Review – Andrew Bird, Ha Ha Time, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 20th April 2019

Andrew Bird Ha Ha TimeThis was to be the last date in Andrew Bird’s first ever (I can’t believe it was his first ever) national tour, and appropriately enough, for a Northamptonshire lad, he returned to his spiritual home at the R&D. We’d seen Mr Bird do his stuff at Screaming Blue Murders in the past when he entertained us hugely with his twenty-minute sets. But could he sustain an entire evening on his own? By Jiminy he could!

Andrew Bird is a no-gimmick comedian; what you see is what you get. He doesn’t pick on the front rows, because, as he says, you never know what kind of mess you’re going to get into (so sitting on the front row, like we did, is safe!) He’s an immensely likeable chap; the kind you’d really want to spend time down the pub with. His delivery is sure, authoritative, confident and pacey, but never aggressive. And his material is full of the everyday observations that we all have about how ridiculous life is, but could never put into words ourselves. His turns of phrase are immaculate, as is his timing for the killer lines. And there is a warmth in his delivery that reassures you that all the teasing comes from a kind place – unsurprisingly, perhaps, considering how much of his material stems from his domestic bliss with his Slovakian wife and two incredibly difficult children.

Andrew BirdAmong his gems, we learned how so many of the problems that face women are named after men; how sometimes you can be relieved to be in the company of Millwall supporters; the problems of having a cream coloured settee with infants around; when you should, and shouldn’t, give someone a birthday card; and what you should really be thinking about when you give a sperm sample. I also loved his (100% accurate) portrayal of how posh people treat their friends in comparison with working class people. The beauty of his comedy is its recognisability; the show is two hours of pure truth, bundled together in a fantastically funny package.

When the time came to wrap up, I couldn’t believe the evening had flown by so quickly. Mrs Chrisparkle and I were laughing about it all the way home, and, indeed, a few days later, we’re still quoting our favourite bits. This is a performer for whom surely greatness awaits – if not, there’s no justice in this world. If you get the chance to see him in action, don’t hesitate!

P. S. As this was the end of his tour, he was having the show properly and professionally videod and edited for future audiences to see what they missed. We noted there was a tiny wee camera at the foot of the stage looking directly out at the crowd – and, from what we could gather, aimed firmly in our faces. Apologies in advance if we ruined the video!!!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 16th May 2014

Martin CoyoteIt’s always sad when we reach the final Screaming Blue Murder of the season, but at least the people of Northampton gave it a good send-off with another packed house last Friday night. Our MC for this show was Martin Coyote, who we’ve seen before doing his usual act but not as compere. He was superb – lightly keeping everyone well behaved for the acts but also sharing some stonking good material with us. He’s got a great stage persona – wry and rather cynical but still upbeat and positive. He kept the show going superbly and had the majority of the best lines of the night.

Javier JarquinOur first act was new to us, Javier Jarquin. He’s an interesting blend of Chinese and Latino all wrapped up in a Kiwi accent. He comes over as very likeable, with some really excellent material, including how a newcomer to a country can be confused by the shop names, the (highly significant) differences between “it” and “that”, how furnishing a bed changes when you get a girlfriend, and how a pavlova can pale into insignificance when talking to a Croatian. He had both Mrs Chrisparkle and me in hysterics when he equated asking his girlfriend how her day was to accidentally hitting “Print All” on the computer. Great delivery, and really funny. He’s a magician too – would be good to see him do some magic another time!

