Acts that impressed me the most – May

This has been a fun month for comedy, with me attending the Derby Comedy Festival and seeing some very enjoyable contest heats in Leek and Leicester, plus the usual club nights. In fact it made it tricky to narrow down who has impressed me the most. I could quite easily have included both Kev’s Komedy Kitchen and Rob Kemp’s The Elvis Dead as they are brilliant shows.

These are the comedians who have impressed me the most:

Darius Davies

This was from the Leek heat of English Comedian of the Year.

From the night:

I’d not seen Davies prior to last night, but he’d been tipped as one of the men to beat, so I was very interested in seeing how he made out. He began by working the room, pointing out the oddities of the night and effortlessly working in callbacks to Radu’s set and a shout out that had been received. This was very much of the moment and the audience really went with it. This was then followed by material which Davies delivered fast with a powerful voice. He built up bags of momentum, which combined with standout material and a strong presence saw Davies through to the next round as he narrowly took first place. This was a cracking set.

Adam Rowe

Another one from the Leek heat of English Comedian of the Year:

I was very pleased to see Rowe on the bill. He’s got a career in comedy ahead of him, but as he’s from the other side of the country to me, I don’t tend to see much of him. Last night he treated the room to a polished set and a sharp delivery. His voice found the perfect pitch when commenting about his jacket and his material flowed very well indeed. Out of all of the contestants he felt the most like a pro act cutting down a longer set to fit the contests’ odd seven minute time slot. It was no surprise to see him go through and he was only one vote behind Davies.

Radu Isac

I saw Isac at the English Comedian of the Year, which featured a very strong line up.

From the night:

Radu is a man who always has an amused look in his eyes, almost as if he can see the funny in everything that he sees and this is reflected in his strong writing and stagecraft. Last night he had a slower start than I was expecting, as the room seemed a little bit unsure of him for the first 40 seconds or so. However, he quickly won them round with some very good material, a lot of which I’d not heard before. I’ve seen Radu perform a few times and I was expecting to see a fair bit of the routines that won him the Funhouse Champion of Champions award last year, so it was much to his credit that he performed a largely different set to that. This was a performance that went down very well and Radu finished a very strong 3rd, going through to the semi finals.

Freddy Quinne

This was a set the length of an Edinburgh preview, but rather than going to Edinburgh Quinne is filming a dvd, which is probably a better course of action.

From the night:

This was an hour that flew by. Sometimes an hour long show feels like an hour and occasionally it can feel like more, but this never came close to outstaying its welcome and I don’t think anyone would have objected if there had been more. It was extremely funny and the nice warm feeling that a great show imparts stayed with me all of the way home. I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it, the rest of the audience seemed to feel the same way and it isn’t often that you see someone put a £20 note in a bucket collection. This is a cracking show.

Vince Atta

I saw Atta at a rowdy bank holiday Sunday gig, where it had felt like touch and go whether the room was even playable.

From the night:

After the intermission Atta closed the show. Initially the room were slow to settle down, but within two minutes of Vince demonstrating his gift with the beatbox, they were his. Paradoxically for such an audio based act, a lot of the best laughs come from Atta’s facial expressions whilst performing. The way he looks when doing resting bitch face is almost worth the ticket price alone. In fact it was whilst he was doing this routine that he received a comedic gift. One chap, totally ignoring the notice that Helen had placed on the door next to the stage, blithely wandered in and foolishly asked Vince who the fuck he was, to which quick as a flash, he replied, ‘the man with the microphone, whilst you’re the guy with the……’ at which point he hit the loop button, which played, ‘resting bitch face’. This was cracking timing and it was a stand out moment that went down very well. For the finale Atta may have been taking a risk in getting three drunken audience members up on stage and I’ll confess that it was a bit unusual watching one volunteer licking the bald head of another. However, this worked out very well in the end, with everyone playing along nicely. This was a good set and one that I think everyone enjoyed a lot. Atta is a unique act, but also a very talented one.

Honourable mentions:

Andy Askins, Danny Clives, Joe Bowley, Liam Jeavons, Mat Taylor, Tom King,

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March – end of month review

This has been a great month for comedy; I’ve seen 50 or so acts, ranging from gong shows to a very good English Comedian of the year heat. The highlight was probably ‘Fake Ray’ stealing the show when Jonny Awsum got a volunteer onto the stage to assist with his set – how Jonny kept a straight face I’ll never know. The low point was seeing a gong show entrant do a set based around them having a serious illness, which went from being depressing to bleak in the time it took for them to be voted off.

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

Vince Atta

This was at the English comedian of the year heat. Atta gave a fantastic performance.

From the night:

The final section was opened by Vince Atta. Atta was more or less a shoo in to do well in this contest, the only question I had was over the length of the spot, as I doubt Atta has done anything less than a 20 minute opening or closing slot in years. Atta began by explaining how beat boxing worked at top speed before doing a highly abbreviated version of his usual set. I was sorry he didn’t do resting bitch face, as that is my favourite routine of his. The routine where Atta used Derby was absolutely perfect for this heat and went down a dream. Everything that Atta said or did received a laugh – the meaning of his name in Urdu getting a huge response. Vince brings a real feel good factor into the room and I felt that tonight if just one person had given him a standing ovation the rest of the room would have joined in. This was a great set and he went through as winner of the night.

Jonny Awsum

Similar to Vince Atta in his ability to brighten up a room and make everyone significantly happier than they were before they left the home.

From the night:

Jonny Awsum closed the night and he’s ideal for sending an audience out on a high. There is a huge feel good factor to his work and it is very upbeat. There is also a lot of stagecraft involved, too and Awsum showed how quick on the uptake he was when he was chatting to the couple of the front row. Despite being on a double, he realised straight away that they had probably already been spoken to and the likely questions they had been asked and backed away, moving on to talk to other people. Awsum sings, which he does with verve and he involves the entire room in the songs, which gives his set a great feeling of inclusivity. The highlight of his set was when he got ‘Fake Ray’ on stage to play the harmonica. Getting people on stage must be like minesweeping, as there is always the chance that you’ll pick someone uncomfortably uncooperative, or even worse someone who disrupts the show. Fake Ray turned out to be brilliantly up for the idea. In a way that wasn’t over powering, or especially disruptive, for 5 minutes he managed to steal the show from Awsum, as he joined in mimicking the chord that Jonny was playing. This ended wonderfully with a version of duelling banjos and this was a truly great moment. It was nice to see Awsum do a very welcome encore.

