Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 26th May 2017

Screaming Blue MurderI’ve seen a full house for a Screaming Blue Murder before but this was as full as the legendary pack of sardines! Extra rows and not a spare seat to be had for love nor money. This was the last of this season’s Screaming Blues so everyone obviously needed to be supercharged with comedy to keep us healthy for the dry months ahead.

Dan EvansOur host was Dan Evans, as usual, who had a job keeping certain members of the audience in hand, including the rather posh sounding Charlotte and her husband Richard who came in with some killer blow punchlines that even Dan had to admire. I think as it was the last show of the season, Dan decided to abandon all suggestion of new material and spoil us all with his Greatest Hits – I even got an apology for his doing so! Rest assured, they worked perfectly on the night.

Otiz CannelloniWe’d seen all three acts before but that wasn’t a problem with a line-up of this calibre. First up was Otiz Cannelloni; I’m surprised he doesn’t say he’s full of beans, so I’ll say it for him. (Or is that cannellini?) He’s a naturally hilarious guy – starting with nonsensical one-liners to get you going, then moving into interactions with the audience: “I don’t believe in first impressions… you sir, you might not be a twat”. He’s great at dishing out the general wisecracks, never going too deep into an observation because he’s funniest at the shallow end, if you get my swimming pool analogy. And I loved the idea of milfos. This is all blended in with some cunning magic; Simon, the front row lifeguard, had to choose a card and, although he came too soon with the fact that it was the Queen of Hearts, Mr Cannelloni had already secreted it separately about his person. A brilliant way to start the show.

Amy HowerskaNext was Amy Howerska, whom we’d seen here a year ago but who also co-hosted Spank! in Edinburgh the first time we went. She’s a brilliant blend of Polish, Irish and Jewish, with a mission to make everyone laugh – she finally cracked the miserable guy on the front row in the last few minutes. She’s happy to get down and dirty – with her material at least – and I enjoyed her advice on Brazilians, her impersonation of her Auntie Babs and what it’s like to be an Irish sperm. Great attack, constantly spinning off the audience – which she does so well, and she went down a storm.

Pierre HollinsOur final act of the night was Pierre Hollins; if you looked at a police identity parade and were asked which one’s called Pierre, he’d be the last you’d pick; and if you were asked which one was guilty, he’d probably be the first. He has a larger than life blokey personality, full of great comic observations and ending his act with a couple of comedy songs. Had everyone in hysterics from the start to the finish. Always a winner, always one to look forward to again.

Alas, no more Screaming Blue Murders until the autumn! What will we do?

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 12th May 2017

Dan Evans‘Twas the night before Eurovision, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, because we’d all gone out to the Screaming Blue Murder comedy club. Our genial host Dan Evans was on cracking form as usual, sparring ever-so-gently with the people from TCL Landscaping, a 40-year-old birthday boy, a Jumbo-sized guy who dwarfed everyone around him – and Kate. Dan tried to rope Kate into a bit of banter but she wasn’t having any of it. But she didn’t just go coy and sheepish, she went on the offensive and all it went a bit Pete Tong. Sit anywhere near the front in a comedy club and you might end up part of the action. Dem’s de rules. Never mind, better luck next fortnight.

Debra Jane ApplebyOur first act was Debra-Jane Appleby, quite a posh name for someone who isn’t really that posh. We’d seen her here six years ago (gasp!) where she was our commère for the evening. This time we got to see her act and there’s no doubt about it, she’s really funny. She had some brilliant bits of business – like the visual image of your entitlement to a pension getting further and further away, and her material about trying to be gay because you don’t know until you’ve tried it. She’s also great with addressing her weight issues, in which capacity I can definitely feel her pain. A fab start to the evening.

Bobby MairNext up was Bobby Mair, new to us, and once seen never forgotten. A wonderfully warped sense of humour, he delivers his material as though he was your local friendly psychopath. He’s the kind of guy you can trust to say the wrong thing at a funeral. Indeed – he picked one guy at random from the audience and empathised that if his wife were to die, the benefit of it would be that he could at least f*ck a stranger. I loved his material about music festivals and their similarity to refugee camps; but he’s the kind of comic who keeps the material coming at irregular intervals which in itself unsettles you and pulls you up short with a devastating punchline out of the blue. I can say no more. Utterly brilliant.

Christian ReillyOur headline act was Christian Reilly, whom we’ve seen many times before and always puts on a tremendous show of musical comedy, parodying styles and performers, changing their lyrics and always for the better! His Bryan Ferry material was absolutely hilarious and as for his Donald Trump sequence… well yes indeed. He has just the right level of attack and he went down an absolute storm.

