27/11/18: Granvilles, Stone

This is more of a logistical report from the promoter than a review and I won’t say what I think of each acts set in too much detail as they are all different and made for a great selection box for a first night of a gig.

This is one that’s a 25 mile (50 mile round trip) from Telford but me and my close friend/landlord/boss of the Crown Inn John Ellis went along to meet and talk with the landlord Adam about doing a comedy night. We laid down the rules, format on how it should be run and how the room should be laid out. The venue is a local live music venue and it’s one big huge open plan layout with main stage in the corner where the audience is split down either side with the bar in front of you. We talked him out of doing the comedy there and to instead use window bay area as a stage and put the chairs in rows in front of it. He agreed and to also ticket it and agreed to a ‘’fairly’’ good budget, the day was set. After that another venue in nearby Shifnal spoke with us about doing a comedy night for them and they too agreed to such terms and the date for that came first. That gig was a success and will be going monthly now too but didn’t end up writing a report on it.

My focus had been on this Stone gig, Unlike Shifnal I decided to not do a turn myself at this one (that proved a BIG mistake there) as I am beyond self aware how polarizing my own act is. It my personal opinion as a promoter that unless you have a budget that’s big enough to pay for 2 professional standard club comedians to book end it who are safe and know how to work a room don’t have an opening 20 on the first night regardless. Instead have 4x ‘polished’ 10 spots instead. My reasoning here is because even if the compere is sound if the audience hive mind decides they don’t like the opening act that can kill that gig there and then. If you have 4x decent 10 spots if they don’t like the one 10 spot they’ll like the other as you go into first break. I have seen first hand entire groups leave a (first night) gig as the opening 20 act rubbed them up the wrong way/offended them etc and can always switch to opening 20’s after first show. Night 1 always give them a selection box with the 2x 10’s is my opinion.

On arrival at the gig we were lucky and managed to get a space JUST in front of the gig which was a god send as we so much equipment to bring in. Upon entry we found posters labelled with ‘sold out’ across them and landlord Adam had done everything we had said in our meeting to the letter. So the chairs were laid out in rows going right to the back of the room. The venue is on two levels with a huge balcony looking down at the ground floor to the window bay / stage are and the upstairs had been declared the green room. Adam also had rigged up this light hanging from the balcony that worked PERFECTLY and couldn’t have been more perfect which meant I had brought my light and rig for nothing. Set up with my own pa system tho which proved too quiet for the folk at the back and had to keep turning it up throughout the show to the point where it was as loud as I could get it without feedback/distortion.

The problem this gig has was the standard from a first night; late arrivals still eating curry and the classic…. Herding the people into the seats and thus we had the classic of them all filling from the back. The two rows at the front remaining almost empty, people hanging around the bar refusing to sit down and a gang of about 8 guys who came into the upstairs area (the green room) to watch it from above. This got under my skin but it was to be expected from the first night one of the few tweaks to sort for next time.

The show got underway around 10 minutes later than planned and John did is usual thing of being the comperes compere doing the intros. Aaron Twitchen was the host for the night who is always the perfect choice for audiences new to comedy and he got them laughing pretty quickly but like any new comedy audience they began life reserved and hard to get started but he was doing a good job still. They weren’t’ chatty or rowdy as such just ‘in their shells’. Rob Mitchell opened and he is always my go to when it comes to first 10 spot at the first night of a gig (he had done it at shifnal last week) and he once again proved a good choice as he’s very confident and his pull back and reveals always hit well. Unlike shifnal though his one-liner-y style jokes and puns got laughs here not awkward silence and eye rolls. Still not the finished article by any means and material needs a little tightening in parts but proved his worth again and made a good start to the gig.  Dave Dinsdale the governor followed next with his much more old skool style of joke telling and this proved somewhat hit and miss with the crowd. He didn’t do anything wrong of course so didn’t try new material and stuck the classics which I applaud him for but as I keep saying COMEDY IS SUBJECTIVE! The room were still warming up and he did his job without any complaints from me, he ended on his song with his uke and got a big laugh from his final joke(s). A lot of the crowd were younger than we had thought they were going to be so it was just a generation thing for a lot of them I feel. Good but just a bit hit and miss.

First break we finally got all but 2 of the guys who go downstairs and like always I see if we’ve lost any of the audience already at this point (we didn’t). The second section began with Aaron really ramping up the energy and the crowd were really starting to come alive now and he got some good crowd interaction going by finding out that the group of men were from a local charity and he had a lot of fun playing with that throughout the rest of the show. Harvey Hawkins opened this section and it’s fair to say proved the crowd favourite of the support spots, he used to be a straight up one liner act akin to Milton Jones but he’s gone more down a story telling route now whilst keeping his good one liner gags embedded in the stories. The guy is professional level when it comes to his confidence on stage and was getting the stronger harder laughs now. They were getting properly into it now although his opening story is always a hard one because it takes him nearly a minute to get to the pay off and first punch line although I’ve never seen it not prove totally worth it for the payback it gets. Hannah Silvester then followed and too had a good gig and stuck to her classics she struggled a bit at very first but soon got them on side with her. She’s been going down this route more lately than the musical comedy stuff but she ended on a song which didn’t get that great a reaction but I thought they were a live music venue so this came as a surprise to me as well.

Final break more pacing up and down the green room hoping the audience didn’t get slimmer (we lost no-one) and the audience came back, ready for the headline act. Andy White who I’ll just say had them round his little finger for the next 30 minutes. I’ve heard all his material many times before but his Nelson Mandela bit still gets me every time. All that went though my mind the entire time was ‘’perfect choice, what a pro’’ as I sat looking down from the balcony with John, Dave and Aaron. He did loose them briefly when he made a reference to something from the 70s that went completely over most of their ‘younger’ heads but didn’t take long to reel them back in. A master class in club comedy and he’s a lovely, friendly bloke off stage to boot no edge on him at all.

The landlord Adam couldn’t have been happier and gave to go ahead instantly to go monthly from Jan onwards, with a few small tweaks. We’ll get a rope to banish punters going upstairs for starters, try and get it started on time. Also I used my own PA but at the end tested running the mic and then small mixing desk I seldom use into his own in house PA and that works fine so OOOPS we’ll be doing that next time. So much less equipment and stuff to bring in and it also need to work at ushering them into the seats better to get the front two rows filled.

On my end sticking with paid headliners and think I’ll do opening 20’s even if I can’t afford pro standard ones but to do middle 10’s or a 2nd middle 20 is one I’ll stew on as hard to know exactly what act is exactly the right fit at this one as it stands but it was a huge success and will hopefully make a great addition to the circuit.

 

Aaron Twitchen [MC]
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13/02/18: The Crown Inn

So I haven’t written a report for one of my gigs for a while but really wanted to for this one. 7 years and still going our monthly comedy night at the Crown Inn returned with what is now a twice yearly professional headliner show and I had booked London based Scottish comedian of the year Leo Kearse as the headliner. He’s one I’ve had on my wish list for a really long time cause he’s a uber strong weekend club act in his own right but he also writes puns as well on the side (UK pun champion 2015) and does them as a character act he calls ‘punman’ which is obviously my kind of thing so wanted to get him to come and do both.

He also brought a couple of open spots with him from London to give the long term regulars some new faces. Nick Clarke was meant to be the compere for the night but had a bout of Australian flu so local boy Wayne Beese jumped up from 10 spot to compering duties instead the day before the gig. This gig was disheartening somewhat for me to begin with as sales hadn’t been anywhere near as strong as we hoped and didn’t move at all for nearly 3 weeks until we got a sudden mini surge in the days running up to it and another one the day before and we yet more who came and paid on the door.

