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, Northampton, 3rd March 2017

Screaming Blue MurderWe’ve attended 77 (yikes!) editions of Screaming Blue Murder over the years but this one was something different for me at least – because instead of being accompanied by Mrs Chrisparkle, I was one of ten guys out on a stag do, in honour of my future stepfather-in-law (Sir William) in preparation for his forthcoming nuptuals with my mother-in-law (Lady Duncansby). As well as some of Sir William’s old pals, also present were my three stepbrothers-in-law-to-be, and one of my future stepnephews-in-law. Debrett’s are going to have a Field Day. Naturally, like all good hen and stag parties we hogged the front row, placing Sir William in the centre so that he could get the full attention of the comics. However, unlike most hen and stag parties, our groom is the fine old age of 74, and at least three of the four people on stage that night did a double-take when they saw him. Good on him for taking it all in the best possible spirit, which is what he’d been drinking solidly since 5pm.

Dan EvansDan Evans was in charge as usual, and on fine form as he traded banter with some vociferous youngsters on our left, explored hairdressing options (like his follicles, few and far between) with a young female barber, and got thoroughly confused as to the ages of Sir William’s sons. Towards the end he revealed that he hadn’t made one member of our party crack a smile the whole evening, to which the latter responded that he had enjoyed the show, but as Dan noted, just kept his enjoyment to himself. We could have told Dan that he always looks like that.

Wendy WasonOur first act was Wendy Wason, whom I’ve seen once before and she’s a thoroughly enjoyable act. She’s bright and breezy, just a little bit posh, and full of confidence as she shares her parenting experiences and a host of middle class neuroses. She had lots of good material involving sex but I was grateful that none of it was too rude; after all, sex humour doesn’t always have to be in the gutter. Last time we saw she was absolutely filthy! She gained an excellent rapport with the crowd and went down very well.

Robert WhiteOur second act, in a change to the advertised programme, was Robert White. Mrs C and I have seen Mr White several times and there is possibly no better comic to handle a stag do. I say handle advisedly, as he combines his Asperger Syndrome with his continuous gay double entendres, some of which he converts into on the spot made up songs. At his best Mr White can be unbeatable; and indeed he was last Friday night. He got Sir William up on stage and, after using subterfuge to check out his backside, they shared a joint rendition of I’d Do Anything, where – well you can guess the shenanigans that Sir William agreed to get up to with Mr White. Fortunately, it wasn’t just the stag party who found him fantastic, he gauged the mood of the room perfectly and we were all shaking with laughter. A brilliant set.

Nick WiltyOur final act, and also one we’ve seen do successfully many times before, was Nick Wilty. Unfortunately, when Mr White is on fire like he was last Friday, any act that follows him is at a disadvantage, and Mr Wilty’s understated self-deprecating delivery, like Ray Winstone with a headache, just didn’t have the attack required to make an impact. If he and Mr White had swapped places it would have worked so much better, because Mr Wilty’s material is really funny once you “get” his style. We still laughed – but just not as much we’d have liked.

For various inconsequential reasons, we can’t go to another Screaming Blue now until 21st April. You’ve no excuse though – the best value comedy around!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd April 2016

Screaming Blue MurderFirst Screaming Blue Murder for us for a few weeks and it also happened to be a birthday celebration! So when Dan Evans called out if anyone was celebrating anything I cried out an excitable “Yes!” to which he replied “oh not you…” It’s lovely to be a valued member of the audience. Actually, there were some other much more…vociferous people there who were also celebrating. My moment in the spotlight passed quickly.

Dan EvansDan had plenty to contend with, with a front row half stocked with over-enthusiastic birthday partyers, and half with a party of police constables. You had to feel sorry for P.C. Tom, sat in the front row, right in the middle, and, as everyone agreed, thoroughly gorgeous looking. Every act commented on how he was a stunner. One of them even made him stand up and accept the (maybe jealous) plaudits of the crowd. He took it like a man – in other words he didn’t complain and he giggled a lot with his mate.

Chris WashingtonOur first act was bluff Northerner Chris Washington. He was new to us and, I must say, we really enjoyed his act. He took it all at a nice confident pace, and with bags of very funny material, you never doubted you were going to be in for a fun half hour. Included in his routine was an excellently bizarre weapons amnesty (in honour of the police guests I think), how men and women differ when they answer the door to the postie when they’ve just got out of bed, and the economics of dog ownership. I particularly enjoyed his mate’s CV – I’m presuming it’s not genuine but if it is, that’s terrific – and a brilliant last gag that mixes Lego with legover. An excellent start.

Amy HowerskaOur second act was Amy Howerska, whom we have seen before but as part of the hosting team of Spank! on our first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. Again, extremely funny, she’s one of those comedians whose act just flies by in a whoosh of sex jokes and brilliant observations and it’s hard to pin down whether she dwelt for very long on any particular subject. She did have some great material about not being emotional because she comes from a military family, has a wide range of excellent accents, including her Eastern European bikini wax lady, and she introduced me to the concept of Penis Braille. (Not on a one-to-one basis, I should add). Bright, funny; a little challenging from time to time but all to the good.

