Black Bull – Jack Topher, Adam Beardsmore, Thomas Green (Edinburgh work in progress) and Thomas Green (MC)

Tonight I was in Whetstone to see a comedy night in the skittle alley of the Black Bull. This is a good room for comedy, with its low ceiling and massing of 70 or so people in quite a small space. Energy and atmosphere built very nicely indeed. Although this night was booked by Jack Topher, Adam Or who runs a couple of nights was present, too and it’s always nice to see people supporting each others nights like that. The rest of the audience was made up of people from Whetstone itself and this was definitely one of those gigs where 95% of the audience knew each other, which isn’t always a bad thing, but it can make people feel more confident to shout out. Show time was pushed back to accommodate a football match, which was convenient for a lot of people, but which had the knock on effect of necessitating an extra break so that people could go to the toilet. With the low ceiling, hot room and pretty well oiled audience there was a definite Edinburgh vibe to the night and like an Edinburgh show, there was no one Scottish present.

Thomas Green (MC)

I’ve only ever seen Green doing his show (2016) or a straight set and although I’d heard some very nice things about his compering, this was a first for me. Green has oodles of likeability, but he has a lot to offer beyond that. He has an agile mind, which meant that he was never caught off balance by anything anyone said to him, he is skilled at directing conversations towards his existing material and his performance skills are remarkable. I was especially impressed by his habit of assuming a separate character whenever he addressed the room with an aside. This was a lovely touch and it was something that everyone liked. Green has quite a vocal range, which not only came to the fore in the asides, but also through him adding little touches of characterisation to people he was describing and also when he dropped his voice to say with sinister menace to someone, ‘and you thought I wasn’t going to talk to you….’ Green has a very good memory for people’s names and this meant that he was able to structure quite a few callbacks to people whom he’d chatted to earlier. When this was combined with the character traits he had assigned to the various people present (many of whom now have new nicknames courtesy of Green) it gave the gig a wonderful feeling of an intimate shared experience. The only thing of substance that I wasn’t so keen on was a joke about vegans not having any energy. It was a good joke and received a big laugh, but this is a pretty well travelled area. That aside, this was excellent compering.

Jack Topher

As the booker of a gig in his home town and performing in front of an audience consisting of people who have known him for most of his life, Topher probably had more pressure on him than anyone else in the room. He dealt with this well, doing lots of special in jokes and taking full advantage of his inside knowledge of all present. However, he did come unstuck a bit from having had a few drinks and losing his place a couple of times, which is a one off as he doesn’t do this at other gigs. He opened by telling everyone that he wouldn’t be as funny as our MC, Thomas Green, and he pitched this with just the right tone to get a good laugh for his admission. This was then followed by him ostentatiously re-jigging his set to compensate for the fact that almost everyone present knew his mum and his usual routine about her wouldn’t fly without the alterations. This went down well, although he was on the receiving end of some pointed comments from his future mother in law. As ever, the pauses on death and brother were excellent. The closing musical joke was quite a long routine, but worked well as a once only in-joke for the his friends. This was fun, but I’ve seen Jack have better gigs.

Adam Beardsmore

No sooner had Beardsmore taken to the stage than he was greeted with a shout out from Callum of ‘don’t pick on me!’ which naturally enough resulted in Callum coming in for some teasing. This, however, was only the starter, as during the interval Adam had had a chance meeting in the toilet with a chap who was waiting to use a cubicle, as this man couldn’t pee in front of people. Beardsmore shopped him to the room in a way that nicely balanced between getting laughs and not making the person look silly. This tale of embarrassing happenings provided a nice link to a new bit of material concerning a shopping trip with his daughter, which led fluidly into his existing material and so on until his first applause break. There was then a break for some pretty nifty room work, where Adam outed Jack’s stage name to everyone, as tonight he had been performing under his real name. This got a laugh and considering that Topher is progressing nicely, it is perhaps something for his friends to be proud of, but it did leave me with more mixed feelings. There was a slight interruption at this stage as a phone went off and the owner tried to reply to a text before being enjoyably castigated for it. This was followed by some more new material concerning double barrelled names. This routine is a keeper, but I’d consider changing the names, perhaps to something in the way of an Easter Egg, like the names of the people who have played Doctor Who, or something similar for the more awake to spot. The acronym isn’t that easy to follow, as no one knew it was an acronym and although it is funny in retrospect when explained, I think it could still be used with the different names, as the end comment is funny enough without the acronym to back it up. As ever, the closing routine, with topper, was superb. This was a good set from someone who sooner, rather than later, will be moving up in the comedy industry.

Thomas Green: Doubting Thomas (work in progress)

After the final break we came to the main event, Thomas Green’s Edinburgh work in progress: Doubting Thomas. Owing to the later start, the extra break and the usual difficulty in getting people back to their seats in short order, the night had progressed quite dramatically. Whilst I could handle the bar sounding last orders before the show had ended, I was pretty concerned about the audience reaching a tipping point where their ability to sit still in a hot room and pay attention would fade. By now the audience, whilst still in a great mood, were thoroughly lubricated and had that small town we all know each other confidence to shout out at regular intervals. This could have made the room hard to play, but Green did very well to keep things more or less on track. He did have to burn a fair amount of time in dealing with the shout outs, but he did so in a way that was consistently funny and kept everyone onside. There was one rare slip in his remembering people’s names, calling Helen Holly, but that stood out more for being unusual, as he’d had a 100% success rate thus far, than for being jarring.

There were a lot of jokes and comments that were specific for this gig only and these were uniformly superb and really hammered home just how good live comedy is, as opposed to a dvd, and whilst these quips won’t make Edinburgh, they did demonstrate an impressive ability to think on his feet.

He began by asking who had been to Australia and this led pleasingly into a routine about swimming. The villainous look on his face when discussing finishing swimming with his ex truly sold that line. As before, when compering, Green was able to take full advantage of his vocal range to get a lot out of his material. Just little things, like how he enunciated ‘science’ helped to push his performance, whilst the bigger things, like the theatrical delivery of an encounter with a lady and then her father, worked even better.

One new bit concerning Loki was interesting and a great object lesson in the weirdness of Norse mythology (there is definitely a full show in comparing the more bizarre religious myths of the world), but it didn’t really come off as well as it might have done as just a short routine. The tale of his partner and her ability to remain resolutely down to earth was very good and there may be room to add to it by stressing this ability further, especially if tied in to the final line about the flowers. Tonight that got a lot of applause, but I can see it working even better.

