Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 9th March 2023

Tom ToalHurrah for another packed house upstairs at the Bradlaugh to see the next Comedy Crate extravaganza – with Tom Toal hosting three great acts for us all to enjoy. Tom was excellent at getting to know everyone in the front few rows, including regular updates on how Gemma’s mum was doing (not well apparently), the green suit man who’s into pet insurance, and all the girls who work at Giggle Café. He’s got a bright and lively style about him and put us all at our ease to enjoy the show.

Finlay ChristieUnusually for us, all three acts were new to us, so that made for a fascinating evening of comedy! First up was Finlay Christie, a 23-year-old self-styled posh boy, with a set all about being a young Generation Z chap. I loved his material about seeking out older women for a relationship and his observations on the class system. He’s a terrific comedy craftsman, with a superb ability to hold our attention. His final joke (and an incredibly funny one) took a long time to deliver with lots of vital pauses and silences; many a comic would have had the crowd growing restless under such circumstances, but he had wound us around his little finger and were glued to our seats to hear the punchline. This young man will go far, Mark My Words.

Ricky BalshawNext up was Ricky Balshaw, a naturally funny guy whose act centres on his life with cerebral palsy, and he’s not afraid to go into detail. Some of that material can be a little hard to take, but it’s his life and his reality, so if anyone is entitled to address it – it’s him! Blessed with excellent comic timing he has an excruciating tale about diarrhoea which had the entire audience squirming in hilarity. Good comedy should sometimes challenge the audience – and this was very good comedy.

Helen BauerOur headliner was Helen Bauer, who had the audience in the palm of her hand from the word Go, with terrific material from the point of view of an assertive woman, including her conclusions about Supersize v Superskinny, how life changes at 30, why German is sexy, and the incremental benefits of drinking three bottles of wine at a sitting. Full of attack, and with observations that never fail to hit home, she had us in hysterics the whole time. Apparently, she is returning for the Comedy Crate’s Summer Festival – where she will be a must-see.

Our next Comedy Crate gig will be at the Waterside Bar on the University of Northampton Campus in a couple of weeks – looking forward to it!

Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 9th February 2023

Another sell-out crowd upstairs at the Bradlaugh to see the latest serving of comedy from those nice people at the Comedy Crate. Our host for the evening was Will Duggan, an amiable chap who sets up a great rapport with the audience, mining the audience for golden nuggets that can be used later; and, as an audience we didn’t disappoint. There were Ed and San-D, who couldn’t remember how many times they’d got married; Will Dugganthere was Mark with the dashing moustache who looked like he’d floated in on the nearest gondola; and peppered around the room were more administrators than you can shake a stick at. Will kept the action going splendidly and prepared us all for a great night.

Michael FabbriFirst up, and someone who we’ve seen once before and really enjoyed, was Michael Fabbri, who wastes no time getting straight in with the funny, class-based observations, like to what extent do you trust a pilot with a working-class accent, or how do you react to overheard conversations in a campsite. He did his routine about not being able to find the door in a hotel room, which we’d heard before but is always worth a re-run. He has a very funny sequence about watching a guy at night at his bedroom window, and what happens when you have to resort to pretending to sneeze. Absolutely brilliant material, all told with disarming charm and wicked timing. Superb!

Sam NicorestiOur second act, and someone new to us, was Sam Nicoresti, who takes us on his journey of sexual- and gender-identity discovery which is intriguing and enlightening if not always laugh-a-minute. I enjoyed their conclusion that they’re gender queer even though they’re not sure what that means, and I loved their material about scattering ashes at Cleethorpes (not to be recommended, by the sound of it). They also have a great solution for how to overcome the current indifference towards the Royal Family. Entertaining and enjoyable, I reckon the belly laughs will come in due course with increased confidence.

Colin HoultOur headliner, and a fairly late replacement to the advertised programme, was Colin Hoult in his persona as… Colin Hoult, having only known him before as the amazing Anna Mann, winner of last year’s Chrisparkle Award for Best of the Rest in Edinburgh. Colin is returning to old-fashioned stand up, and judging by last night’s performance it’s going to be a winner. From his opening gambit that all men should call each other babe (I might try it this weekend) through an examination of his family background and the characteristics of that multi-faceted bunch of people, he has brilliant comic observations about class and behaviour which he weaves into a constant conversation with the audience. He has this amazing ability to connect with each of us individually, so that it feels like a private meeting; I guess it’s that sense of genuine sincerity in everything he says. He has a terrific sequence about using Ouija boards – and I was truly surprised at how many members of the audience have done it! If you enjoy Anna, you’ll recognise her lurking not too far beneath Colin’s surface, but it’s none the worse for that! A terrific end to the evening.

