Review – The Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 13th January 2022

Comedy CrateIt’s been a good few years since we’ve seen comedy at the Charles Bradlaugh and – apart from the obvious pandy-problem – I wonder why it’s been so long. It’s an excellent venue for this kind of show; comfortable, with great sightlines, a well-run fully-stocked bar within ten seconds walk of your seat, and with those nice people at The Comedy Crate in charge of hiring the turns, you always get a great programme to enjoy.

Paul RevillUnusually for us, three of the four comedians who plied their trade at last night’s show were new to us. Our MC was Paul Revill, an engaging and friendly chap who brings a positive vibe to the stage, with that rare knack of interacting with the audience and encouraging our participation without terrifying us at the same time. He elicited details about the secret hair salon on Abington Street, the lads celebrating the birth of a baby and got me to suggest that we should welcome the first act on from our collective groins of love – you had to be there. Amongst his other material I loved his explanation of how a Quality Street could be an insult after Christmas over-indulgence. He kept everything going at a great pace and set us up superbly for the fun to follow.

Matt RichardsonOur first act was Matt Richardson, of whom I’ve heard but never seen, an energetic and riotously funny guy who takes some of the more delicate aspects of relationships and explores them without fear. I loved the idea that, once you get a girlfriend, you’re no longer in charge of your bedtimes – it’s so true! Brilliant observations about over-rated sexual practices, and (literally) hands-on material about how a man deals with a tampon. Mrs Chrisparkle remarked how it’s becoming more common for male comedians to do period jokes – which, let’s face it, is where angels fear to tread – and Mr Richardson did it with great aplomb and got it absolutely right, judging from the laughter coming from Mrs C. Great work!

Fiona RidgewellNext up, and another new name to us, was Fiona Ridgewell; another warm and engaging personality who uses her physical presence to excellent effect with observations about the usefulness (or otherwise) of having big nostrils and a long neck. She has great observations about what it’s like to be a member of an all-female household of three generations, and is very adept with interacting with the crowd, which was great fun. She also has a great sequence about the knock-on effect of being dumped by a boyfriend without explanation. Nicely self-deprecating and with loads of attack, she’s definitely one to watch!

Dan AntopolskiOur headline act, and the only person we’ve seen before – and always enjoyed – was Dan Antopolski, as sure-footed as a mountain gazelle with his brilliant manner of setting up an intellectually-based premise and then kicking it in the teeth. With so many hilarious observations about family life, it’s a pleasure to be entertained by someone who knows their craft inside and out. Superb.

The next Comedy Crate gig at the Bradlaugh is on February 10th – we can’t go, but you should!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 1st February 2020

Screaming Blue MurderOur first time of attending a Screaming Blue Murder on a Saturday night – felt kinda weird because we’re already halfway through the weekend rather than it being a welcome curtain-raiser to those hallowed subsequent two days. Nevertheless, it was sold out yet again, and they’re still persisting on having the front two rows of the audience wrap around the comics’ podium, which has pros and cons. The pros are that there are more victims, I mean guests, for the comedians to interact with. The cons include… well, see paragraph 3.

Dan EvansOnce again MC duties were in the capably hairy hands of Dan Evans, who had plenty to contend with in the front row. It was someone’s birthday. We never found out her real name, but she was given a card addressed to “Li’l Slut” so that became her epithet of the night. She’ll always be Li’l Slut to us. It turned out that half the front rows were part of the birthday party including a lady from Mexico who got upset (quite rightly) at the mention of Brexit. Furthermore, later we had the joy to discover Mike, hiding himself away some rows back, who sold jet skis. In Northampton. You couldn’t make it up.

Paul RickettsOur first act, and someone we’ve seen a couple of times before, was Paul Ricketts. He has a relatively laid-back style and is most at home when he’s bouncing directly off the audience. He had plenty of entertaining material for us, including his bitter resentment of anyone younger than him, observations about Luton Airport, and the very funny Four Stages of an Eastenders Actor. But here’s a thing; for some reason, a number of the punters seated around the stage felt the need to go for a wee during his act, and the only way you can get out of the Underground to get to the toilets from those seats is to march out directly under the performer’s nose – even to the extent of walking on to the stage area and off again. The first time it was quite funny, but by the time four people had separately heard the call of nature it became distracting both for Paul and for us. Nevertheless, Paul battled on regardless and gave us a good half-hour’s worth of fun.