There was a change of pace with the tale of the tiger and this might work better in the middle of the show when energy levels tend to drop naturally. Green may be best to get A3 or even A2 mock ups made of the pages of the book, as the pictures weren’t that easy to see the detail on from 12′ away. If he were to get an audience member to present them at the right moments it would help bond the room with the material and it would free Green to use the microphone more easily, as it was tricky to both show the pages and to keep close enough to the mic to make full use of it. During this routine drought was a nice line, but I think for Britain hosepipe ban would be stronger as it would have greater resonance. Spiders was an excellent closing routine.

Although this was a work in progress, Green has the makings of a great show here. The material is funny and his performance is splendid. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this and will be very interested in seeing the finished article.


Canal House, Edinburgh Previews: Ahir Shah: Duffer and The Hon. Tom Houghton: Tom Houghton the Honourable

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the first of the NCF Edinburgh Previews. This began at 1900, a hour earlier than usual and it felt odd seeing comedy in daylight. The numbers were pretty good, with most of the 100 or so seats being filled. One downside, though, was that there didn’t seem to be as many staff working the bar as per normal and so the start was delayed slightly in order to give everyone chance to get a drink.

Ahir Shah: Duffer

The first preview was that of Ahir Shah and it was entitled Duffer. Shah took to the stage and with his loud booming voice he sounded very much like Matt Berry. One of the first things he did was to playfully alert the audience to the fact that this show was a work in progress (it will naturally be reviewed as such) and that some of it would be bad. No one minded this and he received a good laugh for his frankness.

Shah began well by explaining his antecedents, which led into hearing about how he grew up being looked after by his gran. This set the scene for the show, which was pretty thought provoking. There were some very good lines in here, such as the jokes about reincarnation, Midlands, three degrees, Major and Currie was splendid and deserved a lot more than it received and the various callbacks to Bohemian Rhapsody, which were all a lot of fun. However, Allahu Akbar and explosions has been pretty much done to death, but in fairness Shah got a big laugh for both of them. Whilst I thought the line ‘and it’s closer’ wasn’t bad, I do think that is improvable. Shah made a fair point about gadgets listening in, but I don’t think he really got as close to the funny with it as what he could have done.

This was a very intelligently written show and it’s obvious that Shah is extremely well informed on a large number of subjects. However, I thought that at the moment, the weight of exposition got in the way of the funny. The format was mostly him speaking very quickly for a minute or so, giving the audience a tranche of backstory and then a short pause and a punchline. The reveals hit home pretty well and so on that level it worked well. However, over the length of the show, I found that this gave it something of an episodic feel and that possibly two thirds of his time was given to explaining things, or setting things up, with any time left over being for the humour. I know that set ups are required and that a scene does need to be painted, but I thought the balance was a bit out of kilter and my attention began to wane. At some points it began to feel a bit like a lecture with laughs and I did wonder how many other people were keeping up with the amount of information they were being given. I can imagine that this will be tightened up before August, though.

There was a rare interruption when a chap shouted out a question about Shah’s aunts, as he’d mostly spoken of his father, gran and various uncles. Shah fielded this well, but karma appears to have taken a hand, as just before the interval the heckler’s wife walked straight into a Perspex panel with a huge thud and neither were seen again.

Whilst this was a work in progress, Shah received regular laughs and the audience enjoyed it. There was a cathartic feel to the story and I think that if he were to edit it down so that there was less weight of exposition, the balance between story and funny will improve. This should be a good show when it is finished.

The Hon. Tom Houghton: Tom Houghton the Honourable

Houghton is an excellent act who I think will go far as a comedian and so I was especially interested in seeing his show. I wasn’t disappointed, either. He made a big impact from the off and the laughs flowed thick and fast. Not just ordinary laughs, these were proper belly laughs.

This show concerns Houghton’s upbringing, his dad’s ennoblement, Tom’s subsequent default rise and how for every success in life, there is someone in a crucial, but less glamorous role, who is holding the fort. Whilst I doubt that the story arc will change few people’s perceptions of the world, to me this doesn’t really matter. The show is incredibly funny and it will thoroughly entertain anyone who goes to see it and that is the important thing.

There is no denying that Houghton has won life’s raffle. He lives in one of the best addresses in the country, he has had what should have been a trouble free childhood and has been to places that few people will ever see. However, he is such a likeable person that no one could begrudge him this. Also, he is surprisingly down to earth. Whenever his list of good fortune begins to appear overwhelming, Houghton brings himself crashing back down to earth with a tale of humiliation or a mishap or two (Wetherspoons was great) and this helps to keep what he is saying relatable to the audience. He may be privileged, but he is just as prone to getting into a mess as anyone else. This is all pretty endearing.

There were a lot of superb lines in this show: Dominoes and social science were great. However, the daft puns were a lovely addition, too. I massively enjoyed all of those, the dafter the better. The orange lord, exorcise and cell mate were all laugh out loud funny. ‘Yawn raping’ was a new one on me and probably 80% of the audience, but the explanation only took 10 seconds, so this worked well.

The stories told by Tom were all of a very good quality, with lots of little lines and additions that helped to build them into something that everyone could easily picture. This was quite an immersive experience. His ability at doing different voices and accents was a huge advantage with this. My favourite was the squaddies on duty in Ulster – this really came to life in front of me. The only section that I thought was a bit of a lull was the ambush. That felt rather grim and seemed a bit out of step with the rest of the show. However, Houghton quickly pulled the mood back after the denouement and the show regained its feel good factor.

This was an incredibly funny show, chock-full of big laughs and I think the people up in Edinburgh are in for a treat.

The Lyric Rooms – Chris Thomas, Harvey Hawkins, Pete Phillipson and the Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue

Tonight I was in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. I’m not sure if this had sold out, but I’m damned if I could see any empty seats in the room and everyone was in for a treat. This was one of those shows where all four acts did incredibly well. Mike had a good night compering, chatting to Charmaine, who was happy enough to admit that she was a commercial estate agent specialising in pubs, but who was strangely reticent about naming her company. I’ve no idea why people do that, as no one is going to abuse their company or do them any harm, but either way, Mike was experienced enough not to push her on it. He got a huge laugh for the next person he spoke to, who was Charmaine’s PA, as he quickly came out with a rhyming couplet. There were further laughs from Mike speaking to George, who was 6’5 and only 16 and also from when he spoke to a Canadian marine biologist and although the Coronation Street specific joke was a tiny bit niche, fans of the programme loved it.

