Back to the Derngate for another comedy night from the Screaming Blue Murder stable. Dan Evans hosted again, always reliable for getting the crowd hyped up and entertained, but he did repeat a few of his usual routines which is getting a little boring for us regulars. At the end of the evening he mentioned he would be signing books again for selling after the show and the woman in front of me shouted at him “Not the books AGAIN!” which made me laugh quite a lot more than some of the “proper comedy”.
First up was Martin Coyote. An older comic with a more traditional act, but very funny and using lots of modern material. He is the first comic I’ve seen at Northampton make the audience laugh at politics. We did establish at one point that there were very few students in the audience – maybe an older crowd appreciates a little political humour more than the youngsters. He had some very good lines: As a nation, we owe £130 billion pounds in debt which in part funds Trident. Some say we should get rid of Trident and save the £130 billion pounds – alternatively we should point Trident at whoever it is we owe and tell them to f*** off. The Olympics are coming to Stratford, London. How many international athletes think they will be staying in Shakespeare Country? Is this a dagger I see before me? Yes mate, now hand over that gold medal before I use it on you.
The second act was Chris Lynam. I had read how he polarises audiences – some get his humour others don’t. I nearly did. He is maniacally surreal. Once you get into his character he can actually be quite funny, but his style was so different from Martin Coyote’s that it took the duration of most of his act to understand quite what was going on. He did do very good audience participation though, getting a pretty girl out from the front row to kneel in front of him as if she was going to do some private act and then only to have him use her as a music stand; and getting a guy out to play a piano background to a Philip Marlowe sequence was very funny indeed. He also very nicely dealt with someone’s mobile going off – he simply went to his bag of tricks, found a revolver and shot her.
Headline act was Dan Antopolski, of whom I had heard great things, and I was convinced he was a Rowing Blue at Oxford – wrong, that was Dan Topolski. He has a charming wry style, full of clever observations and gentle self-deprecation, and whilst his act wasn’t drop dead guffawing, I had a constant smile on my face and regularly broke into appreciative titters and other vocalised humour-based reactions. Not so for one member of the audience who unexpectedly just told him to “f*** off”. A good heckle is a joy, and a well countered heckle even more so. This was not a good heckle though. Dan simply didn’t deserve it for one thing, and the audience rounded on the heckler as a result.
It was also rather embarrassing. When you go regularly to the SBM you almost feel as though you are at home. And when someone comes all the way up from London with a “Hello Northampton it’s lovely to be here” and then one of your number tells him to f*** off – well it’s a bit like insulting someone you’ve invited round for dinner. Mind you I do think Dan walked into that situation – he did briefly check with the audience to see if they were enjoying themselves as he didn’t sense there was a lot of laughter going on. Possibly a mistake on his part. But there was something wrong with the comedic balance of the evening – as a programme, “Traditional” followed by “Surreal” followed by “Intelligent Observational” didn’t quite work. The leap of faith from comic to comic was too great, the acts didn’t dovetail and the evening didn’t really flow. Nevertheless, it was still jolly funny and all the acts were well worth seeing.