Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 26th May 2017

Screaming Blue MurderI’ve seen a full house for a Screaming Blue Murder before but this was as full as the legendary pack of sardines! Extra rows and not a spare seat to be had for love nor money. This was the last of this season’s Screaming Blues so everyone obviously needed to be supercharged with comedy to keep us healthy for the dry months ahead.

Dan EvansOur host was Dan Evans, as usual, who had a job keeping certain members of the audience in hand, including the rather posh sounding Charlotte and her husband Richard who came in with some killer blow punchlines that even Dan had to admire. I think as it was the last show of the season, Dan decided to abandon all suggestion of new material and spoil us all with his Greatest Hits – I even got an apology for his doing so! Rest assured, they worked perfectly on the night.

Otiz CannelloniWe’d seen all three acts before but that wasn’t a problem with a line-up of this calibre. First up was Otiz Cannelloni; I’m surprised he doesn’t say he’s full of beans, so I’ll say it for him. (Or is that cannellini?) He’s a naturally hilarious guy – starting with nonsensical one-liners to get you going, then moving into interactions with the audience: “I don’t believe in first impressions… you sir, you might not be a twat”. He’s great at dishing out the general wisecracks, never going too deep into an observation because he’s funniest at the shallow end, if you get my swimming pool analogy. And I loved the idea of milfos. This is all blended in with some cunning magic; Simon, the front row lifeguard, had to choose a card and, although he came too soon with the fact that it was the Queen of Hearts, Mr Cannelloni had already secreted it separately about his person. A brilliant way to start the show.

Amy HowerskaNext was Amy Howerska, whom we’d seen here a year ago but who also co-hosted Spank! in Edinburgh the first time we went. She’s a brilliant blend of Polish, Irish and Jewish, with a mission to make everyone laugh – she finally cracked the miserable guy on the front row in the last few minutes. She’s happy to get down and dirty – with her material at least – and I enjoyed her advice on Brazilians, her impersonation of her Auntie Babs and what it’s like to be an Irish sperm. Great attack, constantly spinning off the audience – which she does so well, and she went down a storm.

Pierre HollinsOur final act of the night was Pierre Hollins; if you looked at a police identity parade and were asked which one’s called Pierre, he’d be the last you’d pick; and if you were asked which one was guilty, he’d probably be the first. He has a larger than life blokey personality, full of great comic observations and ending his act with a couple of comedy songs. Had everyone in hysterics from the start to the finish. Always a winner, always one to look forward to again.

Alas, no more Screaming Blue Murders until the autumn! What will we do?

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 7th November 2014

Screaming Blue MurderIt was just about to happen yet again. Mrs Chrisparkle and I had taken our carefully selected seats on the aisle of the third row which is normally just far enough back to be out of participatory reach of the comics, but close enough to feel involved. However, recently there haven’t been quite so many people coming to the Screaming Blue Murder, and we’ve ended up as default front row, as everybody filed in and sat behind us. Same again this week. With one minute before “curtain up”, no one had sat in front of us. Sigh. I was practising in my head my responses to the usual questions a comic will ask the audience members. “What do you do here in Northampton?” “I tend to write about things I see at the Royal and Derngate”. But then – bliss, as a late arriving veritable coachload of punters (teachers at a local school) trooped in after scoffing down a rushed meal at the restaurant across the road and provided Dan Evans (MC) and the other comedians a feast of material for the rest of the evening.

Dan EvansIt was a welcome return for Dan, who’s not been well recently, poor lad, but he was back on fine form and warmed us up tremendously with new and old material and comedy gold badinage with the schoolteachers. It was the Assistant Principal (Maths) guy who made it so easy. Apparently he was sitting there with a face like a slapped arse, and from my angle looked as though he wanted the earth to swallow him up. There were other late arrivals too, whom Dan interrogated thoroughly before they’d even had a chance to locate some seats. Woe betide the Late Arrivals at the Comedian’s Ball.

Matt PriceOur first act was Matt Price, whom I thought we hadn’t seen before but as his routine developed, we both remembered him from our very early days at Screaming Blue Murder, before I started blogging, circa 2009. He has a terrific comic persona, that of an ungainly and somewhat overweight Cornishman with a tendency to sacrifice politeness for honesty. He saw the Assistant Principal (Maths) guy as a personal challenge, and despite giving us a hysterically funny set, it sounded like he failed. He did some nice sequences including white kids who think they’re black, which I have heard others do, but then matched with black kids who think they’re white, which gave it a very enjoyable balance. He told us of his experiences of performing in Broadmoor (which was what we remembered from years back), and a perfect one-liner involving an unfortunate sexual act with someone with a prosthetic limb. He went down extremely well.