Chris Thomas

Following the demise of Ian D Montfort, we had a replacement in Chris Thomas, who was rather similar looking, but without the Wearside accent. Thomas took to the stage, wearing a suit and jacket and opened with the sort of joke that was powerful enough to have everyone onside within 2 lines. This was just the beginning of a superb set. There were some excellent set pieces that were incredibly well thought out and had everyone laughing. These included doing spirit drawings from a book of famous stiffs (Peter Stringfellow was a wonderfully timely addition) that two audience members had secretly chosen, guessing star signs and most spectacularly of all guessing the lines on a random page in a book. Times have moved on since acts took a book to a show for this and instead Thomas had a kindle with the complete works of Shakespeare on. All 61,000 pages of it. Three audience members picked out the digits to give a page number and a random audience member then checked it and Thomas had to guess what the first line of that page was. Incredibly he was able to recite a good few lines of it. There was one person who attempted to be creative with his answers to the questions, but Thomas dealt with him easily. This set was delivered with an assured confidence and went down a storm.

Harvey Hawkins

Hawkins had a cracking night. His opening joke worked very well at drawing people in and getting them listening, as everyone wanted to know how things turned out in this story. When the punchline came, it landed with a lot of force, getting him his first laughs and applause of the night. Hawkins was very aware of whom Mike had been talking to during his compering and was twice able to tailor his material to tie it to individual members of the audience and this worked brilliantly in adding extra impetus to what he was saying. I loved it when Hawkins played with the conventions of comedy when he announced that he would ‘tell the audience about me’. In a comedy literate room like this, it worked a charm. In contrast to an act I saw last week, Hawkins has a slow delivery and a crystal clear voice and in consequence no one missed a word of what he said and so everyone was laughing a lot. A hell of a lot. Very quickly we were at that lovely stage where every time he finished a sentence the whole room laughed. This was a smashing set and Hawkins never put a foot wrong all the way throughout.

Pete Phillipson

On a read through of the topics that Phillipson spoke about, lads, his dad, smelly visits to the loo, masturbation and girlfriend’s parents, it sounds very laddish, almost FHM in tone. However, Phillipson is a very subtle writer of comedy and he fashioned these topics into something nuanced, creative and very enjoyable. He was assisted in this by tackling each area from a different angle to what you’d expect and his skilful use of toppers was a joy to see. This was a set that whenever you thought he’d peaked with a routine, Phillipson would then add in just one more line to ramp up the humour. My personal favourite was admin, which seemed to strike a big chord with a lot of people in the room. Despite saying ‘right’ a few times, this was a very well delivered set and I’m surprised that he didn’t run out of breath on a couple of occasions. This was a performance where the laughter and applause flowed very easily for Phillipson.

The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue

For three years I’ve been hearing great things about this double act. I’ve heard about them getting standing ovations from tough rooms and about how they have smashed pretty much every gig, yet whenever they’ve been performing near me, I’ve always been at work. So I was massively looking forwards to seeing them tonight. There was a slight delay in them taking to the stage, owing to a technical hitch, but once this was resolved, they began their performance. The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue are a musical prop double act who will act out the lyrics of songs or do brief sketches based on lyrics. It’s not necessary to have any knowledge of the song excerpts they perform to (probably just as well, as I only recognised half of the songs) as you get everything you need in the way of exposition just from the lyrics themselves. Mike alerted everyone to the fact that they are a very visual act and so pretty quickly a good number of people were moving to get a better view. This is a performance where there are any number of things that could cause a hiccup, such as fumbling a prop, banging into each other on the stage, mistiming an action or even a speaker cutting out, but they pulled it off triumphantly. Raymond and Mr Timpkins have superb timing and coordination. Whilst the props and the music do the obvious heavy lifting, it is the superb acting of this duo that really sell their performance. The expressions pulled and the various moves with each prop pushed this to the maximum. After spending 3 years in anticipation of seeing them, I regret to say that although it is magnificent, it wasn’t really my cup of tea – I’m not that into musical comedy and I found it very hard not to try and second guess what they were going to do on the songs that I recognised. However, the audience loved every minute of it and I was surprised that there wasn’t a standing ovation. This was a magnificent performance and I can see why they have such a good reputation.

The Shinnon – Tony Burgess, Jem Braithwaite, Sham Zaman, Wes Zaharuk and Chris Brooker (MC)

Tonight I was at The Shinnon for the FaF Promotions gig. I usually see friends on Saturday nights, and was meant to be out with some tonight, but the weather put them off, which left me with the chance to go to my third Saturday night gig in two years. I’m back on shift tomorrow and so a gig just round the corner from home was very convenient, especially with a headliner like Wes Zaharuk on the bill. The Shinnon will fit a good 75 people or so in, but owing to the low ceiling and the crowd being up for the show, the atmosphere was such that it felt like there were over 100 people there. The stage sits slightly offset to a corner of the room, with the audience sat around it in a semi crescent, almost nudging the stage, which gave it a very intimate feel.

Chris Brooker (MC)

Brooker is a highly skilled compere, who has a very gentle demeanour that helps audiences to relax in his presence. Tonight marked his return to The Shinnon and seeing how well he was received, I shouldn’t be surprised if he gets booked many more times. Brooker is a tall chap, with what my Granddad would have called a wrestler’s build and owing to the lighting, his face and torso were well lit, but the top of his head was in darkness giving him an odd appearance, almost as if he had no top to his head. He began by finding out how many people there were regulars and who was there for the first time, which resulted in discovering just half a dozen or so newcomers. This enabled him to riff with it not being a cult or anything sinister, with some very nice remarks about the local after hours practices. Brooker announced that he had two jokes and they both worked very well. I was impressed with his quick wits for his nine comment and felt that that deserved more. In the second section, Brooker went with more material, which was a treat to watch and was streets ahead of asking people what they did for a living. Brooker did the rules, explained the format, plugged the next night, gave useful advice to help a much less experienced act and was very funny; this was good compering that helped to make the night a success.

