Back at the Comedy Crate and my first time seeing a gig in the upstairs room at V&B in glitzy, cosmopolitan, downtown Northampton. A fun, intimate venue and top quality drinkies! What more could you ask? Well maybe some top quality comedy too, and they had that in abundance.
Our host for the evening was local lad Pete Teckman (I say lad – by the sound of it we both celebrated our 60th birthdays during Lockdown 1.0). He gets an easy rapport with the audience, and quickly got to know Amber, Joseph and Dan in the front row, as, indeed, we all did. Comedy newbie Amber gradually learned that it’s easy to give too much personal response to the niceties of the comedian on stage; Dan, on the other hand, never really came to terms with this concept. Pete treated us to some excellent material and kept the whole thing going with confidence and nicely turned self-deprecation.
Our first act, someone we’ve seen many times and it’s always a delight, was Mary Bourke; brimming with attitude and always teetering on the edge of comedy disdain, she gave us her hilarious insights into life in Crouch End, dealing with consensual banter, winning the battle over a disabled parking space, and much more. Her timing is always immaculate; she radiates a tiny sense of danger which only adds to the comic frisson of her material. And, may I say, a beautiful use of similes – she’s a terrific wordsmith. A great way to start the night.
Next up, and new to us, was Birmingham’s own Hasan Al-Habib, a young chap with a tremendous range of entertaining voices that he uses to great effect. Most of his material centres on his Arab appearance and heritage, playing on prejudices and cultural differences, which in an inexperienced hand could go awfully wrong, but Hasan nails it perfectly with delicate precision and a keen sense of identifying the funny side in everything.
Our headliner, and someone we’ve only seen in a Zoom gig before (thanks Covid) was President Obonjo, dictator of the Lafta Republic, a brilliant comic creation and a vision in intimidating combats. He is able to both take the rise out of your “typical” African dictator – an Idi Amin crossed with a Bokassa and a bit of Mugabe chucked in for good measure – and also cast a critical eye over current British democracy for comparison. I love the idea that he is based in St Albans, that just seems so bizarre; he also picked out good-natured Jordan in the second row for special “shared race” treatment, which worked superbly. And he quickly identified front-row Dan; I doubt he’ll ever get a visa to visit Lafta. Fearless, challenging, and incredibly funny; I also love the way he occasionally lets the façade drop a little to reveal the real person behind the mask. A tremendous end to a superb night.
It’s always a delight to be able to write up a comedy night that was a winner from start to finish. More Comedy Crate gigs coming up soon, with a new act new material night at Saints Coffee on the 25th, and a return to V&B on 5th December, with Roger Monkhouse topping the bill.