unwinnable

Alistair Williams: Great White Male

Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Adam Hess: Seahorse

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

The thing that struck me the most out of what I saw was just how underprepared some of the shows were. In fairness, some were early-ish previews in June and a few were billed as works in progress, which is fair enough and I wasn’t expecting perfection in any case. Even so, it was amazing how many were 2-3 months preparation behind what I’ve seen in previous years. This wasn’t people working off of notes, but instead, miscellaneous routines without a lot of structural narrative holding it together. The end result was that at worst, some felt like a series of random routines instead of a show. 

This isn’t to say that they weren’t funny and that the audience didn’t enjoy them, because by and large they were and they did, but it was very much a case of being served a chocolate bar with the wrapping still on. 

There were some exceptions: Bennett, Moorhouse, Pugh, Mars, Houghton, Delaney and Ridley all had shows that were ready for Edinburgh and from day one, audiences will get the full experience.

The funniest three previews I saw were:

Scott Bennett: Leap Year

This show is the best that I’ve ever seen. The jokes come almost with the pace of a one-liner comedian and there is a huge level of coherency to the whole that leaves you with a nice warm feeling of fulfilment. If there is any justice in the world, this will be Scott’s breakthrough year into becoming a household name.

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

This is very close to Bennett’s in quality. The writing is superb. It is insightful, hilarious and with Moorhouse’s down to earth delivery, the end result is amazing. This show has 5 Star written all over it, unless some git writes it off (probably before they even see it) as a Northern comic’s club set. This show is absolutely piss funny.

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas

Ironically I saw this show under adverse conditions. The room was boiling hot, everything had been delayed, the audience were drunk and just wanted banter and it was at an early stage. However, there was a lot of great stuff there and Green has the magnetism to bring it all together in a most satisfying way.

Previews that I’d like to have seen, but didn’t:

Roger Swift: Pun-U-Matic (the second leg)

I like Roger, he’s an underrated act who is better than he thinks he is. I did have chance to see this last night, but it was too bloody hot to travel for 90 minutes.

James Cook: Sarcasmic

Cook is one of the most technically excellent acts that I’ve ever seen and should be a lot better known than what he is.

David Callaghan: Dead Man’s Chest

I’ve only ever seen Callaghan once and that was at a gong show (he won), but I’ve got a strong feeling that there is a lot of gold here and this should be good.

The Little Last Laugh: Adam Hess and Justin Moorhouse

Tonight I had a trip to Sheffield in the midst of sweltering heat, however it was totally worth it considering the quality that I saw.

Adam Hess: Seahorse

Hess began by warming the audience up a little bit, telling them about how a robot had taken his job earlier in the year (the later callback to this was good) and he then gave us a brief list of quirky facts about himself to add a bit of context to the show.

The show itself was a work in progress, but the mainspring of it seemed to be that owing to a setback he has had to move back in with his parents and this seems to have reminded him of various things that occurred during his childhood. I could be wrong with the narrative arc, as he jumped around a lot and the structure wasn’t that easy to discern. A lot of the show consists of stories from his earlier years, with his brother and mum playing fairly large roles (I really liked the tale of his mum buying tickets to one of his previews), but these weren’t in any particular order and every so often he would jump to an anecdote from recent years or even this month. There were some strong routines in here such as shrunken salad, stethoscope, shrapnel and under the bed. All of these were very good and received good laughs.

However, because Hess seemed to be going in three different directions at once and would get distracted and go off on what looked to be a tangent at the drop of a hat, I never felt that I’d got to grips with what the show was about. He spoke a lot – I can’t fault his work rate – he kept it light hearted and fun and I think that when he’s worked on the structure the stories will click into place and it’ll become bigger than the sum of its parts.

Tickets can be found here.

Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker

Moorhouse came to the stage full of energy and received a rousing reception from the audience. To say that he hit the ground running would be a huge understatement – he hit the room with the speed of a steam locomotive and he never slackened the pace throughout the entire hour.

He began by discussing the title of his show, with a brief talk about being Northern, where he showed a firm grasp of northern rivalries, before moving onto the joker part. This show was full of stories about his life, his children getting older, Brexit and Puffin Island. Every single routine was full of charm and extremely funny. There were no lulls, Moorhouse just seemed to go from highlight to highlight.

