Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 16th February 2018

Screaming Blue MurderIt was a welcome return last Friday to the effervescent Dan Evans hosting another Screaming Blue Murder with three wonderful acts and two delightful intervals. Another packed house – aren’t they all nowadays? – but with a really strange crowd. I think there was a large party that arrived quite late so they couldn’t all sit together; therefore the room was scattered with people who knew each other very well – which was perplexing to some of the comics but comedy gold too – as you will see…

Dan EvansAmongst the crowd were three baby-faced youths on the front row who admitted to being 19 years old, but I’m not so sure; but they were very good sports as almost everyone picked on them at some point. There was also a lady who worked at John Lewis’; Dan got very excited about the prospects for wheedling discounts out of her until he discovered she worked at the warehouse. Dan was on great form as always and got us in the perfect mood for an anarchic night.

James DowdeswellOur first act was James Dowdeswell, whom we’ve seen here three times before, but there’s been a goodly gap since the last time, so his act was fresh as a daisy to us. With an IT geeky face and a certain degree of west country poshness, he delivers a range of very funny and frequently self-deprecating humour, and struck up an excellent rapport with the audience. He has some great stag-do material, and gets a lot of mileage out of his recent engagement and arrangements for his forthcoming nuptuals. All very enjoyable stuff.

And at some point during James’ routine, at the back of the room, and more vocal than was good for him, came the voice of Reg. Reg is a lorry driver. What kind of goods does he transport? White Goods. Cocaine! shouted half the people who knew him. It wasn’t long before Reg was “the supplier” to the whole audience. Nice work if you can get it. Little did we know how Reg would feature later on.

Kate LucasOur second act, and a change to the advertised programme, was Kate Lucas, who was new to us. Where has she been hiding all this time? Kate’s speciality is comedy songs with a twist – a twist of a neck, that is, as she gets so angry during her songs. They’re really funny and inventive – and because she has the voice of an angel and the charm of a Swiss Finishing School Product, her venom is all the more surprising and effective. She has songs that express the disappointment of how ugly a baby can be; a typical argument between husband and wife; and where you can choose to go to Heaven or to Hell. They’re all super-savage and absolutely brilliant. We even joined in. Everybody loved her!

Russell HicksOur headline act, and someone you can always trust to react to the room, was Russell Hicks. The first time I saw him I was disappointed that he went off tangent so much to react to what was going on around him that I felt like I missed out on his act “proper”. Now I know going off on one is his raison de comédie. He was wearing a rather flash sheepskin coat, of which he was clearly proud until someone said he looked like John Motson. Mr Hicks’ American upbringing meant he never got to watch the beloved Motty on Match of the Day, so he insisted on someone Googling his photo for him. One look at the picture and he threw the coat on to the floor in disgust and declared war on us.

But we had Reg as part of our ammunition, who, as I intimated earlier, wasn’t backward in coming forward. Mr Hicks unearthed him from the back of the room, made him swap places with Ravi (the most amenable of the 19 year olds) but then Ravi started kicking off. Mr H was clearly beguiled by a lady in an orange dress and spoke of his admiration for her primary colours when we all shouted back that orange isn’t a primary colour (because you can make if from mix red and yellow of course!) Flummoxed that we all knew our primary colours – but having whipped the room into a frenzy of enjoyment – all Mr H had to do was keep jabbing away at our idiosyncrasies and oddities, and his forty minutes just flew by. As he said at the end, this was one of the absolute weirdest sets he’d done but also one of the funniest. An absolute master at running with whatever the crowd chuck at him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so in control.

A genuinely hilarious night’s comedy. Next Screaming Blue is on 9th March. Don’t miss it!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, 25th September 2015

Screaming Blue MurderSomething very strange was happening at the Screaming Blue Murder comedy night last Friday. For some reason, the atmosphere was really flat. We had a reasonably good-sized audience; regular host Dan Evans was on excellent form; it wasn’t even as though we had a bunch of tee-totallers in with unlubricated chuckle muscles. There was just something lacking. Maybe we all got spooked by the fact that the majority of the front row were police officers. I’m sure they were off duty; and I know for a fact they like a laugh as much as anyone. But I could already tell before Dan did his microphone stand audience response swingometer routine that it was going to be tough going to get much of a response.

James DowdeswellWe’d seen all three acts before, but I remembered them as all being very good so I hoped that the audience would still react well to them. The quiet atmosphere sadly didn’t suit our first act, James Dowdeswell, who we’ve seen twice before and had gone down a storm both times. He was our headline act on both those occasions and maybe his material works better a little later on in the evening. He still delivered his canny, witty observations with his usual quiet aplomb but they just didn’t make an impact. Plenty to smile at, but not many guffaws. Nevertheless, James gamely carried on to polite applause at the end.

Diane SpencerWhen we came to our second act, Diane Spencer, whom we’d seen back in 2011, I feared the worst. The audience still seemed relatively unresponsive and she started off with a knob gag which bombed; and her surprise at its failure was very obvious. But then she did a very clever thing. She went straight for the clean material, and it started to work. She’d uncovered the fact that, as it seemed to me, the audience was a bunch of prudes. It was only when she’d won our attention and respect with her DIY routine and her stuff about gingers that everything else fell into place. She was really funny, and by the time we got to the end of her act she’d properly loosened up our inhibitions and shown us that it was perfectly acceptable to laugh at carpet burns during sex material. It must have felt like hard work for her at times, but it really paid dividends. We all went into the second interval as much happier bunnies.