Chris Stokes

A superb set.

From the night:

Chris Stokes had a fantastic night. He started by referencing how young he looked before going on to chat about his life. He made a quiet start chatting away, but this was a set that built up all the way throughout. Stokes demonstrated that he had been listening closely to everything that had been said before and I love it when a comedian can reference people and gags as it makes the night feel bigger than the sum of its parts. He received an applause break for a callback to Nelson’s set and even managed to chat to a couple who knew the small village where he had grown up without losing momentum, although by rights the surprise probably would have wrong footed many other acts. In contrast, Stokes didn’t put a foot wrong throughout his set. There was a lot of good quality writing in evidence and his delivery was perfectly pitched to what he was saying. With his soft West Midlands accent and his pattern and rhythm of speech, Stokes reminded me a lot of Thomas Rackham, as they both sound identical. This was a performance that never came close to outstaying its welcome and Stokes was tremendous.

Honourable Mentions

Clayton Jones, Dave Fensome, Gary Meikle, Phil Pagett, Sean Turner, Steff Todd (MC).

February – acts that have impressed me the most this month

This has been a nice month for comedy, with me seeing over 40 acts. The highlight was the UK Pun Championship and the low was a gong show entrant singing 4 different songs about vaginas on the trot.

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

Archie Maddocks

This was a cracking set and although it occupied the sweet spot of the night, Maddocks managed to be the comedian who stood out on a good bill.

From the night:

Archie Maddocks gave the stand out performance of the night. Although he was introduced by the wrong name (a first for Spiky Mike), he rolled with this and then built upon it as he threw himself into a relaxed, yet fast talking set. Maddocks built up a lot of momentum as every reference hit home, including a Breaking Bad/knitting crossover and in a room 80% full of pensioners, a well received pussy joke. My personal favourite was a toss up between a routine about lineage or his indestructible granddad – both were excellent. In addition to the routines, Maddocks was happy to chat to the audience, although I felt the question asked was better framed as a rhetorical one. He did become one of the few acts I’ve heard booed, even in a friendly manner, when he commented on the number of old people in the room, but he had enough charm and goodwill to maintain his grip upon the room. This was an excellent set that I’d have liked to have seen more of.

Simon Lomas

This guy is building a big following and it’s easy to see why. Lomas has bags of talent and writes good material, but the real joy is in his delivery. Simply put, this is a man who has found his calling in life.

From the night:

Some people look like jokers, others look as if they are purveyors of deep and meaningful poetry and this makes Simon Lomas the clickbait of comedy – he gets on stage and you simply won’t believe what happens next. He performs his set with his body facing right of the audience, with wonderfully slow pacing and fantastic timing on the pauses. Lomas is compelling viewing and he held the room masterfully. This performance was a mix of existing and new material and he hoovered up a lot of laughs. Chicken pox is a work in progress, but everything else was top notch. I’ve already tipped Lomas as a comedian who will have a very progressive year and this has confirmed my opinion that he is going to go far.

Anna King-Jackson

I’ve seen King-Jackson twice this month and both times she impressed me with her quality. For an inexperienced comedian, she is already remarkably well advanced.

From the 2nd night:

Anna King-Jackson is a fairly new act and I believe that she has the ability to do well with comedy. Her set felt joined up, rather than just isolated bits of funny and she delivers it well. I like how she does a short set up and then a reveal, which ensures that she almost has the punchiness of a one-liner comedian, but contained within an actual progressively building set. King-Jackson did end with a few puns and these were knowingly groan worthy, which was ok, but could be improved upon. Although having said that, the Stonehenge Star Wars gag was very nice indeed. I was impressed by King-Jackson not being afraid of chatting to the audience. It’s nice when an act takes a risk like that, rather than staying on a script and it is even better when they can address people spoken to by the MC by name. This was a very good set from someone who shall become even better with more stage time.

UK Pun Championship acts

This was a lovely night and these three acts stood out the most.

Luvdev Barpaiga

He was a worthy winner and the most consistently good pun slinger of the evening.

Julian Lee

Lee was fascinating to watch. He’s a dominating presence and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he does a lot of compering. As it was he mixed his prepared puns and some very good ad libs and there was a palpable feeling of him being able to find a quip for anything.

Iain MacDonald

Although not a finalist, the quietly spoken MacDonald was probably the most impressive act of the night. His writing was superb and his dry, almost understated delivery is certain to build a huge amount of momentum over the course of a set.

Honourable Mentions

Roger Swift, Ben Shannon, Hal Cruttenden,

January – who has impressed me the most

End of month recommendations for January

This has been an unbalanced month for comedy, with three quiet weeks and a busy final week. I was lucky enough to see Panel Beaters, which is one of the few shows that can be described as must see. These are the acts who have impressed me the most this month:

Scott Bennett

Bennett was a panellist on Panel Beaters and was excellent

From the night:

Scott Bennett is very talented with the gift for making his material relatable. Out of the panel he made the strongest showing. His material struck a chord with the audience and he had a great work rate. Bennett came out with some wonderful ad-libs and he did a lot to keep Sam Gore’s running joke about dog milk in the show. I think everyone enjoyed his eczema suffering miners joke. Bennett’s What gets his Goat was delivered at a cracking pace and it came from the heart, drawing a vivid picture just as much as it drew the audience in and this was a brilliant piece, as was the Northern Books section, which he had invested a lot of thought into. This was a fantastic performance.

Rob Mulholland as Death

This was another Panel Beaters performance.

From the night:

Death, played by Rob Mulholland, was the stand out performer. Mulholland was clearly having the time of his life and has taken to this role with gusto. This is a man who clearly relishes having a license to say the most dreadful sounding things imaginable. He began by explaining the concept behind the show and then proceeded to make a series of magical interjections, each one being as dark as midnight in a coal hole and extremely funny. His comments about a previous performance in a city that had been unhappy about being teased were great. The glass ceiling was inspired, as was the comment about excellent rail links to a certain Dutch tourist attraction. Mulholland’s comment upon selecting Sam Gore was very much in keeping with his role and whilst sounding outside of decency was absolutely hilarious.

