Correct me if I’m wrong, gentle reader, but it’s six years since the Comedy Crate held their first weekend festival hosting Edinburgh Preview acts for the pleasure of Northampton audiences. It’s also the first year that Mrs Chrisparkle and I have been able to be present for both days – and it really is an incredible bargain – £40 buys you ten shows from a choice of twenty-five. Your comedy dollar stretches a long way here. 25 acts, 3 venues and loads of laughs. Everyone’s experience will be different, depending on their choices of shows – but here’s what we got up to!
Saturday 8th July
2 pm – Chloe Petts: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice (Black Prince)
I’d heard a lot about Chloe Petts, so was naturally intrigued to see for myself! And her new show is a very enjoyable hour where she examines how she’s a nice person but nevertheless she has anger issues. She’s clearly naturally funny, with an engaging persona even if at time she tries to deliberately put you against her – for example, I loved how she singled out “men who sit in the front row at comedy gigs” as being the worst of the worst, but she also says she hates her own fans – but with a fair justification. I loved her routines about therapists and football, and she has some brilliant material about catching the bouquet at a wedding. Still work in progress, as all these shows are, and it needs a little tightening up and refinement, but I’m sure this will be one to watch when it comes to the Pleasance Courtyard Edinburgh.
3.30 pm – Matt Bragg: Has Nothing Wrong With Him (Black Prince)
We’d seen Matt Bragg once before when he did a ten-minute slot in an otherwise car crash of a show at the Leicester Comedy Festival in 2019 and I picked him out then as One To Watch. Now preparing his debut tour, I can certainly agree with the title that Matt Bragg has absolutely nothing wrong with him at all, in fact this was a tremendously fluid, confident, and extremely funny hour. Mr Bragg’s accent puts you in mind of a younger Frank Skinner and the two bear fair comparison. Extremely engaging and likeable, he puts a fresh angle on some familiar themes, incorporating some excellent callbacks. I loved the story of the Japanese hating Grandad, and the idea of the type of people who name their wedding tables after places they’ve been on holiday – so true. To be honest, if you’re going to include a story about Auschwitz in a comedy routine it’s vital to nail it devastatingly, and that wasn’t quite there yet; the show also needs a stronger ending, but that will come. This isn’t an Edinburgh preview as such, although he is part of an Edinburgh mixed bill line-up that will definitely be worth seeing. I’m predicting Mr Bragg will go from strength to strength and be a big name in the future.
5 pm – Darren Harriott: Roadman (Charles Bradlaugh)
Much to my surprise this was the first time we’d seen Darren Harriott, although he already has a great reputation for stand up. Another very likeable and engaging personality, he has a relaxed but confident way about him that instantly puts you at ease and ensures you’re in for a good time. He explains how he has moved on from being a Roadman (Urban Dictionary is your friend) to being the real him. He also tells us about the ikkk – I think that’s the right spelling – which is the moment that you know that the person you’ve met has just turned you off bigtime for a minor etiquette transgression; look forward to one of the best callbacks of all time. He has some very enjoyable material about his experience on Celebrity Mastermind and why he is satisfied it will never get repeated on TV. When all his comedy ideas have gelled together this will doubtless be an Edinburgh hit at the Pleasance Courtyard in August.
7 pm – Thomas Green: End of Daze (Charles Bradlaugh)
A last minute replacement, Thomas Green is new to me although he’s been on the comedy scene for a few years now, and his show End of Daze, although not going to Edinburgh, is touring the country from September. And if you’re going to see the show, you’re in a for a treat. He’s an outstanding comedian, hugely likeable, a superb communicator, deftly incorporating all the little elements that an audience throws at him, and we didn’t stop laughing the entire hour. The show is based on his Australian upbringing within a very controlling and strict church and how he eventually broke free and became a teacher in Nottingham (where else?) Mrs C was brought up in Australia, and also knows a lot about the church there so there was lots to recognise. There are some lovely moments, like the first time he saw snow (?) and the first time he saw a radiator! Absolutely loved this show and will definitely seek him out in the future. Highly recommended! Book tickets for his tour here.
8.30 pm – Josh Pugh: Existin’ La Vida Loca (Lamplighter)
Purely as an aside, you can’t beat Josh Pugh for coming up with inventive titles for his shows! Battling the extreme heat of the upstairs room at the Lamplighter, which Mr Pugh would be the first to agree was not the most conducive environment to enjoying comedy, he nevertheless treated us to some terrific comedy ideas that will go to form his new show which is scheduled to be a Work in Progress when it reaches the Monkey Barrel in Edinburgh for the early part of the Fringe. Josh is a terrific wordsmith and always brings new observations to familiar situations. His new show is about coping with all the stresses and strains of life now that he and his wife have a young child in the mix. Early days for this Work in Progress but I have no doubt that this will be another cracker on the way.
