The Little Last Laugh – Chris Washington and Scott Bennett (Edinburgh Previews)

  
Tonight I was up in Sheffield again at the Lescar for The Little Last Laugh. It was cooler than last week, which made for a very pleasant environment. This is a belting gig with a lovely atmosphere and the audience were well up for a night of entertainment. We began with Chris Washington.
 
 
Chris Washington – You Beauty!
 
Washington was nominated as best newcomer in Edinburgh last year and this is the tale of his year since: a celebration of a good year. Washington has a lot of natural charm and his conversational, subtle delivery sits well with his material to create a relaxed ambiance.
 
There were a lot of nice bits to this show, such as the wrong cd in the box, the benefit gig in Blackburn (which through a slip of the tongue turned into Blackpool – not the end of the world), the physicality of using the mic stand as a door and bullshitters. However, it is when discussing his Edinburgh experience that Washington went up a gear. This section was very good indeed, with the reactions of his parents and friends providing a great backdrop to his personal achievement. This great run of material is continued when Washington carried on talking about the events upon his return from Edinburgh, both at work and at home. The callbacks really tie things together well here.
 
The timeline of the show was a bit odd, as Washington started with events that had occurred in the year since his nomination, before talking about the nomination and then resuming with post nomination events. This wasn’t a big deal, but it did feel a bit unusual and I did wonder if he may have been better served by opening by describing his Edinburgh experience, as this consisted of some very strong material before discussing his post Edinburgh life and then finishing with his career choices since, as this would start and end the show with what were (to me) the most powerful elements of it.
 
Although this show is pretty ready for Edinburgh, it would benefit from greater concision in the delivery, as some parts were still a bit wordy. With a touch of editing Washington will reach critical mass with this material a lot quicker. I enjoyed what I saw of it tonight and there was a lot of good stuff here, but I can imagine it being a lot more powerful after a few more previews.
 
 
Scott Bennett – Leap Year
 
I only saw this show a few weeks ago, but even in that time Bennett has made quite a few changes to it. Leaving work early is great – it’s a tangible element that everyone can understand, the dentist was entertaining and the closing speech defining who he is was definitely rousing. This show is as tight as a drum with no flab that can easily be cut off without losing something worth keeping. Considering the topics discussed it might be an idea for Scott to look into acquiring a huge novelty plastic Peppa Pig bowl for the bucket collection. This is one of the best Edinburgh shows that I’ve ever seen.
 
Pretty much everything I said the other week can be said again about this performance:
 
Bennett certainly started in top gear, hoovering up laughs quickly and consistently. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the regularity of the punchlines came so thick and fast that they almost approached that of a one-liner comic.
 
I’ve seen a lot of this show already, as Bennett has been working on it for a long time, honing it, changing the odd word here and there and polishing it into what it has become. This is an extremely tightly scripted show where there is scarcely a word that doesn’t add comedic value. The material is relatable and very easy to follow. There were some very nice extra touches, such as the physicality that accompanied waving, which sold that line tremendously well.
 
The delivery was sincere and it’s easy to tell that this is a show that personally means a lot to Bennett. To him it’s not just a jaunt up to Edinburgh because that is what August is for, this is a show that he is heavily invested in.
 
There were a lot of callbacks in Leap Year, which I adored and they were used well to bring out the narrative arc. Everything tied up and came together with a feeling of completeness. When you consider just how coherent this was as a story and the incredible laughs per minute ratio, this show is a triumph. In Leap Year Scott Bennett has created a masterpiece of comedy.
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The Little Last Laugh – Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Kai Humphries (Edinburgh Preview)

Tonight I was up in Sheffield at the Lescar for The Little Last Laugh. Whilst not as busy as usual (possibly due to the heat and the local students having gone home), it was still standing room only. In contrast to my last few visits there was no Big Shaun compering, which was a shame as I was looking forwards to seeing how he was coming on.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean

I’d only seen Pritchard once before and that was in Edinburgh, where she was a panellist on Paul Savage’s Hell to Play, where owing to a solid format and strong regular cast, she hadn’t really had much to do. However, seeing her name on the bill was a bonus, as there are some acts that you hear good things of, but who seldom seem to cross your path.