Stevie Gray

This is a comedian who has an eclectic approach, he has material, plays instruments and sings, but he is at his strongest when getting the audience involved in his show. Gray has the ability to bring an entire room into his set and he’s a real crowd pleaser.

From the night:

Stevie Gray closed the night with an engaging high energy set that involved the audience and sent everyone out on a high. Gray wasn’t the original closer and had been intending to do new material, but owing to illness he had moved up the bill to cover. Unfortunately this meant that he wasn’t able to test out his new material and also that he hadn’t brought his guitar with him. Instead, he opted to do a song without a guitar, improvising it. To pull this off took confidence and stage presence and Gray managed this easily. He selected two people from the audience, one to play a pirate and another to play the Kazoo and he soon had the audience clapping away whilst he sang with Dave playing pirate and myself totally failing to get that damn kazoo to play a note. A kazoo is a simple instrument, there are no moving parts, you blow in one end, a noise comes out the other, it’s that simple. It’s idiot proof. Could I heck as like get it to make a single note. Gray tried and it sang beautifully. He passed it back to me and no, not a thing. Until the end, when I got one note out of it and even now I’m totally in the dark as to how I managed to achieve that. No matter, Gray managed to get good laughs from his material and had some cracking ad-libs regarding my efforts. This was a very good set, with Gray showing himself to be a real audience pleaser.

Harry Stachini

Stachini has a lot of talent. His writing is good, is delivery is sound and it’s obvious that he’s got a future as a pro act.

From the night:

The opening act was the up and coming Harry Stachini, whom I have tipped as a comedian likely to have a good progressive year. He very quickly got the night off to a flying start. His material is very strong and he delivers it with great skill and timing – this is a man who will before long be earning his living through comedy. His description of his mum was very funny and had a belter of a twist to it. The only thing that I felt he missed from this all too short a set was when describing having an uncle in Nagasaki and this possible missing element is only down to his being under 35. Any comedian over 35 wouldn’t have been able to resist saying that they had an uncle called Kendo in Nagasaki. This is no reflection on Stachini’s set and it probably says more about my age. This was a very strong set.

Honourable Mentions

Alan Hudson, Andy Gleeks, Dom Holland, Dan Triscott, Billy Lowther, David Smith, Anthony King, Sam Gore

December – end of month recommendations

This has been a busy month, despite Christmas getting in the way of attending gigs. I’ve seen 55 acts this month, with some great acts mentioned below and other great acts time-barred, as I’ve mentioned them in recent monthly round ups.

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

Alistair Barrie

This was a performance that rolled along generating a lot of momentum and also one where Barrie seemed to be restraining himself from going full on with the political material.

From the night:

Our opening act was Alistair Barrie, whom I had last seen dismembering an heckler in Southwell. He began strongly, with local references and a beautiful callback to Mike’s compering when he asked the dildo lady if that present had been a stocking filler. Barrie gave the room a thoroughly enjoyable 25-30 minutes. He dipped his toes into political material, referencing Thatcher, Brexit and Trump – tying the latter in nicely to an American who was in the room, but wisely he didn’t go too deeply into this. Although he received laughs for his political side, Barrie got a far better response for his other material that was accessible to all and he concentrated on making the most out of that. The applause breaks rolled. There was a wonderfully surreal moment, when part way through delivering a highly visual routine about dog litter, the Guildhall clock started chiming and he incorporated it into his act. This was a very well written set, delivered with conviction, albeit with Barrie mostly stood facing the right hand side of the room from him. I got the impression that Barrie was restraining himself in front of this genteel audience and I’d love to see him go all out.

Ian Stone

A joyful and engaging performance.

From the night:

Closing was Ian Stone who was on a double with Alistair Barrie. Stone and Barrie had demonstrated professionalism in discussing with each other (presumably over the phone as one was opening and the other closing a nearby gig) what political material they had used and possibly a quick nod towards usable people and where they were sat. This was a good idea, as both Stone and Barrie had material about Brexit and politics and so it helped to avoid duplicating each other’s work. However, Stone was unlucky in his take on Spain and siestas being similar to what Barrie had said (you obviously can’t discuss everything one said when conferring over the phone), but when it came to dog mess, which Barrie had done a strong routine on, Stone’s material was both different and powerful enough to beat the laws of diminishing returns. There were some great bits of material: tickets was good, Baddiel was fantastic as was clerical work and football coach was very topical. The delivery was energetic, but also combined with a very dry wit, which made for an entrancing combination. This was a great performance, despite some crossover with the earlier set.

Roland Gent

This was a performance that was extremely funny and which tore the room to pieces.

From the night:

Roland Gent, whom I had last seen at Field Mill, closed the night and definitely ripped it. The audience warmed to him from the off and he proceeded to dominate the room, building a lot of impetus as his material hit home. He was smart enough to work in a lot of local references and these all went down a treat and his closing routine about names was a definite standout. I especially appreciated his delivery, which was fast and he hardly seemed to pause for breath. This was an extremely good performance.

Sully O’Sullivan (MC)

Great compering, with a deft touch.

From the night:

Our compere was the articulate Sully O’Sullivan, whom I last saw at a tough drunken bank holiday gig, where he had mixed compering and riot control. Tonight he was able to use his talents more widely. He began well by pointing out the irony in his being a New Zealander and a Vegan in an Australian steakhouse. This was followed by some very good room work, involving delving under the Christmas tree in search of toys and presents which he made full use of. O’Sullivan seemed to find the right balance in ribbing people – being funny and slightly cutting without crossing any lines. This was shown in him getting four people to the stage and having the audience vote for who looked most like they were homeless, a serial killer and a 70’s porn star, etc (I was voted serial killer by a roomful of people, which is a bit disconcerting). This was a wonderful piece of work and really brought the people sat in the room together as an audience. I was especially impressed by how after the first intermission he dealt with a drunk who was prone to shout out – O’Sullivan fished out a Where’s Wally book from under the tree and passed it to the drunk with the instruction to read it whenever he got the urge to talk. This was a night of good compering that melded wit, charm, energy and authority.

Scott Bennett

From a comic who is as good as any pro act on the circuit.