Earl OkinWe’d also seen our final act, Earl Okin, before, and by the time he came on we were ready for some big laughs. Mr Okin’s persona of being an unlikely sex symbol, together with the relaxed pace of his act of musical parody, hit our assembled funnybones like an accurately struck reflex hammer. I could imagine on some other nights that something more in-your-face and wise-cracking might have been what the people want, but for us weird bunch his subtle, teasing act was just perfect. It takes a lot of confidence to reduce a room to tears of laughter by creating jazz instrument sound effects, but he does it!

Next Screaming Blue in two weeks – here’s hoping for a more “normal” crowd!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Derngate, Northampton, 3rd February 2012

Karen BayleyWith a change to the advertised line-up it turned out that we had actually seen all four of the comics on show at last Friday’s Screaming Blue Murder before. No matter, sometimes watching a repeat can be comfort for the soul. The compere this week was Karen Bayley, who we saw here a couple of years ago. Then, as this time, she very much tailors her act to the women in the audience, sometimes to the slight exclusion of the men; but no doubt there are many male comics who do the same and I just haven’t noticed. She was excellent at interacting with the crowd and also kept things nicely on course when the unruly elements of the audience got even unrulier. Mrs Chrisparkle particularly liked the line about her having tried speed-dating; well, parents/teacher night.

Dave Thompson First act was Dave Thompson. I recognised him, and I have to confess, my heart sank, as I recall his being totally unfunny and failing badly on his last visit to us. To be fair, he was much funnier this time, and I do rather like his performance when he heads into the world of the surreal for his comedy; but unfortunately that isn’t the majority of his act. He still uses a lot of material that simply lacks humour, and does part of his routine based on living in Brighton and having a handlebar moustache, cue for some riotous (not) lines about “not being gay, honest.” I’ve said it before – we may not be over-sophisticated in Northampton but we don’t go for homophobic laughs. Dave Thompson was sacked from his plum job as Tinky Winky. I throw that in for good measure.

Jeremy O’DonnellThen we had Jeremy O’Donnell, who compered here last May. He has great attack and an even greater stripy shirt. Very fast and furious, he sometimes assumes an air of not doing very well at the comedy whereas he actually hits the spot nine times out of ten, which is a pretty good spot hit rate. I’m afraid I can’t quite remember any of his lines, which probably means I was just enjoying it without trying to memorise it – another good sign. He can come back again.

James DowdeswellHeadline act was James Dowdeswell, who headlined here last March. On that occasion, he was Mrs C’s favourite act of the night, and so he proved again this time, even though I don’t think there was a lot of variation from the material he did the previous time. An unusual looking guy, full of confidence, naturally funny, and who puts down the hecklers with an effective and a seriously-no-chance-of-any-conversation “shush”. He paces it perfectly and you never fear he’s going to run out of stuff to say.

Maybe because there was little new to us I can’t say the evening ever really soared, but it’s incredible value for what you get and I would say Karen Bayley’s extended act mixed with her compering was the highlight of the evening. Plenty of people in attendance, which is great for the comedy club as laughter breeds laughter. Next one in two weeks!

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

Dan EvansAnother three comics for our delectation at the Derngate last Friday. Dan Evans was compere again and I thought he dealt magnificently with a noisy lady in the front row. His put-downs were perfect (and well deserved) and really appealed to a snob aspect of the rest of the audience that I was surprised was there… he got it spot on. The subsequent acts themselves took their lead from Dan, and whenever she piped up, they tended to ignore her, or say “shush” – much the wisest move.

Quincy Anyway first up was Quincy. No, not Jack Klugman running his fingers over the flesh of what you expect to be a stiff but is in fact a beautiful babe on his yacht, but a rather relaxed and very funny London guy, very tall and imposing but nicely self-effacing (proud of his 18 year old son, “tall, broad, strong, just like his mother”). Did some good jokes, built a nice character and was warmly received, a very good opening act.

Stuart Hudson Second was Stuart Hudson. This man’s humour is positively sick. I absolutely loved him. He characterises himself as a right reprobate but you could easily relate to him too. He did some really black humour, completely near-the-knuckle stuff that made you cringe audibly as you laughed, but it was extremely funny too. He also constructed a varied act, in that sometimes he just did clever inoffensive material too, to break it up which worked really well. “Not that nice to see you after all, to see you after all not that nice – Bruce Hindsight.” I’d definitely recommend him.

James Dowdeswell Last up was James Dowdeswell. If Stuart Hudson was sick, James Dowdeswell was slick. He delivered very clever and funny material at a good pace and with a good understanding about the kind of stuff we wanted to hear. All too often the headline act is the one that gets heckled, as by the end of the show a few more drinks have gone down the gullet and confidences blossom, but there was never any doubt this guy would just run his act his own way to great effect. Mrs Chrisparkle’s favourite of the night – very satisfying stuff.