So I did my usual waiting and fretting in the corridor but have been taking that easier than I used to do these days, but still constantly logged into facebook messenger on the tablet still… just in case. The London car full arrived in plenty of time but Rob got stuck in a bit of traffic was a bit later and were left waiting Wayne to arrive to compere and I was beginning to worry but he turned up just in time. Usually I stand outside in the corridor with the other acts all night but this was a special night and we had 2 acts from high on my wish list performing I wanted to be ‘in’ on all the action so went in and sat with the regulars at the front. We had a mix of regulars and people completely new to the gig.

Show kicked off with landlord John doing his usual pre-compering bit and he was already getting laughs! Just for doing his admin so it was already shaping up to be a good night. Wayne Beese who I originally saw on about his 4th ever gig and it had been well over a year since he last performed for us and he has become such a strong compere now. He launched straight into some crowd work to get them on side and started slagging off other rival parts of Telford which the audience loved. He then turned his attention to a brand new retired couple at the gig for the first time Anne & her husband who turns out had been married for 50 years and met in a sausage factory; which proved to be a goldmine of re-accruing material throughout the whole night. The crowd were well warmed up and ready for Rob Mitchell who opened the show; He had come last year on a more quiet night and had had a good gig and I then booked him for the Forton show off the back of it and he smashed it. Invited him for xmas special but that show had to be moved due to snow so booked him to open this night instead. He proved a perfect opening act for this show with quips about his day job as a teacher. He’s an extremely likeable person on stage has got a confident delivery, good hit rate and some very clever pull back & reveals. I will be booking him again in the future. He comes highly recommended to others for paid 10’s. Anne had already become the star of the show in some ways already by shouting out ‘’Oh yeah’’ mid-joke set up at random points and this was to be a re accruing them of the night. Next up was Punman who unknown to the audience right up until this moment is Leo’s alter ego character and this confused a few people I think despite the false eyebrows he uses to try and hide it. The look and costume was sheer shock value enough for people to start laughing and he gave a taste of what was to come getting groans for his first two gags following by the “get on board this is it” quip getting a bigger laugh. Took them a few minutes to adjust to his Scottish accent but it’s fair to say this was the maybe the one act of the night that split the room somewhat with groans & eye rolls from the ‘new’ half of the audience but tears of laughter from the regulars; however the asides getting good laughs throughout still. “Any subject any subject at all” his signature line only getting suggestions from gig regular Aaron “Ok any subject at all prefefbly not from that guy” being a killer line. I won’t lie this is TOTALLY my kind of thing this so I was in my element for 15 minutes.

Second section begins with John getting laughs for his announcement again. Wayne launches straight into material this time test running his ‘tight 7’ for his English Comedian Of Year heat in a weeks time although his got derailed a bit by Anne shouting out ‘’Oh yeah’’ again but he worked the banter into it flawlessly and got good hard belly laughs from the pay offs to the stories. Ryan Dalton was first of 2x 10 spots from London and he had a very tight solid set. He began with material about his height & appearance and later some stuff about comparing London with cultures in other parts of the country and he got a great crowd response. I’m savvy and therefore I was way ahead on his first pull & back reveal but not any of his others later on, very slick delivery, very professional a thumbs up from me and the crowd. Aaron Simmonds was next who is a disabled comedian and Anne shouted out she couldn’t see him when got to the stage but he had a quip for that in the bank which got the audience on his side straight away. His material is about his life and how patronizing ‘’able bodied’’ people are to the disabled with some tales of how well he’s been able to turn it to his advantage and how when you see something out of context your not getting the full picture.

Final section and we were a bit behind the planned time and losing only 1 audience member. Wayne wasted no time in bringing on Scottish Comedian of the year Leo Kearse to do his headline set and he begins with “Hello…erm for the first time”  as a in-joke quip. Like any professional club act then had the entire round his finger for the next 25 minutes, I won’t give too much of his set away but themes include politics, Scottish culture, holidays & train tickets. He does a lot of blue material about sex & his cock which I thought might offended the older audience but no it all went down a storm with them. I especially like the story about him & holiday and his shitty pants instance and the ending bit about train tickets. It has very out of leftfield punch line at the end. I still aim to try and book him to headline my Forton gig at some point in the future when I can get him.

First time in year I’ve sat in the audience for the entire show and you get a much better experience than you do in the corridor it’s where I want to be here on in. Best night we’ve had in a LONG time in terms of audience enjoyment & the ‘consistency’ in quality throughout the entire show. Next show is the short month gap so hoping it’s another full room cause we’ve got ‘transgender Dave Gorman’ Laura Monmoth having a bash at being the compere for us and 2 other acts I’m DYING to see the crowd reactions too. Mark Grimshaw & Steve Lee’s ‘Mad Ron’ character… can’t wait for that one either.

 

Wayne Beese [MC]

27/10/17: The Swan Inn

Teknicolour Smoof now only runs 2 (and a bit) gigs both of which are very successful and I neglect to write a review/report on any of them so this is the first one in a while. The Crown Inn, Oakengates is a monthly gig (every 2nd Tuesday expect August) which 9 months of the year has open spots & paid closers but twice a year in February and September has a professional weekend club standard headliner. The Swan, Forton runs 3 or 4 times a year (Fridays) and is a professional standard show and has been running for 4 years now. To start with it was getting about 35-40 punters and was in the venues smaller ‘wedding reception’ room but 4 shows ago it suddenly had 100 people buy tickets so it outgrew and moved into the venues main ‘dinning’ room area and since it’s moved into there the audiences have also really now come alive each time so it’s now a really good gig with an amazing audience each time.

It’s a professional standard show with compere, opening 20, 2x middle 10/15’s and half an hour from a weekend club standard headliner (all spots paid) and it’s down to jolly-old me to decide who to book each time. I would be lying if I didn’t bluntly confess (but I won’t name names because I’m not that much a cock) that in the last 4x shows 1x act of the 5 I booked did misfire and have a bad gig. It wasn’t their fault ever because comedy IS subjective and they were just not right for the room so were on a different ‘level’ to the audience that night. 3x times the middle 10’s & once the opening 20. This time I made no mis-judgements because all 5 of the acts I booked went down well and had an amazing gig. This time I had made my choices of whom to book based on the previous show but the headliner pulled out 4 days before so had to sort a replacement out and many perfectly worthy people applied but I chose the act who I thought would be best suited for it. An act who had headlined there once before but back in the old room days; on a red hot summer night with an audience of 20 and knew it would be better and different people this time.

I arrived at venue as usual to find the room was ready laid out and chairs in position. I then found out from landlady that only 40 tickets had been sold this time which is a sell out for the small room at The Crown on a Tuesday but here on a Friday was a big disappointment but nerveless she’d put it in the main dining room area anyway and  moved everyone forward. As always I have to come and supply everything. Lights, pa, banners with rigs and cables etc. Also this show I had booked a middle spot who’s whole routine requires a screen of some kind (more on that later) so I had to bring and set the screen and projector up. I find it easier to do that first and THEN work the rest of the room around that and it’s a large space so there was no shortage of room for it at all. My boss and friend John Ellis from The Crown also came along to aid and have a night out. The venue is a restaurant, bar & bnb so most of the punters have meals in the other room before the show and it’s always them we are waiting for.