Helen ArneyOur second act was Helen Arney, also new to us, and, really unfortunately, it all went a bit Pete Tong. Her act is based on her persona of being a science nerd, and doing comedy songs that reflect that. To be honest, I didn’t think she looked or acted particularly nerdy so that persona didn’t convince me. She seemed nervous and somewhat shouty, and rushed the early parts of the act a bit, and I think got put off when the laughs didn’t come. She then forgot her lines in her first comedy song, lost even more confidence, and at that point we lost confidence in her. Her final song, about having a lover in a coma, was extremely dark and savage and would probably have worked if we’d kept faith in her act – but I’m afraid we hadn’t, so it didn’t. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Andrew BirdLast act was someone we had seen before, and remembered as being brilliant, local lad Andrew Bird. He was runner-up in the 2012 Chrisparkle Awards for best Screaming Blue Stand-up, beaten only by the fantastic Mr Paul Sinha. Andrew Bird’s attack and confidence are just astounding, because they are so perfectly pitched. He has just the right level of enthusiasm for you to fully engage in the pictures of domestic or parental harmony he is painting, with wonderful observations that capture true comedy moments. We loved his material about marketing a lavender scented child’s bath lotion, to calm bath time for a two-year-old into a chilled experience – and the contrast with the bottle of Matey that we all had when we were kids that bleached everything in sight. So much brilliant material, and the audience absolutely loved him.

And that is indeed it, until the next season starts again on 12th September. Get it in your diary now!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Derngate, Northampton, 20th January 2012

Screaming Blue MurderA funny thing happened at the Screaming Blue Murder last Friday night, which is no less than you would expect with a great compere, three excellent acts and two alcohol-fuelled intervals. We’ve not been able to attend the last couple of shows so it was with some surprise that Dan Evans, compering, said he was still on the search for “the man who has been writing about him on the internet”. Mrs Chrisparkle’s penny dropped as she shuddered and whispered “keep quiet!” “So where is this Chris Sparkle?” Dan continued. It was The Moment of Outing. “It’s me!” came my voice from the third row. “You? At last I meet my nemesis!” shrieked Dan as his body contorted in a combination of victory and agony. Aaargh, I thought, this could be a very bumpy ride. But there’s no free speech without responsibility, so I faced it head on. I admit, I have been guilty of whingeing about Dan’s repeating the same jokes time and again in this blog, but then not quite as much as Dan is guilty of the afore-mentioned repeatings.

Dan Evans But actually Dan turned this very much to his advantage and was able to frame the compering of the show around my impertinent requirement for fresh material, which very nicely took the mick out of both of us. There was a great moment during one of his sessions when a lady from the front row suggested he did his joke about Luton and the book. A two-pronged attack! In response to which he did a great routine about why doing that joke would not work – and it was very funny. Maybe that should be a regular feature when Dan is compering in future – a request slot? Someone could ask for their favourite Old-Tyme Dan joke. Might go down a storm. As a peace-offering, at the end he gave me a copy of his book, which was very kind. But I had to return it after the show as I already bought a copy over a year ago.

Colin OwensAnyway, to the acts, and they were really great this week. First was Colin Owens, who had very funny insights into bad sex experiences and a nice line in combining this with his progression to baldness; very bright and inclusive, perhaps with just slightly too long a pause between some of his deliveries that made me think “oh no, please don’t lose it, it’s going really well”; but he didn’t, and it did. I loved his observations about having a Bar Mitzvah at Madame Tussauds.

Susan MurraySecond was Susan Murray, who we had seen here before doing a lot of accent-based gags, but who did largely new material (take note!) and handled a heckler very amusingly. Mrs C appreciated her observation that you only have a landline so your mother can ring it. Good stuff, and she kept the act moving really well.

Andrew BirdHeadline act was local lad Andrew Bird. What a discovery! I don’t think any of the comics who have entertained us over the three years we’ve been coming to Screaming Blue Murder have achieved such gold-standard delivery. His timing was immaculate, pacey and flowing but never rushed, giving just the right window to appreciate the now before moving on to the next; his self-confidence meant you never had a moment’s concern for how he would structure the act although this didn’t mean he was in any way big-headed but instead was immensely likeable; and you really identified with him in the comic situations he described, because his observations were so spot-on. Mrs C and I had a prolonged good laugh walking home as we remembered his account of putting the baby in the dishwasher. It’ll have to be a very special performance that snatches this year’s Chrisparkle award from Mr Bird.

So a great night, with a huge and appreciative crowd, slightly weird for me with my unexpected role in the evening’s entertainment, but we’re really looking forward to the next one!