Tonight I was in Newcastle under Lyme for the Funhouse gong show. This was a night where pretty much everything minor that could go wrong did, but everyone coped all right. Spiky Mike had left his MP3 player at home and so the regular music wasn’t available for gongings or celebrations and this gave the night an odd feel. Also the microphone wouldn’t work to begin with, but this was replaced before Mike had gone too far into compering. The major problem was the lighting. The Rigger is a rock pub (lovely venue) and had had some new lights, which no one had quite worked out how to use and until the tech guy had them settled, the stage would change colour every 30 seconds or so. The audience were as nice as ever, with Chris just about staying on the entertaining side of drunk. It was nice to see a birthday group in, although I think everyone was surprised to discover that the birthday girl’s mother had bought her a vibrator as a present. The judging was fairly generous tonight with not many red cards being given and a few acts getting through to the final that probably wouldn’t have otherwise. The judges did seem to wake up a bit as the night went on and there was one gonging that was a bit harsh.
Opening was Fitton whom I’d last seen compering in Derby. A fair bit of her material concerned dating and she opened by telling the bar man, 30 years or so her junior, that she had her eye on him. This didn’t land hugely, nor did it link in that well to her next lines, which were about having been a girl guide. There was a string of fish puns, but these were mostly just names of fish crowbarred into a routine, similar to when a few people on facebook are trying to outdo each other after someone’s posted ‘I’m herring you’ in response to a friend’s update that ‘they’re having a whale of a time’. These jokes weren’t that strong, but then neither was the rest of the set. Fitton was fairly amiable and managed to make the final.
O’Brien had a good night. His material was good and this did most of the heavy work in his performance. Free range was fine, he managed to make material about his home town not feel parochial and his weariness of his kids was well realised. There was a tiny bit of a lull when he mentioned his job on one set up, but that was a minor point. I enjoyed the spinach joke, although that might work better later on in some rooms. O’Brien got consistent laughs and with more experience his delivery will catch up with his writing skills. This was an enjoyable set and O’Brien made the final
Henry C had some strong material and his relaxed presence helped him to deliver it. He began with two puns and then followed them with a couple of routines involving cameras delving into holes and dodgy nightclubs. The nuclear explosion was a vivid picture that worked well and the knife line was quality. There were some good jokes in this set and although I got to some of the reveals before he did, there was plenty of laughter. Mr C was well supported by the audience and received loud cheers in the final.
Usually in gong shows if three acts in a row are voted through, then the fourth has an uphill struggle, as the judges seem to wake up to the fact that someone has to be voted off. However, Berry had some quality about him and deservedly made the final. He talked about living with three daughters and his partner, lying to children and yoghurt and made all of these feel new and refreshing. Berry had some nice ideas and this came through very well. The subjects of lying to children about were funny and delivered in a way to generate momentum. The yoghurt line was good, but could have perhaps been improved with a callback, as the direction he went did seem to be a bit out of left field. This was an impressive set.
Hughes opened with a I know what you’re all thinking routine and this has been done so many times that unless this is outstanding, it’s hard to get much from it. This was then followed by porn, which is another well travelled topic. In fairness, he had a great line about a senior citizen, but when he went on to talk about trans porn, I did wonder how that would fare with another performer there, who is transitioning from male to female. The routine about prison and bestiality was lighter than it sounds. However, after seeing Fitton struggle with fish based puns, regardless of their intrinsic worth, he may have been better off ditching them instead of giving the room more or less the same fish, but in a different order and setting. Hughes kept the audience with him until he lost his place and he was gonged soon afterwards.
Smith is a gag teller with a slow low energy delivery, meandering set ups and not a huge amount of stage presence. For this to work well his material would have to be outstanding. However, his jokes weren’t especially strong and although he reached the final, I doubt if anyone in the audience will be able to remember a single thing he said, apart from needing the petrol money for his car share home. If Smith were to write some more powerful jokes, then his delivery would work better with it, or if he were to add more life into his delivery he may push the existing jokes further, but at the moment he seems to have the worst of the combination.
Bawden was happy to chat to individual members of the audience and he had a few good comments to make. However, he did suffer from the running order. Being the second act to mention that he was a man growing breasts robbed it of impact and a few of the other acts had run down Merseyside already and so this felt a bit wearing by the time Bawden got to it.
Dalton began by commenting about having to make the ‘bastards’ laugh, or something similar, and this wasn’t an ideal way to win the room over at the top, nor was it funny, so it’s a line probably best never said again. Easy Jet, excess baggage and their meanness has been done a lot of times and as the audience discovered, Dalton wasn’t saying anything no one else has said something similar to before. The use of welcome signs on the nearby towns was ok, but not that punchy and then there came a weird moment, where Dalton just stopped dead. He was stood still, for long enough that I was beginning to wonder if he’d had a medical issue, but instead he was just trying to remember his next bit. These things happen, but he was so silent, so still, for so long, it was a worry. The next routine was worth remembering and he perhaps should have opened with it, as it was his best material, that of Osama’s bodyguard. Dalton didn’t make the final.
The final act of the middle section was Silver, who was above par for someone who’s not that experienced. There were some good lines in this set, with gynaecologist being a great stand out. The material about transitioning was interesting and novel. The line about putting a dog down was one that I can see alienating a lot of animal lovers, even though the context makes it clear it is a joke. Darcie could strengthen her delivery by adding some emphasis to the punchlines, as tonight she went the other way and was quieter with these and I think a few people were expecting more due to this. Silver did run out of material towards the end, which probably cost her a place in the final and this was the one gonging that I felt was harsh, as there were acts who had made the audience laugh less who had been voted through.
Wearing a colourful jacket and a purple wig, Wordsmith was visually interesting even before he began his set. He came rushing onto the stage full of energy and sounded a klaxon as he told his first joke, which unfortunately was lost in the noise of the klaxon. From here he launched into a string of gags with gusto. These were about the death of Princess Diana, prompting a wonderfully timed sarcastic heckle of ‘Too soon!’. The line about why did she cross the road was a true belter, but this joke is all over the internet. The gag about Egyptians and being in denial was probably first told by Cleopatra and wasn’t new to anyone in the the Rigger. Wordsmith then began singing a version of Purple Rain, with props, getting through three verses (with duet with Chris in the audience) before he was gonged. I was highly surprised by the Purple Rain material, as it had no comedy in it beyond changing a few words and having props to illustrate the change. Upon being gonged, Wordsmith promptly left the building and was probably sat in his car within 30 seconds of the decision, which seemed unsporting as others had taken the votes in good heart. If Wordsmith were to harness his superb energy to some cracking jokes he would do much better.
Crosse suffered from an absence of punchlines. He talked about notes left about the house, plus did a list of things people remember, but just when you were expecting a reveal, there wasn’t one. When it came to losing fifty pound the misdirection was very easy to spot and this really hurt that joke. Crosse didn’t make the final.
Oddly Tuffy looked plausible from the moment he walked onto the stage. This might be because he had a slow confident walk and looked like he knew what he was doing, or it might just have been my imagination, but he inspired confidence from the off. We weren’t let down, either, as he was one of the few acts who gave the room a performance that had the feel of belonging in an actual set. The material was well written and he had turned his less than forceful appearance into an asset. Tuffy’s set could have been derailed by Chris who joined in with a large part of it and for the final minute and a half it became something of a double act. Liam was perhaps a bit heavy with the put downs to Chris, but did well to hold it all together when many acts would have been spun out by someone on the front row joining in. Tuffy made the final and was a worthy winner of the night.