Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Derngate, Northampton, 3rd February 2012

Karen BayleyWith a change to the advertised line-up it turned out that we had actually seen all four of the comics on show at last Friday’s Screaming Blue Murder before. No matter, sometimes watching a repeat can be comfort for the soul. The compere this week was Karen Bayley, who we saw here a couple of years ago. Then, as this time, she very much tailors her act to the women in the audience, sometimes to the slight exclusion of the men; but no doubt there are many male comics who do the same and I just haven’t noticed. She was excellent at interacting with the crowd and also kept things nicely on course when the unruly elements of the audience got even unrulier. Mrs Chrisparkle particularly liked the line about her having tried speed-dating; well, parents/teacher night.

Dave Thompson First act was Dave Thompson. I recognised him, and I have to confess, my heart sank, as I recall his being totally unfunny and failing badly on his last visit to us. To be fair, he was much funnier this time, and I do rather like his performance when he heads into the world of the surreal for his comedy; but unfortunately that isn’t the majority of his act. He still uses a lot of material that simply lacks humour, and does part of his routine based on living in Brighton and having a handlebar moustache, cue for some riotous (not) lines about “not being gay, honest.” I’ve said it before – we may not be over-sophisticated in Northampton but we don’t go for homophobic laughs. Dave Thompson was sacked from his plum job as Tinky Winky. I throw that in for good measure.

Jeremy O’DonnellThen we had Jeremy O’Donnell, who compered here last May. He has great attack and an even greater stripy shirt. Very fast and furious, he sometimes assumes an air of not doing very well at the comedy whereas he actually hits the spot nine times out of ten, which is a pretty good spot hit rate. I’m afraid I can’t quite remember any of his lines, which probably means I was just enjoying it without trying to memorise it – another good sign. He can come back again.

James DowdeswellHeadline act was James Dowdeswell, who headlined here last March. On that occasion, he was Mrs C’s favourite act of the night, and so he proved again this time, even though I don’t think there was a lot of variation from the material he did the previous time. An unusual looking guy, full of confidence, naturally funny, and who puts down the hecklers with an effective and a seriously-no-chance-of-any-conversation “shush”. He paces it perfectly and you never fear he’s going to run out of stuff to say.

Maybe because there was little new to us I can’t say the evening ever really soared, but it’s incredible value for what you get and I would say Karen Bayley’s extended act mixed with her compering was the highlight of the evening. Plenty of people in attendance, which is great for the comedy club as laughter breeds laughter. Next one in two weeks!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, December 3rd

Dave ThompsonWe knew this was a sellout because the day before Mrs Chrisparkle’s parents went to book their tickets, but were turned away in disappointment. Shame, as it was another excellent night, although not without its downside, which came chiefly in the guise of the first comic of the night, Dave Thompson. He wasn’t entirely bad; he had a few good lines, but generally speaking his act was (imho) very slow and very tasteless. We’re not a very sophisticated audience in Northampton but nor are we intolerant, so all the stuff about waving a limp wrist and saying “just moved to Brighton, does is show?” gets met with a stony silence. He just didn’t connect.

Meryl O'Rourke Anyway on to much brighter things with Meryl O’Rourke our second act who was frankly hilarious. Fast, on the ball, good interactions, dealt with potentially difficult front row extremely well, delightfully rude. Lots of good stuff here.

Alan Francis Final act was Alan Francis, a slower more thoughtful style, and with some political stuff that often doesn’t work well here but it succeeded with him. Nicely self-deprecating. This photograph of him must be very old indeed though.

Dan Evans was back compering and on excellent form. Looking forward to the new year’s season and I hope they keep with the Friday night dates, as you get many more people and the atmosphere is much buzzier.