Review – JAM Comedy Club presents Comedy at the Ark, Northampton, 9th November 2016

The ArkI think it’s fair to say that, with all the events of 2016, every so often we need a damn good laugh. With the excellent news that last month’s first Comedy at the Ark show was a big success, a second show has followed on a month later and it looks like this is set to become a regular monthly gig – which is great for everyone concerned, especially us as we only live down the road!

mr-andyOur host for the evening was again the big, jovial Mr Andy, who has a deceptively innocent way of telling you a really dirty joke that you don’t realise is going to be really dirty until you get the punchline. There’s no gentle warm up with Mr Andy – he hits you with the big material right from the start. He asked if anyone had come to the first show last month – and a couple of us replied that we had – and he apologised, saying we’d have to pretend this was the first time we’d heard this material. Well at least he was honest about it! But if he’s going to be our regular monthly host he may have to get some new stuff for us to enjoy.

athena-kugblenuI really like the structure to the JAM Comedy club evenings; we start with an established performer; then after first interval we have two less well known comics; then after the second interval you get the headline act. It’s balanced and gives a chance for both experienced and new performers alike. Our first act last night was Athena Kugblenu, a very likeable performer with a bright, sparky personality and lots of great comic observations. Her material ranges from her Ghanain/Guyanan heritage to the origin of the tampon and with plenty in between. Her description of a wet perm is spot on and she created some wonderful images about dealing with dreadlocks. A very funny and entertaining performer!

stu-woodingsNext up was Stu Woodings, a funny man with a guitar and not afraid to use it; he had a great song inspired by a paint pot that cleverly poked fun of DIY jargon; and another that seemed to be a paean to paedos, which is a bold step and certainly sorts the men out from the boys at a comedy club. He comes across as a very engaging and confident guy and we all really enjoyed his act. jake-pickfordHot on his heels came Jake Pickford, a young chap with a very relaxed approach and a rather hippy, laconic way about him; I don’t think I would be his typical audience member but I thought his different style worked extremely well. His material was very funny and characterfully delivered and he held a very good rapport with the audience.

andy-whiteOur headline act was the brilliant Andy White, whom we saw at the Screaming Blue Murder club four years ago and is still on absolutely top form. Dressed like a Pot Black competitor from the 1970s, he draws on a variety of threads to create an act full of funny faces, characters, voices and ideas. It’s not exactly surreal, with his references to his family and Birmingham, but it’s strangely other-worldly at the same time. I’m delighted to see that Nelson Mandela is still in the act. He went down a storm and must have easily given us forty minutes of great comedy.

Another very successful night! You can find out when the next comedy gig is by keeping an eye on The Ark’s Facebook page!

Review – JAM Comedy Club presents Comedy at the Ark, Northampton, 12th October 2016

The ArkA few weeks ago, a flyer popped into my letter box, advertising a comedy night at the Ark Restaurant, in Midsummer Meadow, Northampton. That’s only a short distance from us. I’d seen that the Ark was – shall we say – being underused at the moment; so it seemed not only an excellent idea for it to be the location for a comedy club but also for us to go along and check it out. I’m happy to report back that it’s a great venue for an intimate’s night comedy. Not sure what its total capacity is, but I reckon there were about 35 or so of us there last night and it felt comfortably full but not squished. By the way, I can recommend the Malbec at £15 per bottle – good quality and tasty; we didn’t sample the light bites but they looked and smelled delish.

mr-andyJAM Comedy Club is new to me and I hadn’t come across any of the acts before (although I had of course heard of the final act, if you read on…) Our host for the night was Mr Andy, a big engaging chap with a relaxed way about him, who obviously wants to have as much fun from the evening for himself, just as much as he wants us to enjoy it too. He has some great material, some of which he spins off his own blindness in a way that’s genuinely funny – and I liked how he generously bigged up the excellent, also blind, Chris McCausland too.

pete-teckmanOur first act was local man Pete Teckman. He’s a naturally very funny guy, who you sense has built up his range of comic material from a lifetime of unglamorous living (and I mean that kindly). He had some terrific jokes about… well, sex, mainly; the method of his sperm count test and his personal accounts of enjoying oral sex come to mind, if you’ll pardon the expression. He has some great recollections about his German ex-girlfriend, and I really loved the throwaway line about seeing Predator at the cinema. He has an excellent stage presence and a strong, confident voice and manner, and is someone I’d definitely like to see again!

a-burgessUnfortunately, he proved a hard act to follow, and, given there was an interval as well, it was very difficult for our second act, Anthony Burgess, to regain the momentum that Mr Teckman had set up. For whatever reason, he failed to make a connection in his first few interactions, and basically he spent the rest of his act treading water. He did a fairly lengthy sequence about someone or something called Screech, from some programme we had never seen (Saved by the Bell, I remember now) and it meant absolutely nothing to us. Nevertheless, he has very good comic timing, and obviously can incorporate music into his routine too, so maybe with some better material and a more confident delivery he could do well.

reverend-henry-kingHot on his heels came the Reverend Henry King, the Bishop of Bletchley. I have a sneaking suspicion, gentle reader, that he may have falsified his ordination certificate and isn’t really a bishop at all. It’s a great persona, this street-talking, crime-approving parody of a man of the cloth, and at times it really works. His side-swipes at his diocese are cruel but very funny. But I think there is an inconsistency to his material that lets him down a bit; and naturally it’s a character that is inevitably going to rub some people up the wrong way. I sensed he divided the audience somewhat; there was an element of homophobia in one of his gags, and that always puts my back up – we’re not a sophisticated comedy audience in Northampton by any means, but the one thing we are not is prejudiced. Nevertheless, he is a funny guy; what he lacks in PC he certainly makes up for in attack, and he did make me laugh.

masai-grahamAfter a second interval, and a refresh of the Malbec (just one more glass, not a complete bottle, obviously!) it was time for our final act, Masai Graham. Mr Graham won this year’s “Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe” award, and no sooner had he started to tell it, then someone from the audience leapt in and delivered the punchline. I wonder if that happens to him all the time? He’s a class act – he’s funny, he’s open, he’s likeable and he has fantastic, deceptively simple and deadpan material that just gets you laughing your head off. I’m still giggling about the fat badger, and that Royal Mail joke was simply ace. As adept with clean jokes as he is with naughty ones – in fact the clean ones are particularly crafted to perfection. We both thought he was pretty darn brilliant.

The stageLet’s hope this becomes a regular comedy club – it was a really enjoyable night and it deserves to become a success.