Review – Comedy Crate at a Secret Venue, Northampton, 27th March 2022

Comedy CrateA Secret Venue, how exciting! We didn’t find out where it was until a couple of days before and I’m afraid I still can’t tell you where it was held, or else I’d have to kill you. On second thoughts, I don’t think it was that hush-hush. It was at the Albion Brewery in Kingswell Street, an attractive, atmospheric place, with excellent sightlines, proper chairs and a well-stocked bar. An excellent addition to Northampton’s comedy venues!

Jamie AllertonOur MC for the evening was Jamie Allerton, whom we saw hosting a Comedy Crate gig in the garden of the Black Prince, Northampton, last September. He’s a bright spark, a powerhouse of joie de vivre, who makes the evening go with a swing. He has a terrific rapport with the audience, getting to know us all, putting us at our ease, but with some surprisingly unexpected questions posed to us too! When he discovered that two members of the audience, with no association with each other, both worked with autistic adults, his questions to work out who was best at their job was inspired! A great host with huge energy.

SlimOur first act was someone new to us, Slim. I reckon that’s a nickname. That’s not to say he isn’t slim, but it’s just that I can’t visualise it on a birth certificate! He has some nice material about hating school plays – I’m sure he’s not alone there – and also his occasionally vengeful life as a London bus driver. I particularly enjoyed his sequence about imagining a Jamaican war correspondent. He has a warm, approachable style and very enjoyable material, and was a very good start to the evening.

Alexandra HaddowNext up was another new name to us, Alexandra Haddow, a native of Corby, now in exile in London. Lively and instantly hilarious, she has a lot of near-the-knuckle humour that she pitches perfectly. It’s a lovely idea to imagine if the kind of questions a woman faces when getting a coil fitted were also posed to a man getting Viagra. We loved her stuff about dating conspiracy theorists (having only endured the wayward beliefs of a similarly-minded taxi driver the previous day) and the problems of having to share a bed with your dad. Smart, likeable and extremely funny, we’d love to see her again.

Mark SimmonsHeadline act was the brilliant Mark Simmons, whom we’ve seen a few times before and he always hits the ground running with his wonderful throwaway style. You always get multiple jokes per minute with Mark, whether they be gently surreal, painfully punful or totally outrageous. He must have the quickest of brains to bring in so many inventive brilliant lines based on what he sees and hears in the audience. On top form as usual, and a superb way to end the show.

Plenty more Comedy Crate gigs in the offing; check their website for more details!

Review – Rock the Atic and Comedy Crate Online Again, 21st February 2021

Comedy CrateHaving enjoyed the first two of these free online Sunday night gigs there didn’t seem much point not booking for the third one! And it was a very wise choice, as this was *possibly* the funniest of the three. This time Sally-Anne Hayward was in the MC Hot Seat – we’ve seen her many times before and she’s always incredibly funny. She kept last night’s show going at a terrific pace, and also chipped in with loads of great material; we particularly enjoyed her observations on Morris Dancing!

Alexis DubusThe running list featured five comics, although that’s slightly misleading, more of which later. But first up was Alexis Dubus, new to me, a delightfully dour presence with a hangdog expression that belies some ace observations and a penchant for extremely funny comic poems. He offers a great line in comically mixing up two totally different but similarly sounding words – sometimes it elicits a groan from the audience but it’s always very funny. I particularly liked the punchline of his Wookey Hole poem. We’d definitely like to see him for real sometime when we’re all allowed! This wouldn’t be last we’d see of Mr Dubus that evening.

Josh PughNext up was Josh Pugh, whom we saw only last October at a Comedy Crate gig – how long ago that feels now! And once again, he’s full of brilliant and quirky observations about lockdown life, relationships and everything else. I particularly enjoyed his ideas of why he wouldn’t want to be Prime Minister and why he’s useless at bedroom role play. He uses his quiet, unassuming persona to great surprise effect, and his time went very quickly.

James DowdeswellThen we welcomed James Dowdeswell, a Frequent Flyer at Screaming Blue Murder gigs of old, a master of the self-deprecation gag, and with great recognisable observations about subtle class distinctions – I loved the “two pints of lager” gag revisited in a craft beer environment. His relaxed style works very well for the intimacy of a zoom gig and he was fantastic as usual.

