Edward James

Review: Roger Monkhouse, Lee Kyle, Dave Hadingham & Andy Fury – Sunderland Empire

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Roger Monkhouse | Giggle Beats

Roger Monkhouse

This month’s Laughter Live was impaired by line-up changes, initially when the advertised headliner Gary Delaney had to reschedule his appearance; and more recently by the last-minute loss of compere Jonathan Elston and support act Adnan Ahmed. Promoter Andy Fury refused to let this bother him, and programmed a night of high-calibre comedy, performing as MC himself.

A firm local favourite whose laid-back, easygoing persona strikes a blow for nominative determinism, Fury’s relaxed audience interaction provides a welcome change from the brash (often mildly offensive) tack taken by lesser MCs and, combined with the polite and reserved nature of tonight’s  audience, creates a sanguine – if not entirely energetic – atmosphere as Dave Hadingham takes the stage.

Hadingham’s set is – if you will excuse my language – fucking brilliant. The jokes are close to the knuckle from the very start, performed with a cheeky stage manner that increases his odds when gambling with the audience’s sensibilities. His dark material rarely loses the audience, and he is skilled enough as a comic to swiftly bring them back onside. Utilising a range of techniques including clever wordplay, one-liners, extended routines, comfortable banter with the room, and jokes with multiple punchlines, Hadingham creates a fluid and dexterous performance. His material certainly isn’t for everyone, with subject matter ranging from casual sexism to pornography and paedophilia, but passes this reviewer’s test of being at least as funny as it is offensive. Unfortunately Hadingham’s set is compromised by an initially uptight audience, and he didn’t initially get the response I would expect with his calibre of comedy.

The concept of a prop-based comic from Jarrow does little to excite me, but Lee Kyle’s self-assured attitude and approachable image soon wins me over. His routine based on the flags of the world’s countries provides its fair share of belly-laughs, and the recurrence of a standing joke based on Elvis Presley’s ‘Devil in Disguise’ is an excellent device, preventing monotony from taking hold. Kyle’s set is relatively short, clocking in at under 10 minutes, but his talent is evident, and the skill and courage on display demonstrate how deserving Kyle is of his recent newcomer award.

As I noted in my preview last week, tonight’s headliner Roger Monkhouse is a prolific writer of TV comedy, providing material for ‘8 Out Of 10 Cats’ and appearing in his own right on shows such as ‘Comedy Store’,The World Stands Up’, and ‘My God I’m My Dad’. The effect of this writing career is evident in his performance, and I can honestly say he is the most articulate comedian I’ve ever seen.

Genuinely intelligent and astute, his observations have each and every member of the audience in fits of giggles; genuinely grounded and relevant, his routines provoke appreciative nods of recognition; genuinely eloquent, his off-the-cuff putdowns are as fluid and amusing as their pre-scripted counterparts; genuinely comfortable veering off-script, the detractions from his pre-meditated set are a joy to watch; genuinely amused by the audience dynamic, his natural reaction spreads warmth happiness in the room. Overall, Monkhouse is astonishingly genuine – his fluid observational style striking a chord with the audience at large.

The evening I spent at Laughter Live was a definite improvement on the gig I reviewed last month. The offer of three lagers for £5 may have played a part in loosening the audience up towards the end, but the comedy on offer was a cut above the average, and February’s line-up promises to be just as good again.