Pritchard announced at the top of the show that she was feeling unwell, but with any luck her having a good gig will have helped her recovery. She had a cracking gig and I doubt that if she hadn’t mentioned it that anyone would have guessed that she was under the weather. Pritchard received consistent laughs throughout her set and her timing on the topper to having gone vegan and noticing she was feeling better was superb. The pause was just long enough to get the most from that.

Pritchard spoke about growing up in Anglesey, her father, weekend gigs, after gig meals and about waxing (70’s theme was a clever line). However, the vast bulk of her material was sexually explicit in nature. This wasn’t done in a salacious way, but more in a matter of fact way and somehow this made it feel less relentless than what it would have done coming from a less skilled act. The tale of Siri, her and her boyfriend actually came off as pretty heart warming. Kiri discovered another Welsh speaker amongst the audience and I was surprised by this as the odds of that can’t have been very high. The line about audience intelligence and Blackpool was good, but this could have been improved if she had tied it to a local shit town, such as Doncaster, but that’s a minor point.

This was a very enjoyable set that everyone got behind and it was a shame that Pritchard wasn’t on longer.

Kai Humphries – Team Smug (Edinburgh Preview)

Following the intermission it was time for Kai Humphries’ Edinburgh Preview, entitled Team Smug. I’d not seen Humphries before, but I’d heard a fair bit about a lot of good work he does for disadvantaged people with his Punch-Drunk Comedy promotions. Owing to a lack of stage time, partly caused by world cup disruption, this was more of a work in progress than a full preview, which was fair enough.

Humphries opened with some light hearted comments about last night’s semi final loss to Croatia and these were well judged as it would have felt odd if no one had mentioned that match and because he didn’t dwell on it, he also kept the mood upbeat. This led smoothly into his material on having moved to London, which was a fun routine (minutes was a great line) and then from here we were into what I expected to be the meat of Humphries’ show: his upcoming marriage.

In some ways this was an unusual performance, because on the one hand, you could probably count the number of swear words on that one hand, but on the other, a fair bit of the material was cock related. It’s impossible, though, to feel offended by anything that Humphries says because he looks so cheerful on stage. He has a very pleasant grin and is so bright and buoyant delivering his material that even the line about the sock felt exuberant.

There were some cracking routines in this show. Men and Motors was very relatable to anyone of a certain age (and from his description it was rendered easily accessible to those under 30) and the channel change was a brilliant line. The levitating teacher was a superbly vivid scenario. The difference between how someone is described in life and in death has a heck of a lot of mileage in it – this could possibly even be fleshed out into a longer routine with some tangible celebrity versions for people to get their teeth into before he moved onto his Granddad. Similarly the inclusion of Mrs Brown’s Boys in the dvd wallet could be added to, as that seemed to slip out almost under a few people’s radar – it certainly deserved more than it received. The routine about Andy was also very strong.

I liked the tale involving Berocca, but having never touched the stuff, I got the context from the joke. I may or may not be in a minority on this, but perhaps beetroot might be a more accessible alternative? There were a few moments during some of the set ups where the energy dipped a bit, but if these were tightened up so as to be a touch less wordy then I think the energy levels would be maintained.

This was a buoyant performance that felt refreshingly cheerful and upbeat. I think once it is finished Humphries will have a funny and amiable show on his hands that brightens people’s lives up for an hour.