Tony Burgess

Our opening act was Tony Burgess and he had a cracking gig. From beginning to end he hoovered up laughs, getting that little bit of applause after almost every joke that constantly seemed to hover on the edge of an applause break until he received the first of these part way through his set. Burgess has an accent that is hard to miss and he did well to reference that in his opening line. This was followed by solid material concerning the local posh town of Bakewell before he went into a sustained routine about his age. He had read the room well, especially noting the demographic and this all went down like a charm. The material on drugs wasn’t quite so well received, but this was only marginally so, as he kept probably 95% of the room with him for it. The section about his family and Christmas presents was a very strong closing to what had been a very impressive opening set. There were some great lines here, such as downsizing and Buckaroo, which were brilliant. The audience and I thoroughly enjoyed Burgess and I did worry a little bit that the night might have already peaked with this performance, it was so strong.

Jem Braithwaite

Opening the middle section was Jem Braithwaite, who was doing his first ever ten spot. Braithwaite is a skilled young comedian who has already found his voice. His style is surreal; he stands on stage jerking from one side to the other as if unseen Gremlins are pulling him about with lengths of string and his lines are all nicely offbeat. I think he’s someone to watch for the future, but I wouldn’t have thought that a pub in an ex pit village was his natural home, yet these are the gigs that he will have to master if he wants to play a full range of venues and audiences. Tonight, though, the room wasn’t fully with him. From the off, you could feel that they were unsure of a young act with the hood of his hoody sticking up out of the back of his cloak (the cloak is a great prop), but Braithwaite managed to entertain a fair few people. Whilst not everyone got him, those that did were fully onboard. There was a lady sat near me who laughed more at him than almost any other act. I saw some new material in Braithwaite’s set and this was good stuff, with the callback being a winner. Whilst tonight wasn’t the triumph that everyone would have wished for, Braithwaite did well and it is all useful experience. Perhaps if he were to break the 4th wall, drop out of character and acknowledge the oddity of his performance with a self-deprecating comment, it would help to break the tension and bring more people onboard. For a first ten in a room a bit outside his usual sort of gig this was a creditable performance.

Sham Zaman

Next was Sham Zaman, a high energy fast speaking act. I’ve seen Sham have some really good nights, but unfortunately this wasn’t one of them. This was pretty much due to two factors. One was that during his ten minutes he did a large number of routines concerning race and the law of diminishing returns naturally kicked in. The race card shows promise, but after so many other jokes about race it didn’t have the impact that it would otherwise have had and going forwards, a twist on it would have been nice. The other factor was the sheer speed at which Sham spoke. I’ve seen him a few times and I didn’t catch every word, whilst some of the people I was sat with were reduced to asking each other if they could make out what he was saying. If you are speaking too fast for a large part of the room to hear you clearly, then they won’t be able to laugh at jokes they haven’t followed. This could be remedied if Sham were to speak a little bit more slowly. If he were to be a bit more concise in his set ups then he would be able to do this without having to cut jokes from his set, as some of the set ups were on the wordy side. The clubbing baby seals comment was an oddity, as the vision it conjured up was more bloody than funny and he may have been better off with a gag along the lines of golf clubbing, as that would have fitted the age of the person he was speaking to and wouldn’t have had the negative baggage of the other. This wasn’t a great night for Sham and I’ve seen him do far better at other gigs so I know that this isn’t representative of what he can actually do. Next time I see him, I’m sure all will be well.

Wes Zaharuk

The headlining act was the very talented Wes Zaharuk. He’s a prop comic who adds a nice touch of magic to his jokes, inverting the genre in a creative way. Zaharuk pitches his persona just right, being self-deprecating, looking almost unsure himself that the stunts will work as planned. There is a lot of physical comedy in this set, some very obvious and some not so obvious. His facial expression after the mathematics was a wonderful look of guilt and shiftiness that really sold that joke. Zaharuk adds a very nice touch of anarchy to a night, with the feeling that no one knows what is coming next and that no one is safe from finding themselves on stage to assist with his stunts. Having 3 different audience members up on stage at various times certainly helps to bring people into this performance and there was a tangible feeling that everyone had a stake in the show. My personal favourite is the trick with the loo roll, this is solid gold and tremendous fun to see. The audience were massively invested in this performance and it provided a spectacular end to a the show. This was a smashing set.

The Little Last Laugh – Danny McLoughlin, Sean Collins, Seymour Mace and Big Shaun (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. There was another big crowd present, including a big retirement do consisting of a group of builders, which fortunately were skilfully managed in such a way that they didn’t unbalance the audience.

Big Shaun

Shaun certainly has a lot of potential as a MC. He has presence and a sure touch with an audience. He’s also an assiduous writer, who had written totally new material to what I saw last week. Tonight a lot of his material revolved around items that had been in the news today and this gave it a wonderful timeliness, that is a cut above the usual compering fare of asking people where they live and what they do. A few of these news based observations would have benefited from a killer closing line, but that will come. Shaun showed guts in tackling the big retirement party early on and did well to roll with them trying to give nothing away to his questions. It’s possible that if he had spoken to more people prior to them he may have built up enough impetus to make it harder for them to try to duck his questions, but I think whatever he did they were determined to play it tight. Shaun did use ‘fucking’ a fair bit, which wasn’t the end of the world, but if were to keep that word in reserve and use it to add emphasis on the big lines, then I think he would get a huge response for it – less is often more with swearing. This was enjoyable compering from someone whom I can easily see becoming very adept at it.

Danny McLoughlin

It had been a while since I last saw McLoughlin and so his name was a very welcome sight on the bill. I had enjoyed him previously and in the 18 months or so since I last saw him it is obvious that he has moved into an even higher gear. He opened by referencing a hoody that he was wearing and this led almost organically into a short but solid opening routine that gave everyone a feel for what he was about. As McLoughlin himself said, he doesn’t do politics – instead he delivered a set that was relatable to everyone in the room. There were some clever lines in this set, such as the meaning of Peter and Wayne. This was a great joke even if it did go over a few heads. I adored Danny’s comments when Neil tried to fib about his age – the Indiana Jones reference was right up my street, as indeed was Clash of the Titans (McLoughlin has a great taste in films). Rewards for crying and Hetty were both well thought through and unboxing is nicely novel. However, to me the standout routine of his set and of the night in total, was when McLoughlin spoke about a fight he had at school. His vivid descriptions had everyone sat tight listening in and hanging on his every word. This was a brilliant set that carried a real feel good factor and McLoughlin seemed to effortlessly make the Lescar a happier place.