Too many areas stood out for their excellence, so this list is far from comprehensive. There was a great joke about being vegan, what Trump has done for middle aged men was superb, especially the line about the fence, his whole foray into Brexit was magnificent and insightful. However, when it came to table sauces and Brexit, Moorhouse demonstrated true genius; this was sublime writing. Even Brezhnev received a mention and got a laugh, something that can’t have happened recently in a comedy show.

Moorhouse’s delivery was superb. He has a great rhythm of delivery and he could probably read out a shopping list and still get laughs just from how he did it. His timing with the pause on the motives of Brexit voters was great.

This was a show where not only was there a lot of laughter and applause, but people were still laughing long after the punchlines. I’ve a feeling that I will still be laughing at this days later. This is a winner of a show.

Tickets can be found here.

Canal House – Ryan Mold, Hassan Dervish, Simon Lomas, Katie Mitchell, Red Redmond, Ben Bridgeman, Scott Bennett and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night, which continues to be a superb show. There was a really big audience in, which added to the atmosphere and luckily the room was quite cool, which made it even sweeter.

Fran Jenking (MC)

Fran had an excellent night compering and the audience loved him, despite his overrunning a couple of times. He began just by using his powerful voice, as there was a glitch with the microphone. Referencing the hot weather was nicely topical. I was very happy to see Fran talking about the dark web and unboxing, as I’ve not heard a lot of material about these and it felt fresh. This was combined with some very strong room work. Everyone whom Jenking spoke to was happy to chat with him and he was able to build a heck of a lot from their responses. Particularly entertaining was the guy who had been working in a warehouse for a few weeks and didn’t have a clue what the full name of the company was. Jenking was responsible for creating a very amiable environment for the acts to perform in and this was the best that I’ve seen him. He added a lot of fun to the night and generated a great atmosphere.

Ryan Mold

I’d seen Mold previously and my thoughts then were that he has good performance skills, but weak material and my opinion hasn’t changed. He opened by talking about a new year resolution and as we head towards August, that felt distinctly past its use by date. From here he moved onto Aldi and the alleged speed that their staff scan goods. This is an area that I’ve seen used at a lot of gong shows and you could just tell that he was going to go for broke with Aldi and reference the bizarre items on the special aisle next. He did this in the next sentence. The audience participation, where he acted out a routine was fun, though, even if he still wasn’t breaking any fresh ground with the topic The next routine featured a builder and shirts was a nice line, but this routine petered out when he forgot the second half of it. I found this slip of the memory easier to be tolerant of than the Aldi material, which has been done to death. Whilst the material was weak, the audience enjoyed it and this was because of Mold’s skill as a performer. If he were to write more potent material he would be immeasurably improved, as there is nothing wrong with his delivery.

Hassan Dervish

Dervish stood out for his unique style. He’s a musical act and his set alternated between brief moments of him talking whilst background music played and him singing softly or doing a poem to music. Whilst the audience were fully onboard, it wasn’t really my cup of tea and if you don’t like musical comedy then despite his evident skill in writing and performing, it’s hard to become invested in it. However, this was nicely different and the vast majority of the room enjoyed it a lot. Dervish is certainly bookable and worth seeing.

Simon Lomas

We resumed after the intermission with Simon Lomas who is the best new act to hit the circuit in the last few years. He was here to try some new material not long after winning the biggest monetary prize in UK comedy history. As he stood on the stage about to begin his set, Lomas received a wolf whistle, which, with a voice dripping with dryness, he thanked the lady for. He then launched into his set, getting his first applause break after his first joke. From here it became almost Pavlovian, with Lomas talking and then the audience laughing and applauding every time he finished speaking. I adored the visual gag with the notebooks and I shouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t get a second bite of that cherry by having a third book about his person. There were two new jokes that could perhaps be improved; Alton Towers and the following joke, which might perhaps work better with stayed at home. There was a cracking moment when a girl was foolish enough to shout out, asking if he needed a hug – his response to this was beautiful and the joke that he closed the set on was tremendous. This was a brilliant set.

Katie Mitchell

The hard job of following Lomas fell to Katie Mitchell who was trialling a new routine. This featured a pumpkin paperwork. It was very similar to her existing routine about bread, being two sides of the same coin and it would be difficult to use them both in the same set. The props were nice, but not that easy to see fully from the back. You could make out ‘society’ but not the detail of the drawing under it. The Tim Allen reference was ok, but I daresay there were a few people in the audience who had to think who he was for a moment.