Queen Crafthouse – Tom Little, Dean Coughlin, Caislin Boyle, Freddy Quinne and Red Redmond (MC)

Tonight I have been at Red Redmond’s gig in Doncaster at the Queen Crafthouse. It was a cracking night that unfortunately involved a horrible member of the audience being asked to leave after he became obnoxious, which is unusual as people in the midweek are usually chilled. The venue itself is a rock pub, with a similar vibe to The Maze or The Rigger and it has a laid back casual atmosphere. The audience were a colourful bunch and either seemed to be fairly young or pretty old, with the middle aged in a minority. Whilst most of them were up for the comedy, there were 3-4 who were a little bit prone to shout out and became more so as the night went on. Amazingly it only cost £2 to get in, which is stupendously low priced to see some of the acts that were on.

Red Redmond (MC)

Red was a nicely relaxed compere, who in a clean and largely unsweary opening, brought everyone onboard. To begin with, though, he was bedevilled by a bit of music playing quietly through the speakers (Rainbow and then The Eagles), which led into an accurate observation of The Eagles being classic ‘dad music’. Red struck a bit of gold with the idea of Yorkshire entering the Olympics as a separate entity and I shouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a short routine just in that premise alone. He got a big laugh for some strong ad-libbed lines about emos, which went down a treat with the rock crowd. I enjoyed the Taylor Swift story; Red’s face lit up with enthusiasm and I think everyone bounced off of him being so happy about seeing her. The audience were pretty chilled apart from one bloke sat near the front, who upon being asked what he did, claimed to be a comedian. I don’t know why people do that. It’s not as though proper comedians won’t know they are trying to fake it, as they’d certainly know them if they had any kind of profile or industry reputation. Upon being asked where his next gig was, he answered the Frog and Parrot in Manchester and Red was rightly derisive. This chap, though, would come back to haunt the show during Freddy’s set. This was low key, stress free compering that was enjoyable to watch.

Tom Little

Little is an act that I’ve always appreciated seeing. He has a pleasantly quirky sense of humour and if you buy into his style then you are in for a splendid time. Tonight he started off well with a callback to The Eagles, mentioned by Red during his compering and moved smoothly from this into a good joke about Metallica, which came alive when he started to sing. This was then followed by a couple of jokes before he discussed his accent, where he received a shout out about Cumbria from an old Geordie sat in the middle of the room. Little dealt with this by quoting a bit of Wordsworth – with added twist – which was a solid joke and the follow up involving the phone call worked well, too. The routine concerning long words seemed to be just a touch too long for some people and I think he lost a couple along the way, which was a shame, as there is a lot to like about it. Perhaps if he were to add in some comedy definitions for some of these words as he builds the joke it might help with this. One person asked him to tell a joke, I couldn’t see who it was from where I was sat, but I believe it might have been the person who had claimed to be a comedian when Red was chatting to them. This interruption could have been irritating, but Tom had a ready made knock knock joke that led into his closing routine. This was a congenial set that whilst it didn’t carry everyone in the room all the way to the end, still had a lot to admire in it. On a side note, it was nice to see Little staying till the end to support the other acts through his presence in the audience.

Dean Coughlin

We resumed after the intermission with Coughlin, an act I’d not seen before. Without any preamble, which made a nice change to seeing some acts spend a few minutes compering the room before beginning their set, he launched straight into his. The material concerned wildlife documentaries and the genitalia of animals. This was delivered in a low energy way that I liked. However, despite octopus aliens being a great idea (I’m surprised that facehuggers from Aliens were mentioned during the picnic scene) and there being some good lines in this routine, I thought that the law of diminishing returns did kick in a bit. In fairness, the writing was strong with a good eye for the funny details and the audience enjoyed it, but it would have been nice to see something with a bit more variety. An entire set about nature and the genitalia of animals seemed to prove that you could have too much of a good thing.

