It was just about to happen yet again. Mrs Chrisparkle and I had taken our carefully selected seats on the aisle of the third row which is normally just far enough back to be out of participatory reach of the comics, but close enough to feel involved. However, recently there haven’t been quite so many people coming to the Screaming Blue Murder, and we’ve ended up as default front row, as everybody filed in and sat behind us. Same again this week. With one minute before “curtain up”, no one had sat in front of us. Sigh. I was practising in my head my responses to the usual questions a comic will ask the audience members. “What do you do here in Northampton?” “I tend to write about things I see at the Royal and Derngate”. But then – bliss, as a late arriving veritable coachload of punters (teachers at a local school) trooped in after scoffing down a rushed meal at the restaurant across the road and provided Dan Evans (MC) and the other comedians a feast of material for the rest of the evening.
It was a welcome return for Dan, who’s not been well recently, poor lad, but he was back on fine form and warmed us up tremendously with new and old material and comedy gold badinage with the schoolteachers. It was the Assistant Principal (Maths) guy who made it so easy. Apparently he was sitting there with a face like a slapped arse, and from my angle looked as though he wanted the earth to swallow him up. There were other late arrivals too, whom Dan interrogated thoroughly before they’d even had a chance to locate some seats. Woe betide the Late Arrivals at the Comedian’s Ball.
Our first act was Matt Price, whom I thought we hadn’t seen before but as his routine developed, we both remembered him from our very early days at Screaming Blue Murder, before I started blogging, circa 2009. He has a terrific comic persona, that of an ungainly and somewhat overweight Cornishman with a tendency to sacrifice politeness for honesty. He saw the Assistant Principal (Maths) guy as a personal challenge, and despite giving us a hysterically funny set, it sounded like he failed. He did some nice sequences including white kids who think they’re black, which I have heard others do, but then matched with black kids who think they’re white, which gave it a very enjoyable balance. He told us of his experiences of performing in Broadmoor (which was what we remembered from years back), and a perfect one-liner involving an unfortunate sexual act with someone with a prosthetic limb. He went down extremely well.
Next was Benny Boot, who we definitely hadn’t seen before. Australian, and extremely anarchic, he occasionally built up a really good comic momentum but had a tendency to throw it away with poor timing or inadequate punchlines. He’s the kind of guy you’d dread having as a friend because he will just say the most inappropriate thing at the wrong time, and leave you squirming with embarrassment – as he did when he just went into too much personal interrogation with one of our regular comedygoers who happens to be blind. Not sure how embarrassing it was for the blind guy himself, but enquiring deeply into the nature of his disability simply wasn’t funny – and he definitely lost the majority of the audience as a result. A perfect example of going down the wrong route.
Our headline act was Pierre Hollins, whom we have seen here before in 2010 and 2012. Pierre is good ol’ blokey bloke with hugely confident delivery and very funny material about everyday life and relationships. It was hard for his act to get going because one lady near the back developed a disturbingly loud guffaw which she let rip at least every twenty seconds. Mr Hollins played off it very well and it became the centrepiece for a lot of his routine. Once she started to get tedious, he carefully ignored her and got back on his own track again – very skilfully done. Again, he was very popular with the audience.
Only one more Screaming Blue Murder left this season, in two weeks’ time. You’d be a fool to miss it.