From the night:

The last act of the middle section was Scott Bennett, who was doing a ten trying some new material. This was intermixed with existing material to give it context. To begin with Bennett gave an uncharacteristically slightly political performance, with lots of references to Brexit and questionable views. However, as these were delivered through the medium of his legendary dad they were extremely relatable. The section on ear piercings has been expanded and is building into a very nice short routine. There was one slip, where Bennett said ‘supermarket’ instead of hospital, but his recovery was so fast and so aptly funny it was almost tempting to believe that this was a deliberate slip. I don’t think the new material is the full finished article quite yet, but it is already tremendously good. This was a set that seemed to be on the constant verge of an applause break all the way throughout.

Honourable mentions

Jack Campbell, Steff Todd, Dave Pollard, Alex Black, Carly Smallman, Simon Wozniak, Johnny Sorrow, Jon Pearson,

November – comedians who have impressed me the most this month

This has been a lovely month. I’ve seen 47 acts, encompassing gong shows and festival shows. There were a large number of acts who have thoroughly impressed me with their ability. These are the ones who have made the biggest impact upon me:

Tom Christian

Christian is a comedian that I don’t seem to see a lot and it was astonishing just how much he had improved since I last saw him. This performance was at an open mic night, but even so, Christian stood out for his professionalism and his sheer quality.

From the night:

The award winning Tom Christian was the closing act. He had impressed me before he had even entered the room. He had arrived whilst Sherwood was compering and rather than walk in and potentially detract from this work, he had stayed outside until the right moment came along to come in – a nicely professional touch. Getting the up and coming Christian for this gig was something of a coup and his quality soon became apparent to the audience. He opened with a short routine about Meatloaf, which is nicely visual and punchy enough to give him instant laughter. This then led into a wonderfully varied series of routines that were very well written and had lots of little touches. Some of these were a bit subtle and weren’t as appreciated as they might have been, such as Uncle Tom, which wasn’t got by everyone, but was appreciated by those who did. Christian was a confident presence in the room and it’s fair to say that he dominated it commanding attention, rather than this being optional – I don’t think that this was the result of a conscious decision that he made, but more a knack that comes with experience and knowing that he has a solid set to hold the room with. Even if there was a baby crying throughout bits of his set. There were a lot of good lines and I think the letters of complaint were perhaps the highlight of his set. These went down a treat. Christian received four applause breaks, gave the room a lot of laughter, was very influential in getting the venue owners to run a second comedy night and had a lot of well wishers shaking his hand and thanking him for being so funny. Not a bad nights’ work for him.

Pete Teckman

An act who doesn’t have the social media presence of many comics and possibly isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds as a result of this. However, Teckman gave a fantastic performance.

From the night:

Next was Pete Teckman, who fully lived up to his reputation as being a thoroughly nice guy. His dry delivery went down very well with the audience as he started pleasantly with a routine about identity theft and then continued with the nicely creative concept of head tattoos. This was followed by material that was formidable enough to earn his not one, not two, not three, not four, but five applause breaks over fifteen minutes. That was lovely to see and whilst it could perhaps be said that the audience were his type of people and his material was their type of humour, I don’t think that that is the real explanation for Teckman’s success. Instead, it was the result of a very well put together set that felt coherent and carried on building right up until the end. There were a lot of great routines delivered with good timing and in a great dry manner. My personal favourite was the aunt kicking, which was not only intrinsically funny, but all the more appreciated because one had to think about it to get the joke and it built upon the foundations laid by an earlier joke. I knew that Teckman was good, but he seems to have moved up a gear. This was very impressive.

Joby Mageean

Is one of the next generation of comics who will be making a living from comedy. He’s not fully there yet, but it is only a matter of time.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Joby Mageean, of whom I had heard some very nice things said. He began by commenting on Spiky Mike’s compering and doing a quick demonstration of him not using his guitar to juggle with, in comparison to Royle, which was not only funny and harked back to Royle’s set, but it also demonstrated that Mageean was brave enough to think on his feet and alter his set. From here he did a splendiferous vocal version of Morricone’s ‘The ecstasy of the gold’, which I can’t speak highly enough of. However, he may perhaps benefit from building a more powerful joke around this, as whilst the vocals were fantastic, the joke paled by comparison. I enjoyed the Gay Card material and felt that it was both logical and funny, although the final pay off didn’t feel quite as robust as the rest of that routine. The jokes about his name were fine and the closing song was very good indeed (the callback was superb), building nicely as Mageean got ever more frantic in his exasperation with the comic getting his name wrong. Mageean’s delivery was very effective, combining a genuine enthusiasm for what he was doing and an awareness of the audience. It was great to see him following Royle by speaking to Angela and it’s always nice to see acts listening to comperes and knowing where people, such as the Irishman, are sat. This was an extraordinarily promising performance and it’s obvious that Mageean has a real future as a comedian.

Wayne Deakin

An amazing performance.

From the night:

Headlining was another Australian, Wayne Deakin. I see a lot of acts that have cracking nights, but it is not often that I would describe an act as smashing a gig, but Deakin managed that and seemed to make it look easy. Within minutes he was in that happy place where there were volleys of laughter following his every utterance. His style was domineering, standing on the stage looking like some kind of colossus, as he treated the room to a soapbox oration mixture of facts about the world, opinions and why gay airline stewards are great. Deakin would issue a statement regarding something such as the muddle of who likes whom in Britain and then pull the rug from under this by demonstrating how much of a nonsense it is. He is also the first comedian I’ve seen putting the boot into Corbyn, who regardless of my own political views, should not be enjoying immunity from the ridicule that is the politicians lot. It was truly heart warming to be sat looking at a lady who might have been either side of 70 totally pissing herself with laughter at Deakin – comedy and more especially a near the knuckle joke – is truly a great uniter of people. This was a tremendous performance and Deakin took the roof off of the building.

Simon Wozniak

Like Mageean, Wozniak is someone who is definitely on their way up the comedy ladder and he will be doing this on a professional basis sooner or later.

