Review – Another Comedy Crate Night at the Black Prince, Northampton, 8th October 2020

Comedy CrateAs the nights begin to draw in and the thermometer starts to plummet there was still time for one last Comedy Crate night in the garden of the Black Prince before it simply gets just too damn chilly. We were accompanied by our friends Doctor Eurovision (not a real doctor) and the Duke of Dallington, who was dipping his toes into the local comedy scene for the first time. Fortunately, the entertainment was more than enough to keep us (relatively) toasty before Johnson’s curfew fell upon us all.

Tom HoughtonOur host for the night was Tom Houghton, whom we saw at Spank! last year – who knows if and when that’ll ever happen again – and he’s a very jovial chap with a slightly posh boy accent and an air of natural authority. He handled the extremely varied crowd with great aplomb and really grew into MC role as the night progressed. Great stuff.

Eleanor TiernanWe’d seen two of the acts before but they’re all good for a re-watch, especially post Covid-lockdown, which inspires everyone with fresh ideas. First up was Eleanor Tiernan, who has a gently Irish lilting style that can conceal a few hard-hitting punches. Her material is intelligent and quirky, with a few surreal insights about hair dryers and responding to unexpected requests in a taxi. I really enjoyed her take on the perils and pitfalls of coming out as gay at the start of the pandemic. A very enjoyable start to the show.

Josh PughNext came Josh Pugh, whom I thought we had seen before, but I was wrong! He comes on, all guns blazing, with some brilliantly funny material that had me in hysterics pretty much all the way through. He had a great sequence about how far do you take philosophical responses to break-ups, plus Jesus falling back on his carpentry skills and unmentionable things with hoovers. Hilarious, inventive and very down-to-earth without being overly coarse – we really enjoyed his act and I’d be very happy to see him again.

Noise Next DoorHeadlining were The Noise Next Door, an improv act whom we saw at the Leicester Comedy Festival last year when Johnny Vegas just about gave them enough time to do a bit of their act before the theatre had to close up for the night. They seek ideas and examples from the audience and then incorporate them into comedy songs and sketches – and their brains work in amazing ways! They do a great sequence where they speak alternate words (or even letters) in a foreign accent: this time it was Hungarians explaining antidisestablishmentarianism. Constantly surprising us with their improv skills it’s a great act – and I even bought a t-shirt afterwards.

Enormous fun as always. Their next show is on 5th November at the Picturedrome. Should be fireworks!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 13th October 2017

Dan EvansBack for another Screaming Blue Murder at the Royal and Derngate, with Dan Evans in charge (as usual) with a motley crew of punters some of whom were a bit tricky vis-à-vis letting their Friday night mood take over. But we did have the man who makes the plastic pieces that create the folds in the manufacture of cardboard boxes… so that’s all good then. There was Chris the birthday boy and Robin the front row chap who I could tell was a challenge just from looking at the back of his head. And then there was the lady directly in front of me; more of her later.

Funmbi OmotayoWe’d seen all the acts before but they were all on cracking form; when that happens it’s like choosing your favourite pizza toppings because you don’t always need to try something different. Our first act was Funmbi Omotayo, whom we saw last year at the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s a disarmingly charming, friendly guy who uses his humour to challenge some notions of racism but he does it oh so kindly. I loved his take on how he ought to be a real tough dude, overflowing with intimidating attitude, but it doesn’t work because he can’t stop his coquettish little smile peeping through. He’s got some great material, including changing a tyre with the police, a glance at the Paralympics and his analysis of living in Hackney. He even gave us some political observations; that’s normally a kiss of death in Northampton because for some reason collectively we just don’t care, but he actually hit the mark with that too. Very likeable, very funny, and a great way to start the night.

Eleanor TiernanNext up was Eleanor Tiernan, whom we saw at Screaming Blue Murder last year when she was slow to warm up but then exploded. This time she was absolutely on the ball from the start. With that lovely Irish lilt to her voice, she has a wonderfully self-deprecating style, bringing in some subtle Brexit material by revealing that she had no idea that Ireland was in the EU. As usual she really comes to the fore when she’s (comically) examining aspects of the vagina – I won’t spoil it for you but she shared the most fantastic metaphor which still has me laughing out loud three days later. She also looks on hand dryers in exactly the same way as I do. A brilliant routine.

