Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 28th September 2018

Screaming Blue MurderBit of a weird Screaming Blue Murder this week! With an incredible line-up announced in advance, and not surprisingly sold out well before the night, there was only one thing that could go wrong… and that was our genial host Dan Evans being trapped halfway en route, on the motorway in a car that wouldn’t go! A few frantic calls hopefully got him safely home but not via Northampton, where he had a show to compere…! So Meryl O’Rourke, who was scheduled to be our opening act, ended up as MC.

Meryl O’RourkeWe’ve seen Ms O’Rourke a number of times before, both as an act and as a commère, and she’s always superb with jokes that involve vaginas and mingling with the crowd; sometimes literally, sometimes both at the same time. However, at first, her sudden change of role seemed to put her off course as she was no longer comfortable using her prepared material in her MC role. As a result, we were a little under-warmed-up for our first act. However, she made up for it after the interval with some brilliant material that had everyone in hysterics. So kudos to Meryl for sticking with it and coming up trumps!

Ian CognitoOur first act, therefore, was the person who I am sure was meant to be the headline act, which again was cause for a little discomfort – primarily on his part. It was the excellent Ian Cognito, who, despite telling us he’s never won any awards, was the recipient of the Screaming Blue Murder Chrisparkle Award for stand-up of the year in both 2015 and 2016. He did his usual faux-aggressive, rough diamond act, with blisteringly funny observations, many of which go so very near the knuckle. He seemed to find a kindred spirit in front-row Reg, the lorry driver, and he even gave him a Kit-Kat after the interval. Amongst his gems, we discovered a new definition of cockney, what’s got a hundred balls and f*cks rabbits, and a charming new sentiment to be tattooed as a tramp stamp. He’s an irresistibly funny man who never lets the energy drop. Because we had basically lost an act over the course of the evening, Mr C did quite a bit longer than his contracted twenty minutes – probably double. A true trooper indeed.

Robert WhiteOur second act, and by default our headline act, is someone else who always gives brilliant value entertainment, Robert White. Despite his very successful recent appearances on Britain’s Got Talent, he’s still the same, quirky, hilarious and ultimately terrifying comic, with his brilliant off-the-top-of-his-head song lyrics and saucy interplay with the guys in the audience. This time it was good old Reg who got up on to the stage to help Robert with his unique version of I’ll Do Anything. No matter how many times you see Mr White he never fails to render you helpless with laughter, and he was on terrific form.

Next Screaming Blue is on 12th October. Hopefully Dan’s car will be working again!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 21st October 2016

Screaming Blue MurderOnce again we were back at the Underground for another Screaming Blue Murder night. This time we were accompanied by our distinguished guests, the Sheriff of Shenstone and Lady Lichfield, who had already had a skinful in the Bar Hygge before the show. (If you’ve not tried it, it has a great trendy feel so the four of us fitted in perfectly, naturally.) Also once again, it’s great to see that the show had sold out – and why not, as you get such a great range of comedy at such a decent price.

Dan EvansOur host as usual was the enthusiastic Mr Dan Evans, who had the task of working out why one large section of the audience was 99% female – I’m not sure he ever got to the bottom of it, if you’ll pardon the expression, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. It was a shame that it was one of those nights when, if an audience member was asked what they did for a living, or where they lived, that they went all shy and unresponsive. That’s a tough way to treat a comic.

tez-ilyas-againOur first act was Tez Ilyas, whom we’ve not seen before but he was on my shortlist for Edinburgh shows this year and just missed out because we couldn’t quite fit him in. A really funny, engaging, self-deprecating comic, with brilliant timing and a lot of great material. When someone describes themselves as openly Asian, you can guess the tricky kind of line they’re going to follow. His allusions to The Apprentice and to the News were spot on, and he absolutely had us in the palm of his hand. Then he made a schoolboy error – describing us as inhabitants of Peterborough, not Northampton. Gasps, shocks, stuns and disapproving moans later, he tried to extricate himself by explaining he was from Lancashire and how was he to know – it’s not like we had a proper cricket club… Further gasps, shocks, stuns and disapproving moans. Stop digging! It’s only because he was so likeable that we let him live. The Sheriff wondered if it was a deliberate ploy to get the town wrong in order to get the funny extrication out of difficulty as a consequence. I’m not sure – if it is, it’s a dangerous game! Anyway, he’s a genuinely funny guy and I’d be very happy to see him again.

sarah-callaghanSecond up, and also completely new to us, was Sarah Callaghan. She has a strong, confident delivery, bordering on the faux aggressive, and a lot of her material was on the rudiments of sex – which is always funny, of course. I’d describe her approach as well urban, which didn’t quite connect with any of our party – we’re just too old and staid I suppose. That’s not to say she wasn’t enjoyable, because she was! It just wasn’t an act that I felt I had much in common with, so I didn’t get that much out of it. She had her hands full (figuratively speaking) with some irritatingly noisy girls at the back who just chattered all the way through her act. Fortunately, they left before the final act could make mincemeat of them.

