Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 26th September 2014

Screaming Blue MurderAnother great night of comedy entertainment at the Underground last Friday, even though the numbers were a little sparse; Mrs Chrisparkle and I took our usual seats in the third row by the centre aisle, but no one sat in front of us, so we defaulted to becoming “front row” again. However, we fortunately managed to largely avoid the limelight this week (unlike last time). The evening was MC’d under the comic guidance of our host Martin Coyote. Martin CoyoteHe normally comes up and hosts a show at least once a season, and his very direct, attacking style makes a refreshing contrast with usual host Dan Evans, who’s much more laid back. Mr Coyote’s always got lots of topical material; this time he had some great observations about the Scottish Referendum, including Salmond’s, Darling’s and Brown’s input, and what would have happened if the yes’s had won. We’re not known for responding to political humour here in Northampton, but this was good stuff!

Iszi LawrenceThe first of our three acts, and new to us, was Iszi Lawrence, a delightfully well-spoken, Home Counties, tomboyish young lady, with some cracking observations about other posh people – we loved the idea of cocaine being acceptable providing it’s Fairtrade. She’s got some excellent material about coming out as bisexual, how irritating it is to flatshare with Christians because they’re so nice, and what career opportunities there are with a First in Geography. Whilst some elements of the audience were a little resistant to her humour, Mrs C and I thought she was great.

Troy HawkeSecond, and also new to us, was Troy Hawke, one of Milo McCabe’s comic creations who had his own show at Edinburgh this year (but alas we didn’t see it). He’s a really funny persona; suave, debonair, vain, slightly childish and occasionally challenging. Imagine Clark Gable telling (forgive me, gentle reader) c**t jokes and you’re partway there. He went off on an amazing flight of fantasy reading all sorts of hidden meanings into the Mr Men and Little Miss books that was comedy genius. One member of the audience challenged him on pronouncing cravat as crevette; I doubt she’ll do that again.

Nick WiltyThe headline act was someone we have seen twice before, Nick Wilty, who delivers a fast and wry routine jam-packed with subtle asides and self-deprecation. He bases a lot of his comedy on places he’s been round the world. It’s a very sure-footed act and you can’t fail to find him funny, although to be fair it has been more or less the same routine now three times in a row.

You missed it, didn’t you? Why didn’t you come and sit in front of us? You must come next time! A great night out for approximately 7p per minute!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 16th May 2014

Martin CoyoteIt’s always sad when we reach the final Screaming Blue Murder of the season, but at least the people of Northampton gave it a good send-off with another packed house last Friday night. Our MC for this show was Martin Coyote, who we’ve seen before doing his usual act but not as compere. He was superb – lightly keeping everyone well behaved for the acts but also sharing some stonking good material with us. He’s got a great stage persona – wry and rather cynical but still upbeat and positive. He kept the show going superbly and had the majority of the best lines of the night.

Javier JarquinOur first act was new to us, Javier Jarquin. He’s an interesting blend of Chinese and Latino all wrapped up in a Kiwi accent. He comes over as very likeable, with some really excellent material, including how a newcomer to a country can be confused by the shop names, the (highly significant) differences between “it” and “that”, how furnishing a bed changes when you get a girlfriend, and how a pavlova can pale into insignificance when talking to a Croatian. He had both Mrs Chrisparkle and me in hysterics when he equated asking his girlfriend how her day was to accidentally hitting “Print All” on the computer. Great delivery, and really funny. He’s a magician too – would be good to see him do some magic another time!

