Tonight I was up in Sheffield at The Lescar for the Little Last Laugh, which is a beauty of a comedy night. The fair sized room filled up very quickly and it wasn’t long before the acts had to give up their seats for audience members and after that, it was standing room only. Despite it being warm with all of the people present, the atmosphere was as good as ever.
Nina Gilligan (MC)
Gilligan came to the stage looking happy, but with some steel under the smile. She utilised her past career as a teacher to keep the room in check and this was a nice touch, especially when people asked ‘miss’ if they could go to the toilet. Against that, I could have done without hearing ‘it’s your own time you’re wasting,’ as it’s an overused line, but in fairness, it did fit in well with the persona that Gilligan had adopted. The people she spoke to were a mixed bunch, with a Phd student studying ageing being the standout. There was a beautiful moment when Nina asked him to guess her age, forgetting that she’d just announced her age 2 minutes previously, only twigging on when he guessed it straight away. Last week when she was compering The Lescar she had taken love as a theme, even getting people involved in a game of blind date and that sounded really nice. Tonight, the theme was getting to know people and if an act is regularly compering a venue, then things like this help to keep it fresh. There were some very nice touches, such as finding volunteers willing for her to go through their bags or phone browser histories. Although this did eat up a bit of time, it worked fantastically in getting everyone onboard. The only slip that she had was in not announcing how many acts there were in the first section. Usually there is one, but tonight there were two and because the audience are used to the one and then a break, a lot of people got up to go to the toilet and Gilligan found herself having to fill time before enough people had come back to enable the show to resume without too many returning interruptions. This was more bad luck than anything else, as the rest of her compering was very enjoyable, being fun, light-hearted and bringing people into the show.
Sully is a solid act that I don’t seem to see that often. He’s also a highly skilled compere and this came through very strongly in his set. He began with a couple of fast observations about the room that were instantly funny and this established his comedic credentials within the first 20 seconds. He also looked sharp as if he was ready for anything that the audience had to say and that nothing would faze him. This came to the fore when towards the latter part of his set he was talking about insults and in response to a question, received two answers simultaneously. He took them in turn, dealing with each one, getting laughs and keeping everything easily within his control. O’Sullivan talked a little bit about colonialism and by coincidence a month or so ago another act had discussed that in The Lescar, but where it then had felt like we were being lectured for the sins of the past upper classes, Sully’s was totally different in tone and a lot funnier. This was a well delivered and funny set that got the night off to a strong start.
Stachini was present to run out some new material and it was a pleasure to see him. He looked confident and his delivery seemed to be smoother than when I last watched him. The material itself was all new to me, although I did wonder if he chose to finish on a bit of established material as the missing girlfriend was so good it had the feel of a regular routine. Of the other routines, his relationship with his girlfriend was good, especially when it came to the pet rabbits, although I wasn’t so sure about the tired line, as that seemed to jar a little with his happy and upbeat character. The greatest line in what was a good set was about his partner’s reaction if he were to ever be on life support. There was a lot of good stuff in this short set.
The Dutch Mejis had a very good night. He’s a tall chap and opened by referencing this fact, which earned him some big laughs from the off, especially for his height in English. From here he moved on to talking about trains, tying this material into the audience by asking a few people where they were from. Mejis is an intelligent act, well able to think on his feet and construct a callback, which was impressive. Perhaps the greatest ad-lib in his set was when he pretended to be from Leeds and to also be shorter than he was – this was very funny and was superb in context. The closing routine about the train ticket was one that built up very nicely and there were cries of disappointment when he announced that it was the end of his set.
Wolverhampton born Titley had a couple of advantages for this gig. He had spent his student days in Sheffield and there was a lady sat near the front from Wolverhampton. Both of these were used as lead ins to material, which should have made them feel more relevant. However, a lot of his talk about protesting against Thatcher and his support for the Miners when he was a student was lost on audience members under forty. Whilst not quite the same, his material about it being acceptable to take the piss out of people with a West Midlands accent, was something that has been said a few times and so for a different reason, this didn’t quite hit home as it may have done. With the topics he spoke about there wasn’t a lot that people hadn’t heard someone else do a routine about and if he were to cover some less discussed things, then he would do better. Although Titley looked plausible and had good presence a lot of the funny was lost amongst the amount of words he used and if he were to edit down his set it would be an advantage. His actual delivery, extra words aside, was good and with a bit more work regarding the material he will be much improved.
The headliner was Scott Bennett, one of the most consistently superb acts that I see. Tonight he went on a bit later than planned to a warm audience and he still went down an absolute treat. People sat near me where slapping their thighs and were doubled over laughing. In a shrewd move, Bennett emphasised his father’s Yorkshireness in the early parts of his set and this hit home hard in Sheffield. From here he mixed in newer material with the more established pieces seamlessly in a set that flowed extremely well. The material is all honed to perfection and Bennett delivers it brilliantly, laying the emphasis on just the right word in a sentence to get the greatest impact. This was a fantastic set.