Our next meetup with the Comedy Crate at the Bradlaugh is on March 9th – you ought to come along!

Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 12th January 2023

CC Jan 23First comedy gig of the year and a sell out night at the Bradlaugh for what turned out to be an excellent night of laughter courtesy of the Comedy Crate. Our MC for the evening was Stephen Carlin, who nicely uses his slightly dour Scottish persona to good advantage, and is excellent at riffing off the crowd with whatever fascinating nuggets they reveal. There was plenty of mileage to be gained from Darren, the audience’s self-appointed Witchfinder General, Chris, Stephen Carlinwho wouldn’t take his coat off, and the wrongly-accused-of-being-a-fascist, Holly. He had some great material about climate change and drugtaking, and took great control of the evening.

Our first act, and new to us, was Jacob Hawley, a likeable London lad with an attacking, slightly in-your-face style, living with the joy of having a lockdown baby because creating her was the only thing he and his partner could do in Jacob Hawley2020. The crowd gave him lots to work with, including having some better lines than himself, which he was happy to acknowledge! He has a great sequence about being asked to do a most unconventional gig at a Drive-In Movie, and does a brilliant impersonation of a lapdog. Very entertaining – he will be returning to the Bradlaugh for a longer gig in April.

Next up was Kate Martin, whom we had relatively recently seen at the same venue as she was a contestant Kate Martin(if that’s the right word) in the Northampton heat of The British Comedian of the Year. She is so sure-footed on stage, and you sense that nothing could faze her. As before, the majority of her material is based on either her height or her sexuality, and on both counts she’s not backward in coming forward. Nicely self-deprecating, which helps her to set up a brilliant rapport with the audience, and, despite having heard some of the material only a few months ago, we loved every minute.

Nathan CatonOur headline act, and someone we’ve enjoyed seeing a few times, was Nathan Caton. He opened with an inspired callback to one of Stephen Carlin’s lines, which set us up for a great set. Recently married, he had some brilliant material about the costs of a wedding, faux-resentment about his mother re-marrying, and I loved his observations about now living in a middle-class area and wearing middle-class clothes. He is so quick-witted, and he nails every comic observation so that they hit home. All killers and no fillers, as someone once said. A great way to end the night.

There’s another gig at the Bradlaugh on February 9th – you should come!

Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 8th December 2022

Ben BriggsOur last comedy gig of the year, and another trip to the Charles Bradlaugh to see what the Comedy Crate had in store for us. Our host for the evening was the inimitable Ben Briggs, who sometimes had to work hard to get some response from the full but occasionally reticent crowd. Fortunately Mr B was on top form and came out with some cracking lines. Always a pleasure when he’s in charge.

david-morganOur first act, and the only one of the three whom we had seen before, was David Morgan, whose act is strongly based on his being gay and not being shy about it. We learned a lot about his new relationship and how he’d been in the London cast of Magic Mike – maybe literally, I’m not sure. Call me picky, but I’m never quite comfortable with an act who slags off your town before they’ve created a rapport; there are a whole host of things wrong with Northampton, but you need to earn a few stripes before taking the Mick out of us all. Lots of throwaway material, most of which lands; and a very lively and bubbly persona that certainly keeps us entertained.

Eric RushtonNext up was Eric Rushton, whose persona couldn’t be more different from David Morgan’s. His style is that of the classic underachiever and misfit who nevertheless thinks he’s cool – resulting in some very funny, laconic, self-deprecating humour that works extremely well. When he invites you to follow him on Facebook, he stands there and waits for you to get your phone out there and then, because too many people say they will and then they don’t. I loved the idea of playing Mental Health Strip Poker, and he put a fresh slant on many traditional stand-up subjects. Extremely funny, and I’d definitely like to see him again.

Mick FerryOur headliner act was Mick Ferry, a larger than life chap with a faux-aggressive style; you can tell he’s been about a bit and seen it all so that nothing could shock him – but he could probably shock you! Great material, very relatable, and provided the best laughs of the night. No one sleeps when he’s on.

Congratulations to the ever-expanding Comedy Crate for another year of fearless line-ups and multiple venues. Looking forward to another great new year!