Sean Collins

Like McLoughlin, Collins didn’t deal with politics or issues, either. Amongst other things, his material concerned kids, drugs, and the Beast from the East, which as a Canadian, who obviously gets proper weather, he had some very valid and funny comments about. Collins had a lot of good lines, but owing to the nature of his writing and the low energy, almost too weary to stand, persona that he adopted, there wasn’t a lot that anyone would be able to repeat tomorrow if they were put on the spot. In the Lescar, though, this approach worked very well, getting him consistent laughs. He did split the room a tiny bit, with a fair few people not being too sure about his story involving the piano teacher. This was a serious topic and I’m not sure that he really managed to convince everyone that there was a lot of humour in it. However, he was on firmer ground when discussing his replies to his wife’s dress dilemma, this went down a storm. This was a good set.

Seymour Mace

Mace came to the stage following a huge build up from Big Shaun and he riffed with that before launching into his set. Mace looks unusual. He wears a frilly shirt, a loud jacket and had a sheriff’s badge stuck to his left lapel that he wonderfully never felt the need to explain or even mention once during his set. Mace is one of those rare comedians who can stand on stage, not doing much of anything and still be funny (Cokey Falkow manages this, too). This was a surreal set and I’d be surprised if anyone could guess where he was going with any of the set ups and so there was a lot of genuine surprise with the reveals which added to the force with which they landed. Hand did especially well, but I really loved reverse burgling, which Mace acted out superbly well. His closing routine (backing singer) gave the audience a smashing end to a great night of comedy.

May – acts that have impressed me the most

This has been an amazing month for comedy. I’ve seen 47 acts and the highlight was a very strong English Comedian of the Year heat that featured some amazingly talented acts.

These are the comedians who have impressed me the most this month:

Lindsey Santoro

I’ve seen Santoro twice this month and she had a brilliant gig both times. It’s not hard to picture her progressing in the comedy industry and she’s well worth booking.

From the night:

Santoro had an absolutely smashing night. Her down to earth charm and more near the knuckle content struck a real chord with Ashby, despite them usually being a touch reticent about sexual material. She began well by addressing her accent and followed it up with the skilful use of pausing and letting the audience fill in the missing word. The topper on hole was brilliant and ring size (a personal favourite of mine) landed beautifully, seeming to shimmer on the edge of applause. This was a very impressive performance that had obviously been appreciated by the audience. I had enjoyed the set, but wasn’t sure how the voting would actually go, but in a lovely show of appreciation Santoro picked up 68 votes and finished in second place, between two pro acts. By any margin, that is absolutely smashing.

Tom Houghton

A superbly charismatic act whom audience’s warm to very quickly.

From the night:

Houghton was my favourite to win the most votes. He was one of the few acts on the bill who would be just as dangerous over twenty as he would be doing seven. He has great punchy material, a flamboyant delivery and has the sort of charisma that wins people around in next to no time. Tonight he began well with a quick spot of room work, before moving onto some new (to me) material about the names of groups of people and this was a brilliant start. He then moved on with even better material. This was peppered with asides to Ed, sat on the front row and everything he was saying was getting a laugh. The closing routine was a magnificently brave choice: an audience sing-along, with Ed the recipient of his own anthem. Getting the audience involved could have backfired, but there was never a doubt that they wouldn’t play along with Houghton and this paid off handsomely. I was sure that Houghton was going to hoover up almost every vote, but when it came to the vote counting he finished as a strongly supported, but surprise 3rd place.

Tom Lawrinson

A cracking surprise, who seemed to get laughs out of nowhere in the way only someone who is very skilled can achieve.

From the night:

Next was Tom Lawrinson, an act I’d never seen before. Stood on stage, arm stretched out with his elbow resting on the mic stand and big wide grin showing off his white teeth, he presented the room with a relaxed and quirky persona. He opened with an impressive joke and then rode the laugh whilst his intriguing character drew the audience in. His material was very good and he seemed to constantly wrong foot the audience with the reveals. When he mentioned online dating I was surprised, as his set had been wonderfully creative so far and this is a bit of an old chestnut, but he carried on the good work and took it in a totally different direction to anything else anyone has done. The delivery of this set was well acted out and very much in synch with his persona. This was a smashing set and there was a heck of a lot to like about it.

Honourable Mentions:

Aaron Simmonds, Chelsea Hart, Dimitri Bakanov, Ian Crawford, Mike Carter, Mo Haroon, Tony Cowards

The Little Last Laugh – Rachel Fairburn, Big Shaun, Steve Gribbin and Rob Rouse (MC)

Tonight I was in Sheffield at the Lescar for the Little Last Laugh. This was another packed out night in front of an up for it crowd. Despite being in a student area of Sheffield this gig attracts a wide variety of people and it’s nice to see a comedy savvy crowd like this. The show music is Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis and this really tees the start of the night up well.

Rob Rouse (MC)

Rouse took to the stage full of beans and immediately built up the energy levels. He stood there with the microphone in his hand and oddly the cable for it draped over his shoulder instead of on the floor. He began well with some material concerning the benefits of the local twenty minutes of free parking and this struck a major chord with the audience. He then went on to chat to the students on the front row, discovering where they were from and what they were there to ‘stude’. Josh was doing something computer based and this led into what was either a cracking ad-libbed routine or a serendipitous piece of material he had banked, on the topic of computing. Whichever way he came to it, this was brilliantly delivered. The section concerning the results of a curry was graphically acted out in a way that brought out all of the humour in the situation. Unfortunately Sheffield ‘Tuesday’ and ‘Spoons’ didn’t go down very well, but mangling the names of the teams in a way like that wasn’t much above school attempts at winding people up. This was a rare blip in what was good compering. For the second section, Rouse stayed on a fair length of time and this initially puzzled me, but when it became apparent that one of the acts in the second part was on his first ever solo gig and was doing a shorter set, then I realised why he had given the room a bonus length performance. Rouse was quick speaking and built up a lot of momentum. There were shades of Wrigglesworth in the lovely wall of words that he presented the audience with. I enjoyed watching him compere and he was a wonderful addition to the night.

