Why Peterborough’s thriving comedy scene is so important

Here in Peterborough, live comedy thrives. Big names from the world of comedy regularly visit the city - with the likes of Jimmy Carr and Frank Skinner scheduled at New Theatre in Broadway later this year.
Funhouse Comedy night at The Lightbox in PeterboroughFunhouse Comedy night at The Lightbox in Peterborough
Funhouse Comedy night at The Lightbox in Peterborough

The Key Theatre hosts an annual comedy festival in March - Clive Anderson, Paul Sinha, Matt Ricardson and Geoff Norcott starred this year, and both the Key and The Cresset have long-running comedy clubs, which blood the next crop of stand-up stars.

Then came the coronavirus pandemic, and four months on, with social distancing measures still unclear in terms of live indoor performances returning, it is fair to say the comedy world has been hit hard.

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Many live comedy venues are under theatre and the Live Comedy Association has been putting its case to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ensure the art form isn’t overlooked by the government when it reveals how a £1.57billion support package is distributed.

Spiky Mike -j3kaQAd1GdNjma2FVdESpiky Mike -j3kaQAd1GdNjma2FVdE
Spiky Mike -j3kaQAd1GdNjma2FVdE

The Cresset Comedy Club has been running since 1998, starting out life as the “Gagging for It” comedy club. It runs eight shows a year, and it’s often sold out, as it didn’t take long for people to cotton on to the fact that it’s a great night out, at an affordable price.

“Comedy Club isn’t like a normal theatre show, it’s very intimate for starters, with a capacity of just 140, seated at tables, and with a small stage so it’s a real up close and personal gig,” said Penny Hansen, Head of Cresset Commercial Activities.”

“It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere as well, you can have a drink at your table, and the atmosphere is great.

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“When we celebrated our 40th birthday back in 2018 this coincided with 20 years of Comedy Club so we had a look back through the lineups, and it’s amazing how many of today’s household names graced our little stage; Russell Howard, Michael McIntyre, Jon Richardson, Zoe Lyons, Alan Carr ,they’re all there looking young and fresh faced (a young Jon and Alan are pictured), and we’d have had no idea how big they were going to become!

“The comedy circuit in the UK is thriving, from the Edinburgh fringe to theatres and arts venues, to independent comedy clubs like ours, to the back rooms of pubs across the country.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for up and coming comedians to cut their teeth, and we’re looking forward to being able to get back to playing our part in that. No matter what’s going on in the world people always need to laugh, so we’re already talking about how we might be able to resume comedy club with a distanced audience as one of our first events back.”

Midlands-based Funhouse Comedy Club takes shows on the road and prior to lockdown had been running monthly comedy nights at The Lightbox cafe in Bridge Street.

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Owner and compere Spiky Mike said: “During these difficult past few months we have all needed cheering up, but among the many things that have not been allowed are comedy shows.

“Funhouse Comedy was running regular shows at The Lightbox and previously at the now defunct North Street Bar.

“Pubs and bars have now re-opened, but under social distancing, events such as live comedy and music are hard to run viably under reduced capacity.”

He explained: “We usually get about 80 at Lightbox, but with the rules now we could only allow about 30 in, which sadly won’t work. we hope to return again later in the year if restrictions are lifted, as everyone could do with a laugh right now!

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“During lockdown, many clubs, including ourselves ran on-line shows, which were fun, but you can’t really replicate the atmosphere of a live show.

“Numerous studies have shown the importance of laughter for mental wellbeing.

“Maybe laughter really is the best medicine!”