Starting a comedy club in York is a serious business

29 Jan 2013 @ 11.03 am
| Entertainment

On their way for Valentine’s… comedy duo Mace And Burton
steve-shooter-bylineSnow, ticket prices, and finding an audience: launching a regular stand-up night is not all laughs, as Steve Shooter found out


knock-knock-poster-largeWhen the lovely people at YorkMix asked me to write them a blog about comedy, my first thought was “How the hell do I narrow all of comedy down to a few hundred words?” So I won’t.

What I thought I would do is focus on the aspect of comedy that I deal with, starting a new club and the challenges it involves.

I launched Knock Knock Comedy Presents in December, with a launch show made up of comedians I genuinely really like watching. I found a venue I really like, The Post Office Club, and booked the line-up.

What I didn’t factor in was the first snow fall in nine months. At 5pm on our launch night it snowed, leaving many of the people who intended to come, fighting to get home in horrible weather. Sometimes the world works against you.

We had an audience, a small but friendly one, and enjoyed ourselves. Now the real challenge begins.

I decided we’ll run a show on Valentine’s Day, an odd choice, but with good logic behind it. Our headline act is known collectively as Mace & Burton and bring their show Rom Com Con to York for the first time. I thought it would be a great show to programme, considering many people’s apathy towards Valentine’s Day.

We booked a support line-up, all comedians I am a fan of and the show is now set.

The big challenge is finding an audience. In York there is a fairly big comedy scene, but it is oddly expensive.

Regular shows include Hyena Lounge (City Screen), Stand Up York (Barbican) and Sitting Room (Monkbar Hotel), not to mention the regular touring shows at the Opera House.

For me, although they provide household names, comedy is becoming too expensive to attend live, especially with shows like Live At The Apollo, Stand Up For The Weekend and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow regularly broadcasting stand up shows.

Take into account tickets, parking, a drink or two, maybe a babysitter and you can be looking at £50 or £60 for a two-hour show, more for a big name. Our intention is to bring up-and-coming acts, on the verge of a mainstream breakthrough, to York for a reasonable price by keeping our tickets prices low. The venue is a social club so drinks are reasonably priced and there is free parking.

We want to be the gap in the market between free open mic nights like the one at The Gillygate pub run by local comedy collective Can’t Sing, Can’t Dance, Don’t Care’ and those much higher-priced nights.

john-scottFinding the correct balance is proving to be a challenge, I am funding this club out of my own pocket at the moment, so for every Sara Pascoe (Live At The Apollo, Stand Up For The Weekend) who is coming to play for us in April, there are lots of massive names I can’t afford to hire.

We are not going to be able to book Michael McIntyre or Peter Kay for a gig with a £5 ticket price, but what we can do is bring exciting, experienced comedians to York, and sprinkle in a mix of young hungry comics.

The coming months will see us promoting Sara, Andrew Ryan (Russell Howard’s Good News) and John Scott (pictured left) shows, along with giving headline spots to people who deserve them, but haven’t had the chance.

Our Valentine’s show is the perfect example. Mace & Burton’s show should be occupying the same spaces as Dave Gorman’s shows, and I can’t wait to have them appear in York.

Hopefully, next time I write here, I will be telling stories of some of the responses and demands I have received from comedians I have tried to book… I have had some astounding ones.