Marcel LucontOur fourth act was, also new to us, the fabulously French and superbly sarcastic Marcel Lucont; also known as the alter-ego of Mr Dubus, whom we met earlier. As laconic as his name would suggest, he derides everything that isn’t French or has French aspirations. He also has a fantastically French sex life, for which social distancing doesn’t prove too much of a problem, has a wonderful sequence about discovering that your partner is a Covid denier, gave us a fine poem about stupid people, and ended with some of his Imbible material – discussing the problems that arise from Jesus turning water into wine. I was laughing pretty much hysterically all the way through.

Mark SimmonsFinally we welcomed Mark Simmons, whom we saw on this very online gig only two weeks ago, and I wondered if we would get a repeat of some of the material. I should have known better from Mr Simmons – he told us he had thirty new jokes to crack through and work out which ones worked and which didn’t. With a couple of notable exceptions, they were all up to the usual Simmons Standard! Our favourites included the diabetic ginger cake and his girlfriend’s request for how he could improve his sexual performance. It was a totally top notch way to end the show.

Same again next week? Oh go on then. Book here – it’s still free!

Review – The Comedy Crate and Rock The Atic Online Comedy Gig – 7th February 2021

Comedy CrateIt’s been almost five months since I’ve started a piece of writing with the word “Review”… times have changed! But to survive changing times you have to bend like a palm tree in the wind rather than be a solid old oak that falls over in a big gust. And that’s what those nice people at The Comedy Crate have done, teaming up with The Atic, bringing their special brand of stand-up comedians into an online zoom gig, and the first of those was yesterday evening.

Watching a comedy gig through Zoom is a very different experience from its real life equivalent, but you quickly pick up the etiquette. Cam on means you’re sitting in the front row and are happy for the comedians or MC to chat to you – cam off means you’re happy to enjoy it privately. Mic on means you want your laughter heard, mic off means you don’t. I quickly picked up that it’s best to treat it as though it were a proper live gig – laugh unrestrainedly, but don’t chat. We opted for cam off, mic on, but that may change in time. The more faces you see, the more laughs you hear, the more it feels like a real gig, which has got to be the ideal end result. However, watching from home does inevitably mean you might be interrupted by children screaming, dogs barking, family members chatting – so if that might apply to you, best keep that mic off.

Ryan MoldIt was a great selection of comedians last night, some of which were new to us, some of which feel like old pals. Our host was Ryan Mold, who runs The Atic Banbury/Bicester (of which I confess, I had never heard) and was a bright and lively influence on the evening, keeping everything going at a good pace, even occasionally daring to engage some of the punters in conversation, with varying degrees of success, depending on the punter. We were told that our comedians would be trying out some new material that evening, because over a period of several lockdowns, there’s been precious little for any of them to do other than write some new stuff. So we gave it our best shot, and so, for the most part, did they!

Nathan CatonOur first act was Nathan Caton, whom we’ve seen many times now and I always enjoy his style and material. The thing I really like about Mr C is that, no matter what subject he takes to discuss, he never forgets, first and foremost, to make it funny. Lockdown issues, being stuck inside with his girlfriend, listening to his friends’ conspiracy theories, they’re all there, they’re all recognisable and they’re all very entertaining.

Steve N AllenNext up was Steve N Allen, new to us, but he cuts a smart and authoritative figure on the thumbnail, so I bet he’s very imposing in real life. Classy confident delivery, warmly engaging, and with some nice material including recollections of hen night gigs, and you bask in the fact that it’s always a joy to listen to intelligent comedy.

Ed AczelThen we had Ed Aczel, also new to us, but thankfully I’d done my homework before the gig so I kind of knew what to expect. Mr A is a kind of anti-comic, who will spend his allotted time talking aimlessly about house insurance or complaining to Amazon, without any ostensible joke written into this script. The humour comes from the ridiculousness of what he’s doing, an innocent in a knowing world, and his completely unshowbiz appearance. At least, I think that’s where the humour comes from, because, personally, his style didn’t appeal to me. There were, however, plenty of audience members cackling away happily, so, I accept that’s my bad.