From the night:

We resumed after the intermission with Simon Wozniak occupying the sweet spot. Twice this week Wozniak has been a finalist in comedy competitions, but without taking top spot. I was wondering if he would pull it off tonight, as I felt that he was certainly in with a chance. He made a strong beginning and never really looked back. His material was relatable and drew the audience in and even when he was miming riding an elephant he still kept everyone with him. He delivered his material lent back, pushing his belly out and whenever he got excited his voice went up in pitch, which considering his Liverpudlian accent, seemed to just ratchet up the impact of what he was saying. There were a lot of big laughs during this set and Wozniak delivered a stellar performance. He was a worthy winner of the engraved trophy.

Honourable mentions

Hayley Ellis, Harv Hawkins, Dan Thomas, Pete Phillipson

October – Comedians who have impressed me the most this month

This has been a month where I’ve seen acts noticeably improve from the last time I saw them and there have been some very nice surprises, such as promising new material being exhibited and some wonderfully off the wall comedy. These are the acts who have impressed me the most this month:

Rahul Kohli

Kohli is not yet the finished article, but he is already a very strong act. His political material is highly insightful and funny. He has the ability to get the feel of an audience very quickly.

From the night:

The middle spot was occupied by Rahul Kohli, who was an inspired booking for two reasons. One, he has obviously got a good career in comedy ahead of him and two, being half Hindu and half Sikh, this gig was tailor made for him. In common with Handley, Kohli was getting laughs before he reached the stage, but in his case it was because there was a chap sat in the audience who looked just like him. Kohli, who evidently devours the news and retains a lot of information in his head, received good laughs for referencing a recent fracas in Leamington between a group of Hindus and Sikhs, before going on to reveal his 50/50 background. This display of local knowledge won the crowd over and went down a treat and from here it was hard for him to put a foot wrong. He got a huge laugh for Glasgow and then an even bigger laugh for the second reveal. The material was evenly balanced between political and being about race and both played wonderfully. Kohli was very much in tune with the audience and had a level of insight that ensured that his room work hit home. He was able to make everything relatable to the crowd and this was a joy to watch. The pause in the delivery in the Trump apology analogy demonstrated a good sense of timing, but I felt that his story about a rudeboy friend was more of a work in progress. There were quite a lot of erms in Kohli’s delivery. These weren’t so much a case of him thinking or running out of things to say, but instead he seemed to be using an erm almost like a comma and probably subconsciously, either way it didn’t impact on what was an infectiously enthusiastic delivery. This was an outstanding set from a very talented comedian.

Billy Lowther

Lowther probably has the best ten I’ve ever seen. This was from a fifteen and he easily sustained the momentum. The material is solid, but it is his slow delivery that makes him a find.

From the night:

The opening act was the award winning Billy Lowther, an act that I have a lot of time for. His material is solid and he has a delivery that gets the most from it. His routine about Sunderland provided an easily accessible opening to his set and right from the beginning it was obvious that everyone was onboard. The new material fitted naturally into his set and it is always a pleasure to see a comic know which town to name as the local shit town. Lowther is a well built chap and this features in a few of his jokes, but he has a very broad approach to his gags and is far from being a one issue comedian. Also, in contrast to a lot of one-liner comics, his delivery is slow paced and this suits him a lot better, although part of the slow pacing may be due to the fact that he needed to leave room for a laughter break after every single line. Lowther seemed to be on the verge of an applause break all the way through and the big surprise was him only receiving the one applause break.

Hannah Silvester

I seem to have seen a fair bit of Silvester recently and that is no bad thing. She seems to have moved into a higher gear and this performance was without any hiccup or lull.

From the night:

Hannah Silvester had a splendid night. This makes it three out of three gigs where I’ve seen her do well. Her material is relatable, it hangs together well and she moves smoothly from routine to routine. Silvester’s delivery was perfectly in key with what she was saying, with the right tone and lilt being used to make her point without overdoing it and this was a joy to watch.

Ben MacPherson (as Byron Montrose)

MacPherson is a name that is largely unknown outside of the Nottingham improv scene. However, in this character act he has created something special. Given a room where the audience allow the acts time to establish themselves, he would create a lot of mirth.

From the night:

Next was Ben MacPherson, resplendent in jazzy outfit, performing as a new character – Byron Montrose. I like MacPherson, he has presence and the sort of voice that Barry White would envy. His show was a monologue and I’m generally not a fan of these, as I find a lot of audiences disengage after a while and it is hard to sustain the momentum without some audience interaction. However, I’m happy to say that Montrose did not suffer at all from this; indeed from beginning to end he remained thoroughly entertaining. The material was extremely good. Every line had been scrutinised until it contained something that added comedic value. There were no loose adjectives, instead, it was like a Spike Milligan book, with nods to surrealism and everything provoking a giggle. Whilst there was no one killer line that brought the house down, the cumulative effect of one small pun after another was remarkable and I think there is a real risk that in the full show the room may be giggled out after 25 minutes. This was a smashing performance that was delightfully different.

Honourable mentions:

Bennett Kavanagh, Dan Nicholas, Jared Shooter, Ross Smith, Seymour Mace

Nott’s Comedy Review – end of month recommendations – August

This has been a big month for comedy, with the Edinburgh festival. Rather than just say which shows I enjoyed the most, this months’ list of the people who have impressed me the most will concentrate on those whom I only saw doing short sets in compilation shows. This means that Norcott, Segal, Green, Swift and Perkins are all excluded as I saw them in full shows.

Moses Ali Khan

I’d not seen Moses for six months and it is impossible to understate just how much he has improved in that time. His material is clever and dark and he has found a way to deliver it that is nicely disarming.

From the gig:

Moses Ali Khan was next and he had an exceptionally good gig. His character act is a beautiful construct that allows him to say the most appalling things with enough of a breathing space for the audience to laugh before worrying about how dark his material is. The material involves a lot of misdirection before the surprise punchline emerges and it isn’t what the audience ever expects it to be. This was a very very funny set and although he benefited somewhat from following Adele, the gusts of laughter were down to his talent.

Harry Stachini

Very impressive, very funny and every time I see him he is better than the last time.

From the gig:

Harry Stachini, who is very much an up and coming comedian, followed. His delivery was very matter of fact, he described the events surrounding odd people on buses in a plain workmanlike way, almost as if he had just got in from work and was telling his partner about the journey home. Yet despite this being a bit of a no thrills approach, it perfectly suits his persona and material and worked far better than any other approach he could have taken. It gave the events he described great credibility. Stachini chose his words well, with there being hardly a single word that was superfluous to what he was saying and every phrase he used seemed perfect for the context. Although bus passengers is a well travelled topic for comics, Stachini made it seem fresh, which is no mean feat.