Faye TreacyNext up was someone new to us although I know she’s got a show at the Leicester Comedy Festival coming up very shortly – Faye Treacy. She’s the 21st century’s answer to George Chisholm in that she presents a comedy act plus trombone. The novelty value of this alone is worth the ticket but, additionally, Faye’s musical madness is totally hysterical. Her trombone-influenced material is unbeatable; Trump’s brain music and her vegetable climax had us in stitches. The non-trombone material in between is also enjoyable, but deep down you really don’t want her to put her instrument down.

Dan AntopolskiOur headliner was someone we’ve seen once before and things didn’t entirely go to plan – Dan Antopolski. It can happen to anyone. This time Dan was as sure-footed as a mountain gazelle. His is a subtle, intelligent act that isn’t crammed with one-liners, and in fact often the funniest bits are the bits he doesn’t actually say – there’s clever for you. As such, when you look back over his act, it’s very difficult to pick out moments or topics that really touched the spot; it’s not that they don’t exist – they do – but there’s something ethereal about his whole approach that makes him and his material hard to pin down. I do remember – and really enjoyed – his routine about iPhone versus Samsung; as for the rest of his set – it was excellent but I’m blowed if I can remember any of it.

Next Screaming Blue is on 14th February. Prepare for lots of Valentines jokes. I’m afraid we can’t make it. But you should!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, March 4th 2011

Back to the Derngate for another comedy night from the Screaming Blue Murder stable. Dan Evans hosted again, always reliable for getting the crowd hyped up and entertained, but he did repeat a few of his usual routines which is getting a little boring for us regulars. At the end of the evening he mentioned he would be signing books again for selling after the show and the woman in front of me shouted at him “Not the books AGAIN!” which made me laugh quite a lot more than some of the “proper comedy”.

Martin Coyote First up was Martin Coyote. An older comic with a more traditional act, but very funny and using lots of modern material. He is the first comic I’ve seen at Northampton make the audience laugh at politics. We did establish at one point that there were very few students in the audience – maybe an older crowd appreciates a little political humour more than the youngsters. He had some very good lines: As a nation, we owe £130 billion pounds in debt which in part funds Trident. Some say we should get rid of Trident and save the £130 billion pounds – alternatively we should point Trident at whoever it is we owe and tell them to f*** off. The Olympics are coming to Stratford, London. How many international athletes think they will be staying in Shakespeare Country? Is this a dagger I see before me? Yes mate, now hand over that gold medal before I use it on you.

Chris Lynam The second act was Chris Lynam. I had read how he polarises audiences – some get his humour others don’t. I nearly did. He is maniacally surreal. Once you get into his character he can actually be quite funny, but his style was so different from Martin Coyote’s that it took the duration of most of his act to understand quite what was going on. He did do very good audience participation though, getting a pretty girl out from the front row to kneel in front of him as if she was going to do some private act and then only to have him use her as a music stand; and getting a guy out to play a piano background to a Philip Marlowe sequence was very funny indeed. He also very nicely dealt with someone’s mobile going off – he simply went to his bag of tricks, found a revolver and shot her.

Dan Antopolski Headline act was Dan Antopolski, of whom I had heard great things, and I was convinced he was a Rowing Blue at Oxford – wrong, that was Dan Topolski. He has a charming wry style, full of clever observations and gentle self-deprecation, and whilst his act wasn’t drop dead guffawing, I had a constant smile on my face and regularly broke into appreciative titters and other vocalised humour-based reactions. Not so for one member of the audience who unexpectedly just told him to “f*** off”. A good heckle is a joy, and a well countered heckle even more so. This was not a good heckle though. Dan simply didn’t deserve it for one thing, and the audience rounded on the heckler as a result.

It was also rather embarrassing. When you go regularly to the SBM you almost feel as though you are at home. And when someone comes all the way up from London with a “Hello Northampton it’s lovely to be here” and then one of your number tells him to f*** off – well it’s a bit like insulting someone you’ve invited round for dinner. Mind you I do think Dan walked into that situation – he did briefly check with the audience to see if they were enjoying themselves as he didn’t sense there was a lot of laughter going on. Possibly a mistake on his part. But there was something wrong with the comedic balance of the evening – as a programme, “Traditional” followed by “Surreal” followed by “Intelligent Observational” didn’t quite work. The leap of faith from comic to comic was too great, the acts didn’t dovetail and the evening didn’t really flow. Nevertheless, it was still jolly funny and all the acts were well worth seeing.