Warm and welcoming, and of course very funny, Justin Moorhouse compères this inaugural event, billed as a celebration of some of the best new stand-up comedy in the area. The event offers seven stand-up comedians – five men and two women – slots of ten minutes each and the chance to compete for a trophy and cash prize.

First up is Peter Brush, who walks onto the stage and delivers his routine with wandering eyes and a nervous demeanour, which cleverly matches his self-deprecating humour. Early on, he tells us it’s “nice being out of the house”. With some choice gags about his confusion at being sacked for making sexual advances – “I just thought that meant you were getting better” – and health advice for prolonging your life, it all sits skilfully within an act which moves between ‘true’ and misguided self-awareness.

Second, Tom Little rushes onto the stage with a “Hello, Manchester!” He’s a fidgety character with erratic eye movement. He plays around with darker humour, undercuts his own jokes with literal answers and reels off incongruous and inventive possibilities to classics such as, “What’s black and white and red/read all over?” His observations on the painful, pedantic conversations from real life are taken to an amusing extreme.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean dives into some well-crafted bad taste humour from manipulating older relatives to secure inheritance and anecdotes about her relationship, broodiness and fears of being barren. I particularly enjoyed the routine about being mistaken for a prostitute and she skilfully brings everything full circle for a pay off at the end.

Next is Pritchard-McLean’s colleague from the very hard-working and talented Gein’s Family Giftshop, James Meehan, who comes straight in with anecdotes from his relationship and an especially amusing piece about the problems of talking dirty when you’re a feminist. His list of ‘inventive’ dates cements him as ‘one of us’ and his rapport with the audience confirms this.

Penella Mellor – great name – slides in on her slow, silky voice, at odds with her topics of choice. Her dark humour focuses on the realities of having kids – from disdain at the school-made crafts they return home with to the state they leave your body in – the aesthetics of vaginas and why God chose to put them where he did. The contrast between delivery and content adds an edge that is original and very appealing.

Tom Short is a cool cat in a pleather jacket, which he playfully tosses to one side, ready for action. Nervy, lip-biting and leg-kicking, he is probably the performer who wins the audience over most immediately. Anecdotes about chatting up girls in the “discotheque” and a more conversational style means he successfully earns the audience’s help in creating a joke which only whales would understand. He left a smile on my face long after he had left the stage.

Finally, Chris Washington builds up a rapport with the audience through poking fun at his much-loved Rugby League. He moves on to tell us of his experiences as a postman, enduring endless repetitive quips from the people on his rounds and observations on the differences between men and women when it comes to answering the door in a state of undress.

Overall, the night was a great opportunity to see slices from Manchester’s up-and-coming comedy performers. The audience were invited to vote for their favourite act, the votes were counted and Chris Washington came out on top. But as Justin astutely joked at the start, the number of votes you get often depends on how many friends you have in the audience that night. So, really, each act shares the achievement of being invited to perform and being identified as a possible Breakthrough Comedian of the Year. My top choices were Peter Brush for his excellent one-liners and Tom Short for his inventiveness and endearing sense of honesty.

 

Julie Burrow