Ian CognitoOur headline act, whom we have seen twice before – and who just seems to get better and better all the time – was Ian Cognito, which has to be one of the best stage names in the business. No one can tell a really poor taste joke and make it bristle with delight like he can, which is both challenging to the audience and also incredibly funny. This time around, his most wicked observations dealt with paedophiles. His act is basically a string of one-liners, but delivered with superb style and at whatever pace he feels comfortable – this could be very fast or, more likely, aggressively languid. Winner of last year’s Chrisparkle Award for best Screaming Blue Stand-up. He might easily take the crown this year too.

Another one in a couple of weeks’ time – looks like a great line-up, so come along!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 6th February 2015

Dan EvansAnother full house at the Screaming Blue Murder last Friday, which is great news for everyone. This week Mrs Chrisparkle and I were joined by Lady Duncansby for her first Screaming Blue of the year. Where else can you get three super acts and a fantastic host for just 12 quid? That’s only £3 per performer – and chucking in the two lovely intervals for free! Dan Evans was once again in charge, working his way through the front rows, as only he can, mining for comedy nuggets. We had the return of teacher Rob and his mates from the previous show, but Dan didn’t concentrate on them as they were so last fortnight. Instead we were all curious about a romantic assignation between a probation officer and her client – you couldn’t make it up. Lots of fresh new material from Dan to enjoy as well, which gets the evening off to a terrific start.

Matt GreenIn a change to the published programme, our first act was Matt Green. New to us, he had a set full of really funny observations and jokes, much of which was based on his domestic life with his wife. I particularly liked the segment about the fantasy of having sex on a bed covered with money; and also the comparison of people checking the emails on their phones whilst they’re meant to be having a conversation with the equivalent in the old days of their bringing out a stack of letters to sift through. A great opener, he went down very well with the crowd.

Sofie HagenNext up was Sofie Hagen, also new to us, a Danish comic who successfully trades on her (dubious) lack of confidence with the English language and who is happy being on the more comely side of a size 14. She comes across as being a really nice girl which gives added oomph to her unexpected twists of verbal coarseness and the apparent ease with which you could invite her to bed. She has a relaxed, unhurried style to accompany her very funny material about not over-exerting oneself. All in all a surprising act, and one that worked very well.

Ian CognitoOur final act was Ian Cognito, whom we have seen here before, when he went down a storm but I found him a bit unsubtle. Well this time, to use the common parlance, he smashed it. With incredible self-assurance, using the entire room, paced to perfection, he pitched his faux-aggressive style just right all the way through and he was brilliant. His material tends to be extended one-liners, but his style elongates them into mini-epics, so you don’t feel you’re missing out on depth. Our audiences tend to be quite “right-on” and we get a bit anxious if we fear the comic might stray into bigotry; so it’s a mark of Mr Cognito’s (who knows what his real name is) skill and success that he can end a really funny joke with “and that’s how you tell a rapist gag”. He looked like he was really enjoying it too. An early contender for a Chrisparkle award.

Three weeks until the next session. Get booking!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd February 2013

Angie McEvoyYet another full house at the Derngate for the Screaming Blue Murder club! Great news that it is tapping so successfully into the area’s communal funnybone. This time our host was Angie McEvoy. We’ve seen her a few times and she always a good laugh. I rather like her MC’ing style. She’s quite relaxed, and wants us to have a good time in an ostensibly caring sort of way. But she’s also deadly skilful at keeping order, and she played off the weird whims of the first few rows to great comic effect.

Keith FarnanThe first act was Keith Farnan, a long haired whirlwind of comic attack with plenty of genuine Irish blarney. He had lots of great material and he seemed to cover loads of subjects, so his act was always lively and fast moving. Nice tantric references! He was very popular with the crowd and we both rated him very highly.

Otiz CannelloniNext was Otiz Cannelloni, the only act whom we’ve seen before. I remember that we absolutely loved him when we saw him last time, and indeed he achieved a very respectable 2nd place in the 2010 Chrisparkle Awards for SBM Comic of the Year. I think he more or less repeated the identical act but it’s still extremely funny – a great mixture of word play and rapid fire wisecracking, and with a few clever bits of magic chucked in. He also has very nicely understated comic facial expressions, and his material is largely very clean; I’m no prude, but I do admire a comic who can bring the house down with the minimum of swearing.

Ian CognitoFinally the headline act was Ian Cognito, a rather splendid stage name (I assume!) He also has great attack and an assured level of self-confidence. He’s a kind of aggravated-bloke-down-the-pub character, and whilst his material was very funny his act lacked a little subtlety for my liking. His delivery is what Mrs Chrisparkle likes to describe as “relentless”, and, I have to admit, I did nod off towards the end. Probably a combination of jetlag and Sauvignon Blanc, I readily admit. He went down very well with the audience though.

More in two weeks’ time!