Review – Dane Baptiste, Reasonable Doubts, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 19th March 2016

D BaptisteI can’t think of any occasion where, as a rule, quantity outweighs quality. Let me just double-check that in my head…. Certainly, at least, it applies when it comes to comedy audiences. For Friday night’s Screaming Blue Murder, a packed house started off by being very quiet and weird. For Saturday night, and Dane Baptiste’s Reasonable Doubts show, at the same venue, with the same layout, a much more select group of us had a whale of a time right from the start. It all started when the two ladies who apparently met at the venue were joking with everyone waiting outside and then entering the auditorium (actually, auditorium’s a bit of a posh word for the Underground – it’s more of a room really.) Then the Mum ‘n’ Son in the front row decided to do selfies on the stage – and there was something so silly about what they were doing that it made us all laugh. By the time Mr Baptiste’s disembodied voice welcomed us in and introduced the support act, we were all very jovial indeed.

E AkbarSo, on to our support act – Eshaan Akbar. I know my Indian architecture – he must be related to the son of the man who built the Taj Mahal. Mr Akbar cracked us up with his opening gambit that he’s not a GP – because he absolutely looks the spitting image of one; probably one on a BBC serial that’s been going on for too long on Saturday nights. Mr Akbar disarmingly relaxes and entertains us with some great material and plenty of interaction with the crowd – to be honest, given the kind of people sitting at the front of the audience, there was no way any performer would be able to ignore them. A lot of his material stems from his “ex-Muslim” standpoint, which nicely takes the Mick out of racism; but there’s much more to it than that. He’s a naturally funny and likeable guy and I reckon he could Go Places. Especially if his nephew leaves his rucksack on the train seats. (His joke, not mine.)

After an early interval and a top-up of Shiraz, it was back in for our main act, Dane Baptiste. If you’ve read any of my other recent blogs, gentle reader, where we’ve been to a stand-up comedy gig and I didn’t know anything remotely about the performer – well, this is yet another one of those. I recognised the name – after all, it’s quite a swanky, memorable one – and I think I might have caught him on the TV in something, but I’m afraid it didn’t stick. I liked the fact that the show was going to be in the Underground, as it would give it a more informal, fringey, comedy club vibe, which I think definitely benefited it.

Eshaan AkbarMr Baptiste (I feel with a name like that I should call him Monsieur) is another very likeable chap who comes on stage with an authoritative air and a sense of discipline. You get the feeling that if you were to misbehave he would fix you with a steely gaze and you’d quickly be begging forgiveness. He had a very cool and plain speaking way of dealing with – well you couldn’t really call them hecklers as such, they just wanted to participate in the show a little too forwardly. But at the same time it doesn’t remotely surprise you that he goes off at a hilarious tangent whenever he sees fit, so there’s a huge sense of fun there just waiting for an escape valve. After all, you’re not attending a lecture.

Dane Baptiste1But he does create a lot of humour out of serious observations or situations. Take, for instance, his concern about his position on the Nasblaq index. In one small and extremely funny routine he raises issues of race, celebrity, self-confidence (or lack thereof) and more, all born out of one creative pun which reveals him to be a rather superior wordsmith too. I also enjoyed how he created an innocently friendly character out of “Virginity”, sweetly chatting from one of his shoulders while “Libido” growls like a randy Bad Idea Bear from the other. I can’t remember how, but Mrs Chrisparkle and I got gently roped into part of the act as we were asked how long we’d been together (answer – an awfully long time.) It can often be a sweaty moment when a comedian addresses you – but I was confident that M. Baptiste wouldn’t be one of those comics who made you regret sitting near the front so long as you’re nicely behaved. And I was right.

Dane BOne small thing – but something I do admire in a comic – there was very little swearing from M. Baptiste. The F word and its associated friends can certainly play a part in a comedy gig but it was refreshing to watch an act that didn’t rely on it at all. I reckon that if you can create a series of funny sequences and not have to swear once, it means you’ve really been cooking with those creative juices. Good work!

A really enjoyable, thoughtful and thoroughly hilarious evening of comedy. Dane Baptiste is touring through till May, and I would really recommend his show if you appreciate a good laugh!

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