Finally I stop boring everyone with admin and get to the show itself but I have to be frank these days I like to leave judging acts themselves to comedy reviewers who aren’t comedians themselves as I know it’s subjective so all my views will be bias and what I think don’t count J. So I’ll talk about it from the audience’s reaction point of view with all of them and will end up breaking that rule and talking about one longer than the others as it’s clear which one is most my kind of thing ;p

Nick Clarke was the MC doing this gig for the fourth time and third time in this room (he’s always the compere the landlady keeps asking for) and though he had a little bit of a slow beginning with the audience pretty cold. He began digging at a lady on the front row who had the unusual job of working for a company that produces manuals for tanks. That looked to me to be a comedy cul-de-sac and she didn’t seem to comfortable being talked to. However he did quickly turn the tables by bringing in her other friends on the front row into it and this quickly set the rest of the audience off and he turned onto others but kept coming back to that party as it’s where the laughs were to be had the most in the situation. Also got some mileage out of a guy who called himself ‘shandy’ and what day of the week he went and collected his benefits. Once again did his job brilliantly well and after 10 minutes they were warm enough for the opening act. Monty Burns who I had come do an open 10 at The Crown about 2 years ago and totally steal the show that night and I later invited him back to headline it the following year. He is currently ripping up the weekend club gigs and after the previous show here he had come straight to my mind as one who’d work a treat at injecting energy into the room early on here. I was correct as he quickly began to ‘initially’ polarize the room with very edgy material on some dark subjects which was a risk this early in the night but his energy, persona and slick delivery means he pulled it off and quickly pulled in more & more of the audience on board with him as he went. His stuff about a Jihad James Bond is the highlight set for me because you can’t see where he is going with it and a lot of shock value for audience. Brilliant act and a top bloke off stage too, book him.

After first break we began the second part of the show and this is where we get the 2x middles where I start playing it ‘a bit’ less safe with someone newer but who’s already polished & slick and a total wildcard act. Nick Clarke did another 15 minutes playing with the people on the front row who tried to constantly tell a story about dressing like Arabs at a party that didn’t really go anywhere and Nick brilliantly able to keep the show moving despite this. Harvey Hawkins was next up and who’s a new act going places now he has found his voice since the very early days. He was a dead-pan one liner act but he’s dropped it gone to a more ‘straight forward’ delivery and turned them into short stories and though his first story has a really long build up you still stay with him trying to work out where’s he’s going with it and then BOOM the punch line hits totally out of left-field; very unpredictable and he was off. He had the room in stitches for the next 8 minutes or so. Such professional & slick delivery he’s really one to look out for now.

Next up it’s time for the wildcard; Laura Monmoth one of my closet comrades on the circuit it has to be said. She has totally found her voice now and I describe her act as transgender Dave Gorman as it’s entirely screen based and also quite similar in style. There was a technical hiccup with her laptop setting itself from PowerPoint back to the desktop but she glided over this doing material whilst she got it back again and launched into the best stuff from her Edinburgh show I.E the none-computer games accessible stuff and she very quickly won the crowd over with photo gags about an app for guessing random audience members ages, West Bromwich & knife bins. Some groans for the puns as to be expected before getting to her signature ‘Facebook Bohemian Rhapsody’ bit which if you haven’t seen just book her to do it as your gig. This part split the room clean down the middle here with either tears of laughter or stone faces (But I like that, it’s a good thing ;p).

Final break before the headliner and the point where you always loose ‘some’ audiences members at 9 out of 10 gigs but not tonight as they came back from the bar to enjoy a headline set from Andy White who as you would expect is at that higher professional level some of us can only dream of reaching where he has the audience round his finger for the entire half an hour. A true professional with the waves of laughter come hard & fast from the audience throughout. I won’t give too much of his material away but no-matter how many times I hear it his Nelson Mandela breaking out of prison bit still totally cracks me up. I will also say brilliant fourth wall breaking when one of the audience member tried to join in “Yeah I know it’s weird TV Show and I’ve got some pre-rehearsed material on it. That was a gateway into it you see”. (You had to be there)

Feedback from punters was amazing ‘’best one yet,. They were all good!’’ so waiting on a date for the next show from landlady early next week. So I can get some people booked in for it. Who I choose for it next time? Hmmm I’m the judge, jury and executioner here and I only got 4/5 4x times a row. Finally 5/5 this time so pressure is on me now. Watch this space.

 

 

24/02/17: The Swan

So now in it’s 3rd year The Swan at Forton is my professional standard gig that runs 3-4 times a year and had always been a 30-40 or so in attendance in one of the venues slightly smaller rooms however last October that changed when they sold 100+ tickets and moved it into a much bigger room next to the bar itself and was one of the best nights smoof has ever run (see the review for that one further down the page) the atmosphere was electric and audience were so up for it. So with that in mind and believing it would be another one like that again booked a line up that would be both a mix of styles and ‘hopefully’ right for the room so going on last one I picked Nick Clarke as compere (always my first choice) Patrick Draper opening with Marshall B Anderson as a wild card 10 spot and thought the 2nd middle needed to be a ‘one liner’ act and my first 2 choices were sadly unavailable for the night so I thought ‘why not me?’ not done the gig before as I never thought I was right for it as had always been a more ‘reserved’ audience until last one but maybe now (going off last time) I finally would be right.

So John once again came along as my roadie and upon arrival found they had sold 92 tickets! and had laid the chairs out and we had to move one to fit the lighting rig in and also was using my new screen & projector which meant removing a chair on the front row to get that in, the room filled up fast with people coming in and reserving their chairs via putting coats on them before hand and we actually ready to start at 9pm this time so almost kept to time. Nick Clarke kicked the night off in style like a true professional and for few mins I was worried they were going to be a reserved audience but soon the laughs came with a gang of 5x 20 something lads showing they were totally up for a laugh and not much work was needed before the opening act could come on and do his thing. Patrick Draper who it’s fair to say I’ve never seen stronger with his slow deadpan persona perfectly suiting the mood of the room  at that point. His joke about performing in a conservatory and reading out the postcode from his hand creating instant ripples of laughter. Without giving too much of his act away his roll down props pictures are always the highlight of the show for me and funny to see people at the back standing up to see what the front of the room were laughing so much at. Put simply he proved to be the perfect opening 20 for the night and we had our first interval.

Nick Clarke felt he hadn’t done enough warm up stuff in the first bit so he tried working the crowd more and tried doing his ‘rampant rabbit’ material but this soon detailed into a 20 minute tangent discussion with a guy in the audience Ricardo who’s son apparently worked in Anne Summers, this was not a bad thing though because the audience were completely on board with both of them for the entire duration and shows Clarks true professional skills as a compere being able to ab-lib on the fly and could have carried on with this for the entire show but eventually had to cut it off and bring the first middle spot on Marshall B Anderson. Now Marshall has always gone down well at my monthly Crown Gig and last time Billy Maguire had gone down a total storm in this spot here so after much thought I decided if he did his ‘grumpy old man’ esq. material it would work quite well here (a wild card choice). It was sharp and as well executed as ever but sadly as always is with acts like this that can be hit and miss, just wasn’t right for the room/audience on the night he did get a very good laugh out of some new material involving sound effects from his phone. Roger Swift followed and it’s hard to write about yourself in the 3rd person but I ‘initially’ had a hard time with isolated tuts and groans but I piled on the energy and the asides and quickly forced them into submission and the Stephen Hawkins joke really proved to find their level and bring them on board and 75-80% of the room then got on and rode the crazy train with me and by the end me doing asides pointing out the minorities in the audience who just didn’t get it just added further to the waves of uncontrollable laughter. The projector gags still add an extra level to it and it’s worth the hassle of setting it up as it means I can end of the pink panther/dead ant gag and once again that killed!

