A new year and a new season of Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights at the Derngate – always something to look forward to, as the capacity crowd last Friday testifies. Our host was Dan Evans, and he was on excellent form with some great new material (thanks Dan!) nicely interlaced with some old favourites, and his appearances went down a storm.
We had previously seen two of the three acts a couple of years ago, when they were blisteringly brilliant. First was Paul Kerensa, who we saw in February 2011 and who indeed came third in the 2011 Chrisparkle Awards for Screaming Blue Murder stand-up. Again he was extremely good. I’m no prude but I do like the way he can get a full room of slightly inebriated young people laughing their heads off without using swearing as part of his act. He’s recently had eye surgery and used that for a lot of new material that was really funny and thought-provoking. He did his routine about grandparents’ names again, which still creates a lot of laughs as he involves the crowd in the discussion. I also loved his references to an Ikea cabinet, I’ll say no more.
Originally booked for the second slot was Loretta Maine but a last minute change introduced us instead to Ninia Benjamin, whom we haven’t seen before. She looks funny – so you’re more or less laughing before she opens her mouth. When she does get going, it’s a stream of utter filth – not much subtlety – but she’s extremely funny with it. It’s a full-on, high octane performance; and when she started manipulating the microphone in a certain suggestive way, she had the full attention of all the gentlemen in the audience, which is probably why she got a huge reaction at the end (so to speak). She’s very self-deprecating too, which always comes over well on stage. You couldn’t take your mother to see her.
Headline act was Rob Heeney, who we saw in April 2011 and who was in fact the lucky recipient of that year’s Chrisparkle Award for best SBM stand-up. So I know, for a fact, that he is a very very funny comic. However, for whatever reason, his act simply failed to ignite. I think Ms Benjamin is so overpowering that she’s more or less impossible to follow. I won’t dwell any more on his material because it’s tried, tested and good stuff but it just failed to land.
If I may use a wine analogy here (and as it’s my blog, I’m going to do so anyway) it was like having and 12% Pinot Grigio followed by a 14% Australian Shiraz and ending up with a 12.5% Pouilly-Fumé. You simply couldn’t taste the Loire after the Barossa Valley even though it was top quality. I think if Loretta Maine had still been on the bill it would have been better balanced. Hey ho; some you win, some you don’t. Next show in two weeks!