Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 14th September 2018

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah and Huzzah, it’s the return of Screaming Blue Murder! After those dark Friday evenings of the summer (well, they were quite light actually, but you get my meaning) where all you could do was to relax in the sunshine and fresh air, eat healthy salads and drink homemade fruit smoothies, it’s a welcome back to spending Friday nights in a dark, overheated cellar room at the Royal and Derngate, knocking back the vino collapso and enjoying the finest comedy on the circuit.

Dan EvansAnd it was a welcome back to our usual genial host, Dan Evans, who was on fine form as he set us all at our ease, including Ian who was celebrating his 57th birthday (youngster!) and the attractive young couple in the front row – it turned out that she was a trainee social worker specialising in child safeguarding, and he worked in recruitment for Help for Heroes, trying to get ex-forces people back into work. As you can imagine, the scope for taking the mick out of them was minimal!

James BranThis was one of those rare occasions when all three comedians were new to us. First up was James Bran, a likeable young chap with a rather cerebral approach to his comedy, which we both appreciated. He had some good material about living in the technological age and a great story about dealing with those “have you been involved in an accident” calls. He built up a nice confident rapport with the audience, and, whilst it was never wet-your-pants hilarious, it was intelligent, well structured, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Rob KempOur next performer, and a change to the original line-up, was Rob Kemp. He’s another really likeable performer with tons of zest and a really positive approach to his act. He’s clearly naturally a very funny guy but his material is more than somewhat on the eclectic side. He started to lose us (and he knew full well this was happening) when he tackled what I’m sure was a very clever parody of the 1982 movie The Thing. However, unless you’re really au fait with the film – and I reckon 99% of us weren’t – so much of it went over our heads. It was a shame because you could tell there was so much preparatory work that went into his act but sadly a lot of it was wasted on us! So although he largely missed the mark, he was still strangely admirable!

Sean MeoOur headline act was Sean Meo, a former professional snooker player but that was some time ago and does not feature in his act. He has quite a dour, semi-aggressive persona, and he spends his act constantly walking from side to side across the stage, like a frustrated caged tiger. His material is devastatingly funny, but not for everyone; he opened with some brilliantly comic observations about ISIS, at which one member of the audience took offence, shouted out “you should be ashamed of yourself” and stormed out. I can completely understand that; if your son had died in Helmand Province, for example, you’re unlikely to find that kind of stuff funny. However, Mr Meo simply carried on, making the observation that she made the mistake of taking it seriously, and to his absolute credit, it didn’t affect the comedy flow in any way. The best way I can describe his entire set is as being superbly offensive – I’m sure you’ve got the idea. His timing is immaculate, his delivery sure-fire. You have complete confidence in his ability to hit the comedy nail on the head again and again. We thought he was fantastic, and would definitely seek him out again.

As always, a fabulous night of comedy, with a sell-out audience. Next one is in two weeks’ time. Will you be there?

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 21st November 2014

Screaming Blue MurderThe Underground was completely packed for the final night of this season’s (and this year’s) Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights – which meant people arriving late not only had the ignominy of being picked on by our host Dan Evans (in rip-roaring form) but they also had to stand around whilst new chairs were sourced from other parts of the building. Dan was also able to warm us up nicely by finding out all about the people in the front row, including Peter the rather bashful Civil Engineer, Charlie who was most definitely not his girlfriend, and two “beautiful couples” including a 25th birthday boy, who was given Jimmy Carr tickets as a gift – cue lots of entertaining jealousy humour from Dan.

Pierre NovellieAll the acts were new to us this week, and I reckon that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that in over three years, so we were very excited at the prospect. First act was Pierre Novellie, an imposing chap with a bushy beard and polite and friendly persona, the occasional “f word” notwithstanding. He had some nice material about the fact that, as he is of white South African heritage, racists assume he is “one of us”; and there was also some enjoyable stuff where he gives monotonous but appropriate lyrics to film scores. But I felt his approach was almost too gentle, and a lot of his material felt like padding, waiting for a punchline that might or might not eventually happen. He started his act with a good ten minutes about his name, most of which was quite boring I’m afraid. If he got some new material his act could go places – but as it stands, he’s paddling in the shallow end at the moment.

Lou SandersHowever, he was a comic genius in comparison with our second act, Lou Sanders. She looks like she’s going to be jolly, and she did have some good material in a quirky sort of way – her chat with an audience member being on Tinder was pretty good – but for some reason she didn’t build up a rapport and when she ran out of material a bit too early, something of a car crash ensued. She announced that she’d be doing her final joke, but it wasn’t that good and didn’t lead to much of a laugh; then she confessed she’d run out of things to say (they were written on her hand) and, realising she still had five minutes to do, panicked a little and it all came across as though she was begrudging us her time and attention. She had just started another joke she said would definitely be the last, when a heckle from the back put her off and she just decided she’d stop there and wouldn’t carry on. This created a surge of embarrassment-led sympathy from the front rows but she was adamant that there was no point in carrying on and that her act wasn’t for everybody.

Sean MeoThe headline act was Sean Meo, and at last we had a comic who knew how to be funny. An older chap, much more experienced, full of attack and vigour, who created an excellent rapport with the audience, using some extremely good material, delivered with terrific timing. Even so, I found one element of his act dangerously close to offensive, when he had some material about “midgets” (his choice of terminology), saying that we “tolerate” them, but don’t look at them and ignore them, which counts as disablist content in my view. Still, his masterful delivery and jokey blokey personality allowed him to get away with it, and he went down very well with the audience.

So not the best comedy night ever, but not the worst either. Let’s hope the great turn-out for last Friday’s show continues when the next season comes along in the New Year. Can’t wait!