Three fantastic acts this week! One more Screaming Blue on 26th May before it hibernates for the summer. You should come!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 28th April 2017

Dan EvansIf it feels like it was only last week that they had the last Screaming Blue Murder – you’re right! We hadn’t been able to get to one for ages and then along they all come like the proverbial No. 10 bus. However, this week Dan Evans was back in the hosting saddle, so I knew I was going to be safe unlike last week….! At Friday’s show, Dan’s challenges were provided by (as is often the case) members of the police force in the front row, an ebullient and uninhibited musician chap wearing a hat (it wasn’t raining, indoors or out) and an intimidatingly handsome man who sized golf clubs for a living. I guess someone must. Dan, as ever, on top form, rose to all these challenges and surpassed them.

Susan MurrayOur first act, and one we’ve seen no fewer than four times before at previous Screaming Blues, was Susan Murray. Always great value, and with an enjoyable mix of old and new stuff, she’s absolutely ace at creating really funny material out of her excellent range of regional accents – I particularly loved the Brummy skiing idea. She’s maturing up now, with excellent observations about sharing a bed with a cat, and the emotional torment that is replacing a boiler – having just done the same, Mrs Chrisparkle and I really felt her pain. She built to an inventive musical climax designed for householders bogged down with domestic admin – very clever. She was on great form and went down very well in the audience.

James SherwoodSecond up, and someone we’ve seen twice before, once as a comic and once as a host, was the excellent James Sherwood. I think this was the best we’ve seen him; he was at his most relaxed, so when his opening remarks were completely overshadowed by some nitwit comment from the audience, he completely went with the flow which meant he spent the first five minutes talking, totally at random – but absolutely hilariously – about socks. He’s at his best when, perched aside his keyboard, he reduces song lyrics to the absurd: I particularly enjoyed his version of Sly and the Family Stone’s Family Affair. He had some great material involving sexually transmitted diseases (as you do), including the story of the guy at a clinic who had five hundred sexual partners a year and his somewhat unique discharge. He looks a little like a poor man’s David Mitchell but is probably funnier. Absolutely brilliant set.

Daliso-ChapondaAs if we hadn’t already had a great night, our headline act was the new to us – and absolutely astounding – Daliso Chaponda. Malawi’s greatest export after tobacco, Mr Chaponda has an infectious smile and delivers his thought-provoking and cheeky material at a cracking pace; and Mrs C and I did not stop laughing our heads off for the full half hour. “Five hundred years ago, this would have been an auction” he says, which absolutely nails his whole irreverent but very revealing attitude to comedy. If we’re unhappy at levels of immigration in the UK, he says, it’s our fault because all his history lessons at school in Malawi were about King Henry VIII, so of course he had to come here! He mocks us for being fed up at the prospect of a third general election/referendum in three years, with our revelling in the kind of “gratuitous democracy” that he could only dream of in Malawi. It’s not only political awareness comedy though – as his visual demonstration of enjoying a 69 when you’re a lot shorter than your partner testified. An absolutely superb set of varied comedy that we really didn’t want to end, and he got one of the best receptions I can remember at a Screaming Blue in all the eight years we’ve been coming. Just brilliant – and definitely a contender for January’s Chrisparkle Awards.

Two more Screaming Blues coming up this Spring, and after that you’ll have to wait till Autumn. Why wait? The next one’s in two weeks!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 21st April 2017

Screaming Blue MurderIt’s been a few weeks since we last went to a Screaming Blue Murder, and when I finally snuck my way through the crowds into the Underground my preferred seat(s) had already been taken. Slightly emboldened by the fact that I knew regular host Dan Evans wouldn’t pick on me, I ventured one row closer to the stage. And what happens? “Ladies and gentlemen, meet your host and compere for this evening, Windsor!” Windsor. Not Dan. We’ve seen Windsor before, he’s brilliant. I knew precisely what was in store.

WindsorLess than 30 seconds into his material he’d ascertained my name and assured me that we’d be working a lot together during the course of the evening. He wasn’t wrong. By the time we’d finished he made me confess our favourite sexual position and had me demonstrate to two other guys the correct amount of pressure to apply to a clitoris. He’s a fantastic host, because, despite all that, he really puts the audience at ease – he was excellent in his interaction with the girls from a certain hotel in West Haddon – and, even if he picks on you, he’s never cruel and I enjoyed the opportunity for a little friendly sparring!

Luke BensonWe’d seen all the three comics before but that didn’t matter because they were all on top form and fresh as daisies. First up was Luke Benson, the gentle, genial Geordie giant, all 6ft 7in of him. As you might expect, he gets a lot of great material from his height; his girlfriend goes up on him, for example. He forms a great connection with the audience, reacts inventively to anything that happens during his set, and he’s absolutely right about how there are some things you just can’t measure in millimetres. He went down really well.

