Having 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. 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.
We’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.
Next 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!
Our 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!