Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 25th January 2013

Screaming Blue MurderA new year and a new season of Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights at the Derngate – always something to look forward to, as the capacity crowd last Friday testifies. Our host was Dan Evans, and he was on excellent form with some great new material (thanks Dan!) nicely interlaced with some old favourites, and his appearances went down a storm.

Dan EvansWe had previously seen two of the three acts a couple of years ago, when they were blisteringly brilliant. First was Paul Kerensa, who we saw in February 2011 and who indeed came third in the 2011 Chrisparkle Awards for Screaming Blue Murder stand-up. Again he was extremely good. I’m no prude but I do like the way he can get a full room of slightly inebriated young people laughing their heads off without using swearing as part of his act. He’s recently had eye surgery and used that for a lot of new material that was really funny and thought-provoking. He did his routine about grandparents’ names again, which still creates a lot of laughs as he involves the crowd in the discussion. I also loved his references to an Ikea cabinet, I’ll say no more.

Paul KerensaOriginally booked for the second slot was Loretta Maine but a last minute change introduced us instead to Ninia Benjamin, whom we haven’t seen before. She looks funny – so you’re more or less laughing before she opens her mouth. When she does get going, it’s a stream of utter filth – not much subtlety – but she’s extremely funny with it. It’s a full-on, high octane performance; and when she started manipulating the microphone in a certain suggestive way, she had the full attention of all the gentlemen in the audience, which is probably why she got a huge reaction at the end (so to speak). She’s very self-deprecating too, which always comes over well on stage. You couldn’t take your mother to see her.

Ninia BenjaminHeadline act was Rob Heeney, who we saw in April 2011 and who was in fact the lucky recipient of that year’s Chrisparkle Award for best SBM stand-up. So I know, for a fact, that he is a very very funny comic. However, for whatever reason, his act simply failed to ignite. I think Ms Benjamin is so overpowering that she’s more or less impossible to follow. I won’t dwell any more on his material because it’s tried, tested and good stuff but it just failed to land.

Rob HeeneyIf I may use a wine analogy here (and as it’s my blog, I’m going to do so anyway) it was like having and 12% Pinot Grigio followed by a 14% Australian Shiraz and ending up with a 12.5% Pouilly-Fumé. You simply couldn’t taste the Loire after the Barossa Valley even though it was top quality. I think if Loretta Maine had still been on the bill it would have been better balanced. Hey ho; some you win, some you don’t. Next show in two weeks!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, 4th February

I’m sensing there’s going to be a downside to having changed the Screaming Blue Murder nights to a Friday. Yes, it’s nearly always a sell-out now, which is good – and they make loads of sales at the bar, which is also good – but the combination of the two is that we’re starting to hear more heckling nowadays. A heckle is fine if a) it’s deserved and b) it’s funnier than the comedian. Unfortunately the young drinkers of Northampton haven’t quite yet mastered that art.

However, I’m talking non-chronologically. Dan was host again, still effortless at connecting with the audience and getting things off to a relaxed and funny start, but if he does that Travelodge routine again I think I might scream.

Paul KerensaThe first act was Paul Kerensa. He was very good, had nice lines about Cornish incest, was quite mainstream in his subject matter but occasionally trod very near the knuckle, and most impressively, as though he was live on Channel 4 with Davina, he did not swear. I think that he’s actually the first comedian we have seen at Northampton who did not use one swear word. And interestingly, he didn’t come across as staid or untrendy as a result. Good on him!

Susan Murray Second was Susan Murray. She unfortunately got the worst of the heckling but she handled it excellently. She did a lot of material about accents which is always entertaining, but did other stuff too, including Mrs Chrisparkle’s favourite comedy line of the year so far – “My parents never smacked me as a child. Well, maybe the occasional few grams to get me to sleep…”

Andrew O'NeillLast up was Andrew O’Neill, who makes an interesting presence as he was semi “en travestie” and slightly made up but still with a very blokey face. Very inventive and funny material, also in receipt of some heckling but only minor stuff; full of attack and extremely confident, which was just what the club needed for its final act. Enjoyed them all very much.

Don’t think the Derngate’s “Curry and a comic” thing is working well. You pay £6.50 (I think – don’t quote me) for a curry before the show. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a better idea simply to allow people to pre-order a curry type snack at the bar just like you do with the drinks and then have it at the first interval, even if it means having to extend the interval by five minutes or so. Just a thought.