Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 25th March 2022

Screaming Blue MurderIt’s the final Screaming Blue Murder of the season, and in a last minute change of plan we welcomed James Dowdeswell as our MC. We’ve seen James many times before, as opener, as headliner, even online, but never as the MC, and he’s always great fun. News travels fast in the comedy world, and James’ opening gambit was to check if anyone was in from Wollaston, James Dowdeswellfollowing on from my review of the fairly disastrous gig a couple of weeks ago – so that was me instantly outed in the audience, owning up to being the writer! Fortunately this crowd was a friendly, easy-going bunch, and we responded well to James’ probing into our jobs and characteristics. He’s a very amiable, welcoming and funny chap, and we all felt completely at ease with him the whole evening.

Meryl O'RourkeOur first act, and someone we’ve also seen many times before, both as an act and as MC, was Meryl O’Rourke, always high octane, always full of cheeky vagina jokes. It’s been twelve years since we first saw her act, and the intervening years have perhaps made her humour slightly less filthy – and it’s up to the individual whether that’s a good thing or not! Nevertheless, we still get a great insight into her married life – an assortment of farting, snoring and very occasional sex. She also has great material about the contrast between the sexual expectations of today’s young people versus those of her youth – very recognisable! She ended with a terrific visual joke regarding her Marilyn Monroe facemask. A very safe pair of hands and very funny as always.

Tom TaylorNext up was an act new to us, Tom Taylor. His stage persona is a fascinating mix of the engaging and slightly aloof, and it works really well. Armed with a Bontempi – and not afraid to use it – he’s very silly and very funny. There’s a madcap surrealism to his material, knocking out musical non sequiturs and genuinely inspired jokes. Not afraid to go where angels fear to tread, we loved his take on the Holy Communion menu; you couldn’t possibly be offended by anything he said though as it was all done with a brilliant lightness of touch.

Gerry KOur headliner, and someone we’ve seen once before and absolutely loved, was Gerry K. He’s another comic who’s so adept at taking material that you think has the potential to be really iffy but then turns it around at the last minute into something incredibly funny. Constantly inventive and surprising, he misleads us surefootedly down a familiar route only to deliver something completely unexpected. We loved how he explained how Covid ruined his Christmas, his view about mansplaining, how a Covid test resembles a pregnancy test and dozens more nuggets of comedy gold. For an east London diamond geezer he’s brilliantly self-deprecating, and he gets away with it all because he’s so likeable. A fantastic end to the show and to the season.

I’m guessing Screaming Blue Murders will return in the autumn. We’ll be first in the queue.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 28th September 2018

Screaming Blue MurderBit of a weird Screaming Blue Murder this week! With an incredible line-up announced in advance, and not surprisingly sold out well before the night, there was only one thing that could go wrong… and that was our genial host Dan Evans being trapped halfway en route, on the motorway in a car that wouldn’t go! A few frantic calls hopefully got him safely home but not via Northampton, where he had a show to compere…! So Meryl O’Rourke, who was scheduled to be our opening act, ended up as MC.

Meryl O’RourkeWe’ve seen Ms O’Rourke a number of times before, both as an act and as a commère, and she’s always superb with jokes that involve vaginas and mingling with the crowd; sometimes literally, sometimes both at the same time. However, at first, her sudden change of role seemed to put her off course as she was no longer comfortable using her prepared material in her MC role. As a result, we were a little under-warmed-up for our first act. However, she made up for it after the interval with some brilliant material that had everyone in hysterics. So kudos to Meryl for sticking with it and coming up trumps!

Ian CognitoOur first act, therefore, was the person who I am sure was meant to be the headline act, which again was cause for a little discomfort – primarily on his part. It was the excellent Ian Cognito, who, despite telling us he’s never won any awards, was the recipient of the Screaming Blue Murder Chrisparkle Award for stand-up of the year in both 2015 and 2016. He did his usual faux-aggressive, rough diamond act, with blisteringly funny observations, many of which go so very near the knuckle. He seemed to find a kindred spirit in front-row Reg, the lorry driver, and he even gave him a Kit-Kat after the interval. Amongst his gems, we discovered a new definition of cockney, what’s got a hundred balls and f*cks rabbits, and a charming new sentiment to be tattooed as a tramp stamp. He’s an irresistibly funny man who never lets the energy drop. Because we had basically lost an act over the course of the evening, Mr C did quite a bit longer than his contracted twenty minutes – probably double. A true trooper indeed.

