Tonight I was in the Lyric Rooms in Ashby for the Funhouse Comedy night. This was a sold out show and having so many comedy savvy audience members present is one of the things that makes this such a nice gig. Initially Mike found it tricky to find someone to speak to whom he’d not spoken to before, but dropped in lucky when he asked one chap what he did for a living. Answering ‘that would be telling’ is probably the worst move anyone can make when hoping to either avoid the spotlight or when their job requires explanation. This fellow was a porter at one of the Oxford Colleges dealing with securityn and such, something which a few years ago might have resulted in a joke about Morse and murders, but which isn’t really something to try to avoid admitting to as an occupation. There was a beautiful moment when in the darkness, Mike saw someone stood at the end of the room and started to speak to them, asking if they had just arrived and did they need a chair, only to realise a split second later when she moved into the light that it was our opening act, Angela Barnes.
Tonight, Barnes gave the people of Ashby a very strong bonus length opening set. The material, amongst other things, concerned Netflix, drugs, getting older, bucket lists, dating and shaving, with her moving smoothly between topics. The particular angle with which she dealt with these things should have made her set of more interest to the ladies in the room, but Barnes delivered it in such a way that everyone was fully engrossed in her performance. Her voice was loud and clear and her delivery was animated, which drew everyone in. There was a huge laugh for biscuits in particular and a lot of laughter and applause throughout her set. As much as I liked her material, my enjoyment was a tad diluted by the fact that bucket/fuck it lists aren’t that novel and the odds and sods aisle in Lidl has been well mined by other comedians and beyond that, I’ve heard Barnes on Radio 4 quite a bit and so some of her stronger jokes didn’t hit me with as much force as they did the rest of the audience. However, apart from this minor quibble I thoroughly enjoyed her set. Barnes’ performance was great and everyone, myself included, had a lovely time watching her.
Considering how tricky it was for Massara to get to and from this gig he is showing the sort of commitment that will take him far. This is matched by his ability, so I’ll be very interested in seeing where he is in a year or so. Tonight he came onto the stage and opened with a strong joke and never really looked back. The honeybee was wonderfully drawn out for long enough for the big reveal to get a superb response and this gave him his first of three or four bouts of applause. The material on insomnia was especially good and as well as getting a lot of laughter, I’m sure I saw a few people poking each other in recognition of what he was saying. The mugging was well acted out and this helped to sell it. With his winning smile and confident stage presence Massara gave the room a cracking performance.
By coincidence I’d only seen Hollins last night in Sheffield and so as you’d expect this was the same set, consisting of twenty minutes or so of his best material. One difference between last night and tonight was that perhaps owing to the more intimate nature of this gig, the audience being more up for it, the energy levels in the room, or more likely a combination of all three, Hollins had a better gig in Ashby. Of his material, age went down a treat, cancer was great and his line about the weather was superb, netting him a well deserved applause break. I’m still not too convinced about the pacing on the better than routine, because opening the question up to the audience slows things down a touch. Last night I was very impressed by how exuberant Hollins’ delivery was and I was just as struck by it tonight. This was a really good set that was possibly longer than usual for this slot to give Pat more time to get to Ashby from the double up with Lichfield. The end result was that it felt like we had had three headline spots in addition to the up and coming Massara, which was no bad feeling to have.
I’ve seen Pat Monahan a lot of times and I’ve loved every performance as they are all so different. However, no matter how many times I’ve seen him, I still get a thrill of anticipation when he steps onto the stage, as I know what is coming and can enjoy the looks on the faces of people who are new to him. This man is a born performer and with his memory for faces and his ability to ad lib lines and routines on the spot, his room work is always tremendous. There is a lot of joy in just sitting back and watching Pat getting sidetracked by something or someone that has caught his eye. Tonight he noticed a lady trying to discreetly take his photo and in a wonderful moment he just paused the show and told her to take a proper one, getting Ben a young boxer sat near the front to come up and pose with him. This was followed by him riffing with Ken being a club DJ and luring people into liaisons through his use of a whistle. This was all cracking stuff and everyone felt involved because it was obvious that this performance wasn’t being phoned in, it was being laid on especially for them and it was very much of the here and now. Similarly, Pat built an entire segment around a lady he noticed whom he spotted checking her iWatch – his ability to spot opportunities and to think on his feet is amazing. This was a magnificent set that had a real feel good factor to it.