Sunday 9th July
2 pm – Mark Simmons: New Jokes (Charles Bradlaugh)
I’m a real sucker for Mark Simmons’ brand of comedy – rapid one liners, but delivered at a gentle pace. Trying out all sorts of new material for his Edinburgh show at the Liquid Room, what makes him so effective a comic is the brilliant contrast between his charmingly mild-mannered appearance and delivery and the sometimes savage content of his punchlines. There’s plenty of new examples of this in his new show, which of course I won’t spoil for you, but if you’re a fan of his previous work you’ll certainly love the new stuff. It’s not to everyone’s taste – one gentleman left early, much to the surprise of everyone else in the room, apart from Mark himself, who was kindness itself in accepting that his style isn’t for everyone. Shame – he missed out on some terrific stuff! When Mark’s decided on the final bunch of new jokes for Edinburgh, it’s going to be a blast!
3.30 pm – Ian Smith: Crushing (Charles Bradlaugh)
We’ve seen Ian Smith twice before, so I knew we were going to be in for a good time with his new show, Crushing, which he’s taking to the Tron (Monkey Barrel Comedy) in Edinburgh this year. Ostensibly about going with his hairdresser to smash a car up in Slovakia and watch it crushed by a tank – but there’s lots more to it than that. It’s a very funny collection of routines that are largely based on the idea of stress-busting solutions, plus the problems in life that create the stress in the first place. Mr Smith has a quirky, unpredictable style; there’s a sequence, for example, where he hosts the show from a spare seat in the audience. My favourite part was the story of the aggrieved employee in a vineyard who wrought a very protracted revenge on his employers. Loads of excellent comic ideas here, with a very strong delivery. It still lacks an ending, but as Mr Smith himself said, he still has three weeks….
5 pm – Matt Forde: Inside No 10 (Black Prince)
It’s been a terrible sin of omission, but is the first time we’ve seen Matt Forde, even though he has an outstanding reputation for impersonations and political comedy (of which we’re very fond.) He hits the ground running straight away with a comic assassination of Rishi Sunak (fully deserved, imho), and he weaves loads of other political figures into his narrative. I really enjoyed his bumbling, pompous Sir Lindsay Hoyle, his pinch-voiced Keir Starmer, his bewildered Hamza Yusuf, and his quietly manipulative Mick Lynch. Topical, gritty and pulling no punches on any side of the political spectrum, I didn’t think Northampton audiences normally responded particularly well to political stand up in the past, but this was an exception. He’s still working out which elements of this work in progress show will end up in his Inside No 10 show at Pleasance Courtyard next month, but he’s got a lot to choose from!
7 pm – Nabil Abdulrashid: The Purple Pill (Black Prince)
I’ve not seen Nabil Abdulrashid before and I wanted to see him on the strength of his appearance on Have I Got News For You a few weeks ago, where I thought he was devastatingly funny. There’s no denying he’s a big chap, which leads to a commanding presence on stage. His Edinburgh show description about The Purple Pill (Pleasance Courtyard) is that it is a “show about trying to be a good person while staying a badman.” I’m not sure that really reflects the material he delivered at this Preview, which I felt more concentrated on his family life, coping with two very different daughters, and needing to protect them from the big bad world outside, as well as his own mental health issues – no real detail there, except that he feels he has them, and has a lot of them. He’s a terrific wordsmith, with a tremendous lightness of verbal touch – he has a beautiful sensitivity to the nuances of the language. Occasionally challenging, particularly on the topic of latent racism, and it’s refreshing to hear about life from the point of view of a Muslim Nigerian in Croydon! Plenty of work still to do here, but I’m sure he’ll nail it.
8.30 pm – Abandoman: Future Fest (Black Prince)
I really ought to learn my lesson not to put my hand up in an Abandoman show. I did it at his Preview show last year – and ended up on stage; and I did it again this year, ending up on stage and dragging poor Mrs Chrisparkle into the show as well. Fortunately my fellow Abandoman victims – I mean stage participants – did outstandingly well! The thing about Abandoman is that he is so unthreatening, completely puts you at your ease whilst you’re up there, that you should never be wary of taking part in one of his incredible musical experiences. In Future Fest, (Underbelly, George Square) he poses just three or four questions to the audience, and if you feel you’ve got an appropriate answer, he’ll give you a little interview on stage and then convert all the material you’ve provided into a hilarious rap song. He must have the most extraordinarily flexible brain and memory, and I can only assume that no two Abandoman shows are ever the same. A brilliant way to end a superb weekend of comedy – and a massive thanks to the Comedy Crate team for organising it so splendidly and seamlessly.
There are more Comedy Crate Edinburgh Previews coming up over the rest of July – we’re next up for Tom Stade and Gareth Mutch at the Park Inn on Thursday – see you there!