Robert WhiteOur second act, and by default our headline act, is someone else who always gives brilliant value entertainment, Robert White. Despite his very successful recent appearances on Britain’s Got Talent, he’s still the same, quirky, hilarious and ultimately terrifying comic, with his brilliant off-the-top-of-his-head song lyrics and saucy interplay with the guys in the audience. This time it was good old Reg who got up on to the stage to help Robert with his unique version of I’ll Do Anything. No matter how many times you see Mr White he never fails to render you helpless with laughter, and he was on terrific form.

Next Screaming Blue is on 12th October. Hopefully Dan’s car will be working again!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, 10th October 2014

Screaming Blue MurderThere was quite a turnout from the Chrisparkle contingent at last Friday’s Screaming Blue Murder – my good lady wife and I were not only accompanied by Lady Duncansby and the Duchess of Dallington, but also we had a return visit from Lord Liverpool and the Countess of Cockfosters. I can’t think why Tatler weren’t in attendance.

Dan EvansOur genial host was the one and only Dan Evans, terrific as always at getting everyone loosened up and ready for the fray, although he failed yet again to get some seats in the front few rows filled by the cowards who slunk to the back. Well done Dan for keeping the new material coming, us regulars really do appreciate it! Unfortunately Dan had a bit of a (hope you’re not eating) phlegm problem on Friday, resulting in every so often his turning round and having a really good hack at his throat, like Bob Fleming in The Fast Show. As part of Dan’s interaction with the crowd, we loved his chats with the mysterious Scouser and his daughter the Fraud Investigator, including deciding on the merits and the risks of replying to a letter promising a huge haul of cash from Nigeria.

Peter WhiteFirst of our three acts was Peter White, new to us, and a very funny chap from Canada. He has good attack and forms a nice rapport with the audience, but for some reason decided to pick on me because of the size of my head. It’s true – I do have a very big head. But for some reason Mr White seemed to find it rather scary, which is something no one has ever said to me before. I enjoyed his observation about how at home he’s regular sized but get off the plane in the UK and he’s instantly fat. Made me think I could go to Toronto and enjoy an instant crash diet. Great material about how sex is the only fun you can have where there’s always the risky possibility of a baby being born. We all enjoyed him very much.

Meryl O'RourkeSecond on, and in a change to the advertised programme, it was the return of Meryl O’Rourke. We’ve seen her three times before, twice as an act and once as the host. She’s always really funny with her jokes about sex and motherhood – but mainly sex; and I also liked her material about finding role models for girls. She had a bizarrely funny line about how a posh lady might be affronted by her jokes (“I hope she doesn’t say ‘vagina’, I’m wearing a pashmina”) which we repeated to ourselves all weekend.

Brendan DempseyOur last comic, and again new to us, was Brendan Dempsey. What a sterling delivery this chap has! His luxurious Irish accent made the Duchess go slightly doolally at the knees. One of those comics who takes it all precisely at his own pace and with such authority that you just go with it, loving the pauses. He had some fantastic sequences: does long term romance ever blossom from a building site wolf-whistle (that had us in hysterics); how to cope with the legal firm constantly pestering you on the phone when you’ve had an accident; and what goes through a child’s mind when it gets on board an aeroplane. One of the best comics I’ve seen in a very long time – really top quality.

Come on Northampton, get your act together! The numbers attending were still only average – but this is your best value comedy by far! Unmissable fun.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 8th March 2013

Screaming Blue MurderThis is turning out to be one of the most successful Screaming Blue Murder seasons we’ve witnessed, both from the point of view of the number of bums on seats – lots – and of the quality of the comedy on offer. This week we had two comics we had seen before plus a new one and also a new compere.