Final section and didn’t loose anyone! Always a sign how good this night had been Nick very quickly got the headliner Daliso Chaponda who was doubling up having had opened for Wayne Beeses newly reactivated Lamp Tavern gig in dudley and arrived just in time during the break. Seeing the full time professional club comedians work the rooms like they do always reminds me how much of a line between there is, no polarization no people not getting it just an audience all laughing in unison and doing their job in a true slick fashion, they are just another level entirely. He refers to himself as an African comedian and it’s a slick set exploring the clash of cultures and his observations of current affairs with some brilliant pull & back reveals but unique angles on the subject matters. He was playing to an audience entirely middle class and white and this just added to the position he was in and made the room take to him even more, knocked em dead for 25 minutes. Excellent headliner

Audience came away super happy having enjoyed a brilliant and good value for money comedy night and were asking when they could buy tickets for the next one. Takes me and John nearly an hour to take everything down again and put it all back into the right boxes and bags, then load it all into the car though ;p Also the ‘stage’ area is in the conservatory  windows and has no curtains can see car park out the windows (without the smoof banners and screen covering it up) fine for dark nights but will need a solution for when we do shows in the summer and it’s light nights….too distracting.  However totally different audience and atmosphere to what we used to get so can easily repeat acts I had on in earlier days now.

Photos > https://www.flickr.com/…/roger_swi…/albums/72157678544459432

21/10/16: The Swan

The swan is my ‘decent(ish) budget professional standard gig’ that I’ve been running at the posh restaurant / bnb in the small village of Forton a mile outside of Newport, Shropshire for about 2 years now. This one is run ad-hoc and we do about 4 a year or so. Previous shows have had audiences that have been on average about 35-40 people and always been in the venues function room. This one I also very selectively book as they have always been a much more reserved audience. Tonight all that went out of the window though as I had an e-mail the day before from the land lady Lisa telling me she had sold 75 tickets and counting and that it would be in the what is usually the dinning room of the venue which is bigger in order to cope with the numbers. Half way there to set up John rang me up to see if he could come along so went to drop off my equipment and see that she had already laid out the room ready and it was perfect chairs going back in perfect alignment. However the stage area (huge) was backing onto conservatory windows backing onto the view of the car park…and curtains that couldn’t be shut (decorative only) which was fine for tonight as it was dark already but in the summer it would have been a major problem. Also the back half of the room was side by side of the main ‘bar’ space so noise bleed from folk not there for the comedy concerned me but none of this proved to be issues at all. So upon a drive back to telford to pick up John we came back and finished the banners, pa, lighting etc and slowly the acts began to arrive with opening act Rob Coleman being first who acted as a guinea pig testing the lighting rig position.

It was an EXTREMELY late start (billed 8:45pm, 9:25pm when it properly started) with a rammed full room of 100+ punters tonight compere Alex Hylton started the ball rolling with his first gag (heckled in welsh) getting a huge laugh and straight away we off as it wasn’t going to be like normal the atmosphere was electric and they were laughters from the off. Knew straight away I’d be regretting not doing a turn myself on this one. After a 10 min warm up they were already ready for opening act. Rob Coleman; I don’t really need to explain what he does but he’s at his core he’s a one liner comedian but he mixes banter and some short stories into the mix and had fun messing with the group on the front row but getting into the jokes, he had an electric first 10 minutes then he went a bit more hit and miss for the rest splitting the room on different gags but a perfectly good opening 20 and he really enjoyed himself as did the majority of the audience…..expect the group of 4 who straight away left at that point as they had already decided live comedy clearly wasn’t for them (can’t help but notice it sorry). ”he said swear words” looks of degust across their faces at they all got in the car. ;p

Getting a lot of them back into their seats for the middle section proved hard as most were still outside or in the bar and we just had to start again leaving Alex with a hard time trying to compere whilst about half the audience found their way back to their seats again but once all seated he launched into some material which get them all back on side and the magic was still there as first middle act Billy Maguire who came close to stealing the show as he had them in belly laughs throughout his short set. He did his classic opening lines before doing his JFK assassination material which went down a storm with them but he kept it short and sweet as we already running so late and straight into the second middle act was Hannah Silvester one of the midlands finest breakthrough acts it has to be said. She had a bit of a shaky start but the laughs started to come after a couple of minutes as she got the women in the crowd on side which then engulfed the men too by the time she’d got the second half of the set. The song at the end rounded her set off nicely, very solid act with a very solid set  she’s doing well and will go places.

Final section and it was getting very late (past 11pm) and as expected we lost about 15-20% of the audience in the second break but the ones left all came back once again slowly after the section had already begun Alex bantering away with the folk all returning to their seats and he quickly (once all were back) welcomed the headliner to the stage John Newton. I had chortle post vetted the headliner for this show and via his you tube video and comedy cv seemed perfect for the job, he was. Not a lot to say other than it was slick, polished and very gag laden….the audience lapped it up and the waves of laughter didn’t stop very good end to the night.

Landlady was happy, John was happy, I was happy (gutted I didn’t do a turn as I would have smashed it for sure) but much better than any night we’ve done there by miles, it was better in that room, but as Lisa said afterwards it really does need the tickets sales to past 45 to justify doing in that space instead of the (smaller) function room but we can but hope. She ordered another show in February next year with a promised much increased budget if that one hits those numbers again….the punters were all asking when the next show was at the end tho…. Here’s hoping

Alex Hylton [MC]

I’ve only got this venue (ad-hoc) and the crown (monthly) ..elephant & castle, dawley gonna be a 2 times a year thing (gong show in march & edinburgh previews in july) as of now.   I’ve now decided I actually like running gigs again now so I WANT to take on another venue somewhere in Shropshire again …I want someone to get in touch about it ;p

13/09/16:THE CROWN INN

These aren’t really reviews they are blogs in every sense of the word because I’ll say what I think of acts in them but I’ll end up babbling in text for the most part. This blog begins with an update and quick back story since I last wrote on the smoof blog. We’ve had our August break in Shropshire whilst I went up and did the Edinburgh Fringe festival including taking the smoof brand with me for a daily showcase hour. Upon arrival it turned out to be in a un-weather proof, un-sound proof tent (LITERALLY a tent) in the courtyard of a busy pub at half past midnight and how that went is a whole blog in itself (I’m never going to write) but I also did my solo show called ‘Punderstudy’ as well which as the title suggests is a show with a lot of puns in it. Amongst other things it had it’s fair share of walk outs and fair share of people who loved it (very little middle ground in truth) but quite possibly the worst gag in the entire hour! a truly AWFUL pun from right in the middle of the show SOMEHOW made itself onto Dave’s top 15 jokes on the fringe at no.12!  …yep really (look it up) not that matters to me, not like I haven’t made a big of thing of it or anything (sarcasm alert) anyway….