Robyn PerkinsNext was Robyn Perkins; I knew I’d seen her before, but I was surprised that it was as long ago as the Austerity Measures show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014, where she gave some great political stand-up. This time round she was concentrating on the thrills of mating and dating (probably in the other order) and her delight in science. Very funny, and now I know a bit more about the amygdala I can go out into the world with greater confidence.

Mark SimmonsOur last act was the terrific Mark Simmons, whom we saw opening at a Screaming Blue Murder in 2019 when he totally stole the show with his anarchic wordplay. This time he was armed with 23 new jokes to see if they worked – and the majority of them did. The great thing about his material is that it comes at you so fresh and fast, and a lot of it is thoroughly silly, that it’s impossible to remember his jokes even a few minutes later; it’s a cloudburst of (well planned) spontaneity, and then it’s all over. But he was great, as I knew he would be.

The show is free, but you are welcome to PayPal them a donation, that gets split between all the acts, which is probably the right thing to do. We really enjoyed it; and there are three more such shows scheduled for the next three Sunday evenings at 6pm. No risk comedy! You can’t beat it. Book your place for free here!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 31st May 2019

Screaming Blue MurderTime for yet another Screaming Blue Murder – and the screaming comes from the intense heat of the Underground studio, bad enough in winter but positively radioactive in summer! Nevertheless, that didn’t stun our senses as once again we enjoyed three fabulous acts, two magnificent intervals under the genial guidance of our loving MC, Dan Evans.

Dan EvansThis week Dan had to endure (I mean enjoy) the company of some marketing ladies from Avon – I don’t think his idea of anus lipstick is going to catch on – a few young likely lads in the front row with their deadpan father, and the Melton Mowbray branch of the Leicestershire Wives Society. From little acorns great oaks of mirth grew. I don’t envy his job but Dan was on top form as always.

Mark SimmonsTwo new acts (and one old favourite) for us this week, the first of which was our opener, Mark Simmons. And what a find he is! A quiet, subtle-laddish style but brimming with confidence and with 100% winning material, none of which I’d heard before. The majority of his humour comes from a mixture of pun and wordplay, and he delivered it with such dry originality that Mrs Chrisparkle and I were in hysterics the whole way through. I loved his mini-stories about premature ejaculation at an orgy, and what happened when he brought two girls home; there’s also his one joke that involves the C word, which works brilliantly because the punchline is so mild in comparison with its lead-up; and his discovery that cats in France have their own social media site. A little surreal, but with great connection to the audience, we thought he was terrific and would love to see him again.

Alasdair Beckett-KingNext up, and also new to us, was Alasdair Beckett-King; if you ever wondered what Simba looked like once he’d grown up, look no more. Resplendent with his flowing locks and curls, Mr B-K gives us an insight into the life of a full-on Ginger, with some very funny – and refreshingly clean – material. Switching up the erudite level a notch or two, he has a sequence where he discusses Blake’s Proverbs of Hell, but don’t be put off, his own selection of Proverbs are fresher than anything 18th century. Smart, witty, intelligent humour and he went down really well with the audience.

Mary BourkeOur headline act, and one we have seen many times before, was the endlessly surprising Mary Bourke, whose ability to create new material every time you see her is astounding. She has a wonderfully faux-strict style, like a headmistress who won’t accept any nonsense from you lot but inside has a heart of gold. I loved her take on how you scare people in Crouch End at Hallowe’en, and was delighted to realise she has the same attitude to Peppa Pig as us; indeed, she gives that hideous little hog the same middle name that we do. Unbeatable as always.

And that, sadly, is the end of the Screaming Blue Murders for this season; I think each and every one has been a sell-out which is fantastic news and a testament to just what cracking value and quality it is. Reconvene in September? Really annoyed that I have to miss the first autumn show on 13th September because it’s going to be immense. Book it now whilst tickets are still available!

P. S. I did get a name-check from the stage during the course of the evening, but I’m sure it was meant out of pure affection…. That’s what I’m going to tell myself anyway!