So here’s something a bit different. At the Charles Bradlaugh last night, the Comedy Crate hosted the Northampton heat (who knew there was one?) of the British Comedian of the Year competition. Ultimate prize for the winning comic – £10,001. I guess that last pound is put in there because, like the subject matter, it’s a bit funny. Compered by Ben Briggs, nine comedians took to the stage with a ten to fifteen minutes set to win the hearts, minds and votes of the audience. Yes, after they had all performed we had an app through which to select our favourite two comedians. And at the end, Ben announced the two acts that would go through to the next round. Our third place choice goes forward to some kind of repechage/punch-up behind the bikesheds to see if they can also squeeze through.
I can’t recall ever attending a comedy night like it. Hugely entertaining, and of course, by its very nature, full of variety. With such a short set, it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that any one performer would outstay their welcome. But that’s not a bad way of assessing which acts to vote for. You’ll definitely favour those, when they’d finished, you thought damn! I want more of this person! rather than those who you thought to yourself thank goodness that’s over. It’s also difficult to make a choice when you’ve seen some of the acts recently and already know their material, and then compare them with acts whom you’ve never seen before so their whole routine is as fresh as a daisy. But that’s a delicate problem for you to work out in the privacy of your own app moment.
The structure of the night was to have three acts followed by a break, another three and a break, then the final three and a break during which you voted. A little like the Eurovision Song Contest, your appearance in the running order is oh-so-important. You don’t want to be first, you definitely don’t want to be second, you probably don’t want to be last. Halfway to two-thirds of the way through works best.
Act 1 was Masai Graham, twice winner of the Edinburgh joke of the year award. He told them to us again, and yes, they’re pretty good jokes. I admire the way he can get four or five laughs out of four or five punchlines all from the same set-up. He’s a clever chap. Act 2 was Danny Clives, who announced he was unprepared for the contest, and I couldn’t work out if he was genuinely unprepared or acting unprepared. Either way, he’s got great material, nicely underdelivered. Act 3 was Harvey Hawkins, who delivered his excellent material with confidence, precision and a beautiful structure, which I always admire in a comedy set.
Act 4 was last minute replacement Kirsty Munro, who was very full-on with her sex-based material; tremendously confident but I think I would have died from embarrassment if she’d asked me some of the questions that she asked those in the front row. Act 5 was Jay Handley, who trades very successfully on his Jesus-lookalike status, but whose material goes much further than that and was extremely funny. Act 6 was Jack Gleadow, whose act I have seen a few times recently and includes some brilliant ideas, like the Popcorn Tindr and the differences between shopping at Primark and at Argos.
Act 7 was Kate Martin; her material centres on her height and sexuality, is extremely inventive on stage and we didn’t want her to stop. Act 8 was David Stanier, whose humour is of a very different style; he felt to me more like a children’s entertainer, with a level of surrealism into which I couldn’t really tap. Act 9 was Trevor Bickles, a London taxi driver and you can tell that from the start. Again hugely confident, great delivery and very recognisable material in that you can identify with the situations he creates for us. A good laugh indeed.
After quite a lot of deliberation, both Mrs Chrisparkle and I voted for the same two – and as this isn’t a secret ballot, I can tell you our choices were Kate Martin and Jay Handley. There was one other act whom we both wanted to vote for but who included one joke that we both thought was beyond the pail for the occasion, no names no pack drill. In the end, when the votes were tallied and the executive committee had run the numbers through a double checking verification procedure (I jest) the audience’s choice to go through to the next round were Jay Handley and Jack Gleadow, with Kate Martin in that perilous third place.
A fantastic night of comedy which we both really enjoyed. Hopefully this can become an annual feature!