Review – The Comedy Crate present The British Comedian Of The Year, Northampton Heat, Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 27th September 2022

BCOTYSo here’s something a bit different. At the Charles Bradlaugh last night, the Comedy Crate hosted the Northampton heat (who knew there was one?) of the British Comedian of the Year competition. Ultimate prize for the winning comic – £10,001. I guess that last pound is put in there because, like the subject matter, it’s a bit funny. Compered by Ben Briggs, nine comedians took to the stage with a ten to fifteen minutes set to win the hearts, minds and votes of the audience. Masai GrahamYes, after they had all performed we had an app through which to select our favourite two comedians. And at the end, Ben announced the two acts that would go through to the next round. Our third place choice goes forward to some kind of repechage/punch-up behind the bikesheds to see if they can also squeeze through.

Danny ClivesI can’t recall ever attending a comedy night like it. Hugely entertaining, and of course, by its very nature, full of variety. With such a short set, it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that any one performer would outstay their welcome. But that’s not a bad way of assessing which acts to vote for. Harvey HawkinsYou’ll definitely favour those, when they’d finished, you thought damn! I want more of this person! rather than those who you thought to yourself thank goodness that’s over. It’s also difficult to make a choice when you’ve seen some of the acts recently and already know their material, and then compare them with acts whom you’ve never seen before so their whole routine is as fresh as a daisy. But that’s a delicate problem for you to work out in the privacy of your own app moment.

Kirsty MunroThe structure of the night was to have three acts followed by a break, another three and a break, then the final three and a break during which you voted. A little like the Eurovision Song Contest, your appearance in the running order is oh-so-important. Jay HandleyYou don’t want to be first, you definitely don’t want to be second, you probably don’t want to be last. Halfway to two-thirds of the way through works best.

Jack GleadowAct 1 was Masai Graham, twice winner of the Edinburgh joke of the year award. He told them to us again, and yes, they’re pretty good jokes. I admire the way he can get four or five laughs out of four or five punchlines all from the same set-up. He’s a clever chap. Act 2 was Danny Clives, who announced he was unprepared for the contest, and I couldn’t work out if he was genuinely unprepared or acting unprepared. Either way, he’s got great material, nicely underdelivered. Act 3 was Harvey Hawkins, who delivered his excellent material with confidence, precision and a beautiful structure, which I always admire in a comedy set.

Kate MartinAct 4 was last minute replacement Kirsty Munro, who was very full-on with her sex-based material; tremendously confident but I think I would have died from embarrassment if she’d asked me some of the questions that she asked those in the front row. Act 5 was Jay Handley, who trades very successfully on his Jesus-lookalike status, but whose material goes much further than that and was extremely funny. Act 6 was Jack Gleadow, whose act I have seen a few times recently and includes some brilliant ideas, like the Popcorn Tindr and the differences between shopping at Primark and at Argos.

David StanierAct 7 was Kate Martin; her material centres on her height and sexuality, is extremely inventive on stage and we didn’t want her to stop. Act 8 was David Stanier, whose humour is of a very different style; he felt to me more like a children’s entertainer, with a level of surrealism into which I couldn’t really tap. Act 9 was Trevor Bickles, a London taxi driver and you can tell that from the start. Again hugely confident, great delivery and very recognisable material in that you can identify with the situations he creates for us. A good laugh indeed.

Trevor BicklesAfter quite a lot of deliberation, both Mrs Chrisparkle and I voted for the same two – and as this isn’t a secret ballot, I can tell you our choices were Kate Martin and Jay Handley. There was one other act whom we both wanted to vote for but who included one joke that we both thought was beyond the pail for the occasion, no names no pack drill. In the end, when the votes were tallied and the executive committee had run the numbers through a double checking verification procedure (I jest) the audience’s choice to go through to the next round were Jay Handley and Jack Gleadow, with Kate Martin in that perilous third place.

A fantastic night of comedy which we both really enjoyed. Hopefully this can become an annual feature!