Review – The Comedy Crate, Five Edinburgh Previews, The Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 3rd July 2022

Comedy Crate Jul 3Five Edinburgh Previews for a fiver each? Yes please! It was a full day at the Charles Bradlaugh pub on Sunday to watch these five (well, six really) eager young artists perfecting their comic offerings for our delectation and the future enjoyment of those lucky enough to go to the Fringe in August – including us! Two of these acts are previous winners of Chrisparkle Awards so you already know they’re going to be great. Bear in mind, of course, that all these shows are Work-in-Progress, so it’s unlikely that they’d be comedy perfection yet. One was, indeed, absolutely Edinburgh-ready; two were very close to getting there, and two still needed a fair bit of work, but that’s absolutely The Name of the Game, as Abba would have it. So let’s take them one by one…

Norris and Parker: Sirens (Monkey Barrel Comedy, 21:15, 3-28 August except 17th)

Norris and Parker“Let Piscean comedy duo Norris and Parker lure you into their fever dream for a surreal hour of wild, nautical madness. Debauched sketch comedy for lovers of the strange, the sordid, the musical and the dark.” That’s what it says on the Edinburgh Fringe website.

New to us, Norris and Parker are a chirpy couple who clearly have comedy coursing through their veins, and Sirens is a varied show with many highlights but also a few bits that need some refining. The opening number is great, with smart and witty lyrics, and I really loved their ITV drama sequence Deep Sh*t which beautifully assembled all those midweek 9pm northern drama clichés and took the mickey out of them. The interplay between the two performers works very well, hinting comically at all sorts of rivalries with their friendship, and there is lots to enjoy. Maybe the two Lighthouse sequences, where they’re performing Norris’ play, need some tightening up. But I’m sure this will be a great show on the Fringe.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

Markus Birdman – The Bearable Heaviness of Nearly Not Being (PBH’s Free Fringe @  Banshee Labyrinth, 17:10, 6-28 August except 9th, 16th and 23rd)

Markus Birdman“The award-winning comedian returns with his 15th solo show. Fresh from supporting Jason Manford on tour, including two nights at The Palladium. It’s about life. It’s about death. It’s about getting knocked down, and getting up again. It’s about laughing in the face of it all. It’s about an hour.” That’s according to the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Winner, not only of the Chrisparkle Award for the Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for 2013, but also the Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for the Decade in my 2020 Honours List, I’m already hooked when it comes to Mr Birdman – he only has to speak a few words and I’m in hysterics. This new show is absolutely ready for Edinburgh, and is a comic account (it could be nothing else) of his recent health journey (yes, the J word), having suffered a second stroke last year which has severely affected his sight. Its very personal nature gives it an unquestionable authority, and although we can’t fail to be moved by his plight, there’s no sense of self-indulgence or begging for sympathy; every observation is as razor-sharp and pinpoint accurate as usual, and the hour is literally crammed with fantastic and consistently top-grade material. Absolutely loved it, it’s going to be a Big Fringe Hit.

Edinburgh details here!

Mark Simmons: Quip Off the Mark (PBH’s Free Fringe @ Liquid Room Annexe/Warehouse, 13:45, 6-27 August, every day)

Mark Simmons“The Mock The Week panellist and master of one-liners returns with another show jam-packed with cleverly crafted jokes and improvised gags.” Taken from the Edinburgh Fringe website, with the spelling mistake corrected.

A regular Comedy Crate favourite, we’ve only recently seen Mark at the Albion Brewery in Northampton, and there aren’t many who think faster on their feet than him. The simple basis for this show is that he’s been emptying the loft at his mum’s house and found a box full of comedy memories from when he started stand-up. So he’ll tell a few jokes from his old joke book, share a few pieces of advice that he received from other established comedians, and link a few of these memories to some paintings that were also brought down from the attic. It’s fascinating to see Mark do a work-in-progress because he is so critical of his own material – if it doesn’t get the instant reaction he’s seeking, then it’s out; even though it’s still (in my eyes at least) a really good joke. There’s a wonderful callback saved right to the end which has been looming in plain sight all along but you don’t see it. When he’s decided which bits to keep and which to ditch, this show is going to be amazing. Mr S at his best – you don’t stop laughing all the way through.

Edinburgh details here!

Paul Sinha: One Sinha Lifetime (The Stand’s New Town Theatre, 16:40, 4-28 August except 16th)

Paul Sinha“In January 2020, Paul embarked on a national tour, his most ambitious show combining stand-up, music, hula-hooping and tales of romantic validation and neurological degeneration. As it turned out 2020 proved to be the wrong year to embark on a national tour. For everyone. Undeterred, Paul returns, with the difficult second post-diagnosis album. Expect jokes and surprises. Paul has a story to tell. And an absolute banger of a title.” Yes, you guessed it, that’s what the Edinburgh Fringe website says.

