A single event can change your life.
This isn’t it. But pretty soon it could be.
It was a standard weekday; face framed by computer and administrative mountain, idly daydreaming about the day when I would compact all paperwork in the office into paper bricks which would then be used to build a labyrinth along the lines of the hedge maze in The Shining; into this would be placed anyone in any position resembling management, everyone who had been anything but unflinchingly polite to me on a phone call, and increasingly sexually aggressive Komodo dragons specially bred for the purpose. Either that or sleep.
I was then confronted by a colleague who was far too excited given the atmosphere, babbling about something to do with Blyth and exercise, which didn’t particularly sound like a cause for happiness. She’d run a 10k assault course with a bunch of people organising a comedy event and I needed to go to the next one. I’ve been at parties with cokeheads who were less enthusiastically persistent.
I like comedy and was promised it wouldn’t involve exercise. I went. I’m glad I went.
My first impression was that there were a *lot* more people than I expected to be in a social club in a small northern town. I was reminded of the Stockton riverside festival comedy tent (RIP, fuck the council), which was an all-day weekend event in the summer for free (also RIP, fuck the council with barbed wire), not a charged evening event on a Monday night during a barely-standing spring. This should have been a dead zone. What was going on?
I got the well-calculated amount of alcohol in my system to optimise the comedy experience – two pints at the start will melt away your outside worries while still keeping you alert enough for rapid-fire reactive laughing – and settled down to host/compere Kai Humphries, who masterminds this venture with his brother Gav. On some levels he was the Bear Grylls of Blyth – I now know to always carry a spare 50p just in case – but on most levels he had a sparkling pride and confidence in his home town and its people which came through hilariously.
Here’s what the full lineup was because it was a month ago and I’m a less than punctual blogger:
They were hilarious all, and it was a very enjoyable night, but it got me thinking: why did it seem so special? I’ve seen loads of brilliant comedians in a ton of different venues, from observational to satirical to musical, from marquees to pubs to arenas. Why was this particular event making me feel so positive about life and determined to see it succeed?
Then it hit me.
Fucking hell, the booze was cheap.
But more than that – there was a real, almost tangible community spirit there. In addition to the presentation of the money the team had raised during the aforementioned 10k assault course, 10% of all ticket revenue goes to Princess Ellie’s Trust, a local charity raising money and awareness of meningitis after founders Rachel and Dan Long lost their young daughter Ellie to the disease. The 10k assault course raised over £2000 for Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity which supports children who have lost a parent serving in the armed forces. During that presentation I fucking cried. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, and I fucking cried.
Additionally, a multitude of local businesses offer their services on gig nights to raise even more money and save the crowd from succumbing to alcoholic malnutrition – a pulled pork sandwich courtesy of Premier Meats is worth the ticket price alone. When you remember that the Blyth gig alone sells out a 300 seater venue every month, you get an idea of how much money these guys are raising, in a venture that’s less than six months old.
I snapped up a ticket to Punch-Drunk 5 as soon as they went on sale. Here is Punch-Drunk 5:
Look at those names. Tom Stade. Gavin Webster. The time to see one of those guys for less than a tenner was about three years ago, never mind both. Also, there was a much-touted ‘special guest’ advertised…
That special guest was Chris Ramsey. Yep, this guy.
I’ve just had a nose at the prices for his next gig in South Shields (being closest in pricing and location to Blyth) – £17.50. And there he was on a bill with a handful of comedians of similar calibre for £7. The taxi home cost me more than that.
I can see myself rambling here in the same way Lauren was the first time she told me about this. If this movement has ruined me then I’m happy to be spoiled.
These guys are going stratospheric and making their little corner of the world a much-improved place from the ground up. This isn’t just a comedy show; this is an all-encompassing project of positivity. Get involved now. See you at PD6.