Mark Grimshaw

This chap has the ability to take a sideways view of most topics. Although the areas he spoke about are pretty well travelled his take on them was fresh.

From the gig:

The first act was Mark Grimshaw who in his 8 minutes interestingly combined some popular topics that a few comedians are working with, but with him saying some very funny and definitely above average things about them. He began by explaining that he is autistic and compared his delivery to that of Yodel – this was an area that I appreciated, as I felt it to be very timely and it certainly resonated with the audience. However, he then went on to talk about the headlines in OK magazine, which I thought was going for a bit of an easy target and one that has been covered a few times. However, I really enjoyed what he had to say about it. The same can be said for his discussion about unusual reviews left on Trip Adviser. He is the second comedian I’ve seen mining this site for comedy recently and although both were different in the specifics of what they had to say, the format was exactly the same, with both having independently gone with something along the lines of ‘well what did they expect to see there?’ Grimshaw’s take on it contained some great lines, such as ‘new management’ and ‘mod cons’ which were very good indeed. Grimshaw is obviously a very talented wordsmith, but I’d like to see him going for less well travelled topics.

Tony Cowards (MC)

I saw Tony compering a gig following his stint in Edinburgh. His general knowledge enabled him to make the most of replies from the audience and his ability to tie existing material into this, without any huge leaps of logic is uncanny. He has the knack of making a well thought out stream of puns seem like an off the cuff comment. Audiences love the apparent spontaneity of this and it ensures that he not only wins rooms over quickly, but also makes it feel a bit special for everyone.

Honourable mentions:

Simon Lomas, Pete Selwood, Jay Handley, Adele Swift and Tom Mayhew

End of month review- July

This has been a very enjoyable month for comedy with 46 individual reviews. I have been to the usual mix of pro and open mic nights, plus a few seasonal Edinburgh Previews. Ironically, the best night had a ticket price of only £1 and featured 7 up and coming acts. If that was the best night, then the best actual performance was a panel show, which provided me with the funniest hour I’ve ever been lucky enough to see.

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

Andy White

He has lots of natural charisma and provided the audience with a wonderfully varied set that had pretty much something for everyone.

From the night:

I have only seen White once before and that was in Derby, where he was a panellist on Panel Beaters. This proved to be the best show I have seen this year and so I was more than happy to see him on the bill. To begin with the room seemed a bit lukewarm towards him, but he won them round very quickly, probably within the first minute and a half. His line about resembling Dr Who was inspired and the added reveal with Chelsea fans was great and these firmly established his credentials with the audience. White’s set gave the room a lovely mix of gags, small routines, songs, dancing and visual jokes. I like it when a comedian mixes it up like this, as it seems to make the performance fresher. One technical facet that I and perhaps only I noticed, was the fact that White had been paying close attention during Mike’s compering. He knew people’s names and who was sat where and was able to work this into his set. It is ruddy jarring when a comic who hasn’t been listening asks the same person their name 2 minutes after the MC has and White easily avoided this, which I appreciated, as it gave the night a feeling of coherency. There were a lot excellent bits of material contained within this set, such as the reference to Japanese porn – it is always fun seeing who laughs at porn related jokes, as a fraction of a second after they’ve laughed they suddenly seem to realise that they’ve just outed the fact that they have cookies they need to delete. Germans in sheds was nicely self-explanatory and White wisely left it at that as it worked better with the audience not needing more in order to get the joke. I felt that the highlight of this set was a tie between Al Qaeda and the lullaby. Both worked extremely well and were easy to access. This was a splendid set that I thoroughly enjoyed, with no less than four applause breaks being given.

Big Howard and Little Howard

This was an Edinburgh Preview and was nicely different to the usual fare.

From the night:

Howard Read was performing in an unnamed show, featuring a double act with a difference – his partner is his cartoon friend, Little Howard. He began with an explanation of how the show would work, which was wise, as this is something a little bit unusual. He certainly hit the ground running, forming an immediate rapport with the audience, who bought into the concept in a big way. This is an incredibly well thought out and creative show, with the sort of attention to detail that one would usually associate with genius’ like Tom Binns. Read has obviously taken a lot of time and trouble with not only getting the basic ideas right, but then in refining them and adding those little additional touches that push the jokes even further. Examples of this include the panda stretching out its paw, the demise of the crab on the wire and the light bulb materialising slowly. There were other things that also impressed me, such as the final reveal on driving to Brum, cat bugler, which is a simple idea, but very funny and Little Mix, which I thought deserved more than it received. The reference to Steve Austin worked surprisingly well, given the age of the show.

This was a performance that never came close to getting stale, as Read would switch nicely from being upstaged by Little Howard into a solo routine, using good solid material from his club 20. Even when going solo, Read mixed it up a lot, combining audience work and songs. His safari into the audience as the Fart Whisperer went down very well and helped the audience to feel involved. Read’s inclusion of myself as a reviewer, as someone whose fart he read was made brilliantly relevant by the results of his divination and he was rewarded with an applause break, one of probably half a dozen that he earned. There were three songs, the wonderful bedtime lullaby, a chaotic (in the spirit of Tiswas) duet with Little Howard and a fantastic song about Haberdashers, that worked even better when Read got out of synch with the visuals. I did feel that the separate shops idea needs a little bit more, but considering the sheer quality of the rest of the show, I’m sure that is new material.

Reed is very dry in his delivery, his voice reminding me a touch of a sped up Norman Lovett. He is also totally convincing, playing it totally straight with Little Howard, which really brought him to life as something more than just a character. The audience thoroughly enjoyed this show, which had more than enough variety to keep everyone happy. I thought that it was superb and massively enjoyable.

Discount Comedy Checkout

Another act that stands out for being different, but in a way that is inclusive.

