Thursday, 16 February 2017

Arnold, Dull & PC Bharsted - Leicester March 1986

Before The Monkhouse Comedy Club came to be, Alan and I had started our stand up comedy careers at its predecessor, The Magazine Jokespace. Here we shared the bill with Arnold Bolt and the mysterious Comedy Counts in a one-off gig in March 1986.

If memory serves, The Comedy Counts were a very young Anthony King, now a stalwart of the comedy scene, still based in Leicester, and a double-act colleague about whom I'm sure he'll tell us more.

Arnold Bolt was a legend of the Leicester Folk Scene at the start of the 80s, and made a successful crossover into the comedy clubs that usurped the folk clubs' place (and, as we can see, shared their venues). Sadly Arnold, or rather his civilian alter-ego Martin Brown, died last year dreadfully young. For as long as our Leicester comedy clubs were around, he was always a headliner, never anything less. Memorable comedy songs such as Henry The Hedgehog and Dumped In Mary Lou's Barn were the staples of his set, and will live on in Leicester folk comedy history.

John Dull was Alan's alter ego, as character comedy was very much the order of the day for both of us. Given that Alan's surname is Seaman, you wouldn't have thought he needed any extra enhancement, but his character of a boring accountant worked very well at the time and lasted for a while.

My character, as you might be able to make out from the photo, was PC Bharsted, a caricature policeman. It was the 1980s, and doing a feeble impersonation of Griff Rhys Jones's policeman character from Not The 9 O'Clock News, with songs, seemed as good a way to start doing comedy as any. My songs, as PC B, included I Had To Nick My Girlfriend, a cover of The Goodies' Rock With A Policeman, and Driving In A Winter Wonderland. Tragically no recordings survive of this musical comedy act which, given the standard of both my singing and my guitar playing, deserves inverted commas round both of those words.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Betty Spital - The Monkhouse

Betty Spital is easily found on Amazon, courtesy of The Thoughts of Betty Spital: Pensioner, Activist and Radical Granny, but that's written by a Christopher Meade. I'm pretty sure the Radical Pensioner who played our club at the start of 1989 was a middle aged woman.

To be honest I'm drawing a blank, both in the memory banks and on Google. Maybe Betty Spital was Christopher Meade. I'm sure someone will tell me.

The illustration on the poster is, of course, Mrs Brady Old Lady from Viz, but you knew that. Viz, you will recall, was very big in 1989, being only 10 years into people telling it that it wasn't as funny as it used to be. In December 1989 it became the 2nd best selling magazine in the country, second only to Radio Times, selling over a million copies. Did I mention my strip, Tarquin Hoyley He Has To Go To The Toilet, was in it a couple of times? You'll find them in the Big Pink Stiff One book. I don't get royalties.

As for googling Post Glasnost, forget it. The best I get is a comedy series from 1991 called Sleepers, a "post-glasnost comedy" starring Warren Clarke and Nigel Havers. Probably brilliant, but most likely not the comedy act that graced our above-the-pub smokey Leicester club in the frozen wastes of January 1989.

Igor Thompson - The Monkhouse Feb 20 1989

If there was ever a contender for the title of Nicest Man In Comedy, it would have to be Dave Thompson. Or, as he was billed back in 1989 when he headlined at The Monkhouse Club, Igor Thompson.

Dave is best known, by many, as Tinky Winky. I'm sure he's got over it now, but for a long time Dave couldn't go anywhere without being reminded of the time that he was sacked from the Teletubbies because, bizzarely, his "interpretation of the role was not acceptable".

Here Dave headlined a line-up who, I'm afraid, evade my researches. Theatro D'Existentiale, if you google them, turn up the suggestion "did you mean teatro di existentiale?". Which, when you opt for it, turns up infinite articles in French and Italian about subjects from Beckett to the Journal of Anthropology, but nothing I can find about a performance troupe who'd have graced the stage of a Leicester comedy club in the late 80s.

UPDATE: After sharing this blog post on Twitter, Charmian Hughes has responded to say that she was Teatro D'Existentiale (I seem to have mis-spelled their name on the poster). She Tweets that she "invented teatro after getting into trouble with theatre de complicite for breaking mime vow of silence". So now you know.

 Eddie, sadly, one needn't even start googling. Memory doesn't serve as to his performance, or indeed his existence. And no I'm pretty sure it wasn't a stand up set by Iron Maidens' skeletal mascot.

Lindsay Moran Comic Relief - The Monkhouse Feb 88

Comic Relief began its biennial TV tradition in 1988 and we at the Monkhouse were there to jump on the bandwagon and be part of charity fundraising history. At two quid a ticket I can't imagine what a help we were to the cause.

As our star act we brought back Lindsay Moran, who'd been a total hit in our October 87 show, and if memory serves he didn't disappoint this time. As for Graham Summers and Bodgers Mate, I think they may have been friends of local comedy legend Arnold Bolt.

If this is the same Bodger's Mate, then they survive to this day as a working Ceilidh Band. Graham Summers would appear to be in a folk band called Just The Dust. So our first, and indeed only, Comic Relief line-up was lighter on the comedy and heavier on the folk than later bills might be.

This is a good reminder of how recently the "alternative" comedy scene of the 1980s had grown out of the thriving Folk Club scene of the 60s and 70s which had given us such names as Jasper Carrott, Max Boyce and Billy Connolly, long before the notion of a Comedy Club as we knew it was even a twinkle in a jongleur's eye.

Also musicians were more prepared than comedians to play for free.