 

The Crown Inn, Oakengates gig actually turned 5 in March 2011 so me landlord John Ellis had a chat about finally doing the thing we’ve always talked about and that is taking a risk and having a ‘big name’ headliner one month and when this was suggested the man I instantly wanted to book was my comedy hero and idol. Gary Delaney so I e-mailed him to see if he was free on the September date and if he’d consider doing it for a certain cash fee and much to our surprise he said yes! So upon confirming it we both sat and talked about choosing the support 10’s for the night selectively and we came up with some names we wanted (plus an act I’d already got booked in for that date since about January). So with the line up complete this was going to be the mother of all nights. Upon my return from Edinburgh 2 weeks ago I discovered it still hadn’t sold out yet but it was damn near close it and we did manage to get it to sell out about 4 days before. Another thing we had decided was that from this show onwards to kick off the show AT 8pm (instead of 8:30pm)…

 

I arrived to finish setting the club up at 6pm when punters had already began to arrive and due the high volume of punters they only had chairs and no tables in the front room meaning that everyone had to go into the back room & corridor to eat their curries. So the room setting up and punters eating curry overlapped somewhat and we had both punters not there for comedy still sat in the front room until the final possible minute and a bizarre gang of 3 sat in the backroom who kept walking around getting under everyone’s feet and I couldn’t make out what they were playing at… were they pub punters? comedy newcomers waiting for their curries? then I noticed they’d all got cameras and ‘autograph books’ and the penny dropped when one of them (having finally being told I was the guy to ask I think) came up and asked me (AND I QUOTE) “Where he is?” “Who” “Gary, the mock the week bloke from tele? where he is?” …aah autograph collectors clearly not interested in buying a ticket and watching just there making a nuisance of themselves because ‘person off the tele is going to be there’…had to disappoint them by explaining he wasn’t going to be there for another 2 hours or more yet so they all suddenly disappeared…Jesus 3 paragraphs in and I haven’t talked about the acts yet.

 

Right, Nick Clarke our resident compere back for his first gig since may was first to arrive and with about half hour to spare (he normally likes to turn up 3 mins before the start usually just to keep me stressed ;p) but opening act Lovdev Barpaga did that this time so he kept me on my toes. I had planned for Jay Islaam to come and do 5 minutes of new material on 2nd but instead he wished to do a short stint as his alter ego bambam shakih (his strongest material in fairness) so Colin Harris arrived in just enough time to be able to switch places. “GET TO THE FUCKING NIGHT AND THE ACTS THEMSELVES ROGER!” the voices in my head are telling me as I type this.. the show started BANG on planned time! (another first I think)

 

John Ellis did his usual pre-compere compering before bringing Nick Clarke onto do his stuff and after a long time he was totally back in the game and had them eating out the palm of his hand with crowd interaction that injected instant energy into the room from the off with no material needed at this point in the night, outside in the corridor middle section act Theresa (who had yet to gig with him until now) asks ”He’s professional I take it?” ..shocked when I told her no!!  as GD is one-liners we made the choice to book end the one-liner acts and Lovdev Barpaga opened to an amazing fanfare. He’d had same venue and was in the timeslot before me in Edinburgh each day and his blessings had been mixed much like mine from day to day. Tonight the audience bought straight into him from the off with his ‘dogs name’ punch line getting belly laughs. Almost seemed taken back to just how well it was going and broke the 4th wall when his ‘m***ge festival’ aside got a round of applause. ”That’s never happened before” he was loving his stage time tonight laughing at his own gags as ever just a tiny bit rusty and seemed to be hiding behind the mic stand for some of the set but an amazing start to the night.  Colin Harris went next and decided to drop the new stuff in favour of 5 minutes of the classics which proved a smart move I think, it lowered the pace and energy of what had just gone before but he held his own for the duration perfectly well with some nice gentle laughs, the material consisted of the stories from his previous job as a security guard which is soft and gentle but has really a nice punch line at the end. Wayne Beese closed this section and won’t deny at first I wasn’t sure how it was going to go for him with another shift of gears because his persona is totally flat & deadpan with an intentional dead behind the eyes-ness to it, the stories are long and drawn out but the material is really good & well written when you go with him on the journey and the punch lines are killer when he gets to them and the audience went with him tonight. Not seen his club set for a while and he’s really gotten it down now come such a long way since I first saw him on about his 5th ever gig, well worth booking for paid middles on pro bills.

 

After the interval Nick Clarke went into some material and quickly hit a comedy cul-de-sac but broke the 4th wall by acknowledging it which itself got major laughs and brok the tension and he shifted gears fast and once again quickly got them back on side in professional style and he then really got the energy back into the room. Theresa Farlow was next who I have so much time and I really like her on and off stage. She really works hard and is trying to be able to adapt herself to different rooms and thus gigs as much as can. Her material is quite Sarah millican-esq but her delivery is really quirky and different much more like Victoria wood with so much shock value and brilliant unexpected punch lines and has recently added in some great toppers too. Of course at present still one of those acts who isn’t completely safe just yet but tonight’s audience totally loved her and really went with it and it was the best reaction I’ve seen her get to date. BamBam Shaikh followed and Jay won’t mind me saying it’s a hit and miss act that can go one of two ways and I totally saw it go both ways in Edinburgh. I’ve talked about it before it’s a piece of satire in the vein of Al Murrays ‘the pub landlord’ but he plays an Arab and plays on peoples perceptions. It fly’s high and makes people uncomfortable in equal measure but it was a well lubed room and just perfect conditions for it too fly here. He kept to his quota and wrapped it up after 5 mins though which I was surprised by because it would have been criminal for me to cut him off at that point if he hadn’t done it himself. Acts smashing it and overrunning I’m never going to complain about ;p. Black country legend Johnny Sorrow was next up who hadn’t done this gig in simply years (about 4 years ago I think was last time, back in the days when it was free and we never got an audience) anyway it’s a character act and a very tightly scripted set and it’s not dissimilar to mine in that’s it’s high energy and very polarizing. So it’s a concept and you either buy into it with him quickly or you just get bored/confused.. The concept is (for those who don’t know) he’s a bitter comedy has been from yester-year angry that he didn’t make it with memorable catchphrases and repeated recurring jokes throughout.  To begin with he had a bit of hard time but then began to split the room clean down the middle but it slowly started to spread as more & more got on board with it as he went along as was having a blast by the end, dunno how he keeps the energy at his age still. Missed the last 3 mins or so on the night as I was needed in the courtyard but re-watched the tape to check. I’ve also Invited him back so he’s going to come back and do his ‘other’ character Trevor Never at the christmas show.

 

Had to rush outside as it turns out Gary D had arrived but the autograph hunters from earlier had come back and had managed to mob him. I get that they collect autographs that’s their thing and were grabbing their moment but they hadn’t bought tickets for the show and were really delaying him out there and I found that rather out of order, but anyway he managed to get away and come inside and try and check over his notes. He had few new gags he wanted to throw in his set tonight but delays in him checking them as punters coming outside for fags, toilets and drinks at the bar were all then wanting to get selfies with him. I pulled out my secret hidden chair and shuck myself onto the end of the front row (yes it was planned, I’m a fan boy you know)

 

Still keeping to time (almost) 3rd and final section behinds with John tricking people into thinking he was bringing him on ”he made the top 15 jokes in Edinburgh”  …it was me ;p. I went up on stage to tell me ”award winning” marmite joke then to show off The Sun newspaper from August where I had been printed next to Gary … and how much that meant to me (IT DOES! It means a lot to me),  finally Nick Clarke came back to try out 3 minutes of all new material all smutty as usual but all of which went down a storm before the main man Gary Delaney finally came onto the stage for his headline set. I won’t continue without saying everything said here on in is bias because the man’s a god to me and I want his brain, his joke writing abilities. He opened quite laid back though almost with a dead behind the eyes ‘I don’t want to be here’ look about him but this soon became apparent as just a trick because  he said he had some gags to try out randomly in tonight’s set and proceeded to do my marmite joke and the mask was off then. One Liners that’s what he does, no frills, no gimmicks, it’s just one liner gags thick and fast but the quality of each and every gag is amazing to scary levels, all 10/10 applause worthy. If ever there was a bar to be set this was setting it in the heavens. ”Smashing” a gig means nothing compared to what he did, nah smashing it is an insult and understatement he literally assassinated this gig beyond anyone I have ever seen at this gig before. Even he was shocked by just how much he could push it and where the line could be drawn with this audience. It couldn’t because everything was game here. The meta stuff about ‘neighbouring town being shit” got belly laughs as well. The front door had been locked the whole night and a sign had been put up telling people to come around the back but someone choose to ignore this try and instead try ram the door off then pressed the door bell. This didn’t phase him in the slightest ”there’s someone at the door! I’ve been heckled before but never by a fucking door bell!”…. Put simply the man’s a god like genius and I am awe of him and was it wonderful and amazing I finally was able to book him for the gig (and that he agreed). He may be doing mock the week now but still does these pubs gig when he can, what a gentlemen.