Juliet MeyersOur second act was Juliet Meyers, who I remember always likes to use the C word within her first few exchanges – and once again she didn’t disappoint. She had a lot of new material since the last time we saw her, which was great, including how to cope with a needy dog, and the problems that women face going to the GP. I think she really succeeds when there are a substantial number of women in the audience, as there were last Friday – and she really capitalised on that!

Anthony KingOur headline act was Anthony King, brilliant interpreter of psychopathic crime to music, which is way funnier than it sounds. You wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover he is the inspiration for all the criminals on Midsomer Murders. Sometimes he just can’t quite maintain the straight face which makes it even better. I still feel sorry for the centipede. 100% hilarious.

A really superb night’s comedy, with everyone giving their best – and also, if I may say so myself, we were a cracking audience. Windsor said at the end that the next one will be in May… but one look in my ticket drawer shows that it’s on again next week. So why not come?!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd March 2017

Screaming Blue MurderWe’ve attended 77 (yikes!) editions of Screaming Blue Murder over the years but this one was something different for me at least – because instead of being accompanied by Mrs Chrisparkle, I was one of ten guys out on a stag do, in honour of my future stepfather-in-law (Sir William) in preparation for his forthcoming nuptuals with my mother-in-law (Lady Duncansby). As well as some of Sir William’s old pals, also present were my three stepbrothers-in-law-to-be, and one of my future stepnephews-in-law. Debrett’s are going to have a Field Day. Naturally, like all good hen and stag parties we hogged the front row, placing Sir William in the centre so that he could get the full attention of the comics. However, unlike most hen and stag parties, our groom is the fine old age of 74, and at least three of the four people on stage that night did a double-take when they saw him. Good on him for taking it all in the best possible spirit, which is what he’d been drinking solidly since 5pm.

Dan EvansDan Evans was in charge as usual, and on fine form as he traded banter with some vociferous youngsters on our left, explored hairdressing options (like his follicles, few and far between) with a young female barber, and got thoroughly confused as to the ages of Sir William’s sons. Towards the end he revealed that he hadn’t made one member of our party crack a smile the whole evening, to which the latter responded that he had enjoyed the show, but as Dan noted, just kept his enjoyment to himself. We could have told Dan that he always looks like that.

Wendy WasonOur first act was Wendy Wason, whom I’ve seen once before and she’s a thoroughly enjoyable act. She’s bright and breezy, just a little bit posh, and full of confidence as she shares her parenting experiences and a host of middle class neuroses. She had lots of good material involving sex but I was grateful that none of it was too rude; after all, sex humour doesn’t always have to be in the gutter. Last time we saw she was absolutely filthy! She gained an excellent rapport with the crowd and went down very well.

Robert WhiteOur second act, in a change to the advertised programme, was Robert White. Mrs C and I have seen Mr White several times and there is possibly no better comic to handle a stag do. I say handle advisedly, as he combines his Asperger Syndrome with his continuous gay double entendres, some of which he converts into on the spot made up songs. At his best Mr White can be unbeatable; and indeed he was last Friday night. He got Sir William up on stage and, after using subterfuge to check out his backside, they shared a joint rendition of I’d Do Anything, where – well you can guess the shenanigans that Sir William agreed to get up to with Mr White. Fortunately, it wasn’t just the stag party who found him fantastic, he gauged the mood of the room perfectly and we were all shaking with laughter. A brilliant set.

Nick WiltyOur final act, and also one we’ve seen do successfully many times before, was Nick Wilty. Unfortunately, when Mr White is on fire like he was last Friday, any act that follows him is at a disadvantage, and Mr Wilty’s understated self-deprecating delivery, like Ray Winstone with a headache, just didn’t have the attack required to make an impact. If he and Mr White had swapped places it would have worked so much better, because Mr Wilty’s material is really funny once you “get” his style. We still laughed – but just not as much we’d have liked.

For various inconsequential reasons, we can’t go to another Screaming Blue now until 21st April. You’ve no excuse though – the best value comedy around!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd February 2017

Screaming Blue MurderYet again the Underground was full for the most recent Screaming Blue Murder, the best value comedy you can get for £13.50 (£12.50 with your R&D Friends’ Membership). They’re keeping the curved front rows which means you can get more people in nearer the front, which improves the atmosphere and gives the performers more options where it comes to interrogating the customers.