Winner of the Chrisparkle Awards for Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for both 2010 and 2012, and of course best known for being a Chaser on TV, Paul Sinha has an incredible gift for comedy and I’ve never seen him not deliver an absolute blinder of a routine. That said, as he himself pointed out, this was only the second Work-in-Progress show he’s scheduled for One Sinha Lifetime (agreed, great title) and there are about another fourteen to come – so he apologised in advance for the rough and readiness of his hour. And it’s true, there is a lot of work ahead of him to get this material – an account of his rise to the delicate balance of health and comedy he enjoys today – to come together. But it will, I have no doubt.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

Abandoman aka Rob Broderick: Discography (Underbelly, George Square, 21:25, 3-28 August except 15th and 22nd)

Abandoman“Using his innate ability to craft songs on the spot, Rob creates a full discography for a fictional artist created by you, the audience. Using a sample pad necklace to trigger high-production beats, Rob creates the kind of exhilarating live experience that has won him a string of awards, and the highest of international critical acclaim. He continues to sell out his Fringe runs in Edinburgh and Australia each year, wowing audiences wherever he plays.” It will come as no surprise that that’s a direct quote from the Edinburgh Fringe website.

I’d heard great things about Abandoman but never actually seen him before, so I was really looking forward to his set. Full of attack, interacting not only with the audience but with tech in a way you rarely see, he elicits nuggets of information from audience members and then turns them into song. It’s an act that requires not only incredible creativity but also one helluva memory. He even managed to get me up on stage to confess to something naughty I’d done when I was about nine (I’m not proud of it, but I had to be honest) which got converted to the medium of music. I sense he is using new tech for this show, which occasionally let him down and introduced pauses into the procedure that I guess are normally missing. Once he’s mastered the tech, this will be another big hit for him I am sure.

Edinburgh tickets available here!

An absolutely superb night of comedy – and there are still more Edinburgh Previews on their way, keep an eye open on the Comedy Crate website for details.

Review – The Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 10th March 2022

Comedy CrateTime for another of those excellent comedy nights at the Charles Bradlaugh courtesy of those nice people at The Comedy Crate, who had assembled a terrific cast of funny people for our entertainment. We were a top quality audience too, which really helped the evening go with a swing!

Cally BeatonOur MC for the night was Cally Beaton, new to us, but a very safe pair of hands to run the show. She has an excellent ability to dovetail between the acts,  sometimes referring to the themes that the other comics had mentioned, and that helped the show flow very easily. One of the unifying themes of the evening was people who worked in shops and it’s amazing how something as simple as that can really catch on as a source of spontaneous comedy, and Cally mined it to the full. She has a great rapport with the audience and a very warm and friendly style, and kept the spirit of the show high octane throughout the evening.

Jack GleadowOur first act, and someone we’ve only seen online before, was Jack Gleadow, a likeable young chap with brilliant delivery and a very pacey set. He’s another guy who instantly connects with the audience, with his unassuming but knowing style. He incorporates short sound and musical accompaniments to some of his act which works a treat. Trust me, you’ll never listen to Hot Butter’s Popcorn in quite the same way again. We also loved his observations about Primark, and how they don’t apply to Argos. Very assured, very funny.

Arielle SoumaNext up, and someone else new to us, was Arielle Souma, who plays on having that most irresistible of qualities – a sexy French accent – and mixes it with some brilliant comedy material about relationships. It’s a clever blend of physical self-deprecation and supreme self-confidence, and you can never tell which way she’s going to go at any point! We loved her take on having a relationship with someone else after your spouse has died; and she turns racism on its head to great comic effect. A terrific stage presence, she went down a storm with the audience.

Russell Hicks againOur headline act, and someone I always try to see whenever possible, was Russell Hicks, that master of creating fantasy comic scenarios from absolutely nothing. He discovered comedy gold with front row Jed and his amassed pals scattered around the audience, such as generous host Carrack, and Amir Amir (so good they named him twice?) who was interested in taking Russell’s spare hotel room. There was also a front row character named Sticky Mouse and I can’t quite remember how he gained that dubious epithet. Mr H has an extraordinary talent to think on his feet; as a result the entire audience were in hysterics the whole time. Amazing work!

The next gig at the Bradlaugh is on 14th April, but before then The Comedy Crate have an online fundraiser gig for Ukraine on Monday 14th, a new material night at the Wheatsheaf in Dallington on Tuesday 15th, and a special show on Sunday 27th at a secret venue in town. All the details can be found here!