When the acts are reiterating that it’s a free comedy night over and over, worry. The price of comedy isn’t always important, and there were enough chuckles to get you through the night, but in this instance, I’m glad I didn’t pay for Crowd of Favours’ Comedy Cask.
The tone for the evening was optimistically set by self-deprecating Eddie French, styled like John Travolta in Grease whilst in modern day Travolta’s body (his own words), he alternated between a pint and an electric guitar in his hands; as MC he warmed up the crowd. His stories of punk bands, green hair-dye and music producers giving the audience a laugh or two in the right places, and made the night flow despite a few hiccups with the sound system.
Chortle Student Comedy Award runner-up (2015) Liam Pickford didn’t initially grab attention, but his brand of self-deprecating awkward humour wasn‘t without its charms. Although slow to start his continued interactions with the audience were a highlight, and playing on the classic North/South divide (to a predominantly Northern audience) went down well, as an opener to the night he set the pace well, opening up the audience for the other acts.
Relative newcomer Elly Larkin brought a light nervousness with her which brightened her performance, her sarcastic and on the nose tales were more like dating horror stories that girls exchange on the sofa than embittered anecdotes about the modern dating world. Whatever her intended reaction was, the night should have given her some hope and some useful details to improve upon; her performance was not without its faults, but I find it hard to knock her new-coming enthusiasm too much.
Hannah Platt brought dark and uncomfortable humour to centre stage, and some jokes landed perfectly, but there were some points where the laughter was a little forced — comedy can touch on difficult things, but it doesn’t always go well. Hannah’s set was brief by comparison to the others, but this worked for her, she knew when to push social taboo buttons and when to stop. The mentality of the audience was crucial, Hannah’s set worked for the darkest parts of the soul, but perhaps it was just a little too much at times.
Finally, the headliner Phil Ellis, his observational humour was interesting and encouraged interaction but possibly relied on the (now slightly inebriated) audience’s expectations a little too much. The mixture of dad jokes and unfortunate stories from his previous marriage didn’t work for me, but the rest of the crowd seemed in on the joke and happy enough with what they heard. His set made the room feel like his drinking buddies, let in on the amusing yet depressing things that went wrong, a good enough style, but didn’t illicit any roaring laughs.
All of the acts were entertaining in their own way, and the rest of the audience were engaged enough; throughout there were good points, but nothing that really took off.
I’m still glad it was free.
Image: Crowd of Favours