Red Redmond

Red was here to try some new material and there was a lot of good stuff here. Supersize and super skinny was a nice premise, Gemma and Karen was good, the dog routine was very good, Chris Rock was interesting and gender fluid was genius, but Queers, Colonialism and Genocide was a tougher sell. However, the gay army already has legs, but it has the potential to become an absolutely amazing routine. There are loads of ways in which Red can develop this, but I can easily see it becoming a standout. I’ll be very interested in seeing where he takes it. This was a very enjoyable set that had the feeling of a real performance to it.

Ben Bridgeman

We began the final section with Bridgeman, whom I’ve seen a couple of times before. His set was a bit of a mixed bag. He’s low energy, but at the moment his material isn’t really strong enough for him to make the most out of that and there were a few lulls in his performance. His opening routine didn’t make an instant impression and it took a while to get to the pay off, which he pretty much left hanging and this made that routine feel a bit inconclusive. There were some better lines in there, such as long term robbery, the progressive friend routine, the cheeseboard and what he loved was very good; however, ‘that would get a cheer in America’ is overused. Bridgeman has improved since I last saw him, but it may be an idea for him to go through his entire set and examine each line to see if he can tighten it up and improve on it. He’s going in the right direction, but his material needs more work.

Scott Bennett

Headlining was Scott Bennett, a man whom I’ve seen more of in the last six days than I have of my parents during this entire month. However, despite already being a top level act, he somehow manages to become even better after every gig. He has an incredible work ethic. His room work was great (I’ve never seen Bennett compere, but I can easily imagine that he’d make a lot out of a residency) and he quickly launched into the material he was working on. This was, as you’d expect, all fantastic stuff. There were two moments were Scott ad-libbed and these showed great presence of mind. The first one involved someone dropping some glasses whilst he was talking about bin days and as quick as a flash, he shouted out, ‘no it’s not glass bin day’ and this got a huge laugh. He then repeated this five minutes later when the bar phone rang, fitting this into a routine concerning a trip to the dentist. To be able to weave chance events into material so seamlessly was excellent on both a comedic and a technical level. After he had finished his set, Bennett was assailed by cries for an encore, so he concluded with a tale of crazy golf and this brought everything full circle and completed the night.

Bar One – Edinburgh Previews, Alistair Williams: Great White Male and Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Alistair Williams: Great White Male

I first saw Alistair Williams in Edinburgh in 2016. He was in the right place at the right time for me and in I went. This was very fortuitous for me, as I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Hence I was really looking forwards to seeing him again today.

The theme of this show is that whilst women and other groups are finding pride in themselves, it’s not that bad being white and male, either. In the hands of a less likeable comedian, this could be a challenging concept that could go in several unpleasant directions, but with Williams we are in a safe pair of hands. He has plenty of charisma and a ready smile that wins crowds over pretty quickly.

At the moment, the arc of the show sits loosely on top of the routines and there isn’t a huge feeling of there being any message or narrative, but I don’t particularly mind that. Where Williams scores is with the routines themselves. These are never, with one exception, anything less than captivating. This was a show with a good amount of laughter. His dad’s comments about his dwelling were superb, the Chinese chip shop equivalent was marvellous, lottery and sharks was great and McDonald’s was a stand out. The one bit of material that I didn’t like came in a rather good routine about us and Europe and concerned claims to the Falklands. I’ve very recently watched a documentary about the events of 1982 and after seeing the casualties being evacuated, it was a little bit too close to home for me and strangely felt like it was too soon.

Going forwards, although I don’t mind the loose narrative arc, it would be improved if the structure of this show was tighter, as it does feel like an album of Williams’ greatest hits, rather than a show and it would be nice to see a big closing routine that brings everything together. However, I still found it quite delectable to watch. There is a lot of joy in just sitting there and enjoying what he performed. The routines are a splendid bunch that got a lot of laughter. It’s a shame that Williams is based down south, because he’s an act that I’d like to see more of.

Tickets can be found here.

Phil Nichol: Your Wronger

Phil Nichol has the sort of infectious enthusiasm that would enable him to sell a pink elephant to anyone. He has also had an interesting life and I think a lot of people would really enjoy listening to a hour of him just chatting away about his experiences.

At the moment, this show is a bit of a work in progress, but it’s already something glorious. It is something of a sequel to his 2017 show, Your Wrong, which was based on a facebook argument with someone who believed the earth was flat. This brief preamble gave us a great running joke about things that were ‘a globe, by the way’ and it’s a shame that this wasn’t revisited a few times later as a callback in the rest of the show, as it was a banker.

