Everyone likes a laugh, right? The only problem is that the laughs – as far as TV is concerned – tend to come from too few comedians.
It’s not that they’re unfunny – some of the are, most aren’t – but for every big name comedian who appears to be on a narrow roster picked up for various mainstream TV show – there are 100 equally funny folk heading up and down the nation’s motorways performing at the country’s many comedy clubs.
When not working or raising a 20-month-old, or not too tired from both (so, not as often I would like), I try to get out to comedy clubs. Until maybe two years ago, I didn’t go to comedy clubs regularly – instead opting for the big-name arena gigs. John Bishop (MEN Arena as was) and Russell Howard (ECHO Arena as is) are both brilliant on such stages. I stopped, however, when I saw Peter Kay on his Tour That Doesn’t Tour in Manchester. It works brilliantly on TV but isn’t half as funny when you’re in the audience, watching a routine polished to perfection thanks to 50 previous outings in the same building. Not to mention the fact that Kay seemed to be laughing at, rather than with, the audience too much. But that’s just a personal view.
So I’ve taken the advice of a friend and sought out comedy clubs instead. I’ve still seen some well-known names, such as Rhod Gilbert (Salford Lowry), Tom Stade (Blackburn King George’s Hall) and Josh Widdicombe (Salford Lowry Studio), and also stumbled across rising stars by chance at comedy clubs, like the brilliant Nathan Caton, and perhaps my favourite comedian of the lot, Justin Moorhouse.
Each trip is walk into the unknown – on the one occasion I booked to go to see a specific comedian on the bill, he was double booked – but rarely have I seen a comedian go a whole set without a laugh. The more out-of-the-ordinary the venue, the better the night seems to go. That’s not to say the Comedy Store in London isn’t a great night out (it is), it’s just that there’s something special about places like Off The Rails – above a pub in Saddleworth – or The Top Secret Comedy Club in Covent Garden, a basement venue which has the look and feel of a 70s social club, perhaps because the decor hasn’t been changed since then, or the Fun House Comedy night at the Angel Hotel in Bourne, an off-the-beaten-track town at the bottom of Lincolnshire.
Anyway, enough of the waffle. What I’ve done here, in no particular order, is list 10 of the best stand-ups I’ve seen over the past 12 months who you may not have heard of. They’re the ones I’d seek out to see again (although that’s not to say I laugh at all the jokes below!)
1. Jim Campbell:
2. Steve Gribbin:
3. Lee Camp
4. Tom Allen
5. Suzi Ruffell
6. Josephine Lacey
7. Danny Sutcliffe (warning: Very short clip of him from 2mins, 35sec)
8. Ray Bradshaw
9. Roger Monkhouse
10. Benjamin Crellin