Caislin Boyle

Next was Caislin Boyle, who in contrast to Coughlin, who stayed more or less within one topic, never seemed to find a topic that she did more than just make a short visit to. Breast milk, fitbits, her sexuality, her brother, the world cup, her father, gay marriage and muffs, amongst other things, all featured in her set and Boyle may have been better off just concentrating on a few of these things and digging a little bit deeper instead of going through them all. The world cup was topical, but it would be nice to hear a joke about Columbia that doesn’t feature cocaine. Muff, however, was a great routine that is unique and showed a lot of promise. Boyle’s delivery had a few erms in it, which isn’t disastrous, but when combined with her telling people that she’d come to a particular topic in a bit, quite a few words that didn’t add anything to what she was saying and her going off on the odd tangent when she was distracted, it made it hard for her to build momentum. This was a performance that felt disjointed partly due to the number of topics and also due to the unfocussed delivery. Boyle received laughs and I liked some of her stuff (particularly muff), but I think with more stage time and a more focussed delivery she’ll be a stronger act.

Freddy Quinne

Our closing act was Freddy Quinne, an act whom I really like to see, but who owing to geographical reasons, I don’t see as much of as I’d like. He opened with a wonderfully daft prop gag brought on by spotting a fitting in the room and followed this by saying that if you liked that, then you’d enjoy….. naming an act who specialises in daft prop gags, which was a delightful Easter egg for anyone in the room who follows UK comedy. This was then followed by a brief, but relatable bit of material about hay fever and then a routine about people transitioning. I’d read a bit on facebook about this routine, mostly comments from people who hadn’t seen it and were assuming that Quinne had taken it in a particular direction. It’s a solid routine that makes some valid points in an inoffensive way and there were plenty of laughs along the way, with George getting a very big response.

Quinne then moved into discussing an ex of his with eczema, which led to one guy shouting something out about crisps. Freddy dealt with him pretty firmly, spending a couple of minutes verbally working this guy over. Whilst this may have brought his set to a momentary halt, it was a joy to watch and it didn’t half inject some energy into the room. Just as he was about to resume, Quinne noticed an older guy with a mullet and commented on it, pointing out that he didn’t look like he’d get into an opera house. To this, the chap replied that he actually had some of his artwork hanging in an opera house. To Freddy this was game on, as he had a few doubts about this man’s claim and so he paused the gig whilst he googled him, keeping up a great running commentary that had everyone fair wanting to know how things stood. The result was that the man with the mullet was indeed a genuine artist, so Freddy did the square thing in apologising to him for doubting him and resumed the gig to big laughs.

However, just as he began to carry on, the old Geordie who had heckled Tom for being from Cumbria then shouted out to Freddy again, having misheard his age earlier: ’38? You must have had a hard paper round.’ This was uncalled for and not particularly pleasant. Quinne had noticed him earlier upon his first shout out and had created the character of him being an old soldier who voted brexit whilst simultaneously living in Spain and he returned to this theme by quoting in full the current Royal Navy recruitment advert (born in Carlisle, etc), for which he received an applause break.

Realising that his set had been comprehensively derailed by 3-4 people shouting out things, Quinne switched to room work, starting an impromptu Q&A with the audience. It was at this point that the bloke at the front who had claimed to be a comedian earlier switched from being disruptive to becoming a repugnant bell end. He shouted something obnoxious at Freddy and got booed by the audience for it and then in an effort to put Freddy on the back foot chased it up with an accusation that he was transphobic because of his earlier routine (it wasn’t). It was at this moment that Red Redmond appeared from nowhere and stood in front of this man and told him categorically how things stood. The heckler then tried to give Red a bit of lip and was asked by Red if he wanted to leave, which he then did. Red Redmond is one of the smallest built people on the circuit and so for him to square up to someone who is sat with at least one friend, it shows real guts on his part.

There was only a few minutes left of the set and Freddy did well to continue and see it out. Despite all of the interruptions there was a lot of laughter, too. Quinne’s room work was impressive as was the material he managed to get out.

Quinne has a dvd out, which is available here.

Regardless of the interruptions, which were a bit of a one off, this was an enjoyable show and it’s fun night. It’s well worth acts applying to perform here.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Lost Voice Guy – Inspiration Porn

Whilst I can’t claim to be a big fan of Britain’s Got Talent, I am a big fan of Lee Ridley. His Radio 4 series, Ability, is a real joy to listen to. Judging from the numbers that had come to see him it looks like he is having a most excellent year.