Your Wronger followed some tumultuous events in Nichol’s life. His religious Canadian upbringing, the beautiful story of how his father was welcomed to Canada, his first love, his marriage, subsequent lows and then a wonderfully happy story in Australia, which brought everything full circle and which gave a most satisfying feeling of completeness to it all. There is a lot of backstory to all of this and whilst it’s not hard to keep track of who is whom and what is happening, there were a few bits that could have perhaps have been edited down to keep that narrative and the funny without using up quite so much time.

Nichol’s delivery was amazingly strong and despite him feeling that he had lost his way at one point, when he asked the audience for their opinion he was rewarded with a massive vote of confidence from the entire room.

There was a lot of laughter and it’s impossible not to take a real interest in Nichol; presently there is the basis for a great show here. However, with a little bit of tightening this show will be splendiferous.

Tickets can be found here.

Bar One – Edinburgh Previews, Gary Delaney: Gagster’s Paradise and Bethany Black: Unwinnable

This afternoon I was in Derby at Bar One for the Funhouse Edinburgh Preview all dayer. There was a big crowd there to see the shows, with many familiar faces from the Bless, such as Doug and Elaine Lumley, Brent and up from Leicester, Neal Sullivan. There was even a chap from Radio Derby present. Although the show was outdoors, we were under a cover, but as the sun moved around it didn’t half get hot sat there and I flitted seat a couple of times in the hope of starting and ending a show sat in the shade. There were six shows on, of which I saw the middle four, as I saw Scott Bennett on Thursday just gone and Danny Ward on a few weeks ago. The first show I saw was:

Gary Delaney – Gagster’s Paradise

Delaney took to the stage in front of an eager audience. He began by explaining the format of the show and telling everyone that he was still doing quality control on a few of the jokes. Naturally no one objected to any of this, because anything that Delaney is confident enough to say in public is guaranteed to be worth hearing.

The show began with excerpts from a documentary about Gary, Indiana, which worked wonderfully on more than merely the level that the director had intended, as it was linked back to Delaney himself.

The main body of the show was split into nice easily digested sections, with one-liners being alternated with power point slides. This broke the wall of jokes up and kept everything fresh, preventing the room from being laughed out too soon. The jokes were all absolute corkers with, as ever, the darker gags getting the largest laughs. The power point slides were hard to see due to the angle of the sun (this won’t be a problem in Edinburgh), but owing to Delaney’s descriptions they all worked well, apart from The Shard, which I think you probably did have to see to get the most from it.

Delaney’s delivery was superb and his habit of snorting at a funny gag was massively endearing, as was his evident joy in sharing well crafted jokes. Particularly enjoyable were his digressions into explaining why a joke was or wasn’t correctly placed in the running order and so on. These were fascinating and helped to give a more rounded experience.

There was just one hiccup where he went a little bit out of sequence, but he’d got a lot of goodwill and no one was fazed by this. The ‘clapta’ is a great idea and landed well. The penultimate routine, greetings cards, is an absolute cracker and there must surely be a lucrative market for them? To close with Delaney gave the room a few jokes from the dungeon, where only the darkest of jokes were kept. These were all magnificent. There was no arc, or narrative to this show, but frankly who cares when something is as funny as this? This was a champion show that is worth seeing not because it’s someone from off the telly, but because it is by a comic who is at the top of his game.

Tickets can be found here.

Bethany Black: Unwinnable

The backdrop of this show was the various ailments and afflictions that Bethany Black has acquired over the years and there is a pleasing subtext of her being happy within herself despite them. She opened by talking about the weather, which made for a topical start to her show. This was followed by her discussing how she looks, of which the disbelief was very strongly acted out.

The various topics discussed included relationships past and present, pornhub, self-diagnosing using the internet and more uniquely, her gender. The first three areas have been covered by a lot of comedians and these were alright, but not a lot of what she had to say stood out from what anyone else has said, despite the pleasant delivery. There were some deep and funny lines concerning gender and the recent London Pride demonstration and I really enjoyed this part. The standout line of the show concerned the death of Roger Moore and this was a smasher of a line, although the 12,000 line did run it close. Another bonus to this show were the asides. These added quite a bit to what she was saying.

Whilst this show wasn’t that tightly worded yet, I’m sure it will come together fully in time for Edinburgh. At the moment it ambled along agreeably enough without any lows, but also without hitting any big highs.

Tickets can be found here.

