Review – The Comedy Crate at the Black Prince, Northampton, 16th September 2021

Comedy CrateA coincidence that the Last Night at the Black Prince for 2021 came the same week as The Last Night of the Proms? I think not. A double whammy for us all to contend with at this time of the year. And, to make it just that little bit more challenging, the pub organised a band gig in their back room to vie for our aural attention out in the garden – but we could easily ignore them as we enjoyed the company of a great line-up of comic talents.

Jamie AllertonOur host, new to us, was the enthusiastic powerhouse that is Liverpool’s Jamie Allerton; with his vocal projections the band had no chance of making an impact. He gave us a great mixture of MC welcome and interaction together with plenty of his own excellent material thrown in for good measure. He nicely played on his physical presence to ensure that none of us felt guilty about putting on a few pounds during lockdown. A lively, chatty host who made the show go with a great swing.

Brennan ReeceWe’d seen all the acts before, although first up, Brennan Reece, we’d only seen online at a Comedy Crate/Atic gig back in March. He’s a very likeable chap, who uses his camp-but-straight personality to great comic effect. He strikes up a great rapport with the audience and has some brilliant put-downs when some audience members get a little above themselves (yes Hetero John, we’re all looking at you). He reacts quickly and smartly to what goes on around him and never fears to leave behind his prepared material for a great comic opportunity, which is the mark of a great comedian.

Angela BarnesNext up was Angela Barnes, whom we saw at a Screaming Blue Murder nine years ago, since when her career has gone on a fully deserved upward trajectory. Exuding confidence and presence, she has a great attacking delivery, and her set was full of inventive new material. She’s recently married, which provides for some fun new observations; and she had a wonderful throwaway line about Prince Andrew, after which she had us all in the palm of her hand. Brilliantly funny.

Stephen BaileyOur headline act was Stephen Bailey, whom we first saw five years ago as the support act for Katherine Ryan, and his comic presence is as immaculate and perfectly presented as his good self. In the bizarre setting of the Black Prince garden, he found himself competing for lighting with the next door municipal car park, but he quickly found his stride with his trademark cheeky gayness, taking the whole event as one big hen party. Stephen is now partnered up with lawyer Rich, whose main attraction appears to be that he has a house. His set was full of brilliant comic observations, including a very nice routine about “straight pride”. A great way to end the evening.

That was indeed the last of the Comedy Crate nights at the Black Prince for this year, but their programme continues with loads of excellent acts at the Charles Bradlaugh, the Picturedrome and other local venues – all the information is here!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 4th November 2016

Screaming Blue MurderBack again to the Underground at the Derngate for yet another fun-filled night of stand-uppers at the Screaming Blue Murder club. Every so often, our usual host Dan finds something else to do on an autumnal Friday night and so we have a stand-in host. According to the website it was going to be the excellent Andrew Bird, but instead we had the also excellent Carly Smallman! We’ve seen Ms Smallman a few times before; on the last occasion she caused something of a stir when she encouraged our friend HRH The Crown Prince of Bedford to go out with one of the girls in the front row, and they got offended when he refused. Well he is gay after all.

Carly SmallmanThis time she was once again delving deep into the relationships in the front rows. She got into conversation with Farmer Tristan, who met his wife when she came to shove her hand up one of his sheep’s bottoms. Allegedly she’s a vet. Carly also discovered that one of the girls in the front row worked in mental health with children – comedy gold, as she pointed out, not. At least she could always fall back on her impersonations of penises – which she did very well. In fact, she was absolutely great and we both really enjoyed her MCing throughout the night. She really kept the energy and enthusiasm up and was a most excellent replacement for Dan!

Stephen BaileyOur first act was Stephen Bailey, whom we saw earlier this year as the support act for Katherine Ryan. Now here’s a comic who hits the ground running. With his reasonably outrageous camp style, he’s impossible not to like and his rapport with the audience is just instant and winning. It wasn’t long before he was making Sam, the front row policeman, squirm with embarrassment. As before, he has lots of scurrilous material regarding dating websites; his infamously bad impression of a straight man; and numerous, off the cuff jokes about anything to do with sex that pops into his head. He’s a complete star – and had the full house in hysterics. Absolutely brilliant.

