With Edinburgh festival beginning this week and most North East clubs taking a brief hiatus whilst the comedy world takes residence in Scotland, I decided to take advantage of one of the few comedy nights running in the North East this month, namely South Shields’ very own ‘I Don’t Get It’ night at the Mile End. Proudly billed as South Shields’ only comedy night (I’m assuming they’re either unaware of The Comedy Bunker, previously reviewed on Giggle Beats, or just ignoring that it exists), it’s an open mic night in a room that isn’t ideal for comedy but, if they can fill it, should prove an excellent addition to the North East circuit.
As it is, there were no more than 30 in, but that’s more than enough for an open mic night and I paid my £3, took my seat and waited for the show to begin.
MC for the evening Andy Fury got the night off to a solid start, chatting to the crowd, laying down rules and getting them onside with a mixture of quickfire gags and funny stories that quickly got the crowd onside. First onto the stage was Jared Jess-Cooke, a comedian who I’d seen a couple of months ago at Long Live Comedy in Newcastle. Unfortunately he quickly turned a warm room into a lukewarm one, a childish routine about poo getting some laughs, before quickly fading. He has a stage manner close to likable but not near enough and on this occasion his main problem was his material falling flat.
Jess-Cooke eventually left the stage and after the MC got the room laughing again, Sean Turner entered the stage. It seemed he’d brought a large section of the crowd with him (due to most of them leaving as soon as he’d finished his set) but whether it was nerves or ability, failed to really get a grip of the room. An almost decent opening joke was followed by long silences in the crowd and there was relief in the room that after two very poor opening acts there was a break.
Half of the audience disappeared during this interval, much to the annoyance of Fury, who returned the laughs to the room quickly enough. Some new audience members arrived and sat at the back of the room and time was spent cajoling, then forcing them to the front of the room. Whilst it could have created an awkward atmosphere it actually brought everyone together and turned out to be a bit of a masterstroke.
Rather than the middle section following the same theme of poor and disjointed performances that the first had, the night took a turn for the better. Hal Stewart blasted through five minutes of one liners that kept the crowd’s attention and, more importantly, kept them laughing. It was a shame that one of the stronger acts on the night had one of the shorter spots, but I was definitely impressed and will keep an eye out for more of him: definitely one to watch. This was followed by a sketch group called Supersillyus. I’ve probably spelt that wrong, so forgive me, but again, they were impressive. It was a different change of pace and a different dynamic for the audience to deal with, but again they proved that they were playing to a crowd who were happy to laugh when things were funny and the silences of the first half weren’t to be blamed on the room.
The few sketch groups I’ve seen tend to rattle through as much as possible and while this duo took a little more time, they still got through lots with well-presented, slick routines that really grabbed the audience’s imagination.
After a quick break and more audience members leaving, the night drew towards its close. Fury quickly got everyone’s attention focussed, then brought on Andrew Arrowsmith whose short set got laughs despite seeming a bit under-prepared. Last but by no means least, Chris Norton Walker had apparently travelled all the way up from London to play in South Shields. He looked confident on stage and whilst the tempo of his set veered from gag machine to distracted and disjointed, it was probably one of the most polished and confident performances of the night and again, marked him out as someone well worth going to see again.
Overall, it was a decent night and far better than sitting at home watching Big Brother. Hopefully the people of South Shields will continue to support the night as it certainly has potential. Highlights of the night were Andy Fury, who constantly kept the room warm, especially in a very weak first half, and Hal Stewart, whose short set contained enough jokes that have stuck in the memory a day later to make him worthy of a mention.