Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd October 2021

Dan EvansScreaming Blue Murder time again, and our party of five braved the increasing Covid numbers to sit as safely as possible by locating the Underground’s new ventilation panels and plonking ourselves under them. Another full house, all expectantly awaiting the 8pm start for a cracking night of comedy. But, come five past eight, where was our loveable host Dan Evans? Still hurtling up the motorway, as it happens. A massive traffic jam held him up Brighton-way and he was never going to make it on time as a result.

Kevin ShepherdThus it was that our first act, Kevin Shepherd, had to introduce both himself, the audience and his act all at the same time – and an excellent job he made of it too. We’d not seen him before, but he has a confident, relaxed style and an engaging manner, which worked well with his getting to know the front row punters, including regular Tom – whom it was decided would speak for the entire audience (and indeed town), and the family of recycling operatives. He had some excellent material which included the nitty-gritty of a drunk date, the majesty that is Bognor Regis, and how when you keep your mask in your trouser pocket too long you discover exactly how testicles smell (that was the truest observation of the night). He also made a number of references to life with his wife, which was perhaps unsurprising as…

Diane SpencerOur second act was the wonderful Diane Spencer, whom we’ve seen many times and never fails to delight with her posh but filthy persona. She also happens to be married to Kevin, which they never made obvious, but I expect a large number of the audience will have twigged. As she often does, she had lots of great material about sexual shenanigans including getting repetitive strain injury in bed and achieving a personal best. But there was a bit of an odd vibe in the audience, and a slight comedy reticence in the air; whether they were put out by Dan’s late arrival – he was able to take over the MC’ing after a while and was his usual jovial self – or whether our biorhythms were out of kilter I don’t know, but Diane did have to work perhaps a bit harder than usual to get the laughs. But she still got them.

Andre VincentOur headline act was Andre Vincent, a comedian of long standing reputation, and whom we’ve seen twice before. He started off with a brilliant gag about self-identification, but maybe it was because of the generally lacklustre audience, or indeed the two young women in the front row who didn’t laugh at anyone or anything, but his energy and comic inspiration seemed to go awol from time to time. His routine centred on two longish stories that he had told on both occasions we’d seen him before, and, although there were laughs a-plenty, somehow the whole thing didn’t go quite to plan. It happens. He’s a gifted comic and a naturally funny guy, but on this occasion, it didn’t quite soar.

Another Screaming Blue in the offing in November – already looking forward to it!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 13th October 2017

Dan EvansBack for another Screaming Blue Murder at the Royal and Derngate, with Dan Evans in charge (as usual) with a motley crew of punters some of whom were a bit tricky vis-à-vis letting their Friday night mood take over. But we did have the man who makes the plastic pieces that create the folds in the manufacture of cardboard boxes… so that’s all good then. There was Chris the birthday boy and Robin the front row chap who I could tell was a challenge just from looking at the back of his head. And then there was the lady directly in front of me; more of her later.

Funmbi OmotayoWe’d seen all the acts before but they were all on cracking form; when that happens it’s like choosing your favourite pizza toppings because you don’t always need to try something different. Our first act was Funmbi Omotayo, whom we saw last year at the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s a disarmingly charming, friendly guy who uses his humour to challenge some notions of racism but he does it oh so kindly. I loved his take on how he ought to be a real tough dude, overflowing with intimidating attitude, but it doesn’t work because he can’t stop his coquettish little smile peeping through. He’s got some great material, including changing a tyre with the police, a glance at the Paralympics and his analysis of living in Hackney. He even gave us some political observations; that’s normally a kiss of death in Northampton because for some reason collectively we just don’t care, but he actually hit the mark with that too. Very likeable, very funny, and a great way to start the night.

Eleanor TiernanNext up was Eleanor Tiernan, whom we saw at Screaming Blue Murder last year when she was slow to warm up but then exploded. This time she was absolutely on the ball from the start. With that lovely Irish lilt to her voice, she has a wonderfully self-deprecating style, bringing in some subtle Brexit material by revealing that she had no idea that Ireland was in the EU. As usual she really comes to the fore when she’s (comically) examining aspects of the vagina – I won’t spoil it for you but she shared the most fantastic metaphor which still has me laughing out loud three days later. She also looks on hand dryers in exactly the same way as I do. A brilliant routine.

