The origins and beginnings of the Last Laugh Comedy Club

I first thought of the idea of trying to start up a regular weekly comedy club in Sheffield in 1990, when I was doing a run of gigs for Malcolm Bailey. You started with a gig in Cheltenham Town Hall called Pillar Talk, then there was one in Bristol, followed by the two 4X comedy clubs in Birmingham over two nights. The run of gigs took place during the world cup and audiences were a bit thin on the ground, especially in Bristol. I didn't exactly die in any of the gigs, but let's just say my weaknesses were exposed. The act I had been honing for a couple of years was getting nothing like the kind of laughter that the compère, Frank Skinner, was getting for material he had written that week. I realised that his regular weekly compèring had probably helped him to develop into the superb stand-up that he undoubtedly was. I went back to Sheffield, and tried to sell the idea of setting up a comedy club to my Red Grape Cabaret colleague Roger Monkhouse. At that point, he wasn't too interested, so the idea went away for a while.

Then in 1992, Simon Evans of Flying Carpet Productions did a series of five gigs over five nights in five pubs with alternative comedy veteran Tony Allen as part of the Sheffield Festival. I watched the show at the Grapes, and got very excited about it. Roger and I started talking to Simon, and we came up with a partnership (Flying Carpet and Red Grape) running a regular weekly club at the Lescar pub in Hunter's Bar. I think that Simon came up with the name, and I drew a Grim Reaper logo for it, which I also painted onto a white sheet which became the backdrop hung at the back of the stage. Meanwhile, Roger booked the acts that stepped onto the Lescar's stage every Thursday night.

 

The first night had Charmian Hughes starting the show and the wonderful Milton Jones topping the bill. I compèred, and did well. It was only the following week, when I introduced Brendan Riley and the excellent Rory Motion - a hippy Yorkshireman whose act included poetry, songs and puppetry as well as stand-up, and went on to become a firm favourite at the club - that I started to struggle, and realised how tough it was to compère a club. It wasn't just the slog of coming up with new material every week, it was also the business of coming on to perform it at the beginning of the show when the audience were at their very coldest.

 

The line-up for that first season went like this:

 

Thursday 8 October: Charmian Hughes & Milton Jones

Thursday 15 October: Brendan Riley & Rory Motion

Thursday 22 October: Dave Gorman & Bob Dillinger (with guest compère Adam Caveleri)

Thursday 29 October: Dolly Dupree & Marc Blake

Thursday 5 November: Ian Stone & Alan Francis

Thursday 12 November: Leyton John & Sue Beard

Thursday 19 November: Mac Sullivan & Geoff Boyz

Thursday 26 November: Tony Mendoza & Anvil Springstien

Thursday 3 December: Roger Monkhouse & Arnold Bolt

Thursday 10 December: Sean Percival & Kevin Seisay

Thursday 17 December: Brute Farce & Henry Normal