Andre VincentOur last act was André Vincent, whom we last saw at precisely the same Screaming Blue last year as Eleanor Tiernan… is this significant? We should be told! He’s the kind of chap you can imagine was a right Jack-the-Lad 25 years ago, and probably not much has changed since. He told us the problems of growing up as an André in Brixton, and survival at the Bestival Festival; he’s got a winning way about him in the same way you’d have fun with one of your dad’s mates who ought to know better. He was given a classic opportunity to go off-piste when the lady directly in front of me (see paragraph one) suddenly nodded off during his routine in the most dramatic way, head lolling all over the place, obviously taken into that very deep slumber moment when even a fire alarm wouldn’t wake her up. André’s reaction was hysterical, suggesting we all tiptoe off and leave her to wake up in the morning; when she did come back to the land of the living she was left in no doubt that her ten minutes of coma hadn’t gone unnoticed. By everyone. He rounded off his set with a great story about him meeting milfs in Halifax when he was a youngster. Beautifully told, and really funny.

An excellent night’s comedy! It’s on again in two weeks, but sadly we can’t make that one… line up looks great too…. You’ll have to let me know how it went!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 12th February 2016

Screaming Blue MurderI knew something had been missing from my life – this was our first Screaming Blue Night since 9th October! That’s four months Cold Turkey! So it was great to see an extremely full house last Friday night, so much so that they had to cram some extra seats curving round the front of the stage. In fact, I was at the box office earlier in the week when a chap came up to speak to the assistant next to me to book for the show, and was told, sorry, it’s sold out. The poor chap walked away very crestfallen.

Dan EvansGreat to see Dan Evans back in his rightful place as Master of Ceremonies. Ceremoniously he quizzed those poor folk in reaching distance about their jobs, relationships, homes and so on, much to their discomfort and our amusement. It’s the way these things work. It was only when it was time to start the applause to welcome on the first act that I realised something was wrong. Angling his microphone stand at semi-erect he encouraged us to roar at two-thirds of the volume of which we were capable (of). I knew the drill – starting with a faded cheer which progressively gets louder and louder. Except – silence. A split-second of horror on Dan’s face. I let out a very muted “hooray”. All on my own. Oh God, the embarrassment. Of course Dan shamed us all into a proper reception for our first act, but it didn’t feel right. And that slightly muted response set the tone for most of the rest of the evening, even with a full house. Weird or what?

Ross McGrane In an unusual turn of events, all three comics were new to us. Our first act was Ross McGrane, a jolly young fellow who you sensed was trying very hard but for whatever reason the material wasn’t coming out naturally. He never really got a good rhythm going, and a few times there was a pause that lasted just slightly longer than was comfortable. I think a drunker, meaner audience might have started heckling – but we were extremely well behaved. Too much swearing for my liking – I’m no prude, but I think the F word needs to be your backup in a humorous situation rather than replacing the humour itself. And his final gag – which took quite a long while in the setting-up – was really awfully unfunny. With some better material he could well go places. However, I really did love his line about why he was glad to have a daughter and not a son. You’ll have to guess what it is.

Eleanor TiernanSecond up was Eleanor Tiernan, who has the advantage of a rather charming Irish accent, and plenty of attack in her delivery. Again, some of her material just wasn’t quite funny enough – or maybe relevant enough. There were a few observations about Irish history and the relationship between Ireland and England that would probably have been much funnier had we been in Dublin. However, halfway through her act she turned a corner and gave us some terrific stuff. My notes read: “great vagina material” – I’ll leave you to surmise the rest. And she has a most innovative suggestion for the cause for yeast infections – really very funny indeed.

Andre VincentOur headline act was Andre Vincent, and considerably more mature and experienced (in a good way) than either of the first two comics. He finally managed to prise good quality laughter out of our rather dour audience with nice free-flowing stories that amused and entertained and then moved on before they got too detailed. Decently self-deprecating, with a confident delivery and we all went home in a much better mood than when we arrived.