Once again the Comedy Crate put the laugh into Bradlaugh with another fun-filled evening of top quality comedy. And once again they host a round in the British Comedian of the Year – progressing from a heat last year to a semifinal this year – next year, surely, they’ve got to host the Final! There’s always a great vibe at the Bradlaugh for Comedy Crate nights, but for this show there was a tangible sense of occasion too; everyone was really up for a great night of comedy – and the eight contestant comedians rose to the challenge.
Our host, new to us, as were all but one of the acts, was Jake Steers, Hemel Hempstead’s finest export, and he had plenty to contend with; second-row Lee sending him a series of curveballs and the accountants’ night out in the front row not being the easiest bunch from whom to coax comedy gold. He explained the set up would be three comics then an interval, then another three, and an interval, and finally the last two comics and the voting. We could all download a QR code which would take us to an online voting form, where we could select our favourite two performers. Northampton’s comedy scene is nothing if not high tech.
The winner receives the numerically palindromic sum of £10,001, which I note hasn’t gone up with inflation. If I were this year’s winner, I’d complain. Each contestant gets approximately ten minutes to deliver their best short sharp routine, and despite the lineup being a little short on diversity (eight white men, but that’s no one’s fault) the variety of material and styles was truly impressive.
First up – and in a change to the advertised billing – was Currer Ball, a genial Glaswegian with a likeable personality and a confident manner, who based his routine on his girlfriend who doesn’t exist, and on the consequences of playing games, including an agonising round of Twister. Very good delivery, although some of his material didn’t quite land properly. Act Number 2 was Dean Coughlin, a Liverpudlian with a deceptively laid-back manner and presentation, who had the audience in fits of laughter many times during his short set, with a combination of excellent material and spot-on delivery. Act 3 was Michael Shafar, who has a more sophisticated and cosmopolitan air to him, and whose set revolved around his survival from testicular cancer and being Jewish. Some fairly hard-hitting jokes there, and you have to be right on top of your material to get away with holocaust humour, but he went down well with the audience and nailed most of it.
Act 4, and the only comedian we had seen before, was Mike Cox, who delivered a great, confident set about his domestic relationships; some fairly familiar subject matter but spun in a completely different direction which was absolutely brilliant. Act 5 was Stephen Cookson, a slightly more mature kind of guy who has a stock of one-liners and tends towards the absurd. He has a very warm approach to the audience though, and the one-liners that worked were fantastic. We won’t mention the ones that didn’t. Act 6 was Fred Ferenczi, a quietly spoken, dour chap whose humour is based on the difference between the persona he presents and his subject matter. He laments that he is from Aylesbury and slags it off mercilessly. It makes a change from comedians coming to Northampton and slagging our town off. However, I lived in and around Aylesbury for decades and it really isn’t that bad.
Act 7 was Garrie Grubb who has an excellent presence but never quite hit his stride; and when he suggested that some of the audience might be homophobic that was a bit of a turn-off for all of us. Northampton audiences are all sorts of things but homophobic is not one of them. Our final act was Dane Buckley, a fascinating mix of Indian, Irish and gay, with a sprightly delivery and some excellent and inventive material, including possibly the best joke of the night involving his coming out to his Indian grandmother.
We had five minutes to vote and the runner-up was Dean Coughlin and the winner Mike Cox. It was a fabulously entertaining evening and the audience clearly loved every minute of it. Good luck for Messrs Cox and Coughlin for the rest of the competition and commiserations to everyone else. Normally if you were to see a mixed bill of eight comedians you might expect to see at least one dud amongst them – but not last night. The standard was very high. If I were to choose a third placed comic it would be Dane Buckley – I think he was unlucky to have such high quality competition.
Our next Comedy Crate gig will be back at V&B’s bar on Tuesday 5th December. Should be another great night!