From the night:

The headline act was the Discount Comedy Checkout, an improv troupe, with a very good reputation. Last night it was just three of the four, owing to work getting in the way of art. We had Chris, Eddie and Natalie present, which given the size of the snug, was probably the optimum number. The set up was that a number of games would be played, with the audience making suggestions regarding style and location, with a bucketful of suggestions and comments utilised for mirth. The games consisted of a scene set in a mortuary, with a wonderfully quick witted use of Brian Clough’s body and a couple of comments from Eddie about Leeds, which worked extremely well for those old enough to remember his spell at Dirty Leeds, or those who have watched The Damned Utd. This was followed by a game based on film and theatre, with Chris and Eddie changing styles rapidly. It was highly impressive how they managed to sum up the essence of each genre not so much with what they said, or even how they said it, but just from body language. How they stood, or rocked on their heels or simply just a movement of the head added weight to the illusion that the cocktail bar was now in Tombstone or Dodge City. This was incredibly powerful to see and was a massive crowd pleaser. The newscast about a plumber doing a good job was really brought to life by each of the characters, especially Eddie who slipped into and out of each person with total conviction. Book chat, the final game was a more difficult proposition, as I found it very hard to concentrate on what Natalie and Chris were saying whilst Eddie was signing for the benefit of the hard of hearing. This was a fantastic set from a group who work extraordinarily well together. No one hogged the limelight, things were left open for other members to get a laugh. There was a lovely number of callbacks to Fran’s compering and it felt like this show was for the whole audience. This performance was a great closing act, probably impossible to follow if they had been on earlier.

The Panel Beaters

This is a wonderful panel show and one that if the various Telly bods had any guts could be bigger than Shooting Stars.

From the night:

The format of this panel show, devised by Caimh McDonnell and Gary Delaney, is for three contestants to attempt to be funny over a number of rounds and then at the end, Death, picks the funniest one to bump off, based upon the audience’s vote. On one level, the format is almost irrelevant, as naturally funny people will be funny doing almost anything, but on another level the inclusion of Death makes this delightfully quirky and provides a framework for the show.

Tonight our contestants were, Scott Bennett (RIP following Death picking him), Gary Delaney and Andy White; the host was Caimh McDonnell and Death was a splendiferously dressed up Andy Robinson.

The vibe of the show was established long before McDonnell had gotten half way through his introduction. This was to be a boisterous knockabout show with an element of organised anarchy from the contestants. All of the panel were in fine fettle and were bouncing off of each other like spinning tops and this infectiously added to the feel good factor of the show. McDonnell and Delaney have a great chemistry together and can cheerfully say the most appalling things to each other, making themselves and the audience laugh, or snort and laugh if your name is Delaney. Robinson played Death as a deadpan Brummie, possibly because he is a deadpan Brummie and the sight of him corpsing every so often was both surreal and a joy to see. Death occupied a role that was similar to George Dawes in Shooting Stars, being of the show, but not really fully involved and with the ability to interject with a killer line as and when he chose, almost like a comedy sniper. This worked fantastically, from the great visual stroking gag, through to escorting an elderly chap from the building and returning, wearing his hat (looking rather like Tom Baker whilst he sported the hat). Robinson timed his comments well, keeping them sparing enough to make the most of them.

There were a number of rounds, such as Elevated Pitch, What gets my Goat, Hashtwats, Heckles from History and Future News Round. These were introduced by McDonnell, who acted not only as the host, but also as the referee, making sure everyone got the chance to speak. He had the job of keeping the show on track and ensuring that it stayed within its’ slot. At times, he resembled a slightly harassed convener at the annual anarchists conference, but this was all part of the fun. In a quick moving show, not everything is guaranteed to land, but obviously with the calibre of acts involved the misses were very few indeed. Some of the highlights were a series of interlinked gags from White, which ended on a showstopper of a song, with an added reveal that really ramped up the mirth just when one thought he had finished. Scott Bennett, whom I primarily think of as a very talented ‘set’ comedian, who can build up a massive head of steam over twenty minutes, had an excellent night showing what he can do with one-liners and pithy comments. Him discussing lettuce and working in a splendid reference to James Bond intros was great. The Heckles from History was my favourite round. There were a number of very clever heckles, and I’d have loved to have seen more of that as it was simply superb.

This was a fantastic show and is probably the best show (as opposed to night) that I have seen. It was that funny I hurt myself laughing. I understand that Delaney and McDonnell are approaching Radio 4 with this concept. A bowdlerised version of this show will still be entertaining, but I think it will fail to capture the sheer joie de vivre. A late night slot on Dave or Channel 4, which would allow everyone free reign, would be magnificent. In the meantime, I hope this show continues, as it would do very well touring universities and comedy clubs. My advice, is that if you go to just one comedy show this year, go and see the Panel Beaters.

End of month review – June

This has been something of a slow month for reviewing, mostly due to work and so there have only been 32 comedians reviewed. This month I have seen Edinburgh Previews, professional nights, open mic nights and also an improv night. Some of these have been extremely good nights, notably the previews and the professional nights. One regret I have is not having seen as many English Comedian of the year heats as I would have liked. Partly this was due to being on shift for those nights and also due to me honouring a previous commitment to a gig that I had put my name down for prior to discovering it clashed with a heat.

These are the comedians who have impressed me the most this month; as ever comedian’s that I have recommended recently, such as Tom Houghton, are time barred from this month.

Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke

This was a smashing set. McCabe did benefit from being able to hoover up material during the course of the night, as he was closing, but all the same he demonstrated a huge degree of creativity and being able to think upon the spot.

The review from the night:

Our closing act was Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke. Hawke strolled onto the stage, looking like Douglas Fairbanks relaxing on a film set, bedecked in a silk top, cravat, moustache and brylcreemed hair. His use of language and speech patterns were reminiscent of a PG Wodehouse character, but with more credibility. This was used to marvellous effect, as a set that was 50% based upon facts elicited by Jones’ compering and 50% material was delivered to the room. I was very impressed with how Hawke managed to work in so much improvised material and judging by the sounds of laughter, the rest of the audience were extremely enthusiastic, too. The pre-existing material, which discussed football and his interactions with various people were of a uniformly great quality, but pushed a lot further by a very strong delivery, that stayed in character throughout. The closing routine was simply magnificent. This involved Hawke working in a call back to everyone who had been spoken to during the course of the night. This earned him a series of applause breaks. I’ve never seen anyone manage to pull this off before. The closest I’ve seen to it was on television, when Bob Monkhouse improvised a series of links between audience members in one of his shows. It was at this stage that Hawke was delivered a googly in the form of a shout out/call back to his own material and was asked to sing a song. He dealt with this request with aplomb and some very quick thinking. This was a fantastic set.

