Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 1st February 2019

Screaming Blue MurderThe first Screaming Blue Murder of the year is always an excuse for a celebration and by the time we arrived at the Royal and Derngate, the queue to get in to the Underground was already longer than I’d ever seen it before. Fortunately we still managed to get our favourite seats – back row of front section, on the central aisle – which is close enough to feel part of the action and safe enough (usually) not to catch the comic’s eye and thus become part of the act.

Dan EvansOur host was the ever-genial and effervescent Mr Dan Evans, who whips us up into a frenzy so that we’re ready for our acts. As usual, Dan spent some time getting to know the people in the front rows, which included blingy Jo and her drama-teacher sister; front row Brian, who didn’t quite participate to the extent he should have; Frank from the Netherlands who met his wife in a field; and the fresh-faced family from Brackley, who looked like butter wouldn’t melt but ended up revealing themselves as a partner-swapping outfit. The dynamic’s different from week to week but Dan always comes up trumps.

Julian DeaneOur first act was Julian Deane, whom we’d seen once before, when he was Paul Chowdhry’s support act. He has a very dry, subtle style, which means he lulls you into a false sense of security, and when you think you know which way his story is going it suddenly goes off in a different direction that you totally weren’t expecting; for instance, when he tells us he and his girlfriend are not ready for children yet – which really upsets them. He’s especially good at taking an innovative approach to a familiar subject. We’d heard some of his material before at the Paul Chowdhry gig but nevertheless spending half an hour in his company is still a fresh and hilarious experience. I love his line about how it’s wrong to have a favourite child, and the brilliant gag which reveals the difference between dyslexia and paedophilia. Very assured, very enjoyable, and a great way to start the night.

Micky OvermanNext up was Micky Overman – new to us, and she’s a bright, confident, young Dutch lady. Funny material, full of attack; but some of the audience didn’t quite seem to know just how to take her. Maybe she was just a little more sexually aggressive than we’re used to with our young ladies. From the older ones, we expect it; but when it comes from the younger ones, it surprises us more. She had a lot of good stuff about the association of Amsterdam with drugs; and also her friendship with the thirteen-year-old girl she’s been nannying. A strong stage presence and nice interaction with the audience.

Steve BestOur last act – and a fairly last-minute change to the advertised programme – was the one and only Steve Best, whom we’ve now seen five times at Screaming Blues, always doing the same madcap act and always a complete delight. The trouble is, if you don’t “get” his act, you won’t like it, as illustrated by the reaction of the front row drama-teacher who had a face like a ripped trainer throughout. Fortunately, Mr Best didn’t let that slow him down, and his usual set involving a balloon, a red nose, a toilet seat and a blow-up doll went down like the proverbial house on fire. Fast, frantic, slapstick and ridiculous, don’t come to him expecting an evening of intellectual rigour; but if you like your humour ultimately silly, he’s your man.

Next Screaming Blue is in two weeks on 15th February. We can’t go, so let us know how it went.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd September 2017

Screaming Blue MurderHaving missed the first Screaming Blue Murder of the autumn – and by all accounts it was 100% fab – we definitely made sure to get tickets for this one. Great to see that it was a sell-out, and that in order to get all the people in the Underground bunker, they had to curve the front row seats around either end of the stage. (I say “stage”; it’s more like an upside-down pallet, but you get my meaning). Dan Evans was back in charge, and on cracking form. This week in the front row he had to cope with Five Guys, not named Moe, but drinkers at The Yeoman pub in Wootton.Dan Evans They were jolly chaps, but if drinking at that pub makes you as follically challenged as those guys – then maybe I’ll take a pass. There was a posh girl called Victoria with her buddies and a guy called Graham who makes exceedingly good cakes for a well-known bakery company was celebrating his 31st birthday as part of an extended family outing. They were all very well behaved and contributed nicely to the evening – which is something you can only rarely say at this gig.