Rachel Fairburn

Our opening act was Fairburn, who began with material related to her Mancunian accent. This was a good funny opening that would work anywhere in the country. It was very tangible. When she said pardon and so on, everyone got her point straight away. The routine about her dad wasn’t bad, but my favourite concerned her sister. There were some lovely lines in this (unstable was sharp) and the topper on pictures was superb. Her timing delivering that was spot on. In any month I lose count of the number of routines I see featuring tinder, so it’s absolutely amazing that Fairburn is the only person who seems to be doing anything based on Snapchat. Like vaping, it’s a curiously overlooked topic. Her material on this, whilst perhaps not as good as that on her sister, was still solid and she picked up regular laughs. This was a good performance, but as when I last saw Fairburn it did seem to reach a plateau and stay there. This is better than one that dips, but it would have been nice to see a big closing routine.

Big Shaun

The second section opened with Big Shaun of the Everly Pregnant Brothers who was doing his first ever solo set. Shaun is something of a Sheffield celebrity and he received a lot of love from the room, which was very nice to see. He had a good memory for the names and occupations revealed by Rouse’s compering and was able to work jokes into his set based on that. He wasn’t on long, so his set was largely concentrated on two topics; anxiety and depression and mishaps on the telephone. It’s hard to make depression funny, but he had some decent lines on it, whereas the mishaps on the phone was very relatable to anyone who’s ever picked a call up at work. His ability to do a Brummie accent helped to sell that routine, although it would have probably benefited from a twist on the reveal. Shaun did hold the microphone a bit close to his mouth, which gave him a big booming voice and when that was combined with his white hair, glasses and burly build there was more than a passing resemblance to the late Rev Ian Paisley. This was a creditable first performance and he has a good base to build from. Big Shaun looked very much at home on the stage and he held the room easily with his big personality. With more stage time I can imagine him becoming a good dependable host.

Steve Gribbin

We closed with Gribbin who went down a treat with the audience. He’s a musical act, who came to the stage with a guitar and performed a lot of short songs. These were snappy and he built up no end of impetus with them, helped by his, at times, intense delivery. A lot of the topics he chose to sing about were things that he has strong feelings about and this added a lot of emotion to his delivery, even if it might perhaps be a bit much for some folk. Tonight it worked extremely well. Gribbin would do accents and add little bits of characterisation and these were a huge bonus. The Mexican voice was a definite asset and the callbacks to the Mexicans became a potent running joke. Material wise, I felt that it was something of a curate’s egg. There was some great stuff here, but there was also a lot that wasn’t, such as an orange joke about Trump, gay marriage giving equal rights to be miserable and a mad cow joke that wasn’t exactly current. Despite me having some misgivings about some of the material, Gribbin gave the room a nice crowd pleasing set that was very well received and reading the room well, Rouse got him to do an encore. Although this set wasn’t for me, everyone else had a cracking time with it.

Canal House – Aaron Twitchen, Tom Lawrinson, Katie Mitchell, Tommy Wager, Dan Nicholas, Ian Hall and Paul Savage (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. At first it looked like we were going to be in for a packed house, as the area outside the pub was absolutely swarming with people, but unfortunately a lot of these stayed outside in the sun and numbers were smaller than usual. The audience that we did have varied in their enthusiasm and seemed very prone to shouting out, which was a bit irritating.

Paul Savage (MC)

Savage began with a sneeze. He took to the stage and almost immediately found himself just about to sneeze, so he paused things until the affliction had resolved itself and rolled with this event to a fair bit of laughter. Not the usual start, but he did well not to let it upset his rhythm. Savage is a strong act who always leaves me wondering why he isn’t a few rungs further up the comedy ladder. Tonight there was a lot of powerful material in the offing, such as South America and Cluedo (which is new and has a lot of promise). The game of animal shit was nicely novel and was a very welcome way of getting the audience involved in the show. Most of what Savage did was great, but every so often, such as when he looked like he was going to bring an act on, he’d go off on a tangent and these didn’t always fare so well and then he’d have to work to reset the room, meaning that he was perhaps on a bit overly long at times. Understandable, as no one would want to bring acts on to anything less than a perfectly ready audience. If he could perhaps structure this side of things to match his admirable material with his proven room work and so eliminate those odd tangents he would do well. I look forwards to seeing Savage again.

Aaron Twitchen

Opening the night was Twitchen, who was trying some new material. Strangely he is the only comic I’ve heard reference the royal wedding and this led nicely into a few jokes about sunny weather. There were some very commendable lines in this performance, such as Katie Price and contraception; I really liked both of these. My favourite section of Aaron’s set was when he was talking about Devon and his siblings – this felt really personal and interesting, although LGBT did need a bigger ending, but it’s new material so that’s fair enough. Despite repeated late comers interfering with Twitchen building up momentum, there was a lot to enjoy in this performance.

Tom Lawrinson

Next was Tom Lawrinson, an act I’d never seen before. Stood on stage, arm stretched out with his elbow resting on the mic stand and big wide grin showing off his white teeth, he presented the room with a relaxed and quirky persona. He opened with an impressive joke and then rode the laugh whilst his intriguing character drew the audience in. His material was very good and he seemed to constantly wrong foot the audience with the reveals. When he mentioned online dating I was surprised, as his set had been wonderfully creative so far and this is a bit of an old chestnut, but he carried on the good work and took it in a totally different direction to anything else anyone has done. The delivery of this set was well acted out and very much in synch with his persona. This was a smashing set and there was a heck of a lot to like about it.

Katie Mitchell

We resumed after the intermission with Katie Mitchell who had a few short jokes, but mostly populated her set with long routines. Drag Queen is a good bit of material as is her short routine about giving blood (sadly not used tonight), which is a real stand out. She opened with a prop gag involving a painting, but this just delayed her getting to the stage and in the dark it was hard for the far half of the audience to make out what she was doing with the painting and when she got to the stage there wasn’t a big enough pay off to really make carting it about worth the effort. Van Graaf generator was a nice line and with her flamboyant hair a very good visual joke, but as it required an explanation as to what one was, I did wonder if she might have been better off just saying that statics a real bitch when you have hair like hers. I suspect Mitchell would have received just as big a laugh in a quarter of the time. There were two long routines in this set. One involving a reading and another involving an audience member remembering running around and both suffer from the same issue: if you aren’t onboard within the first minute, then the rest of the routine is going to be wasted on you. In particular, running around is a long five minutes for anyone not invested in it, as apart from a bit of comedic tension as you wonder where she is going, there aren’t many laughs until you get to the reveal. Tonight I think she lost a fair few people during this routine. Mitchell has potential, but she may find that she builds more impetus with some shorter, snappier and more accessible routines.

