It’s always great to see a packed house at our beloved comedy club nights here at the Derngate in Northampton, but sometimes things can just a tiny bit out of hand. I could foresee this at the bar before the show started as I was getting the drinks in for Mrs Chrisparkle, Lady Duncansby, her butler William, her lady’s maid the Belle of Great Billing, and the Duchess of Dallington – just a sweet sherry and five straws. As I was being served, a group of (already quite boisterous) guys came in and asked if they could set up a tab. “They’re planning a good night” I thought to myself. Sadly for them, tabs weren’t available, and they advised the bar staff that, in that case, it would make it very hard work for them throughout the evening with all the drinks they were planning to buy. Anyway, I gave it no more thought.
Until, that is, the chattering and general noise level from the back of the room made it hard for us to hear the ever effervescent Dan Evans getting procedures underway. “I hope those drunks shut up” I confided to Mrs C. They did for a bit – and then they didn’t again. Compere Dan manfully gave us his usual cheeky welcome and great badinage with the front rows and a nice blend of old and new material, some of which the people at the back listened to. Dan noted that the audience was very blokey this week – women seemed to be in reasonably short supply. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Anyway, for those who paid attention to Dan – he was as masterful as usual.
Then it was time for our three acts. First on was Carly Smallman who we enjoyed very much last time we saw her. She comes across as a very bright, happy, friendly kind of girl, who did a lot of “I’ve finally got a boyfriend” material, which works very well with her slightly self-deprecating image. She did struggle against the noisy blokes at the back though. She gave as good as she got (much better actually) but they did their damnedest to make her inaudible – and if you’ve seen Carly before you’ll know that’s quite a challenge. Nevertheless I really enjoyed her song about meeting the boyfriend’s parents for the first time – that’s the kind of thing that can bring back squirmy memories for many. And there was some fun banter between her and some guys in the front row whom she clearly fancied, but they were gay and so she realised was working overtime for little gain.
Second up was a change to the published programme – Russell Hicks. Mr Hicks was new to us but what a discovery! I do like it when a comic has the guts to do away with what they’ve prepared and just go with the flow – and as our flow was generally all over the place, he just went with it and was amazing. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone cope with everything an audience threw at him quite as well as he did. People from Crick, sarcastic applauders, a man with a ZZ Top beard, and Frank in the front row trying to get a word in edgeways, he gave them all just the funniest exchanges which did no end of good to smooth out the ruffled atmosphere caused by the noisy drunken lads. If anything, his style and approachable persona required us as an audience to “up” our creative game to match his parry-ripostes. He comes across as a delightfully laconic everyman figure, with whom you can really identify. We loved him and definitely want him back – whether it’s to do more of his usual act or just argue the toss with the audience, we don’t mind!
Our headline act was Pete Cain, who I feared at first might be a bit fascist, and I thought I wasn’t going to be to my taste; but then he turned out to have a brilliant routine about how to improve the UK. No matter your politics, he gave us all a hilarious lecture on where the country has gone wrong and where we should concentrate our efforts on putting it right again. Basically, we’re all going to have to leave and be let back in one by one if we merit it. Who would be in and who out of his new improved UK? You have to see his act. He also had some great material ridiculing those posh people where he lives in Richmond who talk French in their local French patisserie – imagine a Greggs in the Dordogne – “gorra pasty m’sieur?” Very funny indeed; and he figuratively kept running with the baton of comic momentum that Russell Hicks had handed him.
So despite the tedium of the behaviour of some of our fellow audience members, this actually ended up being one of the best Screaming Blues ever. Can’t wait for the next one!