Robert WhiteIn a change to the advertised programme, our final act was Robert White, whom we have seen three times before. He’s always been brilliant in the past, and he was brilliant again. Mixing being gay with Aspergers’, chucking in a keyboard and a penchant for comedy songs, scouring the front row for straight guys to embarrass, what could go wrong? He has one of the fastest-thinking brains imaginable, so can seemingly create brand new, person-specific comedy material at the drop of a pair of pants. Just superb.

Another excellent house saw a terrific line-up. Why don’t you come next time? 13th May if you’re wondering!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 24th October 2014

Screaming Blue MurderWe’ve been having such a good time at the Screaming Blue Murders recently that we have been encouraging more friends to come and join us. Last Friday we were accompanied by the Sheriff of Shenstone, Lady Lichfield and the young Baron Brownhills. We were expecting our usual host Dan Evans to appear but in a change to the advertised programme, the show was hosted by Kate Smurthwaite, whose name suggests to me a little blue Belgian gnome with a big white cap. But she doesn’t look like that at all. She’s a genial, jovial, intelligent sort of comic, who makes a good connection with the audience and picked on the right people with whom to have some decent banter.Kate Smurthwaite The dishwasher girls and the father-in-law/sons-in-law group gave good value, as did the inevitable comedy fans from Travis Perkins (IT department). She strayed a little into politics, but we’re not very interested in that kind of thing here. Sorry about that.

Paul F TaylorOur first act was Paul F Taylor, an innately funny guy with a great sense of the surreal and a fast attacking style. He stayed just on the right side of manic all the way through his material, which includes some pungent puns and shaggy dog stories. I liked his analogy that much of his set was like the middle aisle in Aldi, and really enjoyed his final sequence, where vending machines take on human identities. He went down well with the crowd, and I hope he comes back for more some time.

Karen BayleySecond, and continuing the change to the advertised programme, we had the return of Karen Bayley, whom we have already seen three times, once as host and twice as the opening act. If you’ve not seen her before she is extremely funny with her self-deprecating, “desperate for sex” material, channelling all her desires to the youngest man in the front row, this time Chris, 26, who several times looked as though he wanted the earth to swallow him up. It’s all brilliantly funny, and the Sheriff thought she was sensational – but if I have a criticism, it is that Karen has more or less performed precisely the same routine four times now, and I reckon it’s time to shake the act up a little.

Robert WhiteFinal act was also someone we’ve seen twice before, and always enjoyed, Robert White. Looking extremely innocent, and gently knocking out some bontempi tunes on his keyboard, he uses his unique selling point combination of being gay and having Asperger’s syndrome to make up extremely funny, frequently saucy songs about all the members of the audience whose identities had been revealed by earlier comics. He usually discovers some rather straight-laced chap in the front to whom he starts singing explicit sex songs, and then in whom we all delight watching him squirm. But this time his first choice of target was gay and so that wasn’t going to work, then his second choice turned out to be someone who was equally happy to “take him on”, so to speak, so Mr White’s usually hilarious finale got scuppered. Nevertheless, it was great fun to witness it all fall apart in the most light-hearted of manners.

A reasonably sized house this week, but come on Northampton, you can do better – everyone book for the next show on 7th November!

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

Screaming Blue MurderAnother two weeks and it’s back to the Underground for the latest Screaming Blue Murder. They’ve removed the rubber flooring that had been laid over the carpet there on that occasion, so maybe it really was Fetishist’s Week last time, as Mrs Chrisparkle had suggested?

Simon ClaytonAnyway, no Dan Evans this week – and I think this was the first time that we had seen all three acts and the compere previously, so I wondered how entertaining we would find the evening. No problem – all four were excellent. Our compere was Simon Clayton, a slightly larger-than-life, cheeky chap who easily gets you on his side. His interaction with the audience is very easy and natural, and being, like him, slightly well rounded in the stomach department myself, I find I identified nicely with a lot of his material. He kept it moving really well all evening. Physically, he puts me in mind of a more risqué Dangermouse.

Karen BayleyOur first act was Karen Bayley, who, I think it is fair to say, did more or less precisely the same act that she has done on the last two occasions she’s been here. Fortunately, it works very well. She usually appeals more to the female funnybone, sometimes to the slight isolation of the gents in the audience, but this time she seemed to play to both sexes more evenly. She always likes to choose a young guy in the front row to play up to – this time it was Tom, 28 – not as young as usual but he certainly went the desired shade of cerise.

Robert WhiteSecond act was Robert White – with his unusual comic combination of being gay and having Asperger’s Syndrome. I remember last time he kind of grew into the act and ended up being really funny. Well this time he went hammer and tongs into it from the start and was a complete riot. He uses his extraordinary brain function to great comic effect, inventing cuttingly funny lyrics on the spot to reflect the make up of the audience and his interaction with them. He too likes to pay attention to a guy on the front row – this time it was Simon who got the benefit of his “I’d Do Anything” routine – and it was brilliant. The crowd loved it.

Alan FrancisHeadline act was Alan Francis – and I thought he might have a difficult time after Robert White. But no – Mr Francis is as cool as a cucumber and had the audience in the palm of his proverbial. With that educated Scottish accent, he sounds like a smuttier version of Ronnie Corbett. His confidence is just perfectly pitched and his is an assured act. Excellent stuff with some very funny material.

One of the best line-ups we’ve had for a very long time. Packed again too, which is always rewarding, and everyone seemed to have a great night.

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.