Paddy LennoxThe new compere was Paddy Lennox and he was terrific. A last minute stand-in for Dan Evans, he was full of attack and had a very warm Irish personality which he used to great effect. He was superb bouncing comic ideas off the front row characters, and generally he had some great material. He didn’t shy away from the ridiculous but all his stories were totally believable, which helps you identify with him. We’d really like to see him again sometime.

Paul RickettsOur first act was also new to us, Paul Ricketts. He has a very nice unhurried charm and a great story-telling ability, with the result that he literally had the audience in the palm of his hand. Intelligent, thought-provoking material that was still very funny and a perfect opener for the evening.

Meryl O’RourkeNext up was Meryl O’Rourke, who we’ve seen once as an act and once as an MC. She was on extremely good form, with some excellent material about sex and motherhood, but mainly about sex. She ratcheted the energy levels up quite a bit with a lot of high octane comedy and it was an extremely funny set.

Christian ReillyOur final act was Christian Reilly who we saw over two years ago, doing more or less the same act but it’s absolutely brilliant. A man with a guitar, his material is based on musical pastiches, funny voices and guitar trickery and it all works amazingly well. Even when you don’t know the original song he is lampooning, it’s still really funny. We loved him, and so did the audience. I’ve never heard that amount of whooping and cheering for an act here like that. Definitely the best reaction from a crowd in the five years we’ve been coming here. Simply superb.

A really successful night – one of those surprisingly rare occasions when the energy and humour levels continued to increase as the evening went on. All too often the second act isn’t as good as the first, or the third act isn’t as good as the second. This time the recipe was faultless. The perfect comedy night out.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, April 15th 2011

Meryl O'RourkeI was half-expecting this gig not to go ahead, as all three of the listed comics were doing other things according to the Chortle website and the promised compere was performing in Hong Kong! Nevertheless all three comics were there, and our commere was the wonderful Meryl O’Rourke who we saw here a few months ago and kept the night flowing fast and hilariously. She had her work cut out as there were a couple of older drunk guys in the audience who were in a heckling mood but rather than chuck them out they decided to monitor them closely, which involved Meryl sitting with them during the acts, which worked very well as far as the rest of us were concerned!

Mark Felgate First act was Mark Felgate. He has a brilliant way of using ventriloquism in his act without having a dummy. He’s a bright and breezy kind of guy, very likeable, sufficiently silly and with a good rapport.

Robert White Second was a very intriguing guy, Robert White. Not only with Asperges Syndrome, but also gay, and playing up to both situations to great comedic effect. I didn’t think I was going to like him at first, but within about ten minutes I found him irresistibly funny. He incorporated witty sound effects from his keyboard into his act, as well as making up a song about Nick Wilty an audience member on the spot, which was incredibly skilful. Definitely a comic I would like to see again.

Last was Nick Wilty, an older comic, very wry, slightly surreal; the kind of act that provides me with a constant smile rather than big belly laughs.

All in all a very enjoyable line-up. Next one of these is in a month’s time.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, December 3rd

Dave ThompsonWe knew this was a sellout because the day before Mrs Chrisparkle’s parents went to book their tickets, but were turned away in disappointment. Shame, as it was another excellent night, although not without its downside, which came chiefly in the guise of the first comic of the night, Dave Thompson. He wasn’t entirely bad; he had a few good lines, but generally speaking his act was (imho) very slow and very tasteless. We’re not a very sophisticated audience in Northampton but nor are we intolerant, so all the stuff about waving a limp wrist and saying “just moved to Brighton, does is show?” gets met with a stony silence. He just didn’t connect.

Meryl O'Rourke Anyway on to much brighter things with Meryl O’Rourke our second act who was frankly hilarious. Fast, on the ball, good interactions, dealt with potentially difficult front row extremely well, delightfully rude. Lots of good stuff here.

Alan Francis Final act was Alan Francis, a slower more thoughtful style, and with some political stuff that often doesn’t work well here but it succeeded with him. Nicely self-deprecating. This photograph of him must be very old indeed though.

Dan Evans was back compering and on excellent form. Looking forward to the new year’s season and I hope they keep with the Friday night dates, as you get many more people and the atmosphere is much buzzier.