Fern BradySecond up was Fern Brady, whom we have seen here once before; she still has that slightly laconic style that takes a little bit of getting used to, particularly after the high energy of Mr Bailey and Ms Smallman. But her material is great and her observations are spot on. She has a very nice sense of self-deprecation, and a wickedly funny understanding of how best to market herself on a dating website. She went down really well.

gordon-southernFinal act was someone new to us – Gordon Southern. A brilliantly funny guy who again struck up an instant rapport with the audience and whose act developed into a nostalgia trip where the older members of the audience look back at those funny things we used to do in the good old days and the youngsters in the audience haven’t a clue what we’re talking about. All this is interspersed with nonsensical electronic jingles from his keyboard – fun facts. We both thought he was outstanding and his act seemed to fly by.

One of those glorious Screaming Blue nights where no one put a foot wrong and it was wall to wall laughter for two and a half hours. Sadly, we can’t make the final SBM of the year in two weeks’ time – but maybe you can?

Review – Katherine Ryan, Kathbum, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 27th February 2016

KathbumBuying tickets to see Katherine Ryan was yet another of these risky punts on a comedian whom we haven’t seen before. Well, that’s not strictly true – we’ve seen her a couple of times in HIGNFY, where I would identify her style as savagely jocund. I also knew she was Canadian, which is a bit like being an American, but just more balanced. That’s about the full extent of my pre-show knowledge.

Before the show we’d already enjoyed the relaxing experience of sampling ten different wines at the Wine Connection’s monthly tasting. Dinner was to be a late night Indian so we realised we would need something snacky to keep us going through the early part of the evening. So we went to a local pub for a pint of ale and a gin and tonic, and above all, two packets of crisps. We wouldn’t have had the beer if it wasn’t for the fact that we needed the crisps. Honest.

Katherine RyanThus restored, we wandered over to the theatre to order our interval drinks. We’d had more than enough to see us into the first part of the show, but I do like to plan in advance for my interval. We were close to the wire, time-wise. It’s always a danger to walk in to a comedy gig late and I was getting anxious. I finally got served about three minutes after the announcement that the show would start in one minute. And do you know what? They weren’t even taking interval orders because the interval would come just twenty minutes or so into the show. Huh? I never quite get the logic of that. I let out an irritated Grrrrrr. That’ll show them. They won’t do that again in a hurry.

If the interval comes just twenty minutes into the show, it can only mean one thing – a support act. If you’re not expecting a support act – and we weren’t – the sight of the wrong person ambling on to the stage to entertain you can be one of the most disappointing things to endure. We’ve seen plenty of support acts, and for the most part they’ve been ok but not really shaken any trees. It’s a psychological thing. As part of a Screaming Blue Murder line-up they’d be great; up against a big name, somehow they aren’t.

Stephen BaileyNot so with Mr Stephen Bailey. He strikes up an instant rapport with the audience, literally bringing gaiety to the stage. He’s like the lone male out on a hen party, pushing camp cheekiness to the limit and encouraging bad behaviour from the audience but still with top quality material. I think he was a little surprised that none of us in the audience used dating apps; either we had a coach party of Plymouth Brethren in, or some of us were lying. He has a hilarious sequence where he tries to pass himself off as straight – suffice to say, he’s not very good at it. Twenty minutes was not enough! His was one of the many acts we missed in Edinburgh last year; if he’s on at the fringe this year, we might well go and see him.

And so on to the main event – Katherine Ryan with her Kathbum show. Apparently Kathbum is a family nickname. It’s even her twitter handle. You might get the wrong impression that she makes a lot of bum jokes. She doesn’t. Bum jokes would be rather cosy in comparison with the kind of material Ms Ryan uses. She isn’t afraid to take on the most divisive and contentious subjects and go to town with them. She’s clearly highly intelligent; I reckon she could win any argument she chose. Her voice has a deceptively charming purity to it, and she delivers her material with calmness and clarity; if you just heard her voice you might think she was a rather nice infants’ school teacher, gently telling everyone to play nicely.

K RyanBut her material is acid. She out-Rivers Joan Rivers (indeed that was one of the subjects briefly touched upon). She goes straight for the jugular with other celebrities like Cheryl Cole and Peter Andre; a little of that went over our head as we don’t know much about celebrities in truth, but, if you do, you’ll find it funny. And then there’s all the Bill Cosby material – well, he deserves it. There’s a splendid story about a dead rabbit, side observations about small town Canada, and an insight into the hideous rivalry between her and her sister.

Killer deliveries, misleadingly sweet, and with material that sometimes makes you gasp at its daringness, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mrs Chrisparkle laugh out loud quite so much for such a long period as she did in this show. It’s an extremely funny evening and I would definitely recommend you catch her tour! She’s all over the country (so to speak) until June.