Making full use of a projector and a screen, he opened with a montage of disabled superstars doing incredible things. He then brought everyone down to earth by describing his own position. I liked the line about the shoes, even though it was hard to see them from where I was sat.

In such a tech heavy set, which proceeds at the pace of the delivery chosen on his iPad (slow enough for everyone to follow and also slow enough to draw people in), Ridley is able to add to the delivery through facial expression, stance and how he holds his hands and arms. This works very well and he is able to add quite a lot of emphasis to what he is saying.

The tone is sarcastic, with Tory cuts to disability allowances getting a very pleasant and deserving kicking. Also in the firing line are inspirational quotes and the Paralympics, with some very funny things said about them. A lot of the material is autobiographical in nature, dealing with Ridley’s life as a man with a disability and also with his past girlfriend. There is a good balance in this and you get a feel for the man himself, seeing beyond the obvious.

There were some extremely good routines here, such as the blind horse, fire risk, the gameshow (a wonderful set piece) and the trip on the train, which was excellent. The section in the cafe was a bit hard to follow, but that was the only section that I had trouble with. This was a very funny show that a lot of people will enjoy.

Tickets for this Edinburgh show can be found here.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Josh Pugh – The Changingman

In preparation for the closing act, Lost Voice Guy, the beer garden of the New Barrack Tavern was quite a bit busier now and this didn’t hurt Josh Pugh at all.

Pugh got the energy going with his opening routine and never looked back, following it up with some short jokes to build up the momentum. Josh is a skilled writer, whose material is offbeat with some lovely unexpected reveals. There were a lot of standout routines in this show and as a result there was a lot of laughter. Whilst the nursery joke is a pullback and reveal, it is such a fun gag that it was a real bonus to the show. The Ibiza routine was very strong, but one possible improvement might be to describe what he is wearing after the other two have been described, as I don’t think doing it before really got the most from that line.

Every so often a particular joke would perhaps go over someone’s head, or might not have been to their taste, but there was never an instance of a joke falling flat. Pugh is quirky, but also accessible, which isn’t the easiest combination to pull off.

There was only one bit that I thought was a touch jarring and that was when Josh was discussing being a changingman: including relationships in that after announcing his happy marriage following a long term relationship felt odd and I daresay a couple of people may have mentally queried it. If this were to be swapped out for something else, the more ridiculous the better, then this hurdle would be jumped.

Pugh has a confident stage presence and I think everyone could relax into his show easily. I particularly enjoyed his ‘can’t win them all’ expression upon the second visit to his gran. This is a good and funny show.

Tickets for Edinburgh can be bought here

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Danny Ward – Dansplaining

This was my second preview show of the day at the NBT and by now it was beginning to cool down nicely. Numbers were pretty good all day, with a few people going home for tea and more arriving to see the shows. It was great to see Wayne Bamforth (Last Laugh) there for the duration, although the chap who was watching the match on his phone whilst simultaneously watching Ward did take multitasking too far for my liking. After Stephanie had done the introduction it was time for the show to begin.

Although he has performed various routines from it before, this was Ward’s first full preview of Dansplaining, which he did alert the audience to at the top of the show. The finished article will make use of a projector and screen, but these were missing today.

Ward opened by asking by show of hands, how many people in the audience were familiar with the phrase ‘mansplaining’. Surprisingly this seemed to be around about 30%, which was far lower than I was expecting. Following this, he then launched into the show.

There were some very good routines present, such as escape room, languages, Big Issue, F1 hotel, and the game of paper, scissors, stone. There were also some that showed promise and with a bit more work will become stronger, such as triumphal jumping, which required a bit more and the Amsterdam Cafe, which was a great premise that just needed a better reveal to get the most from it. Milkman was a tad obvious, but it got a decent laugh, nonetheless.

