An essential attribute for any comic is the ability to lift the mood of a room.
To inject energy into a tepid audience. Faced with a subdued crowd of scarcely fifteen people, the opening courses of our 3 Course Comedy clearly anticipated a challenge.
The show features a rotating roster of comics, so if you choose to go you never know exactly what you might be served; and from the evidence on offer, this is a risky proposition.
On the night in question we were given four comics for the price of three, but unfortunately it was a case of too many cooks, too little broth.
First up was Gerard McGowan, introduced to the crowd as “the champion” – of what, exactly, was never specified, but it set the precedent of over-promising and under-delivering that was to continue throughout the show.
McGowan looked uncomfortable from the start. Relying on improvisation and a few long-winded anecdotes, the metaphorical tumbleweeds were well and truly rolling within the first minute when he alluded (prematurely) to how badly he was bombing and apologised for being tired. There were some bright moments, though.
Bemoaning the uselessness of his Arts degree was seriously funny and painted McGowan in a sympathetic light. It’s the kind of relatable material he should embrace to help his inherent likability shine through.
By now the crowd was good-naturedly trying to get involved; but it was firmly rebuffed by the next comic, Matt Stewart.
His brand of dry, languid humour was poorly suited to the occasion, and to exacerbate matters he seemed to be saving any actual gags for his solo show.
The seams weren’t just showing; there was so little material that the seams became the material, and Stewart’s awkward pauses and so-bad-it’s-good pitfalls drew the biggest laughs of the set.
Pete Jones returned a welcome warmth and polish to proceedings with an otherwise unremarkable performance; but the star of the show was its final comic, Michael Shafar.
Shafar alone seemed willing to take risks – to commit to a punchline and risk it falling flat, to engage with the audience beyond simply coaxing a scripted answer from them.
Digging into the relationship status of a couple in the front row yielded him the biggest laughs of the night. He mined rich comedic ground and was rewarded for it. It was a brave performance, and one that went a long way towards redeeming an otherwise disappointing evening.