 

Put simply best night of Comedy at The Crown Inn we’ve ever had in the 5 years we’ve been doing it. In fact now comes the comedown for me ;p,  right next month it returns to earth a bit with an excellent line up of acts. It’s another really strong line up and headlined by Carl Jones who’s a got an amazing great club set but now the bars been set that high ;p    We are going to do it again though and go for a high end act with TV credits to come and do it again at some point in the next year though

 

Buy tickets for next month….please ;p

 

Photos > https://www.flickr.com/photos/roger_swift_1983/albums/72157673766024266

12/04/16: THE CROWN INN

So it was yet another night of Comedy & Curry at the Crown Inn and a night like any other only it wasn’t. We’d oversold the rooms standard capacity and had to remove most of the tables and bring lots of additional chairs in. To add to things lots of new faces along with many of the regulars  turned up and many of them arrived late which led for such faffing and chaos than usual with a member of staff burning her hand upoon delivery of curry to a table which led to an emergency clean up and a very late start to the show which noticeably tanked me off. The acts were all good as gold though and everyone booked to perform arrived in time for the show. A Lincoln car full two of whom are ‘more experiential’ comedians, one I’d never seen and had two other friends who I knew were both quite new the comedy scene but didn’t realise one of them was only on his third ever gig.

After many delays due to accidents and late comers which were beyond my control the night finally kicked off 20 minutes later than it should have with Nick Clarke totally on form getting them going from the off despite the late start. This gig has no opening spot when Nick’s at the helm, the worst someone has to do it go second and I pretty sure only one has ever bombed in the opening spot at this gig. James Spencer of the Lincoln foursome went second and proved a good start to the night he had a ‘shaky’ start but the audience soon warmed to him nicely, nice material, very likable on stage and would book again. Sam Blake one of the newbie’s followed who hit the track running and didn’t stop. A straight forward story teller but the punch lines were nearly all in  the right places, and he got a lot of laughs. His final story is funny with a good pay off to it but too wordy and needs trimming down though (he can fill the void left by Danny Davies) if he keeps at it. Final act of the first section was Paul Mutgejja who can’t spell his own surname either to give away one of his gags. He hit the room at a good time and kept the laughter flowing very nicely. Second time for him at the gig and he was worried about doing the same material as 11 months prior but mostly a different audience so we were treated to some of the classics mixed in with some new stuff and I have to say the 10 minutes he did tonight had the best ‘flow’ to it narrative wise I’d seen him do that’s a good 10 he’s got there.

After an interval (where I begun to calm down a bit) we went into the second segment with Nick Clarke trying out 10 minutes or new material about sex toys! which all worked and kept the energy levels high in the room. Chris Brooke or Brooky as he liked to be called followed doing only his 3rd ever gig but you wouldn’t have known that had it not been said out loud. Another straight forward story teller but punch lines in mostly the right places and obviously a lot of editing still required but the ingredients are all there and another crowd pleaser that went down well. Now came the ‘experimental’ two back to back and I mean this with all the love in the world but the kind of comedy routines that can go one of two ways depending on audience and atmosphere of the gig (it’s the nature of the beast as my own act falls into the group as well) Liam Mitchell who has a slow, laid back & intelligent routine where he draws out gags for longer than they need to and peppers his wording. its all about the timing and the gaps is key to everything and tonight the audience totally got it, he still covers various topics including going to the gym and online dating. I had a feeling William Thomas Collishaw who was next might go down well now too and I was right. He is another ‘meta’ comedian where he basically has 3 gags he draws out across a 10 minute set and begins by pointing that out and shows the score board by which he gets the audience to judge each ‘gag’. Starting with his weird parents upbringing habits, buying a hat at a music festival ending on recreating having his pizza stolen by a member of the audience. Again one of those acts where it really depends on the audience and the gig but love that the crowd here tonight went with it.

Final section with just the headliner to go and it was Stevie Gray who I had seen a number of times and various other gigs I’d done as both a 10 spot and once as an opening 20 and had always thought ”he’d make a great headliner for the crown” and I was right. It’s a tight 20 minute set which really gets the energy into the room with a lot of variety so it doesn’t’ get boring quick. Guitar songs, stuff around some odd newspaper articles and unwanted secret santa gifts. The part where he gets someone to dress as a eagle and the audience to throw paper aeroplanes is so bizarre but just works somehow.

Despite the late start (never again MUST start on time next month), still done by 11:05pm and the audience went away very happy having enjoyed a great night out of entertainment and a new record we sold two thirds of the entire stock of next months tickets there and then! 3 years ago we were still struggling to get 4 or 5 to come and watch the show in the tiny back room of the pub! We have now we have long outgrown that tiny room and are always in the main front room and we are struggling to fit everyone in to the venue itself! The waiting list for acts wishing to come and do it is getting ever longer with it now rammed full until November (and many acts booked in for the xmas special in December already). Other circuit pro standard acts are asking to come and willing to do it for less money than they usually want because they are told it’s such a joy to come and do and on top of that in September we have a ”TV NAME” coming to headline so to say I am truly happy with this gig. Long may it continue!

Tho all my venues here in Shroipshire have to take a break in August the Teknicolour Smoof brand comes with me to Edinburgh Fringe with a nightly showcase hour where I intend to try and recreate this venue up there…. one can but hope ;p

23/02/16: The Dog In The Lane

So here it was the second night at The Dog In The Lane, Astley. The always tricky follow up album to the hit debut and once again John had come along with me the help/enjoy his night off/part run the gig. First night it has been run as free entry but had ticketed this second show at £2 a ticket however upon on arrival we were greeted with some shocking news….none sold! not a single ticket had been pre-sold but “loads of people say they are coming along, they promised they are defiantly coming” ..won’t lie felt dead inside, thought this gig and venue was going to die there and then and the acts would be going home gigless… I really did think that … (I was wrong as the rest of this review will show)

Me and john set up the PA and lights and laid the room out ready and then an audience did start to show! as a family of 4 came in and ‘reserved’ their seats on the back row….maybe it won’t be as bad as we thought! Dave Dinsdale had been the compere for the first night and at the request of the landlord & myself had been asked back to do the second night but due to a serve chest infection had had to drop out and was replaced by Crown regular compere Nick Clarke who himself was ill on the day and had to be replaced by Jon Pearson (great saver of bacon that guy), with another act also having to withdraw and Masai Graham now needing a new driver. Rob Kemp was added in to complete the line up, but 8:30pm we had a comfortable room of about 25 or so punters (stayed all night, didn’t loose a single one in either break). Apart from the family of 4 at the back they were all older, conservative, same as lat month.

