Hurrah for the return of the Screaming Blue Murder autumn season, from the hot and sweaty depths of the Underground in the Royal and Derngate – but at least it doesn’t smell of damp anymore. Not going to criticise it though, as it’s a perfect venue for this kind of comedy club.
A good crowd – which featured not only Mrs Chrisparkle and myself, but also My Lady Duncansby, the Baron von Badby and the Duchess of Duston – saw Dan Evans introduce the usual line up of three super comics and two lovely intervals. Dan was on very good form – effortless in his interaction with the front rows, and dispensing lots of new material (phew! Good stuff!) even if the one old joke he told was the one that got the biggest laugh.
First up was Ola; Olawale Gbaja-Biamila according to Chortle, or Olathecomedian according to Twitter. New to us, it was stimulating to have some intelligent, thoughtful observations to start the evening off, and I admired how he was absolutely in control of the pace of his set, carrying us all along with him, dropping in the funny lines and quirky ideas exactly when he wanted. Lots of pauses, but I had complete confidence in him to see out each thread to its intended outcome. I liked the use of “urban charm” – you’ll have to watch his act to see how that gets included – and also he had a nice form of self-deprecation – one where he allows us to get humour out of his (apparent) slight bigheadedness. When he said he was a Christian you could hear a pin drop – superb timing.
The other two acts we had seen before. Pierre Hollins was next, and I remember him as being full of attack, with lots of hard-hitting material, and he was just the same this time – if slightly better. He’s very good at presenting you with situations as experienced by an ordinary bloke (whatever that is) and I certainly found myself recognising a lot of the funny observations he made. A bit coarse, but in a friendly way. A couple of bizarre songs on the guitar at the end weren’t as strong as the rest of his material, so it didn’t quite finish on a high, but he probably got the loudest applause of the night anyway.
The headline act was Tony Law, who we thought also had improved a lot from the last time he was here. He has a very surreal act; he instantly launches into another world populated by his imagination, which to me only partly makes sense and even less makes for humour. I can’t describe his world – I’m afraid I simply don’t recognise it. This level of surrealism must be a dangerous comedic ploy – if the audience isn’t “getting it”, there’s really nowhere to go; you’re in so deep that you can’t backtrack and start again on a different tack. Last time he was here he was heckled pretty mercilessly and didn’t cope well with it – he got defensive and – frankly – a bit arsey with the hecklers (who were funnier than he was). This time the Northampton audience was much more polite. And although I didn’t really get his act, and I noticed stony silence from Mrs C and Lady D, and drooping eyelids from the Baron, the Duchess of Duston at the end of the row was rocking back and forward with hysteria. Humour is such a subjective thing. His African and Indian elephant routine at the end was a masterstroke though, and I loved it. You had to be there.
Another bunch of comics in two weeks time – already looking forward to it!