The Shinnon – Roger Swift, Laura Monmoth, Steve Shanyaski and Joe Zalias (MC)

Tonight I was in North Wingfield at The Shinnon for the FaF Promotions comedy night. As before, the room was packed out and there was a great air of expectancy from the audience. The vast majority are regulars and although they knew they were in for a good night, they didn’t know what to expect from the acts until they got onto the stage.

Joe Zalias (MC)

Compering the night was Joe Zalias, who was a confident presence. He began by asking where people were from, with most being local and someone from Nottingham almost being considered exotic. He hit gold discovering a girl from Leeds and chatted amiably with her for a moment before remembering he’d spoken to her the last time he was there and then moving on to other people. There was a brilliant moment when Mr Zalias discovered the unusual ‘punishment’ a man on the front row had given his partner for not having done the pots that morning, which fully deserved the round of applause. It was nice to see a compere only asking one person what they did for a living and Joe struck gold with finding a trainee sport scientist. His impression of him attempting to explain how to win to Bradley Wiggins was hilarious. Quite a few of Joe’s jokes were sexual in nature, but just when I thought he may be getting a bit near the knuckle, he’d pull back and change gear, which was good to see. I was impressed with the pretty dark dropped joke, which went down very well during his final compering session. Zoe Zalias did the rules, kept the night on schedule and warmed everyone up. This was good compering that didn’t overpower the rest of the night.

Roger Swift

Roger had a good night; people were laughing just as the sight of him as he made his way to the stage. His first 3-4 jokes got an equal mix of laughs and groans, but as his set progressed, the proportion of laughter increased. There was consistent laughter throughout all of the twenty minutes. Some of the gags would have 90% plus of the room onboard and he still managed to keep 60% of the audience even on jokes that didn’t land so hard and on average he had 75% of the room with him, which is good going. There was one lady, however, who early on decided that Roger wasn’t for her and she had an annoying habit of saying loudly, ‘I didn’t get that’ or ‘what?’ to a few of the punchlines, which got old pretty quickly. As ever, the asides did well, although I did wonder if Roger might have over egged the pudding a little bit in some of his self-deprecating comments. Whilst there was a lot of laughter for him announcing the amount of time he’d spent on an elaborate prop, he did run down his act a few too many times for my liking. Due to football getting in the way of a lot of comedy nights, this was Roger’s first twenty for a while and he did begin the set up to a gag that wasn’t on the power point, but that didn’t cause too much of an hiccup. The new shake the room joke is tremendous and I wasn’t surprised when he received applause for it. This was a very enjoyable set from an act that I can see developing further.

Laura Monmoth

We resumed after the intermission with Laura Monmoth. I’ve seen Laura compering and doing her Edinburgh show, but I’d never seen her do a twenty before. A lot of her material was delivered via power point, which made it very easy to follow. There were a lot of jokes to be seen. Even the screen saver, prior to her beginning contained a good number of jokes for anyone who gave it more than the once over. Laura was very astute in taking pre-gig photos of the audience and the landlord and using them in her set, as this grabbed everyone’s attention and made her set feel special. Equally wise was her use of Mansfield for the local shit town. I and everyone else were hugely impressed by the power point crafted callbacks to Roger’s set. These were elaborate and must have been very time consuming for her to create, but they landed with the force of a sledgehammer. Laura’s attempts to improve reality were charming and very funny, receiving good laughs. The closing routine featured Bohemian Rhapsody and she’d benefit from acquiring a conductor’s baton to push the sing-along along. This is a good closing routine, but it’s a very long song and it does eat up a lot of time that she might be able to make better use of. For anyone not invested in it after the first minute, there isn’t much to hold them for the next five, but in fairness, Laura received good laughs for it, especially the more surreal names. This was a very good set that held the room well. It was creatively constructed and the laughs came regularly. Monmoth is certainly a bookable act.

Steve Shanyaski

Our headlining act was Steve Shanyaski, whom I last saw at Bluey’s where he had been asked to do an encore by popular demand. Tonight he had another cracking night. Shanyaski is a charismatic comedian, with a happy expression on his face and the room liked him from the off. He is also a lively performer who brings a nice level of physicality to his delivery and his ability to alter the tone of his voice added a lot of life to the various characters that he sketched out. This was a fast moving set that dealt with life, people and relationships. There was a slightly surreal edge to some of the routines, but Shanyaski easily kept everything relatable. The pacing was fast and he built up and then maintained his momentum all the way throughout. There were some cracking lines, such as expression pencil and spiked, both of which deserved applause. The closing song gave a fitting end to what had been a great night of comedy.