Benny BootNext was Benny Boot, who we definitely hadn’t seen before. Australian, and extremely anarchic, he occasionally built up a really good comic momentum but had a tendency to throw it away with poor timing or inadequate punchlines. He’s the kind of guy you’d dread having as a friend because he will just say the most inappropriate thing at the wrong time, and leave you squirming with embarrassment – as he did when he just went into too much personal interrogation with one of our regular comedygoers who happens to be blind. Not sure how embarrassing it was for the blind guy himself, but enquiring deeply into the nature of his disability simply wasn’t funny – and he definitely lost the majority of the audience as a result. A perfect example of going down the wrong route.

Pierre HollinsOur headline act was Pierre Hollins, whom we have seen here before in 2010 and 2012. Pierre is good ol’ blokey bloke with hugely confident delivery and very funny material about everyday life and relationships. It was hard for his act to get going because one lady near the back developed a disturbingly loud guffaw which she let rip at least every twenty seconds. Mr Hollins played off it very well and it became the centrepiece for a lot of his routine. Once she started to get tedious, he carefully ignored her and got back on his own track again – very skilfully done. Again, he was very popular with the audience.

Only one more Screaming Blue Murder left this season, in two weeks’ time. You’d be a fool to miss it.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 7th September 2012

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah for the return of the Screaming Blue Murder autumn season, from the hot and sweaty depths of the Underground in the Royal and Derngate – but at least it doesn’t smell of damp anymore. Not going to criticise it though, as it’s a perfect venue for this kind of comedy club.

Dan EvansA good crowd – which featured not only Mrs Chrisparkle and myself, but also My Lady Duncansby, the Baron von Badby and the Duchess of Duston – saw Dan Evans introduce the usual line up of three super comics and two lovely intervals. Dan was on very good form – effortless in his interaction with the front rows, and dispensing lots of new material (phew! Good stuff!) even if the one old joke he told was the one that got the biggest laugh.

OlaFirst up was Ola; Olawale Gbaja-Biamila according to Chortle, or Olathecomedian according to Twitter. New to us, it was stimulating to have some intelligent, thoughtful observations to start the evening off, and I admired how he was absolutely in control of the pace of his set, carrying us all along with him, dropping in the funny lines and quirky ideas exactly when he wanted. Lots of pauses, but I had complete confidence in him to see out each thread to its intended outcome. I liked the use of “urban charm” – you’ll have to watch his act to see how that gets included – and also he had a nice form of self-deprecation – one where he allows us to get humour out of his (apparent) slight bigheadedness. When he said he was a Christian you could hear a pin drop – superb timing.

Pierre HollinsThe other two acts we had seen before. Pierre Hollins was next, and I remember him as being full of attack, with lots of hard-hitting material, and he was just the same this time – if slightly better. He’s very good at presenting you with situations as experienced by an ordinary bloke (whatever that is) and I certainly found myself recognising a lot of the funny observations he made. A bit coarse, but in a friendly way. A couple of bizarre songs on the guitar at the end weren’t as strong as the rest of his material, so it didn’t quite finish on a high, but he probably got the loudest applause of the night anyway.

Tony LawThe headline act was Tony Law, who we thought also had improved a lot from the last time he was here. He has a very surreal act; he instantly launches into another world populated by his imagination, which to me only partly makes sense and even less makes for humour. I can’t describe his world – I’m afraid I simply don’t recognise it. This level of surrealism must be a dangerous comedic ploy – if the audience isn’t “getting it”, there’s really nowhere to go; you’re in so deep that you can’t backtrack and start again on a different tack. Last time he was here he was heckled pretty mercilessly and didn’t cope well with it – he got defensive and – frankly – a bit arsey with the hecklers (who were funnier than he was). This time the Northampton audience was much more polite. And although I didn’t really get his act, and I noticed stony silence from Mrs C and Lady D, and drooping eyelids from the Baron, the Duchess of Duston at the end of the row was rocking back and forward with hysteria. Humour is such a subjective thing. His African and Indian elephant routine at the end was a masterstroke though, and I loved it. You had to be there.

Another bunch of comics in two weeks time – already looking forward to it!