Helen ArneyOur second act was Helen Arney, also new to us, and, really unfortunately, it all went a bit Pete Tong. Her act is based on her persona of being a science nerd, and doing comedy songs that reflect that. To be honest, I didn’t think she looked or acted particularly nerdy so that persona didn’t convince me. She seemed nervous and somewhat shouty, and rushed the early parts of the act a bit, and I think got put off when the laughs didn’t come. She then forgot her lines in her first comedy song, lost even more confidence, and at that point we lost confidence in her. Her final song, about having a lover in a coma, was extremely dark and savage and would probably have worked if we’d kept faith in her act – but I’m afraid we hadn’t, so it didn’t. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Andrew BirdLast act was someone we had seen before, and remembered as being brilliant, local lad Andrew Bird. He was runner-up in the 2012 Chrisparkle Awards for best Screaming Blue Stand-up, beaten only by the fantastic Mr Paul Sinha. Andrew Bird’s attack and confidence are just astounding, because they are so perfectly pitched. He has just the right level of enthusiasm for you to fully engage in the pictures of domestic or parental harmony he is painting, with wonderful observations that capture true comedy moments. We loved his material about marketing a lavender scented child’s bath lotion, to calm bath time for a two-year-old into a chilled experience – and the contrast with the bottle of Matey that we all had when we were kids that bleached everything in sight. So much brilliant material, and the audience absolutely loved him.

And that is indeed it, until the next season starts again on 12th September. Get it in your diary now!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, March 4th 2011

Back to the Derngate for another comedy night from the Screaming Blue Murder stable. Dan Evans hosted again, always reliable for getting the crowd hyped up and entertained, but he did repeat a few of his usual routines which is getting a little boring for us regulars. At the end of the evening he mentioned he would be signing books again for selling after the show and the woman in front of me shouted at him “Not the books AGAIN!” which made me laugh quite a lot more than some of the “proper comedy”.

Martin Coyote First up was Martin Coyote. An older comic with a more traditional act, but very funny and using lots of modern material. He is the first comic I’ve seen at Northampton make the audience laugh at politics. We did establish at one point that there were very few students in the audience – maybe an older crowd appreciates a little political humour more than the youngsters. He had some very good lines: As a nation, we owe £130 billion pounds in debt which in part funds Trident. Some say we should get rid of Trident and save the £130 billion pounds – alternatively we should point Trident at whoever it is we owe and tell them to f*** off. The Olympics are coming to Stratford, London. How many international athletes think they will be staying in Shakespeare Country? Is this a dagger I see before me? Yes mate, now hand over that gold medal before I use it on you.

Chris Lynam The second act was Chris Lynam. I had read how he polarises audiences – some get his humour others don’t. I nearly did. He is maniacally surreal. Once you get into his character he can actually be quite funny, but his style was so different from Martin Coyote’s that it took the duration of most of his act to understand quite what was going on. He did do very good audience participation though, getting a pretty girl out from the front row to kneel in front of him as if she was going to do some private act and then only to have him use her as a music stand; and getting a guy out to play a piano background to a Philip Marlowe sequence was very funny indeed. He also very nicely dealt with someone’s mobile going off – he simply went to his bag of tricks, found a revolver and shot her.

Dan Antopolski Headline act was Dan Antopolski, of whom I had heard great things, and I was convinced he was a Rowing Blue at Oxford – wrong, that was Dan Topolski. He has a charming wry style, full of clever observations and gentle self-deprecation, and whilst his act wasn’t drop dead guffawing, I had a constant smile on my face and regularly broke into appreciative titters and other vocalised humour-based reactions. Not so for one member of the audience who unexpectedly just told him to “f*** off”. A good heckle is a joy, and a well countered heckle even more so. This was not a good heckle though. Dan simply didn’t deserve it for one thing, and the audience rounded on the heckler as a result.

It was also rather embarrassing. When you go regularly to the SBM you almost feel as though you are at home. And when someone comes all the way up from London with a “Hello Northampton it’s lovely to be here” and then one of your number tells him to f*** off – well it’s a bit like insulting someone you’ve invited round for dinner. Mind you I do think Dan walked into that situation – he did briefly check with the audience to see if they were enjoying themselves as he didn’t sense there was a lot of laughter going on. Possibly a mistake on his part. But there was something wrong with the comedic balance of the evening – as a programme, “Traditional” followed by “Surreal” followed by “Intelligent Observational” didn’t quite work. The leap of faith from comic to comic was too great, the acts didn’t dovetail and the evening didn’t really flow. Nevertheless, it was still jolly funny and all the acts were well worth seeing.