Andre VincentOur last act was André Vincent, whom we last saw at precisely the same Screaming Blue last year as Eleanor Tiernan… is this significant? We should be told! He’s the kind of chap you can imagine was a right Jack-the-Lad 25 years ago, and probably not much has changed since. He told us the problems of growing up as an André in Brixton, and survival at the Bestival Festival; he’s got a winning way about him in the same way you’d have fun with one of your dad’s mates who ought to know better. He was given a classic opportunity to go off-piste when the lady directly in front of me (see paragraph one) suddenly nodded off during his routine in the most dramatic way, head lolling all over the place, obviously taken into that very deep slumber moment when even a fire alarm wouldn’t wake her up. André’s reaction was hysterical, suggesting we all tiptoe off and leave her to wake up in the morning; when she did come back to the land of the living she was left in no doubt that her ten minutes of coma hadn’t gone unnoticed. By everyone. He rounded off his set with a great story about him meeting milfs in Halifax when he was a youngster. Beautifully told, and really funny.

An excellent night’s comedy! It’s on again in two weeks, but sadly we can’t make that one… line up looks great too…. You’ll have to let me know how it went!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 12th February 2016

Screaming Blue MurderI knew something had been missing from my life – this was our first Screaming Blue Night since 9th October! That’s four months Cold Turkey! So it was great to see an extremely full house last Friday night, so much so that they had to cram some extra seats curving round the front of the stage. In fact, I was at the box office earlier in the week when a chap came up to speak to the assistant next to me to book for the show, and was told, sorry, it’s sold out. The poor chap walked away very crestfallen.

Dan EvansGreat to see Dan Evans back in his rightful place as Master of Ceremonies. Ceremoniously he quizzed those poor folk in reaching distance about their jobs, relationships, homes and so on, much to their discomfort and our amusement. It’s the way these things work. It was only when it was time to start the applause to welcome on the first act that I realised something was wrong. Angling his microphone stand at semi-erect he encouraged us to roar at two-thirds of the volume of which we were capable (of). I knew the drill – starting with a faded cheer which progressively gets louder and louder. Except – silence. A split-second of horror on Dan’s face. I let out a very muted “hooray”. All on my own. Oh God, the embarrassment. Of course Dan shamed us all into a proper reception for our first act, but it didn’t feel right. And that slightly muted response set the tone for most of the rest of the evening, even with a full house. Weird or what?

Ross McGrane In an unusual turn of events, all three comics were new to us. Our first act was Ross McGrane, a jolly young fellow who you sensed was trying very hard but for whatever reason the material wasn’t coming out naturally. He never really got a good rhythm going, and a few times there was a pause that lasted just slightly longer than was comfortable. I think a drunker, meaner audience might have started heckling – but we were extremely well behaved. Too much swearing for my liking – I’m no prude, but I think the F word needs to be your backup in a humorous situation rather than replacing the humour itself. And his final gag – which took quite a long while in the setting-up – was really awfully unfunny. With some better material he could well go places. However, I really did love his line about why he was glad to have a daughter and not a son. You’ll have to guess what it is.

Eleanor TiernanSecond up was Eleanor Tiernan, who has the advantage of a rather charming Irish accent, and plenty of attack in her delivery. Again, some of her material just wasn’t quite funny enough – or maybe relevant enough. There were a few observations about Irish history and the relationship between Ireland and England that would probably have been much funnier had we been in Dublin. However, halfway through her act she turned a corner and gave us some terrific stuff. My notes read: “great vagina material” – I’ll leave you to surmise the rest. And she has a most innovative suggestion for the cause for yeast infections – really very funny indeed.

Andre VincentOur headline act was Andre Vincent, and considerably more mature and experienced (in a good way) than either of the first two comics. He finally managed to prise good quality laughter out of our rather dour audience with nice free-flowing stories that amused and entertained and then moved on before they got too detailed. Decently self-deprecating, with a confident delivery and we all went home in a much better mood than when we arrived.