Review: Beat the Frog World Series Final – Frog and Bucket, Manchester
It might’ve been the 7th Beat The Frog World Series Final but it was the last for MC Dan Nightingale, who went out in style last night with a tour de force in compering. It was one of the easiest rooms to work, though – the crowd were certainly up for it and supportive enough to allow a little invention from the nine stand-ups on offer.
Will Duggan’s opening gambit, a playful impression of a turtle, is a decent visual gag, but is essentially the same old, ‘Do you know who I look like?’ remark many an open spot employs to introduce their set. Likewise the first idea in his Where’s Wally? routine was so lacking in originality that half a dozen punters beat him to the punch line. Duggan ended his set strongly, though, with some smart dialogue to close the Where’s Wally? material and two deft pull-backs in his rabbit routine.
Ed Easton offers an outlook beyond his years and so it’s no surprise his first big laugh was a bit of ‘dad humour.’ Sure, he could’ve found his way to the gag sooner, but the sketch involving lipstick and “powder stuff” was a particularly inventive section of his set. The remaining three minutes were less convincing, however, as Easton applied a geeky angle to the type of aggressive language ‘proper lads’ use. Sadly we’ve heard it all before.
Gangsters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the main topics of conversation for Tom Dransfield, who had a bit of a nightmare despite the accommodating crowd. They listened, and waited, but Dransfield’s ideas never developed into anything close to a rewarding punch line.
Closing the opening section was American Sarah Cassidy, whose set was a classic tale of two halves. Her first, a fast-paced monologue about the difference between US and British children’s television shows, was deftly observed and packed with a few great lines. Unfortunately, though, reaction to the routine was subdued and was followed by considerably weaker material on the history of sperm.
The three strongest acts of the night followed the break, as Pete Otway, Hayley Ellis and Danny Sutcliffe took advantage of the better spots on the bill.
Otway, tonight’s winner, adopts a natural feel to his stand-up. Enforced by slight crowd banter disguised as quick-witted ad-libbing, everyman tones in routines on one night stands and Facebook make him an affable presence – so it’s no surprise he got the audience’s vote. There’s also clever wordplay in his ‘Scousers’ piece, followed by a particularly memorable image of a wheelchair at a foam party.
A worthy winner, then, but Hayley Ellis and Danny Sutcliffe weren’t too far behind.
To say Ellis’ five minutes is a triumph of personality over material probably sounds a little harsh, as she’s got some sharp gags and some particularly ‘memorable’ imagery, especially in her pole-dancing sketch. But she does sell her weaker lines well, too, and tackles ‘the difference between men and women’ with a lovely low-brow routine on pooing at work. Great stuff.
And third placed Sutcliffe elicited some smart one-liners, like his ‘topical material’ and successive pull-backs. But like Cassidy in the opening section, Sutcliffe didn’t quite get the reaction his writing deserved.
The less said about character act Wouter Meijs the better, who first employs casual misogyny in his material about chasing a girl around a park; then offers up a tired Joseph Fritzl joke; and finally ends by calling homosexuals “disgusting shit-stabbers.” He finished in second place.
Last but not least, Rich Wall might’ve been in the running if the draw had been a little kinder. His delivery lends itself to the McIntyre school of thought; his comic lilt practically replicates the Roadshow host. And as a result he’s likeable and well spoken, but only really comes into his own with the slightly eccentric routine on fish finger sandwiches.
The Frog and Bucket Comedy Club are part of Dave’s Comedy Society, who provide fans with 2 for 1 tickets for shows up and down the country. A full list of the comedy clubs involved can be found on Dave’s website.