However, at present, the biggest issue with this show was just how disjointed it all felt. In fairness it’s early days and this was more of a work in progress than a preview, but there isn’t yet the feel of it all coming together and the routines connecting up. This might be due to the missing projector and screen, as they may have helped provide a framework to tie the jokes to. There were also a few moments where there seemed to be a bit too long a gap between punchlines, but this pacing will be resolved with more previews.

Ward did seem a bit distracted in his delivery. This wasn’t because he was working off of notes, which I’m fine with on an early run through, but partly due to the audience. He had one lady on the front row who seemed to give him feedback after most lines, there was the guy watching football on his phone and people who wandered off to the loo before returning.

There were a lot of funny routines here, which he got laughter for, and once Ward has given Dansplaining more stage time to iron out the wrinkles he will be able to take full advantage of them and create a show bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s not there yet, but I’m sure it will be.

New Barrack Tavern Edinburgh Preview: Scott Bennett – Leap Year

This afternoon I was in Sheffield at the New Barrack Tavern for the Funhouse Edinburgh previews. It was 29 degrees according to the thermometer in my car and I didn’t doubt it. Luckily the previews at the NBT take place in the beer garden, which despite being quite enclosed seemed to attract quite a regular breeze and this helped to cool everything down. The first preview I saw was Scott Bennett’s Leap Year.

Being born not a million miles away and a firm favourite at the NBT, this must have felt a very comfortable gig for Bennett. He certainly started in top gear, hoovering up laughs quickly and consistently. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the regularity of the punchlines came so thick and fast that they almost approached that of a one-liner comic.

I’ve seen a lot of this show already, as Bennett has been working on it for a long time, honing it, changing the odd word here and there and polishing it into what it has become. This is an extremely tightly scripted show where there is scarcely a word that doesn’t add comedic value (‘idiot’ was the only word that I thought could be changed for a funnier alternative). The material is relatable and very easy to follow. There were some very nice extra touches, such as the physicality that accompanied waving, which sold that line tremendously well.

The delivery was sincere and it’s easy to tell that this is a show that personally means a lot to Bennett. To him it’s not just a jaunt up to Edinburgh because that is what August is for, this is a show that he is heavily invested in. Scott did have a habit of saying ‘man’ a lot when he delivered something particularly heartfelt, but frankly rather than being a tic, I found this endearing and it just emphasised the passion behind the show.

There were a lot of callbacks in Leap Year, which I adored and they were used well to bring out the narrative arc. Everything tied up and came together with a feeling of completeness. When you consider just how coherent this was as a story and the incredible laughs per minute ratio, this show is a triumph. In Leap Year Scott Bennett has created a masterpiece of comedy.

Tickets for this show in Edinburgh can be bought here 

June – Acts that have impressed me the most

This has been a pretty crappy month for me regarding live comedy. Not because I saw bad acts (much to the contrary, I saw some superb acts), but simply because I always seemed fated to be on shift whenever there was a comedy night on. As a result, I only saw twenty four acts.

We are now entering Edinburgh Preview season and I’ve seen some very good ones, plus one that was mostly exposition. Will Mars and Tom Houghton’s shows are Edinburgh ready and will only improve between now and August; Thomas Green‘s was seen earlier in the month at a ‘lively’ gig and despite the audience being gloriously drunk and amiably interrupting, he managed to get a lot of funny stuff out. Another nice thing this month was seeing an act on her second gig who had some nicely different material to talk about.

The low light of the month was me fulfilling one of my ambitions by seeing an act that I’ve been wanting to see for three years. I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about this act. However, when I got to see them, I discovered that they really weren’t my cup of tea. They took the roof off, but just weren’t for me, which felt massively disappointing after I’d built them up in my mind so much.

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

Danny McLoughlin

This was a bouncy feel good performance that really seemed to light the room up.

From the night:

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.

Harvey Hawkins

A smashing set that had everyone fully onboard from someone who is definitely progressing in the industry.

From the night:

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.

Thomas Green (MC)

This was a lot of fun. The audience all knew each other, were drunk and talkative. Green handled them with aplomb.