Jon Pearson ”opened” as he pretty much went straight in with material and got some laughs pretty quick, the foursome at the front were a gift throughout out the whole night (Laughers, up for a good time). Not a lot I can say about Pearson’s material expect he’s come in leaps and bounds since I first met and saw him about 5 years ago and is professional as they come now, did his job as you’d want. Funny moment when we was bantering with the crowd was when it turned out the head of the family sat at the back were the biggest celebrities in the room as they’d been on BBC’s home under the hammer once (My mum is literally ADDICTED to that show sure she’d have known his face). Colin Harris went first and I assumed he’s gell well with an older audience and I was correct about that. He did his standard 10 set tonight (not new material based around a subject) and it was fun to note the stuff from the new material spots at my crown gig all last year has made it into his set now and it all fits and flows well. Although I think he lost it a bit in the last 3 minutes or so when it started to trail of but overall proved a nice opener for the night. Dave Tomlinson went next who always done well at my gigs but was a bit ”too” quirky for this crowd it seemed, he opened with material which involved puns on former labour cabinet ministers though and I’m not to judge but I’m pretty confident most people in this area are going to be Tory voters (just a hunch) (and I’ll come to back that at the end) that might have upset them from the off but his classic pull back & revel about the tracksuit never fails anywhere. Slow, dead-pan works for him, needs to work on the material more though.

After our first interval Pearson didn’t do much material (not required) and pretty quickly brought on Theresa Farlow who I have got a lot of time for as a person and act and she’s one of those acts that when she gets the right audience and the right dynamic in the room she is just amazing and loves it (can see she’s having a blast) and tonight was one of those nights. She’s got the confidence, the charm and the material which isn’t perfect yet, like everyone’s could be improved and edited but she’s got the punch lines in all the right places and audience REALLY took to her tonight and she had a blast. By complete contrast from story telling to straight forward one liner gags it was Ryan Brown next who too had an amazing gig, such well written and delivered one liners and he laughs at his own gags which just adds to it and builds momentum, 9/10 of his gags are really good and he’s got the odd one which wouldn’t be out of place in Gary Delaneys set, his only pitfall as I’ve said in previous reviews is he has his comfort blanket his piece of paper he keeps looking at….learn the gags and it would be a slick as hell and unbelievably strong then, regardless he really had the audience belly laughing throughout. They really are a ‘gag’ crowd at this and the landlord Colin clearly loves the ‘gags’ too.

Final section and Rob Kemp who has been nominated for an award for his solo show at the Leicester comedy festival. ‘Comedians’ Comedian goes without saying and tonight he confused them for the first minute before declaring “Yes I’m the weird one. Every comedy night there’s a lady comic, an ethic one, and the weird one and that’s me tonight” this spelt it out to them pretty clearly and won a lot of them over to him. His whole set is ‘meta comedy’ and he’s so self aware it’s hard to tell where he’s going and thus difficult to explain so you either get on board with it or you don’t, tonight he was a surprise hit overall but I will say he lost them somewhat in the last few minutes with stuff about the bible. The payoff at the end of that bit is totally worth it though and a really good bit as part of a longer show. He’ll hate me for saying this his ‘zombie comedy’ bit still makes a better end to a short 10 set. Masai Graham closed the show and the guy rightly won the title of UK Pun Champion a few weeks ago (he beat me don’t you know) and I’ve reviewed him many times before he does jokes and puns with banter around the jokes and they range from corny to seriously dark. Tonight he joked and bantered with them flawlessly and I expected totally knocked it out the park and did a solid 25 minutes (I’d put him on last so that he could do as long as he wanted anyway) hit after hit after hit and he still left them wanting more. I couldn’t fault, perfect closer for the room. Night ran as smoothly as it could have, everyone there was there for comedy and the show was finished by 10:35pm and thus we didn’t loose a single audience member everyone stayed. A completely successful second night and all good for the next one.

Although to anyone reading this it must be said! Older, conservative audience, must hold back on the swearing and filth (must only be done in context when needed) and despite the budget being low for the time being. It’s not a gig I can book anyone for really it’s just not a night for new material and must be acts who can at least deliver a good well rehearsed 10 minute set with confidence. They like the ‘gaggy’ stuff and can’t be anything political and needs to have punch lines etc so won’t be able to book just anyone for this one for the foreseeable future and I will have to turn some people down sadly. Lovdev Barpaga, Phil Pagett & Rob Coleman will be perfect for this though in the coming months…. to give an idea.

I have a success on my hands it seems, just hope it doesn’t loose momentum quickly and I’m not taking anything for granted yet.

Photos > https://www.flickr.com/photos/roger_swift_1983/albums/72157662707506474

 

09/02/16: THE CROWN INN

So it was just another comedy & curry at The Crown Inn, this month it was a lower turnout than the previous one but it was still a full front room with an as always nice and up for it audience. This gig has a good reputation and word of mouth on the comedy circuit now for being good & well run and more & more folk out there are getting in touch me with asking to come and do it. Which does mean some coming from much further a field which presents a double headed sword. It means fresh and different faces for the audience but it means them travelling long distances and it takes them a long time with delays in them getting to the gig and the lata is what made the first part of the night seriously stressful for me, with a foursome coming from London/Southend!

On the other end of the distance spectrum we also had a guy from down the road in Donnington who had messaged me asking if I’d be kind enough to let him have ‘a go’ at stand up at my gig and given such a gig didn’t exist locally 7 years ago when I wanted such a thing I said yes he could come and do 5 minutes (given I’d been in his shoes once). So by 8:20pm he was the only act at the venue ready with panic gripping my soul & stress levels at an all time high and the audience all having finished their curries and ready for the show to begin our resident compere Nick Clarke arrived then JUST in the nick of time the two brum acts Jim Kelly & Neil Irving arrived with just minutes to spare. It wasn’t my original plan but with the London carpool still another 15 minutes away at least we had no choice but to open with these two and opted for Jim to go first.

Nick Clarke was on form like he always is; seriously just give that man an microphone and an audience, wind him up and watch him go and did what he always does a solid 10 minutes warm up totally unscripted at the top of the show and got them laughing from the off. It was one of our regular punters Aaron’s birthday and he got him on stage for an audience rendition of Happy Birthday and he took that in good merit and really got the audience ready (me outside in the corridor checking down to the minute when the carpool was due with time running out & panic gripping my soul). Jim Kelly took the opening spot (well it’s never really an opening spot at this gig now as nick gets them going so well at the start each time). Jim has been to the gig before but not in over 18 months and was due to do an all new material set but given the position he was in he opted to ‘mostly’ his normal set with a bit of new stuff thrown in. His style is on a personal note my kind of thing, it’s a mix up on silly one-liners and short stories, he’s got a really nice tight set and would be bigger doing paid 10 on pro bills by now if he had the time and transport to do them. He did a great job opening and got the audience on his side. His comedy sidekick and comrade Neil Irving then followed and his material and style is better suited to going later in a gig but just didn’t have the choice here. Like Jim he did mostly stuff from his normal set with some new stuff thrown in. His delivery style is rather quirky and unique but it does work well if you just ride it and buy into him as a character and he gets rather blue with his material about anal beads which I’ve seen get different results at different gigs here it split the room a bit but got the laughs it deserved (it’s all about the perfect timing and the sound effects). Mid-set one of the carpool finally walked though the door and though into the corridor literally arriving by the skin of their teeth literally 3 minutes from one of them needing to take to the stage. Cressida Wetton kindly volunteered to go straight up and close the first section. Turns out she is originally from the west country and didn’t (quote) “expect to find this to be radio 4 audience”, very confident, very slick but laid back delivery who the audience took to very well and very well crafted material, she would have worked well as an opener but wasn’t possible.