Review – JAM Comedy Club presents Comedy at the Ark, Northampton, 12th October 2016

The ArkA few weeks ago, a flyer popped into my letter box, advertising a comedy night at the Ark Restaurant, in Midsummer Meadow, Northampton. That’s only a short distance from us. I’d seen that the Ark was – shall we say – being underused at the moment; so it seemed not only an excellent idea for it to be the location for a comedy club but also for us to go along and check it out. I’m happy to report back that it’s a great venue for an intimate’s night comedy. Not sure what its total capacity is, but I reckon there were about 35 or so of us there last night and it felt comfortably full but not squished. By the way, I can recommend the Malbec at £15 per bottle – good quality and tasty; we didn’t sample the light bites but they looked and smelled delish.

mr-andyJAM Comedy Club is new to me and I hadn’t come across any of the acts before (although I had of course heard of the final act, if you read on…) Our host for the night was Mr Andy, a big engaging chap with a relaxed way about him, who obviously wants to have as much fun from the evening for himself, just as much as he wants us to enjoy it too. He has some great material, some of which he spins off his own blindness in a way that’s genuinely funny – and I liked how he generously bigged up the excellent, also blind, Chris McCausland too.

pete-teckmanOur first act was local man Pete Teckman. He’s a naturally very funny guy, who you sense has built up his range of comic material from a lifetime of unglamorous living (and I mean that kindly). He had some terrific jokes about… well, sex, mainly; the method of his sperm count test and his personal accounts of enjoying oral sex come to mind, if you’ll pardon the expression. He has some great recollections about his German ex-girlfriend, and I really loved the throwaway line about seeing Predator at the cinema. He has an excellent stage presence and a strong, confident voice and manner, and is someone I’d definitely like to see again!

a-burgessUnfortunately, he proved a hard act to follow, and, given there was an interval as well, it was very difficult for our second act, Anthony Burgess, to regain the momentum that Mr Teckman had set up. For whatever reason, he failed to make a connection in his first few interactions, and basically he spent the rest of his act treading water. He did a fairly lengthy sequence about someone or something called Screech, from some programme we had never seen (Saved by the Bell, I remember now) and it meant absolutely nothing to us. Nevertheless, he has very good comic timing, and obviously can incorporate music into his routine too, so maybe with some better material and a more confident delivery he could do well.

reverend-henry-kingHot on his heels came the Reverend Henry King, the Bishop of Bletchley. I have a sneaking suspicion, gentle reader, that he may have falsified his ordination certificate and isn’t really a bishop at all. It’s a great persona, this street-talking, crime-approving parody of a man of the cloth, and at times it really works. His side-swipes at his diocese are cruel but very funny. But I think there is an inconsistency to his material that lets him down a bit; and naturally it’s a character that is inevitably going to rub some people up the wrong way. I sensed he divided the audience somewhat; there was an element of homophobia in one of his gags, and that always puts my back up – we’re not a sophisticated comedy audience in Northampton by any means, but the one thing we are not is prejudiced. Nevertheless, he is a funny guy; what he lacks in PC he certainly makes up for in attack, and he did make me laugh.

masai-grahamAfter a second interval, and a refresh of the Malbec (just one more glass, not a complete bottle, obviously!) it was time for our final act, Masai Graham. Mr Graham won this year’s “Joke of the Edinburgh Fringe” award, and no sooner had he started to tell it, then someone from the audience leapt in and delivered the punchline. I wonder if that happens to him all the time? He’s a class act – he’s funny, he’s open, he’s likeable and he has fantastic, deceptively simple and deadpan material that just gets you laughing your head off. I’m still giggling about the fat badger, and that Royal Mail joke was simply ace. As adept with clean jokes as he is with naughty ones – in fact the clean ones are particularly crafted to perfection. We both thought he was pretty darn brilliant.

The stageLet’s hope this becomes a regular comedy club – it was a really enjoyable night and it deserves to become a success.