Review – Upfront Comedy Slam, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 23rd October 2022

Upfront-Comedy-SlamIt’s always a pleasure when John Simmit brings his Upfront Comedy Slam to the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. There’s always a gasp from the audience when he reveals his greatest role (financially at least) was six years in the Teletubbies as the furry green Dipsy. If only Tinky-Winky could see him now. Mr S is a great host, making us all feel very warmly welcome for what turned out to be a brilliant evening of comedy.

athena-kugblenuOur first act was Athena Kugblenu, whom we’ve seen a couple of times before, and whose act was chiefly built around the theme of working out what class you are. As someone with working class roots, middle class activities and an upper class accent, I’ve genuinely no idea what I am. She works up a great rapport with the audience, including setting up the burly chap in the front row as the butt of absolutely everyone’s jokes throughout the whole night – fortunately he’s obviously an extremely good sport! Very reliable material and delivery that never quite soars, but is always thoroughly entertaining!

Ali WoodsNext up, and new to us, was Ali Woods. Here’s a great new find in the Comedy World. Terrific attack, original material, spinning off male mental health in unexpected directions. I loved the idea of Erectile Dysfunction being the name of a Heavy Metal Group. Immensely likeable, and a great range of characterisations for the people he references in his act. We’d really like to see him again.

Jay-DrochAfter the interval came another act who was new to us, Jay Droch. Cutting a smart and dignified appearance, Jay surprised us with a mix of character based comedy and impersonations. The first few minutes of his act he concentrated on the characters in Peaky Blinders, which neither of us has seen, so these comic observations meant nothing to us. When he moved on to his political material, he was absolutely brilliant, with a menacingly ridiculous Boris Johnson, a ludicrously hilarious King Charles and, best of all, a blistering re-imagining of Rishi Sunak as a posh schoolboy skipping to the command of his grisly bullying Indian father. It was absolutely preposterous but utterly brilliant.

Kane BrownOur headline act, and someone we’ve enjoyed many times before, was Kane Brown, who is one of the few comics who has that brilliant ability to riff off whatever vibe the audience presents him. So he spent his entire set with fantastically funny observations about marital relationships, especially as you get older, imagining some of the audience members in the situations he describes. His is one of those acts that just washes over you in a sea of comedy, and it’s very hard to pick out any one sequence of jokes or humour that stands out because it’s all so very funny. We didn’t stop laughing the whole time – a true tonic for the soul.

A terrific night of comedy that flew by. Can’t wait till the next one!

Review – Upfront Comedy Slam, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 3rd February 2018

John SimmitThis was our second visit to one of these Upfront Comedy nights at the Royal and Derngate; last time we enjoyed it so much that we bitterly regretted not having discovered it before! Our MC again was ex-Teletubby John Simmit, the bad boy turned Dipsy because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t for the money. He’s great at striking up an instant rapport with the audience and setting us all at our ease; although he reckoned we were already well set up before he came on. He got us all (literally) into a rhythm with a bit of in-seat dancing, which I’ve not tried before but was thoroughly refreshing.

andy-whiteOur first act was someone we’d seen twice before, both in Screaming Blue Murder and at The Ark, Andy White. He’s a naturally funny man, with a larger than life persona, a slightly dandyish fashion sense and the ability to make an erotic movie out of the soundtrack of the Flintstones in French. He’s one of those guys where, after you’ve spent a few minutes in their company, you genuinely feel happy inside. His material is full of short stories and observations about his marriage and home life, but often with a quirky twist. It was during Mr White’s set that a recurring problem of the evening started – one or two over-enthusiastic and overlubricated ladies in the second row, who felt that by constantly talking back to the comics on stage they were somehow enhancing their act. Wrong. They were a permanent pain in the arse the whole night long.

Barbara NiceMr W responded pretty well to their chat-up lines and they backed down completely for our second act Stockport’s own Barbara Nice, because she really wasn’t what they were there for. We’d never seen Barbara Nice before, but I’d heard good things about her and I tell you, they were an underestimation. Nice by name and by nature, she is a wonderful comic creation, the kind of northern lady you’d chat to over the garden gate or down the Co-op. She surveyed how many of us read Take A Break (not that many), and how many of us hide from friends and relatives in supermarkets (quite a few). Her set was absolutely jam-packed with brilliant material that just pinpointed our funnybone and stuck there, refusing to budge. She ended up teaching us the moves to a horrendous but hilarious dance routine and we were, quite frankly, wetting ourselves. We’d love to see her again.

Gerry KAfter the interval, John Simmit introduced us to the fearlessly funny Gerry K. An instantly likeable East London lad, he has the true gift of the gab and he really shook us up with his vitality and attack. He’s got loads of excellent material about family life; he’s great at expressing inventive and very funny angles on familiar situations. Again that lady in the second row decided she was in with a chance so started the chatback but Mr K was firm but fair and did his best to close her down. We both thought he was terrific and would also like to see him again.

Kane BrownLast act of the evening, and third in a row of comics that we hadn’t seen before, was Kane Brown. Oh my giddy aunt, if anyone can handle himself on stage Mr Brown can. Fantastic stage presence, riptastic material and a supremely confident delivery means you just sit there and don’t stop laughing until everyone’s gone home. Of course, the lady in front had another go and he just shut her up with savage politeness – and this time she really did finally shut up. Just superb. Mr Brown had some friends in the audience he chatted to when we were leaving the auditorium but I felt compelled to interrupt and shake his hand because he was just too good not to. UpfrontWe’re definitely on the hunt for more of his shows.

It may only be early February but that show really raised the bar for live comedy for this year. Absolutely loved it. There’s another Upfront Comedy show coming in April – better get booking now!