Review – The Comedy Crate back in the Garden of the Black Prince Pub, Northampton, 17th September 2020

Comedy CrateIt was only two weeks ago that we last came to the Black Prince to watch a comedy night in their back garden courtesy of The Comedy Crate. But two weeks is a long time in live comedy, so it was a delight to return for another show last night. I’m still working out whereabouts is the ideal position to sit, and, for this show we sat centrally but four tables back – and on reflection that was probably a little far from the performers for Optimum Atmosphere. Note to self: get closer next time. Still, our table was a riot, with Mrs Chrisparkle on the gluten-free beer, and Lord and Lady Prosecco together with Prinz Mark von Köln tucking into the drinks delicacies on offer from both bars. I, of course, was abstemious… ahem.


Will DugganOur MC this week was Will Duggan, someone we’ve not seen before, but he’s a lively spark and an amiable chap who strikes up a great rapport with the crowd. He devoted his stage time largely to getting to know the people near the front, and they were the usual motley crew of out-of-work singers, retirees and apparent prison inmates (not really, I’m sure.) There was also a chap who took a couple of the acts by surprise by his incredibly boyish features despite being the grand old age of 23. Indeed, he really did look like this was way past his bedtime. Mr D kept things moving at a nice pace and set up a few cunning callbacks for the comics to pounce on later.


Sarah CallaghanOur first act was Sarah Callaghan, who has a nicely confiding (and confident) style, letting us in to the secrets and undercurrents of her domestic life, with her close relationships with both her niece and her mother – and the wisdom of being a smoker under such circumstances. Lots of intelligent but funny family-type observations, and she’s proud to be a pessimist which creates some more good sequences. She has her own take on the #metoo movement, and I very much enjoyed her parting material about flying over the Grand Canyon. We’ve seen her a couple of times before including in Edinburgh where she mixed comedy with poetry – very successfully. Perhaps she didn’t think Northampton to cope with poetry! Anyway, her act was very enjoyable and nicely paving the way for what was to come.


Bobby MairSecond up was the brilliant Bobby Mair; we’d seen him at a Screaming Blue Murder three years ago. And although his characterisation is the same – that of your friendly local psychopath who can be trusted to say the wrong thing if at all possible – I’m pretty sure it was all fresh new material and absolutely top quality stuff. I particularly relished his routines about mental health – a subject matter on which many comics might teeter perilously – but he totally smashed it. One member of the audience suggested that we all have some mental illness, which was the cue for him to do a perfect putdown using a brilliant analogy. I loved his observations about narcissists and Trump (yes, the two in the same breath) – and I didn’t want him to stop. Fantastic.


Paul SinhaOur headline act was the sublime Paul Sinha, whom we’ve seen a few times before, and was indeed the recipient of the Chrisparkle Award for Best Screaming Blue Murder Stand-up for both 2010 and 2012. Ever since he’s been a big name on TV’s The Chase, he’s referred to the show as part of his act to some extent, and so he did this time too. However, you could say that a lot has happened in his life over the past few years – including getting married and being diagnosed with Parkinson’s – and he’s come up with a very creative way of funnelling all that personal material into the act; by telling the story of the past few years by means of verse and (occasional) song. If the prospect of that might make you cringe a little, rest assured it works superbly. It’s such a deftly-written and structured routine, full of wonderful side cultural references, with the full range of modern day heroes from Priti Patel to Gemma Collins (I use the word heroes inadvisably on purpose) – and we all absolutely loved it. Full of hilarity but also full of pathos – an irresistible combination. After it was all over, we left the venue on a warm mental comedy high.


One more Comedy Crate night at the Black Prince coming up on 8th October, including the Noise Next Door whom we saw at the Leicester Comedy Festival last year and are incredible. You have to come too!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 21st October 2016

Screaming Blue MurderOnce again we were back at the Underground for another Screaming Blue Murder night. This time we were accompanied by our distinguished guests, the Sheriff of Shenstone and Lady Lichfield, who had already had a skinful in the Bar Hygge before the show. (If you’ve not tried it, it has a great trendy feel so the four of us fitted in perfectly, naturally.) Also once again, it’s great to see that the show had sold out – and why not, as you get such a great range of comedy at such a decent price.

Dan EvansOur host as usual was the enthusiastic Mr Dan Evans, who had the task of working out why one large section of the audience was 99% female – I’m not sure he ever got to the bottom of it, if you’ll pardon the expression, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. It was a shame that it was one of those nights when, if an audience member was asked what they did for a living, or where they lived, that they went all shy and unresponsive. That’s a tough way to treat a comic.

tez-ilyas-againOur first act was Tez Ilyas, whom we’ve not seen before but he was on my shortlist for Edinburgh shows this year and just missed out because we couldn’t quite fit him in. A really funny, engaging, self-deprecating comic, with brilliant timing and a lot of great material. When someone describes themselves as openly Asian, you can guess the tricky kind of line they’re going to follow. His allusions to The Apprentice and to the News were spot on, and he absolutely had us in the palm of his hand. Then he made a schoolboy error – describing us as inhabitants of Peterborough, not Northampton. Gasps, shocks, stuns and disapproving moans later, he tried to extricate himself by explaining he was from Lancashire and how was he to know – it’s not like we had a proper cricket club… Further gasps, shocks, stuns and disapproving moans. Stop digging! It’s only because he was so likeable that we let him live. The Sheriff wondered if it was a deliberate ploy to get the town wrong in order to get the funny extrication out of difficulty as a consequence. I’m not sure – if it is, it’s a dangerous game! Anyway, he’s a genuinely funny guy and I’d be very happy to see him again.

sarah-callaghanSecond up, and also completely new to us, was Sarah Callaghan. She has a strong, confident delivery, bordering on the faux aggressive, and a lot of her material was on the rudiments of sex – which is always funny, of course. I’d describe her approach as well urban, which didn’t quite connect with any of our party – we’re just too old and staid I suppose. That’s not to say she wasn’t enjoyable, because she was! It just wasn’t an act that I felt I had much in common with, so I didn’t get that much out of it. She had her hands full (figuratively speaking) with some irritatingly noisy girls at the back who just chattered all the way through her act. Fortunately, they left before the final act could make mincemeat of them.

Ian CognitoOur headline act, whom we have seen twice before – and who just seems to get better and better all the time – was Ian Cognito, which has to be one of the best stage names in the business. No one can tell a really poor taste joke and make it bristle with delight like he can, which is both challenging to the audience and also incredibly funny. This time around, his most wicked observations dealt with paedophiles. His act is basically a string of one-liners, but delivered with superb style and at whatever pace he feels comfortable – this could be very fast or, more likely, aggressively languid. Winner of last year’s Chrisparkle Award for best Screaming Blue Stand-up. He might easily take the crown this year too.

Another one in a couple of weeks’ time – looks like a great line-up, so come along!