From the night:

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.

Tony Cowards

This was an instance of a comedian being so switched on to what he was doing that he made it look easy in such a way that the technical excellence and swift mental footwork were probably unnoticed by most of the audience.

From the night:

Cowards mixed established material, room work and new material. He opened with a solid joke to prove that he was very funny and never let up from there. This was a relaxed set, with Tony working well with Jamie, the chap with Asperger’s, even halting the show whilst he went to the loo and singing some hold music, before resuming. The callback to Wallace’s compering was good and it was nice to see him ask about Belper with genuine interest in a new location. What impressed me the most about Cowards tonight, apart from the writing and delivery, which he is superb at, was his affability. He managed to play the audience like a finely tuned piano, asking them questions and then riffing off of the replies into jokes without a pause for thought. This gave his performance a wonderfully fluid feel and watching someone do this without ever looking off balance or even being momentarily stumped is incredibly powerful. It requires a lot of skill and mental dexterity to pull it off so well. Having people pick numbers for the new material was a great way of ensuring that everyone was invested in that element. This was a very enjoyable set to watch.

Honourable mentions:

Pete Phillipson, Tony Burgess, Wes Zaharuk

Belper – The Cross Keys: Tony Cowards, Becki Farrell, Lyra May, Will Mars (Edinburgh Preview) and James Wallace (MC)

Tonight I had a trip to Belper to James Wallace’s comedy night at the Cross Keys. This is a very nice pub, with the stage in the main room, to the left of the door as you come in. It’s not a huge room, but this lends it an intimate feel that is more than pleasant. Usually main room gigs are difficult to play, but the pub was only open for the comedy, so everyone who was there was invested in the show. The star of the audience was a lad called Jamie, who has Asperger’s. The effects of this manifested itself in him saying whatever he was thinking without a filter, but as he is a good egg, this was nice and never unpleasant. Before he went home, his occasional interjections were a bonus for James and Tony and his early leaving ensured that his presence didn’t dominate the evening. Numbers weren’t great, which made it trickier to build up the energy, but with a few more people there this gig would become a real belter.

James Wallace (MC)

Wallace had the hardest task of the night and is inbetween a rock and a hard place compering this gig. He has a residency, which means that his existing material gets used at a fast pace and also, he knew everyone present very well, which meant that working the audience was incredibly difficult, because there can’t be many things he can ask them that he doesn’t already know. The combination of these facets doesn’t give him a lot of room to manoeuvrer. He could perhaps square this circle by adding some topical elements to his material. Not so much the big stories in the news, but the quirky oddball stories that not many people are aware of. These may give him another string to his bow. Also he may benefit from doing the odd stunt to get everyone’s attention and build up the energy levels. One thing that I did note was that Wallace didn’t get the respect that he deserved as MC from his friends and this may be because they see him more as their friend being on stage and not as the compere, per se. Perhaps if he were to dress in a shirt and tie so as to show an obvious difference to usual it may help in this. Another thing that might benefit him, is if he were to stop running himself down whilst he’s on stage. Wallace’s comments about him ‘talking some shit’ or that ‘we’ll get some actual funny people on’ undervalued the good work that he was doing. There was some good material present, such as the one-liners and a very promising story about his appearance on TV, which would benefit if it were edited down for pace. Wallace was amiable, friendly and relaxed. With a few small changes he will be a stronger compere.

Tony Cowards

Cowards mixed established material, room work and new material. He opened with a solid joke to prove that he was very funny and never let up from there. This was a relaxed set, with Tony working well with Jamie, the chap with Asperger’s, even halting the show whilst he went to the loo and singing some hold music, before resuming. The callback to Wallace’s compering was good and it was nice to see him ask about Belper with genuine interest in a new location. What impressed me the most about Cowards tonight, apart from the writing and delivery, which he is superb at, was his affability. He managed to play the audience like a finely tuned piano, asking them questions and then riffing off of the replies into jokes without a pause for thought. This gave his performance a wonderfully fluid feel and watching someone do this without ever looking off balance or even being momentarily stumped is incredibly powerful. It requires a lot of skill and mental dexterity to pull it off so well. Having people pick numbers for the new material was a great way of ensuring that everyone was invested in that element. This was a very enjoyable set to watch.

