Shane Todd / Amy Gledhill / Eleanor Morton - Bobby Carroll's Live Comedy Diary

Shane Todd

There's a mainstream devilry to Shane Todd. A Northern Irish powerhouse whose storytelling mastery relies on him constantly framing himself as the loveable bastard man of his tales. A good example is his epic retelling of the birth of his second child where his sole priority is to settle down with a nice cup of tea and watch the last ten minutes of a season finale of a reality TV show on Netflix. Only his wife's inconvenient contractions keep getting in the way of his far more important goal.

Every twist of the story is intercut with his sniping about how he is the injured party in all this due date chaos. There's definitely an air of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Dennis Reynolds in his sociopathic, one-track selfishness. Or if you wanted a mainland equivalent I can only think of Geordie Kai Humphries. Another act who perfectly flows within the sweet and sour duality of being both likeable with out-and-out villainy on stage. Admittedly Todd is the only one of these comedy Golden Gods to try and ply his trade in an off-white shacket and chinos combo.

It is probably fair to say many of Todd's longform bits feel a bit insubstantial in retrospect - they get laughs in the moment but perhaps don't warrant the running time devoted to them. A taxi driver called Majeed and a man knocking around his house to talk about Japanese Knotweed really feel like they are building and building but then hang around long after the ultimate punch and peter out. There were a couple of times we were so deep into a bubbling anecdote that I felt that it was going to be the big "mic-drop-thank-you-Edinburgh-Goodnight" but then we moved onto another bit about swimming pool changing rooms and the mad things toddlers say. Ten solo shows in for Todd and he knows what his audience wants. They love hearing about his working relationship with megastar Kevin Hart even if the main laughs come from him deflating his own self aggrandising bragging rather than anything particularly gossip worthy.

What do I know about the needs of a storytelling act regularly playing to arena audiences? Maybe 1000 plus seater rooms need material which pulls back on the percussive gags and leave vacuums of catch-up time for the audience to stay on board. Or maybe it is a symptom of the fact that many comedians at Todd's level are working material up on podcasts which is a much looser, less demanding forum to find laughs? I'll concede the slightly downhill trajectory of this hour, Mummy, has much to do with trying to keep certain callbacks in play over a series of routines.

Pacing issues aside, Todd shows himself to be a trained assassin in his most robust topics. There's a certain degree of cringe and overplaying his hand in routines about a Hong Kong exchange student joining his school and his dad's massive wonky cock but, fuck me, they are all the better for it. These stand outs have a density and speed that is positively exhausting. The chokehold grips constantly like a boa of undercutting tags and transgressive imagery. All with a cheeky smile of puckish mischief. These highlights from Mummy are premium man-and-mic stand-up, showcasing a daddy well deserving of his hometown and global fame.

Amy Gledhill

Flashback to ten years ago and I was running a new act competition. I'd like to think it was organised as fairly and smoothly and un-exploitative as these bloodbaths ever could be. But then the up-and-comers who would be doing 400-mile round trips to perform started applying. And it set me a quandary. Relatively polished comedians like Amy Gledhill started travelling down to a Monday night gig that might be full of confused American exchange students or have only the MC's girlfriend and a barman as the audience.

Gledhill has always guiltily stuck in my head as she travelled all that way, did a daft set where she squeezed her boobs so that it made a silly noise for five minutes... with a look of unparalleled glee on her face each and every time. She didn't get through - some of the judges didn't go for it and I couldn't justify making someone do three additional night coach journeys to keep showcasing something so wacky. Put a gun to my head and I cannot name you any other act who competed that particular Monday but Amy Gledhill and her dog toy boob squeaker has haunted me ever since. She's probably the reason I created a loophole in subsequent years that if you were travelling trucker distances to take part, couldn't be dissuaded from doing so and your set was of a quality that it would make the finale, I quietly just put you through to the big night of the competition and told you to hold fire.

Well, back in the present and it is the closing night of Gledhill's hit debut solo tour The Girl Before The Girl You Marry. She's a telly regular off the back of her writing work and her being one half of the indisputably fantastic double act The Delightful Sausage. And the squeaking boobs have survived all this time to again stalk me like the raven or tell-tale heart in an Edgar Allan Poe story. This device is now tighter and rationed to two judicious appearances. The audience love it as an ice breaker and I'm laughing too, despite my internalised baggage. The other 65 minutes of the show is wonderful biographical stand-up.

Origins story. Teenage embarrassment. Relationship schadenfreude.

The framing device is Gledhill relating a series of mortifying break-ups that left her spent while the wastrel men sauntered away in a much-improved position to quickly move on to the women they'd soon marry. And we go on a cheery bildungsroman that finds time for such blisteringly funny act outs as her roast dinner in a hot bath and a penis twanging loose of its boxers. Even if Gledhill is rigidly fixed to centre stage for the runtime she is brimming with finely choreographed physicality. A recurring motif dance routine is finished to mortifying completion with each latest internalised emotional rock bottom. There's a brutish frankness of language when naming her body parts that lands a huge response; "meat tit", "mega jugs"...