Tony CowardsWe’d seen all the acts before, but it had been a long while back for two of them, so it was good to get a re-visit. First up was Tony Cowards, whom we last saw back in 2011, when he came 4th in the Annual Chrisparkle Awards for Screaming Blue stand-up: no mean feat. In some respects, Mr Cowards isn’t an obvious joke-front-man; he’s quite reserved and retiring in appearance and voice; but his material is puntastic. He loves to take a word and put it in the wrong context in a throwaway line, thus creating some really funny mental images. I was well taken with the idea of a coffee enema (you never know when it might come in useful) and the constipated detective (you can guess the punchline yourself). But you might not work out what you get when you rearrange the letters of A POSTMAN. In his half hour or so he must have treated us to at least a hundred jokes and puns; he must be one of the hardest working guys in stand up, I reckon. He’s really inventive and very funny – even if the guy on the opposite side of the aisle from me wouldn’t crack a smile on his stony face. Ah, well, you can’t win them all.

Ria LinaNext was Ria Lina, whom we saw here back in 2013, and on that occasion, I didn’t think she made her material work properly. It’s always a little dangerous when the main topic of your humour is race – she has to tread a fine line between the funny and the offensive – and that last time, funny didn’t win. So this time I wasn’t expecting too much. Wrong! Her material worked an absolute treat. It isn’t an easy ride – I had to stop and think about a couple of her punchlines because they definitely challenged me as to what I find acceptable and what I find funny; humour won the argument, and I allowed myself to be swayed by the laughter of the audience. She also had a couple of excellent musical interludes – a big build up to a Brexit song – another bold move considering how much it can divide people – but that was hilarious, and then another about how she ends up sleeping with the boyfriend’s father, thereby creating a wealth of incest material. Lovely!

Steve BestOur final act, and someone we’ve seen many times, was Steve Best; as manic and off the wall as ever. If you’ve not seen Mr Best do his stuff before it can really take you by surprise; it’s a very special kind of challenging. One of the Yeoman pub guys was literally helpless with laughter for all the time he was on stage. To be fair, I don’t think he’s changed the act at all in all four times we’ve seen him; but it’s a winning formula, so why bother?! I do love the cunning way he ends the act with a visual resolution of a callback that you’ve got no idea had even been set up. As predicted, he was a resounding success.

Another Screaming Blue in three weeks’ time – can’t wait!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 16th September 2016

Screaming Blue MurderSummer’s lease hath ended, gentle reader, which can only mean one thing – the return of the Screaming Blue Murder season to keep our spirits high through the oncoming months of mist and mellow fruitfulness. Our genial host, Dan Evans, was back in charge, and in great Dan Evansform as he did his best to manage front-row Hayley (who’d had a few), the regular teachers, the newbies in the third row who did a flit after the second act and the rest of our packed house. Lots of excellent new material from Dan – which is most appreciated!

Tom GoodliffeOur first act was a change to the advertised programme – Tom Goodliffe. He is a tall chap and clearly likes to discover if he’s the tallest chap in the room. He wasn’t. He has a nice nerdy friendly approach, and did a good job of keeping Hayley and her crew under control as she got progressively more worse for wear. He called out for any accountants to identify themselves – very disappointed that Mrs Chrisparkle kept her head low at that point. He did some nice double-entry material anyway. I also enjoyed his maths hip-hop songs and he’s the only comic I’ve seen who has taken advantage of the comedic effects of the different speeds of a tube escalator and its supporting handrail. Good fun and an excellent ice-breaker.

Harriet DyerOur second act was Harriet Dyer, whom we were meant to see in Edinburgh but just ran out of puff for that particular show, so it’s good that we’ve finally seen her perform. To use the description quirky would be an understatement. I did find her funny but she’s the kind of performer that divides audiences – hence the departure of the newbies after her act. I really loved her material about getting hair removal product from Poundland – trust me, don’t do it! Mrs C confessed that if she’d seen her for a full hour in Edinburgh she might have had to rest up for the remainder of the day – she’s quite tiring to watch! But she went down well with the audience – on the whole.

Steve BestBoth the first two acts were new to us but, last on for the night was Steve Best, whom we had seen twice before. In a sense it was a shame that he and Harriet were on the same bill as they both have a very manic approach to their comedy. However, Steve is a sure-fire, super confident winning comic; littering his speech with throwaway meaningless lines that build up over the course of the act to overwhelm you with the utter silliness of it all – and it’s also very funny. He has a surprisingly fine aptitude for a spot of magic – which you’re definitely not expecting – and what he can do with a long balloon is nobody’s business. He completely nailed it – the evening, not the balloon.