Tommy Wager

Wager is visually interesting, with a short bright mohican and a shirt and tie. He opened with a couple of jokes about being at school before moving on to talk about his bathroom and perhaps in the excitement, his diction here wasn’t that clear and I (at least) struggled to catch all that was said. However, I got the gist of it, but perhaps just speaking that little bit more slowly and clearly at the top wouldn’t hurt. Following this, we moved onto the mainstay of his set, a hatred of magicians of various types. This was spellbinding material and no one else is doing anything like it, so that is all to the good. There were some grand lines in here and he motored along nicely, getting a respectable amount of laughs. There was one line in this set that was a bit too dark and that was the baby – if he were to change that out to a dwarf then I think it would maybe work better, as I felt that he pushed a few people away with baby. The section about homeless people was ok and the callbacks were solid enough (this was a pretty well constructed set, with callbacks and so on), but it would have benefited from a ruthless pruning for pace reasons. Wager’s delivery was a lot better than when I saw him last, as was his entire performance and he has certainly improved. He does need to set his phone to vibrate 30 seconds before the end of his time, as he overran tonight and it would probably bring the house down if he could close with an incidental magical trick, such as his tie lifting or pulling a stream of handkerchiefs from nowhere.

Dan Nicholas

Nicholas gave the room a lively performance with some new material. Wax work was fun and the chap who shouted out a suggestion didn’t really do him any harm, as Dan topped it effortlessly. When it came to Trident I’d never heard of the cartoon he referenced, but I got the joke all the same, as luckily this knowledge wasn’t intrinsic to it working. I thought that dentist had potential, but did need a bigger ending, which as with any new material being tried out, isn’t a problem. Despite the audience getting close to reaching a tipping point, Dan held their attention and entertained them.

Ian Hall

Hall closed the night with a mix of anti-comedy, groaners and musical prop gags. He opened and closed with deconstructing archetypal routines, with the dissection of opening bouncing well off of Lawrinson’s opening joke. This was followed by him announcing a contents list of what his performance would contain. This was then adhered to, as he did a few knowingly groan-worthy jokes and a big dramatic musical prop based closing routine. Although this routine wasn’t one I especially enjoyed, he went into it with such commitment that it was hard not to be carried along by it and the longer he continued it, the more the audience bought into it and enjoyed it.

The Rigger – Stefan Kempkes, Chris Copestake, Paul Campbell, Mike Carter, Nick Pettigrew, Lee Hamill, Ben Turner, Jack Topher (bonus ten), David Bawden, Brad Adams, Jonathan Collins

Tonight I was in Newcastle under Lyme for the Funhouse gong show. There were a lot of regulars there whom Spiky Mike had spoken to a few times before, which made compering a bit more tricky than usual. However, he was lucky in having two trainee teachers sat at the front which gave him something to work with and then when their truck driving friend joined them later that helped a lot. Soon enough, though, the room was ready for our first contestant.

Stefan Kempkes

Kempkes didn’t have a great night. He opened with what was by implication, a rape joke and this wasn’t ideal. It was also too soon for the audience to judge how it fitted in with his comedy persona. This was followed by a decent enough first impression gag, but then the next couple of jokes (pescetarian and five a day) were both pretty hack. Kempkes managed to further alienate the audience by an old fashioned fat joke and he was voted off at the first vote. Whilst this set wasn’t fantastic, if he were to rewrite it and inject a bit of energy into his delivery, he would do better.

Chris Copestake

Copestake did well. Compared to the previous act he was immediately likeable and his first joke was a good one. The tall material was decent, with a nice bit of misdirection involved – it was also pleasant to see a touch of room work in a gong show. When he was shouting to add emphasis, he would probably be better served by moving the mic away from his mouth, as there was some overkill when he shouted down the microphone. His material on nicknames was good, although when it came to the teachers using them that was the archetypal pull back and reveal and I think he can do better than that. This was a good performance that earned him consistent laughs and Copestake easily made the final. Unfortunately he misjudged the one minute he had in the final, but he still finished a probable joint runner up. I liked what I saw.

Paul Campbell

Campbell was an act that I found hard to get engaged with. He performs as a character act, playing it as a loser who lives with his mum and hasn’t got a girlfriend and without much nuance over the five minutes, it didn’t draw me. If anything, I found it depressing. With a bit more balance I would probably have enjoyed his performance more. Having said that, his text conversation was good and the rest of the room liked him enough to vote him through to the final, where he carried on from where he had left off.

Mike Carter

Carter had a great night. He opened with a couple of lookalike gags that despite this being a well worn trope, actually felt a bit of a cut above many similar vague celebrity resemblances. This gave him a strong start, which he built on with some solid material about a trip to see the Terracotta Army. The callback went down beautifully and he received the first applause break of the night. Throughout Carter’s set he was getting big laughs and my feeling was that rather than being there to specifically win the gong show, this was a skilled act who was perhaps more interested in being seen by Mike. Carter breezed through into the final, where he carried on the good work and finished as an impressive winner.

Nick Pettigrew

We resumed after the intermission with Nick Pettigrew, who was performing for the first time ever. He came to the stage chock-full of nervous energy and performed full of adrenalin, pacing about and jerking his arms. This was something that the audience responded to positively and it helped him with his performance. The material was a bit varied as you’d expect for a first ever attempt, but there was a lot to like, especially his routine about giving up. This was the stand out of his set. I thought Pettigrew had done enough to make the final, but he went off to a split vote at the final hurdle, which was a shame, as this was a very creditable first attempt.

Lee Hamill

Hamill started well with a great callback to Mike’s compering and his line about acting garnered him some applause. There was a nice pause on KFC, which helped sell the line, but I was a touch surprised when he didn’t go with bucket for that reveal as I was expecting, but in fairness his punchline was stronger. I thought he lost a bit of impetus when discussing walking down the aisle, but this was soon regained with applause for google. There were a lot of laughs during this set and Hamill made the final, where despite not having a great last minute, he was probably joint second.

Ben Turner

Turner began well with a strong opening joke and he added to this with the topper and the next couple of gags which rolled from the back of it. Burslem has potential and there were some decent lines in this set, but unfortunately there were a couple too many pull back and reveals and this diluted their impact. With a slight rethink this set will be improved.