It has been a noteworthy year for working class women making stand out debuts. Louise Young, Fiona Ridgewell, Lindsey Santoro. Gledhill's first lone hour really is flawless. Up high out on a level all of her own. Her tone switches effortlessly from chatty conspiracy to maximum volume. She's a natural performer at her best when she is up at 11, which she often is. There's a deceptive broadness to her tales where she is, for want of a better term, the victim... yet we never lose our respect for her. There's no poor me or tears before laughs in this constantly entertaining story.

Some routines do have a well marinated taste of material assembled from years on the stand-up circuit. Others feel worked up more recently as assignment work to slot into the show's title. Yet she closes on a lengthy anecdote of a more recent horrific Pizza Express date, out with the main narrative, that means we end the often softly tragic show on a happier note. Seeded within it are wonderful observations about concierges and restaurant apps. This riveting epilogue evidences her stand-up storytelling skills are only getting sharper and stronger. If that is even possible.

Every point of Gledhill's comedy triangle (voice, timing, material) is in equilibrium. At peak perfection. If her abilities were broken down into stats on a Top Trumps card she'd be an unbeatable ace in the hole. 2013 Bobby Carroll was an utter eejit. As it would seem many men were back in the day.

Sam Lake

Walking down the various levels of the Monkey Barrel for last Saturday night's The Big Show is a pretty exhilarating experience. One floor down and you are in a well populated dive bar with theatre seats and a positive buzz of anticipation. The walls are scattered with etchings of Fringe favourites. Surrounding them is a teenager's wall of last August's posters. Many improved with enthusiastic quotes from yours truly. Then doors to the show are open and there is a polite crush forward as we make our way collectively to the main room in the MB3. It often reminds me of entering through the turnstiles of Loftus Road on the match days of my youth. And then everyone sees that last set of rickety wooden stairs which have a distinct vibe of the final moments of The Blair Witch Project. Oh... anything could happen...

This is what I love about the rush of live comedy. You never know what you are gonna get. Amateurs parading as headliners. Or long in the gums war horses who should have made space on the bill many moons ago. At Monkey Barrel you are guaranteed not just a great night but an eclectic line-up redefining what weekend comedy can and should be.

If I had a Spotify Unwrapped for comedians then Sam Lake would top my stats for 2023. I must have seen Lake MC, open, support or romp his way through his own superlative hour half a dozen times at least this year. No complaints, as Lake warms a room with a welcoming lack of aggression and his eyes firmly fixed on everyone's good time.

Eleanor Morton

Opener Eleanor Morton is a comic I've rated for a very long time but never been confident as to where in the comedy ecosystem she would thrive. She has always ploughed her own furrow and has recently hit paydirt with her deadpan, literate character monologue clips on a social media hub near you.

Doing twenty themed and self-deprecating minutes on ghosts might seem like suicide for an opening act on a boozy Saturday night before Christmas, yet Morton admirably sticks to her guns and the crowd of wobbly tourists and loved up locals come on board with little fuss. Morton's writing style is deft and patient but it's her performance skills that often shunt the laughter out of 'em with ballooning returns.

In her varied bag of tricks she has her well planned out 'face journeys' to mirror and corral the audience's own reactions. She's also adept at peopling her bits with characters who we get a grasp on with minimal but bold descriptions. A teen penpal from Redondo Beach, CA and siblings who have lowered the bar for her with their own wayward career paths. Over an hour I reckon she'll be working up a pretty enticing cast of characters to experience her Haunted House show in 2024.

Morton has the circuit chops to reduce a punchline down to its purest singular word ("Storage") and she never loses faith in her relaxed plod pacing. To retune a room like this onto her own wavelength, not dumb down nor lose her quirky outsider status, is a testament to just what a unique comedy force Morton has become. Lovely to see such a mannered yet intelligent voice thriving.

David McIver

David McIver was an act I had no history or preconceptions about. Imagine my surprise when we got a cut glass voiced Mitch Hedberg. He covers the accent early doors, one sadder remnant of the old days of Scottish club comedy is anyone who doesn't sound like they are from Fife having to apologise for their voice. He had playful, effective takes on therapy, his height, shyness, and pirating Match Of The Day punditry. Essentially long one-liners, with circling unpredictable set ups for furiously sharp punches... here's a dude whose skewed world view is to be treasured.

At Monkey Barrel everyone brings their A game, the mixture of styles on offer remains at a pinnacle higher than you'll see at any weekend club during the festive chaos. I would cover Aurie Styla and Ashley Manning's hilarious sets too but their up-and-coming hours seems so divergently promising from what I tasted here I'll focus on them with a bit more room to breathe very soon.

Shane Todd: Mummy is on tour globally until Tuesday 20th of February 2024.

Amy Gledhill hosts A Lovely Time comedy night which always has impressive line-ups.

Eleanor Morton: Haunted House is previewing throughout 2024.

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