Dan EvansDan Evans was our host as usual, with his apparently effortless ability to make us laugh at our fellow comedy night devotees, although I’m sure it’s not really effortless. Early on, he caught a front row lady checking her watch, which was a massive fillip for his self-confidence as you can imagine. He wasn’t going to let her get away with that. Turns out she is the co-author of “Never Mind the Thigh Gap” which enabled Dan to get further embroiled in his own body image issues. Begging forgiveness that he might not have enough new material (he needn’t have worried, as he was on fire) he eluded to this very blog, gentle reader, although he fell short of pointing dramatically at me and declaiming “J’accuse!” Being outed like that is always a sticky moment though.

david-morganOur first act was David Morgan, whom we have seen before and who is always highly entertaining to watch. Much of his humour is based on his being gay and comparing straight and gay lifestyles, which, last time we saw him, really got the crowd on his side. This time, however, I felt we were a little more reserved in our responses towards him. Nevertheless, he had some lovely banter with the Netflix and Chill man in the front row and also delivered some great material about having babies. A little frantic at times, but that’s hardly a crime.

harriet-kemsleyNext up, and a change to the advertised programme, was Harriet Kemsley, who was new to us, with an engaging stage persona and some absolutely excellent original material. Unfortunately, the sound coming off the microphone gave her voice a harsh, rasping edge, but she was so good that after a while we could ignore it. We really enjoyed her tales about being engaged, although the man in the audience who proposed to his girlfriend in a French chateau put us all to shame; and amongst her other material there was a refreshing take on the Kardashians to boot. All in all, excellent and we’d happily see her again.

Markus BirdmanOur final act of the evening is the unrepentantly direct son of a preacher man, Markus Birdman, whom we have seen several times and is always a complete joy. He’s just so irrepressibly mischievous; you can never tell which way he’s going to go. This time he spent most of his act telling us what he wasn’t going to do – thereby doing it, without doing it, if you get my drift. One of his high points this time was when he pretended to a high level of political correctness before going straight into a line about two lezzas (his words) from which he extricates himself beautifully. Intelligent, unpredictable, dangerous and always extremely funny. One of the best guys on the circuit.

Four weeks till the next Screaming Blue Murder which I will be attending without Mrs Chrisparkle, as she will be accompanying Lady Duncansby to see Lee Nelson in the Derngate whilst I am with Lady D’s butler Sir William (plus many others) on his stag night. I predict a riot.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 20th January 2017

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah for the return of the Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights in the Underground room where, even in the dead of winter, when outside is below zero, you still have to wear your skimpiest clothes in order to survive the heat! Good to see 2017 starting well with a full house, a cracking compere and three top quality acts to get the year rolling. I liked the new layout of the front rows too – curling round the side of the podium so as to fit more punters in and closer to the stage. An excellent development.

Dan EvansSo, yes, Dan Evans was at the helm again, trying to bring some order to the mayhem caused by an all-girl birthday party night on one side and an all-guy Old Bill group on the other. He was on great form – even giving us some new material! He was at his best sparring with those front row girls – it’s a gift for him to tease when they can’t put down their phones and you can barely see their skin for the tattoos. He got us perfectly warmed up and ready for our acts.

mark-smithFirst up, and new to us, was Mark Smith. Not sure if it’s his voice, or his looks, but he put me in mind of an alternative Josh Widdicombe, which can’t be bad. He struck up a very good connection with the audience and had the confidence to leave nice pauses in his delivery which I admired. He had some excellent – and varied – topics, including girls on escalators, fooling his sister with bizarre facts and a great routine about shopping late night at the petrol station. A really good opening act.

Sally Anne HaywardSecond, and an old favourite (hoping she’ll forgive the use of the word “old”), was Sally-Anne Hayward, whom we’ve seen I think four times before. The two boisterous groups of girls and guys were ideal for her to bounce off her brilliant material about sex, boyfriends, and more sex, and everyone absolutely loved her act. As I’ve mentioned on previous occasions, her material is now well-recycled, but if you’ve not heard it before it’s a corker, and if you’re familiar with it, it offers that same reassuring warmth of putting on a favourite album. Timeless battle of the sexes humour – and the laughter was continuing in the bar during the interval.

Stu GoldsmithFor our headline act, we welcomed Stuart Goldsmith, one of the country’s best comics, whom we last saw showing us his competitive streak in Rob Deering’s Beat This in Edinburgh. We’d also seen him in a Screaming Blue four years ago and in his own show at the Underground last year. The man works hard. His material is thoughtful, flexible and first rate, his delivery is chummy whilst always maintaining a subtle authority, and I really enjoyed seeing him again – and it’s clear that everyone else did too. When we saw him last year he was wondering how much “new father” material he should use in future gigs – and there wasn’t too much this time round, which I reckon is probably A Good Thing. Anyway, he’s coming back with his new show later in the Spring and we already have our tickets booked.

A fantastic start to the new season! Why don’t you come next time too?