To close the middle section we had a bonus ten spot, which wasn’t part of the competition:

Jack Topher

Topher made a deliberately slow start, which built up a lot of comedic tension. This worked well and he gained laughs for it. Tonight Topher was doing some new bits of material and the lines about his mum and dad being dead worked well in the context of his character props. Colour blind has potential and if he can get a few more jokes to run from it, then he will have a very good routine there. Topher’s pacing is spot on and if he can work on the material to keep the pace but so that the laughs come more quickly, then he will do very well indeed.

David Bawden

We began the final session with Bawden who started by talking about his upcoming 30th birthday and then moved into talking about his life as an Emo child. I found that this material didn’t really draw me in, nor did the performance. There were a couple of nice visual gags and a good line about wrist bands, but I didn’t think that this really rose above being amiable instead of funny. However, the audience disagreed and Bawden made the final.

Brad Adams

Next was the Canadian, Brad Adams. I struggled a bit with his accent and found I was sometimes playing catch up. Just as I was getting used to it, his time was up. Brad gave us a mix of short jokes and one-liners. There were some good gags in here, such as last day and proctologist (which went over a lot of heads, sadly), but ambulance wasn’t that great. Brad did well, but did seem to run out of steam a bit before the end of his time, however, he had done enough to get through to the final.

Jonathan Collins

The final act of the night was Jonathan Collins, a Gothic transvestite, which will inevitably bring Andrew O’Neill, a pro comedian who is also a Gothic transvestite to mind. Collins was a lively act who had a lot of energy. Perhaps, too much, as within 20 seconds of commencing his spot, he had left the stage and was shouting a punchline directly into someone’s face. He followed this up by sitting in the audience, perhaps on someone’s knee – it was hard to tell from where I was. The total combination of this did seem a bit in people’s faces and considering that Collins had only told one joke, he hadn’t really done enough to give the audience a reason to keep him on and he was an early gonging. Collins may have lasted longer if he had toned down the energy and had gone with a few quick jokes to get people onside.

Admiral Rodney (Wollaton) – Mike Dryburgh, Lindsey Santoro, Aaron Simmonds, Scott Bennett (new material), Tom Taylor and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was in Wollaton at the Funhouse Comedy night at the Admiral Rodney. This was a hot and humid night and I was glad that the pub had the door open, even if the noise from the occasional passing motorist was a bit intrusive. Numbers were buoyant, with, as usual, just as many people watching the show from the tap room as the snug. Fran had a good night compering, with gardening forming the mainstay of his work at the top. I was very impressed with his tale of going to a vegan exposition, which he used later, and feel that he has the basis of a solid routine here. It is also one that will work well when compering, as every room he works in is bound to have a vegetarian or vegan present and this routine will feel like a superb ad lib off of the back of chatting to one, if he plays it right. Whilst Fran was compering it was nice to see that none of the acts were checking their phones and were all paying attention. Things like this set a good example to the audience. There was a great moment where a member of staff took some condiments through and realising he was highly visible he ducked so low he almost looked like a ninja crawling into position, except in his case a ninja who still managed to stand out like a sore thumb.

Mike Dryburgh

Opening was Mike Dryburgh whose set came in two halves, the first talking about his newly born kid and the other half featuring his wife. Both segments had their positives, with his wife perhaps being the newer material. Of the baby section, the time spent in labour was good, but hipster and vegan was the most promising. I enjoyed the section about Mike’s wife, with the make up present being decent and the final routine about her being picked up being great. However, the build to the final line didn’t feel quite as though it really did that line justice, but this routine was altered owing to time constraints, so seen in full it would probably be fine. The final line definitely deserved more than it received, though.

Lindsey Santoro

Last week Santoro had an absolutely smashing gig at the Ashby English Comedian of the Year heat and I shouldn’t be surprised if she picks up a few bookings off of the back of that. Tonight she started quickly and never looked back, getting strong laughs all the way through her set. She wasn’t even badly hurt by the noise bleed from the birthday party in the best side of the pub. Her routine about how she met her boyfriend was great, with ‘your choice’ really pushing it. The hotel visit provided a very powerful closing routine. One of the things that impressed me the most tonight was how Santoro got the audience involved in her set – this ensured that everyone was engaged and helped to boost her performance. This was a cracking set.

Aaron Simmonds

We resumed after the intermission with Simmonds who began by bouncing off of Fran’s introduction. He then moved into some chair based material which succeeded on two levels. One, it referenced the obvious without making a big deal of it and two, it was a very funny start to the set that established his credibility with the audience. There was some very good material on offer here, with his meeting with ‘Jesus’ being a big stand out. Everyone was hanging on his every word when he was discussing this encounter and the reveals didn’t let anyone down. Delivery wise, this was also very good. I enjoyed his elongation of the word ‘too’ in too far and felt that that added a lot to the delivery of that joke. However, ‘not particularly proud’ is a bit of an overused line. This was a very good set that seemed to be over all too soon.

Scott Bennett

Next was Scott Bennett who is polishing segments of his Edinburgh show. Having Scott on the bill like this is the equivalent of an extra headliner and everyone benefits from it. Bennett has a superb presence and when he opened with a bit of room work, it landed very very well. His set construction is amazingly strong and he is the sort of act that anyone wishing to learn about comedy should sit and watch. Tonight it was obvious that his routines were more closely tied in to the theme of his show and I think everyone could feel the direction and how it would come together. There were only two minor improvements that I could suggest; one is going a bit more specific about what his daughter will do whilst he is at Ikea and the other was a bit of alliteration on crime scene. I love the conspiratorial tone his wife uses when talking to their baby and the new section about the coffee group has a lot of potential; more so following a cracking suggestion from Simmonds. Baby sign language is a work in progress, but it’ll get there. This was a lovely set.

Tom Taylor

Taylor isn’t an act that I see as much of as I’d like. He’s a musical act, but rather than spending a lot of his set singing, he uses his keyboard as a framework to fit the jokes around and this balance works extremely well. Taylor presents the room with a delightfully oddball persona and this gives him a lot of latitude with his material, as he goes from well written intelligent jokes to well written daft jokes. One common denominator is that the reveals come out of the left field and another common denominator is that they all got a big laugh (in particular, Scott Bennett was laughing his head off at Taylor’s set and it’s great to see the other acts enjoying each other’s work). I felt that the asides added a lot to what Tom was doing and I appreciated the fact that he had been paying attention during the show and was able to do callbacks to various aspects of the night. This was a fast moving set that stayed fresh and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.