Becki Farrell

We resumed after the intermission with Beckie Farrell, who was on her second ever gig. Naturally, as you’d expect, she is far from the finished article, but Farrell certainly has potential. Beginning with the debit side, it did take her a while to get to the first laugh and she’d probably benefit from saying something funny a little bit earlier in her performance as this would establish her credentials with the audience and encourage them to stay with her for the later, deeper, material. The neutral side: Her voice rose and fell, which whilst that kept everyone listening far more than a monotone, did lay the emphasis in odd unexpected places in sentences. On one level, this felt odd, but I think, given time, that it may actually work in her favour, as it is unique. Also, I’ve no problem with someone so new working from notes, or people doing new material from notes, but it may be better if Farrell were to drag a table over to the mic stand so that she only has to look down, or perhaps to write the odd note on the back of her hand, as her popping to the far side of the stage did hurt her building momentum, but that’s not the end of the world. The ginger material is good for a few quick laughs, but at the moment it’s not really anything different to what any other ginger comedian is saying (Alistair Beckett-King has some really in-depth stuff on being ginger), but until Farrell has had a few more gigs and developed her material further, I’d suggest keeping this as it is accessible and will still generate laughs. On the positive side: Farrell has a good mic technique already, which is unusual in so new an act, but even better, she has some refreshingly different things to talk about to a lot of other acts. The mainstay of her material was interesting and had a certain depth that is streets ahead of the vast majority of people on their second gig. For a second gig this was very good and I’ll be interested to see how Farrell develops.

Lyra May

Next was the low energy Gothic Lyra May who opened with a few lines of a Katy Perry song. May was a frustrating act to watch. She had some very nice ideas, Zombie boyfriend, being a weirdo magnet and Tenby. All of these were interesting premises which she could have taken in a number of directions, but all of which suffered from her consistently choosing to go for crude shock reveals. This could have been much improved by her adding nuance, or even after five minutes of this, something a little different, as very quickly you found that you could guess the direction in which she’d take the reveal. The haiku was good, but May could probably have cashed out after the first line, as everyone had gotten the joke from that and the rest just ate up time that she could have devoted to the next joke. This was a performance that would be a lot stronger if there was a bit of a rethink regarding the reveals.

Will Mars – Candid Cafe, Edinburgh Preview

Headlining was Will Mars, who was previewing his Edinburgh show, Candid Cafe. I saw Mars not too long ago and he had been very good then, so I was expecting a lot from him tonight and he didn’t let anyone down. This was an autobiographical show that could have been depressing, but which through quality writing was elevated into something that was easy to invest your attention in and to enjoy all the way through. It was also a show that seemed to pass very quickly. 50 minutes or so only felt like 30.

Mars began by establishing his authority over the audience and followed that up with brief bit of audience work to keep them onside; almost stick and carrot, if you like. His instincts were good and this settled the room for the duration of his performance, with everyone listening intently to him.

Candid Cafe is very well written and throughout demonstrates a consistent internal logic. There are no flights of fancy and every development in the story is mortared in with what has come before and what will follow on. This makes it very easy to follow and no one needed to waste attention trying to make leaps from one element to the next. The pacing is almost spot on, too, with a good balance between story and funny. Apart from America, where Mars went a bit out of sequence, there are no overly long lulls between the laughs. These come at regular intervals and land heavily. There may be room for an extra, physical, gag, when discussing Trinder if he were to go with a line concerning his face being in the middle of that particular Venn diagram. To me, an Edinburgh show has to be funny and this easily ticks that box. This is a very funny show that has you hoping for a heart warming happy ending.

Tickets for Will Mars’ Edinburgh show can be found here

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.