There’s another Screaming Blue in two weeks’ time – unfortunately, we can’t go, but you can have our seats!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Derngate, Northampton, February 17th 2012

Kevin Dewsbury

Another very full house last Friday night to enjoy the usual selection of three comics, two intervals and one compere, who this time was Kevin Dewsbury. He compered here last June, was excellent then and was excellent this time too. He has a very relaxed style of humour, coming across as rather caring and kindly, but still with very good material with proper punch lines! He did repeat a bit from last time, but it’s entertaining stuff and we enjoyed hearing it again. I love his observations about pompous people who speak normal English but then go into a silly foreign accent when they say “Sarkozy” or “Reichstag”. Guilty as charged.

 Alfie MooreFirst act was Alfie Moore. He had been on that “Show me the Funny” programme last year – the reality/ comedy programme that sounded great in theory and ended up being a damp squib as it was all background and no comedy. Anyway Mr Moore successfully eradicated any disappointing memories of that series. He was superb. He trades creatively – but not intimidatingly – on the fact that he is a serving police officer as well as a stand-up. He does a lot of un-PC comedy without causing any offence, which is a good trick. He had some great material about Postman Pat’s employment in the light of the Disability Discrimination Act; and I loved the line about how you are no longer required to state your sex on a job application form – ridiculous, how else are you going to know how much to pay them? Also his observation that he was in a same-sex relationship; well, it’s with a woman, but the sex is the same, always…. He was a complete hit and we would like to see him do a longer set in the future.

 Danielle WardIn a sense, everything went a bit downhill after that. The second act was Danielle Ward, whom we saw here in July 2010, and she was very good that time but this time she never quite took off. Quite a lot of her material seemed to just fizzle out without any real payoff at the end. I’m afraid her applause was only lukewarm. Perhaps she just wasn’t the right kind of comic persona to follow Alfie Moore.

 Steve BestFinal act was the rather manic Steve Best; again we’ve seen him at the Screaming Blue Murder before, almost exactly a year ago. He’s fast and furious and rattles through his almost schizophrenic material – it’s a constant battle within himself as to whether he agrees with himself or not. I think the whole act very much relies on his hitting absolutely the right tone from the start to keep the audience in touch with his nonsense. Again this time I don’t think he was quite as successful as his last appearance– but nevertheless it’s delightfully stupid, deftly performed and overall very funny.

 A great night out, as usual, and very rewarding to see the Underground absolutely packed again.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Derngate, Northampton, 18th February 2011

Another night in the Underground in Northampton for this excellent value comedy night out. Dan Evans was our host again, as always in a very good mood and interacting cheekily with the audience.

Ivo Graham First main act was Ivo Graham. He’s only 19 and that must be really tough to cope with a crowd like ours, but he did it admirably! He had nice lines about facebook like hiding what he was really doing online by discovering which Disney Character he would be. I also liked the idea that he would describe a reviewer with the alternative job title, “c*** with a pen”. He also rose to the challenge of an unpredictable audience when a very alluring young lady left her seat during his act and when he challenged her she announced she was “going for a poo”. It very much threw the rest of his act away but he interacted with it very well, he sustained the humour of that moment extremely well and turned it to his favour. One to watch, methinks!

Barry from WatfordSecond up was a change to the billed proceedings, Barry from Watford. Now I was very surprised to hear that Barry from Watford would be there as I thought he was something of a superstar in the comedy club world, as he is prominently on Radio 2 with Steve Wright and I believe fronts some very large gigs. So I was delighted at the prospect of seeing his act.

What didn’t help was a problem with the sound. Barry’s act impersonating a wheezy and vocally strained octagenarian didn’t come over well as his audio mannerisms just sounded painful with the sound feedback. And also, although I thought he started well, to me a lot of the content of his act was rather crude and had more bad language than I thought was appropriate for the Barry character as I’ve heard him on the radio. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Northampton comedy audiences are not that sophisticated; if you do a political act it’s likely to be met with silence; on the other hand we’re not in a Jim Davidson timewarp either, and any humour based on racism or homophobia gets met with the same stony silence. Barry did a bit of racist/homophobic stuff and it didn’t work. So for me the act was a bit disappointing. Steve BestI heard some people at the bar afterwards saying how hilarious he was, but also I noticed others not applauding much. So I guess he’s the kind of comic who divides his audiences.

Last act was Steve Best – fast and furious, engaging personality, clever use of props, although I thought his finale was borderline disgusting. He kept the energy up and certainly delivered loads of laughs. All in all a good night.