Peter McCole

This was a very pleasurable and enjoyable performance. Light-hearted, good fun and very amiable.

The review from the night:

After the intermission we resumed with Peter McCole, who is the second Liverpool based comedian I’ve seen this week and indeed within the last couple of months. I have to confess, I wasn’t familiar with McCole until I saw his name on the bill, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew he’d be good, otherwise he wouldn’t have been booked, but this still added a little bit of excitement to the night. McCole came onto the stage and ad-libbed the first couple of minutes to good effect, generating laughs quickly. Within 3-4 minutes, he had the entire pub hanging on his every word, as he delivered his material with a great deal of charm. I was especially taken by his story of a séance, which built up nicely as he delivered it. The reveal was saved from being foreseeable by a lovely twist. His closing routine involved a sex tape, which is something that has been covered a couple of times by comics, but which gave the room real pleasure as McCole acted out the scene on the tape and the reaction from his parents. This was a well thought out set, with both good material and a well pitched delivery. I hope to see more of McCole.

Caimh McDonnell

This was a cracking Edinburgh Preview from a master raconteur.

The review from the night:

The next Edinburgh Preview was from Caimh McDonnell, whose show is entitled Gorilla in the Midst. McDonnell is an excellent comedian and made a big impression on me years before I began reviewing. This is the 5th time I’ve paid to see him and I’ve never had anything less than an excellent time. Tonight, he began with a story about a near death experience, which included a lovely ironic spoiler alert. This was followed by a collection of stories involving his encounters with other animals, such as a badger, a police horse, a dog and rats. These stories were delivered in such a way that they came to life before your eyes. The descriptions were so vivid, that one could easily see McDonnell sat on his sofa, with the rat waving to him. This story was one that struck a particular chord with me, as my wife is terrified of spiders and if one had swapped out rats for arachnids, then it could well have been describing her attitude to the critters. Interestingly, by the time that McDonnell was discussing his granddad’s reaction to political campaigners knocking on his door before tea, I was laughing heartily at just the set up, with no idea of what the reveal would be. The final tale concerned families and the sort of lively cousin that most people are glad that someone else has, if only because they get to hear all the antics, without having the personal discomfort of having to deal with the aftermath. The material of this show is first rate and is massively funny.

McDonnell is a natural raconteur. He is one of those chaps who could make a discussion about anything interesting. He delivers his material quickly and seems to get through 90 minutes of material in an hour. His references were wonderful, from the now dated figure of Ian Paisley to his line about a Christmas performance at the Fritzl’s. This was a fantastic show from a comedian who is on top form. Every time I see McDonnell I always drive home wondering how someone who is so gifted is not yet a household name.

Jonny Awsum

I’m not a fan of musical acts, but this was a very good set that brought the entire pub onboard and seemed to make the night about having fun as a community, rather than as individuals laughing on our own.

The review from the night:

The closing act was Jonny Awsum, the 4th musical act I’ve seen recently. Awsum gave the room 5-6short songs, which really got the crowd going. Awsum brings the entire audience into his act, having people sing, make noises and play instruments according to the song. This really got everyone involved and ensured that he gave the room a feel good ending to their night. He wasn’t helped by the pub’s telephone ringing in the background during a set up, but luckily this stopped before it became too distracting. Whilst musical acts aren’t my cup of tea, it’s obvious that everyone was really into Awsum and the pub definitely enjoyed his performance.

Finlay Taylor

This set was a lovely surprise. It came from a comic I wasn’t familiar with and had no huge expectations of. It was a real additional to the night.

The review from the night:

The next act was Finlay Taylor who discussed his physical imperfections, gentrification and various non-problems in life. With this last category, he refrained from calling them first world problems, which demonstrated an impressive restraint on his part, as 90% of comedians would probably have worked that phrase into this set. Taylor’s material was tightly written and impressively strong, earning him an applause break for his contempt at the putative cure for being gluten-intolerant. He moved from one topic to another swiftly, but his set hung together in a way that made it feel seamless. Taylor’s delivery was fast and he hardly seemed to pause for breath as he swiftly built up a lot of momentum. It seemed like he managed to fit twenty minutes of first rate material into a fifteen minute slot and the world is a slightly better place for this achievement. I’d not heard of Taylor before tonight; he was a lovely surprise and a splendidly entertaining one.

Justin Moorhouse

One of those sets where the comedian pretty much takes the roof off of the venue. A magnificent set.

The review from the night:

The headlining act was Justin Moorhouse, who is someone whom I’ve been interested in as a comedian ever since I saw his cameo appearances in an old show I used to watch before going on nights called something Taxi Nights or something similar. I’ve travelled to places like Derby, Sheffield, Matlock and now Grantham to see him perform and every time I’ve seen him, he has been excellent. Moorhouse has produced some great material over the years, such as ‘asthmatic sith lord’ and a shout out for Manchesters when he was in a department store in Australia. However, he seems to have made a conscious decision to continue to write new material and not to rely upon a greatest hits catalogue approach, which is a real bonus. Tonight he began in a callback to Mike’s compering by chatting in French with a lady in the front row, with exaggerated facial expressions for added effect. He then started his set properly, by discussing three lies that comedian’s tell, managing to get three reveals from the oft used line about a comedian announcing his girlfriend had just left him. I particularly enjoyed his successive downgrading of something funny happening on the way to the venue. The theme of Moorhouse’s set was his current fears. This covered a lot of areas, but my personal favourite in this was his work on the Manchester pusher, which he chose to deliver with a strong Mancunian accent, making him the ‘Push-Shore’. This made the villain sound less like a menace and more like a roadie for a 90’s indie band and tickled me. Moorhouse had perfect timing and made great use of raising his voice partway through a sentence at the crucial moment to add the emphasis to what he was saying. The result of this was nigh on 40 minutes of massive laughs. The closing routine, involving a KO and an accident with a bucket was simply superb and the way it was described really brought it to life and actually had me in tears of laughter, which doesn’t happen often. This was a barnstormer of a show.