Well well well….a Frome festival double from the Submarine Comedy team.
Its unusual to get to a venue and find the audience already there early and waiting….a combination of brochure malfunction and eager comedy fans…a quick chat to the audience and a very splendid offer from Diane Spencer meant we kicked off with a 20 minute club set at 7.30 with the next door roller disco just about winding up.
Come 8pm, the real show started , and Diane previewed ‘Powertool’, her new Edinburgh show. Having seen this in an earlier form in Leicester comedy fest in Feb I knew this was already a good show and one I have high hopes for in Edinburgh. This is kinda of a departure for Diane, I won’t give too much away, suffice to say that two parallel stories of Diane’s life unfold beautifully and more absurdly. Great sense of pace, detail and laughs, sometimes the laughs and the pathos cross stories where you wouldn’t expect. Diane kept everyone enraptured as you would expect of such an experienced comic. A great way to start the night, check out Diane’s show up in Edinburgh.
So, after the break, we then moved onto the 2nd half and the competition. The FFF in only its 2nd year, it probably one of the most prestigious comedy awards…in Frome, on a Tuesday night. I decided early on that I would try and feature up and coming acts who I rate esp South West Acts and so it was that 9 took the challenge in front of a decent crowd in a packed Cheese & Grain bar.
First up (as drawn out of the hat by my 3 yr old) was Dory Wainwright. By any stretch, going first is always a tough one but Dory performed very strongly. Good stage presence and a quiet confidence certainly helped set an early bench mark. Got the crowd laughing quickly…which is always a plus in a comedy competition.
Next up was a character act called Cheddar George, unknown to me but had sent such a heartfelt email to perform, I thought he should have a chance. Not many laughs and I think the audience were abit confused but he had some nice lines and seemed to like the Mayor of Frome quite a lot…the local references went down well as you’d expect.
Joey Cannon shambled on next, and started very slowly, referencing the surroundings, I wondered where this was going having seen Joey many times, by his 3rd gag, he caught the audience with a comedy upper cut which they never saw coming and from there on in he continued to grow in confidence and laughter. His joke about HR was one of the best of the night and he left the stage as a very strong contender.
Local lad Aaron Barton of Frome FM, did a short set, starting with his back to the audience, he got his best laughs with some good afterthoughts on the reactions to some of his puns.
Final act of the first half, Phil Cooper is an act who is one of the strongest in the South West and tonight that showed through in spades. The Welshman took everything in his stride with a fantastic set that even when blown off course by an audience member who disputed some facts in his moon story, simply wove that into the story and rung every single laugh to be had out of it. Made comedy look simple…which is the sign of a fantastic talent.
Good time to have an interval.
Second half came and another 4 acts to see;
first up Ant Burn. a relative newcomer to the comedy world, Ant has got some good jokes, using his Newcastle background and some interesting material on the chimp brain. brought his set around nicely with a good call back. It will be interesting to see Ant develop as he favours a lot of rule of 3 jokes and the timing suits but also means the audience can start to think ahead. overall though, a good performance.
Juanita Smithers was an altogether different experience, another character actor but one as a WI presenter (women’s institute in case you were wondering). great idea but I think the decision not to use the mic and having a large picture that she never quite had control over meant some of the comedy was lost on the audience near the back.
Marcus Gill came next and I’ve seen Marcus do some brilliant comedy sets all over the south west and he is a very good young comic. Tonight though the audience just weren’t going for it. maybe it was the timing or that he mentioned nerds and other niche topics, or maybe his pace was leaving some of the audience, I’m still not sure, but tonight he didn’t take off in his usual way and that was a shame.
It was left to Richard James to complete the comp and he mentioned being a nerd straight away, and I wondered if the audience were going to give him the same lo fi feedback that Marcus encountered but no, he built a lovely crafted set and his German death star is awesome. never tire of that one.
The audience and the judges voted and it was fairly clear;
In 3rd came Richard James (beating Dory Wainwright by a single vote)
In 2nd Joey Cannon ( being from Liverpool is such a comedy gift) and in first place (Drum roll please)
1st – Phil Cooper.
There was no debating the result, a worthy and popular winner and for me, someone who is def on the up in the world of comedy.
So there you have it.
We look forward to seeing all the acts as they develop and hope they all had a good night down in Frome.
see you next year for the FFF ( not to be confused with the FFS…this town ain’t big enough) 🙂