Marissa's Manchester Comedy Festival Diary - The Lass O'Gowrie - 26th Oct

And back to Lass O'Gowrie tonight for their annual comedian of the year competition. Unlike some comps in the city this one's not regional and gathers in contestants from all over the country. It's a great opportunity to see what burgeoning talent is out there. I'd also been honoured with the task of judging alongside last year's winner Scott Bennett and club promoter Mike Taylor.

The heats of this, the fourth competition, had whittled the players down to a neat eight. Compere The One Like Fish popped up to warm the crowd through with some gags and a quiz prize of some furniture touch up pens (really, you can't go wrong with that). Then, with the unenviable task of going on first was Rob Coleman whose set contains an impressive amount of puns. He also has the kind of wild hair that is a gift to comedy – as Charlie Chuck would bear out. Up next was Big Lou, with big support in the crowd. He's got an amiable stage presence with which he couples some deceptively close to the bone material – he pulls no punches with polar bear material and his mum's rosewood dildo/ashes urn. Third in the first section was the impeccably turned out Helen Keeler (I wouldn't normally mention a lady's attire but it is part of her set and she obviously sets out to dress well). Her material was just as carefully crafted with with some nicely turned one-liners and wryly delivered punchlines. Rounding off the first bit was Sir Reginald Tweedy Duffer a lovely and uncannily accurate portrayal of an out of touch Tory MP who likes nothing more than to quote the Beastly Boys and Mr Morris of The Smiths.

Into the second section and Karl White. His stage presence is quiet and unassuming but belies a amusing anti-comedy device – 'I don't know where that one was going...' he says of a number of gags without delivering a punchline. Whether he's doing it on purpose frankly it's difficult to tell but nevertheless it makes for a beguiling and humorous set. David Stainer was thrown a little by an inconsiderate pissed up bloke who didn't get the concept of not heckling people in a comedy competition and so unsurprisingly seemed a little nervy but given some work his off-the-wall material could be on to something. Nick Cranston had a confident presence and opened his set doing stuff covering the fact that he is deaf, '1st rule of deaf club you don't talk about deaf club...'

Then last up was Justin Palmer with some smut, thus making a lady at the front blush and armed with his forensic torch he checked the audience for unseemly stains.

Following a second beer break Scott Bennett did a 15 minute set demonstrating why he won last year. He's got a great stage presence and his gag about his Yorkshireman Dad 'building' his meal at a pub carvery is a fab routine. And thus it was revealed that we'd decided that the winner was Helen Keeler with Sir Reginald Tweedy Duffer in second place and Karl White in third.

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