Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd March 2019

Screaming Blue MurderAnother packed house for 2-and-a-half hours of fun courtesy of the Screaming Blue Murder team – the best value comedy in town. This season’s dates have been rather spread apart which means that when the next show comes around, you’re really in the mood for it. And that was all too evident this week as the audience were really up for a good time and, if I may so myself, as an audience, we were all pretty terrific.

Dan EvansWe welcomed our usual host Dan Evans, his three amazing guests and, as ever, his two sumptuous intervals. This week Dan ended up talking to Liz and John from Earl’s Barton – the crowd couldn’t decide whether to be sniffy about them or jealous of them; the jovial man who runs the Northampton auction house (I recognised him from my auctioning days), and the front row girls who were all one-upping each other (“I’ve got a house” “well at least I’ve got a baby” etc). He handled it all with his usual remarkable bonhomie.

Paul PirieThis was one of those great nights of comedy when you’ve seen all the acts before so you more or less know what’s coming but they were all on such cracking form that they all surprised you with their excellence. First up was Paul Pirie, whom – I have to say – we didn’t really enjoy much when we saw him here way back in 2012. However, this time he was rip-roaring sensational. He bombasts you with a ton of brilliant silly observations with a very powerful delivery, interspersed with some genuinely wacky and funny voices. He’s not one of those comics who give you thoughtful material for your brain to continue to peruse for the next few days; he’s a wham-bam thank you ma’am sort of chap – blame the Red Bull. His set was jam-packed with material, most of which I can’t remember because it was so “of the moment”; although I do remember he said he failed RE at school; which is about as impossible as failing lunch.

Karen BayleyNext up, and another favourite, was Karen Bayley. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Ms Bayley, and, although it’s still largely the same I’m a cougar watch out young man routine that she always gives, the passage of time meant that it still felt fresh and really funny. She did build up a fantastic rapport with the audience – and not just the women this time, which makes an enjoyable change. You sense that though her material is bawdy, deep down she’s probably quite sensitive and polite, which creates a curiously interesting stage persona. Very funny indeed.

Roger MonkhouseHeadlining on Friday night was Roger Monkhouse, whom we’ve also seen a few times now and who has cultivated a young fogey personality. He has a terrifically self-deprecating tone and uses it to great advantage with some rather savage observations about life and relationships, whilst dipping into the inevitable horrors of politics. His material is always solid and on the ball, and he too went down tremendously in the hall.

One of those occasions where it all came together, with host, guests and audience all on top form. Seven weeks to wait until the next one. Seven!! That’s mental cruelty.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 23rd January 2015

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah for the return of a new year of Screaming Blue Murder nights at the Royal and Derngate. If you’ve not been before, for the price of modest main course in a restaurant you get three great comedy acts, two wonderful intervals and one fabulous host. One person who hadn’t been before was HRH the Crown Prince of Bedford, who was on a state visit to Northampton and accompanied us to the show. The prince has a tendency to sit in the front row at comedy shows, a foolhardy act which we tried to resist, resulting in the application of the grand old art of compromise, with our sitting in the second row with him on the central aisle so that he could engage in idle badinage with the comics should they invite him to do so.

Dan EvansOur jovial host was the masterful Dan Evans, with his unerring ability to warm an audience up by mixing a few brief jokes with some teasing of the good sports in the first few rows. With a packed house (Lady Duncansby was too late to get a ticket) Dan had plenty to choose from, and so we were introduced to Rob from Wootton School, a lady with a “don’t go there” back-story about her marriage and a pharmaceutical consultant who couldn’t have been more mysterious if he tried. Actually he did try – a lot.

Tiff StevensonOur first act was Tiffany Stevenson, whom I remember from the TV series Show Me The Funny, which was a number of things including absolutely fascinating, but sadly hardly ever funny. She comes out with bundles of attack, oodles of confidence, and a lot of top quality material. She had some good observations about binge culture – whatever that might be – as well as maintaining that all men are gay (to a certain extent) because they love their own penis. I’d have thought the definition of gay was loving other men’s penises, but there you go. I’m delighted to say that I’m one of the few people on this planet who don’t know who the Kardashians are, but even so I could tell that her routine about them was highly entertaining. By the way, my autocorrect changed Kardashians to Lard Ashrams, which might not be that inappropriate, from what I understand. Miss Stevenson engaged with the Prince on the subject of age and hangovers, and I got the sense she quite fancied him. Very funny, very lively and pacey – a great opener to the evening.

Joe LycettSecond up was Joe Lycett, whom we have seen here before and whom I remembered as being very good value. A doyen of young middle-class camp, his engaging conversational style gets you on his side right from the start, and we spent a half hour or so of idle chitchat that didn’t really go places but nor did it matter. He ended his set, like he did in 2012, with an amusing account of a difficult email conversation – it must be his stock in trade. This time it was about having to pay 30p to use the toilets at Euston Station, a fee about which Mr Lycett was not unreasonably peeved. Extremely funny, and very popular with the crowd.

Roger MonkhouseOur final act was Roger Monkhouse; again someone I remembered with fond hilarity from his previous Screaming Blue appearance. I hope Mr Monkhouse wouldn’t be offended if I were to say that facially he reminds me of what E.T. would look like if he was a General Practicioner. He has a rather quiet, intellectual style that gives him a good sense of authority when talking about politics and Other Important Issues. He also ended up directing some of his material at the Prince – including apologising for the state we’ve got the nation into and that his generation is going to have to pay for. Often political stuff doesn’t go down that well in Northampton, but Mr Monkhouse certainly hit our collective funnybone – maybe because it’s a general election year we’re going to be more attuned to it in 2015.

A great start to the season – next one is on February 6th. You really ought to come!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton 11th February

Another Comedy night last Thursday, please see an earlier blog entry for general details. Absolutely packed they were, they had to bring in extra chairs and the volunteer ushers worked their socks off to make sure everyone had a seat. Well done to them!

Dan Evans was the compere again, new jokes, they didn’t always work but that didn’t matter as he is excellent at being self-deprecating, which made it funnier.

Karen BayleyFirst act was Karen Bayley, we thought she had a great set, full of funny content, maybe more geared toward making women laugh rather than men. I saw quite a few younger guys looking quite stoney-faced through her set, but I’m old enough to realise that if you try to have a good time, generally you do! A nice segment about what happened when she went to a swingers’ party, threw her car keys in the middle, but was the only one who did… My only criticism would be that she could have worked the crowd just a bit more. But she had lots of good content so it didn’t matter too much.

Ron VaudrySecond was Canadian Ron Vaudry, very quick witted, fast to react to the crowd, the setting, the lights, his total “performance environment”. Nice observations about life in England from a Canadian’s point of view. Right on the centre of the front row was a senior local police officer (a D C no less) with his son – this had been winkled out of him during Dan Evans’ introductory banter – and it was enjoyable to watch Ron Vaudry’s slight discomfort at telling jokes involving drug taking and drink driving!

Roger MonkhouseLast was Roger Monkhouse, who had an unusual style with a slightly young fogey persona, occasionally stuttering (deliberately I’m sure) with his “I can’t quite understand the world today” observations. He admitted to being 45 and that’s why he’s now becoming a grumpy old man. Hmmm. I’ve got a few years on him but I’m not grumpy. Actually he wasn’t grumpy – more wistful in a bemused sort of way. Anyway again very good content, possibly could have done with more interaction with the audience, but all three acts went down very well and a bunch of very happy people emerged from the theatre at 10.55 last night. Brilliant value! No more comedy for a few weeks but we are seeing End of the Rainbow later this week to which I am really looking forward.