First break and Nick got them back into the mood again with a story about some crowd interaction he did from a previous gig (now often uses this gig to tell those) before getting into the second of the London foursome; Matt Arlington who was a very traditional style story teller who had a bit of a shaky start but soon got his feet into it when he got to his bit about the odd ”symptoms” you get on the information provided with medicine. Ross McGrane followed who it’s fair to say I would defiantly be rebooking for my other gigs if he was more local. Perfect stage persona, delivery and timing and some very clever and funny material, the bit about what the 90s equivalent of facebook game requests would have been like was the highlight for me, totally embraced by the audience too. Adrian ‘Taco’ Jones was the last of the carpool to do his thing (I had met him in Edinburgh last year) he had a set of two half’s, very good first half but did trail off a bit in the second (needs some editing) but still very good and well received by the audience. The political stuff about sending immigrants home (he’s an Aussie currently living in London) went down well with some the regulars who I know are also very political active locally.

Final segment and opening it we had Sean Massey who was doing his very first gig and had sat in the corridor as a bag of nerves the whole night. Nick had given him a great intro and the audience had given him a lot of love. Even so he came alone and hadn’t packed out the audience with his friends (common for first timers) and his nerves clearly showed but he had no notes and had clearly rehearsed his stuff at home and remembered it all with no fluffs or anything. Audience took to him nicely and he got the laughs he deserved; Material was also above average for a first timer too and I will be interested to see if wants to develop it more and do more gigs, I think he has some potential. Finally the headliner; Craig Deeley who despite being local amazingly had never gigged for smoof until now and he debuted in style and proved to be perfectly suited to headlining this room. He’s almost a one liner comedian but not quite as it’s well crafted one-liners balanced flawlessly with short stories etc but peppered with perfectly timed punch lines and he never goes too long without a laugh. His Indiana Jones joke is still the highlight of the set for me. He commented earlier in the night how ”such a lovely audience” they all seemed and then how much he enjoyed the gig afterwards. Top fella, top headliner, another great night in the bag and this month nobody bombed and everyone had at very least reasonably good gigs.

One thing I will say is that from out the corridor then watching the video camera footage back, acts actully are clearly getting more than laughs than they appear to on the night. Outside the room and round the corner the atmopshere is somewhat lost, gonna sit inside as part of the audience here on in.

Love what this gig has become, here’s to the next one and the rest of 2016! Looking forward to seeing what they make of Stevie Gray in april ;p

 

Photos > https://www.flickr.com/photos/roger_swift_1983/albums/72157664468746376

 

26/01/16: The Dog In The Lane

This was a brand new venue that is out the middle of nowhere on a road leading out of Shrewsbury that had been many months in the making because I first went and spoke to them in early October last year but they wanted to start the night in January give it plenty of time to be promoted. They also wanted it to be free (which I’m always against) but went and saw the venue and meet the landlord & landlady Colin & Sue. They were owners (it wasn’t a managed pub or a chain) and they had been running the pub for over 10 years and these are the kind of venues where comedy nights sometimes prove to work as no ‘management’ who get paid regardless. So with a date for the first night sorted I decided to not book a ‘headliner’ but instead a decent compere and vet 6x solid 10 spots …well I’m a solid 10 spot so could do a turn myself and vetted 5 others and I think I made the right choices from those who applied but as the time went on I added a 7th who we then lost again and went back down to 6x but that proved to be the perfect number on the night itself.

Me and John had visited the pub for a drink on the way back from a car crash (one off) gig I ran in wem last November and even back then he had the posters up so we knew it was off to a good start with this one. On the night itself we had a phone call on route from compere and head driver Dave Dinsdale who was having difficultly getting hold of Dave Pollard at home but this was soon resolved. Arriving at the venue Colin & Sue had already turned all the chairs and tables the right way round allowing us to just step up the PA and lighting rig. However the way the pub is it means the ‘comedy area’ and the ‘stage’ is right in front of the toilets, so they have to open up some secondary toilets at the other end of the of the pub for people to use and this didn’t prove a problem as I thought it might at first. However yet another issue I didn’t foresee is that they wanted us to rig my PA though the pubs in house speaker system allowing people all throughout the whole pub to hear the show. I principle a good idea however we realised this would make people all sit in the back half of the pub not in the comedy area itself and refuse to come forward which as you expected they all did but we had enough come forward and throughout the night more came forward. The audience was about 25-30 who had come in for the comedy. Still some who laughed but sat and watched it from the bar the whole night. From here on in I’m not really going to talk about the comedians routines and what I think about them (I think 4 of them are solid turns with good polished sets) it’s much more how they were received by the audience on the night.

Dave Dinsdale was the right man for the compere job as he started before the show started (if you’ve seen him you know what he does) he pre-comperes before he comperes and it showed the audience weren’t rowdy nor were they talkers etc they were well behaved (average age 60) but to begin with they weren’t really laughter’s very much and it took a lot of easing into it. Thomas Rackham had the hardest job of being the first ever act on the first ever night and I think overall I made the right choice with him. His set is very laid back, confident and slick, material still needs some editing but he has punch lines in his material, they were so polite and reserved at this point I was beginning to worry but he did his job with no complaints and enjoyed himself. Andrew Nightingale came next who again has a good laid back approach with nice story telling with punch lines in all the right places although he does get rather blue with some of stories and some of the punters got a little uncomfortable it seems. It’s all in context of course but punters will be punters and hear the words they want to hear, no complaints again he did his job and laughs were beginning to pick up slowly now.

After first interval we lost one table to the back of the room but others moved forward in their place. Dinsdale put his foot on the gas more by doing the higher lower game which injected some much needed life into the room and got them laughing. Danny Beet who I had booked as a token ‘new’ act, have one newer act on to balance the night out and I let it be him. I’ve seen him get mixed results at various gigs already and his delivery, timing or stage presence isn’t very good at all to be honest but he did tell jokes and that’s the first step in this, just saying ‘remember this’ only works if your peter kay and rambling stories without any payoff only works if your Paul Foot. Anyway Danny is new, in-experienced but did a good turn here and the audience laughed at his punch lines. Roger Swift followed and I got a really good introduction and I won’t dwell on my own set for too long but I had a good-un and I really wasn’t a room split at this either because I won 95% of the crowd over and the timings on my self deprecating asides is really getting good, I was happy with this one.

Naturally we lost a few more of the audience the final break but things really kept moving and kept strong with Dave Pollard who did all his classics tonight (not the nasty character) which was for the better. His style and his jokes all hit and he was well suited to the audience and room. Finally rounding off the evening was Jay Islaam’s BamBam Sheikh who he wasn’t sure about, he had his doubts but he lay those to rest after a shaky start. His ‘Cross a Jew’ joke didn’t really land here but he still won them round with it pretty quickly after although as I had guessed they did laugh at it at a face value and didn’t see the irony in it, but we had spoken before and had both agreed that would properly be the case here.

Although a laboured start the gig was a success for the first night and certainly laid the ground for what will hopefully become a good night. They’ve ordered monthly gigs here on in on the last Tuesday of each month (par August & December) and tho budget isn’t great I am going to still (for the first 6 months anyway) stick with 6x 10 spots and will vet as they are an older audience so stuff that’s good for the studenty crowds, political and very blue material are a real no no for the time being, needs to be more solid observationalists and more ‘joke’ based stuff for the moment. Gig will be ticketed (£2 only) from here on in as well. Also going to take most of the tables out and just have rows of seats, keep less people from sitting at the bar and far end of the room and get them into the main room space. At any rate Teknicolour Smoof has a new monthly venue I ‘think’ and hope will last providing I book the right acts for the first 6 months and