It’s not an easy job running a comedy club, as Just The Tonic founder Darrell Martin knows too well. Often comedy clubs lead a borderline existence between being a cliquey hive of unfunny experimental artists or the ‘work-do friendly’ chicken in a basket corporate clubs. But thankfully JTT has never kow towed to being either of those and full credit to them for it.
So, the comedy club that, in the past, has put on everyone from Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay, Jo Brand and Johnny Vegas has grown up and become an impressive fifteen years old. So a temporary move from their regular venue (The Approach) to a bigger venue (The Royal Centre) was in order. As was a big party!
It all kicked off on time, surprisingly, with compere Daniel Kitson onstage at 7.30pm looking bright eyed and bushy faced. He quickly whipped up a rapport with the crowd, accusing a lady at the front of being a racist bigot, doing a skit tossing around his baseball cap and generally getting the audience to cheer loudly. For anyone that’s not familiar with Kitson, he’s a kind of cross between Ross Noble and Johnny Vegas (both of whom have been regulars at JTT in the past), but probably ha the potential to be funnier than both, which is no easy task. He’s also recognisable for his cameo role as Spencer in Pheonix Nights, but whatever you do don’t get him on to talking about Peter Kay!
Next on was TV panel show regular Sean Lock, in a surprisingly early set because he’s recently become a father for the third time and wanted to get the last train south to the family that evening. His material was slightly bluer than you would expect from seeing his charming Maths teacher shtick on TV, with material about family life and a singing Bernard Manning. Still all very charming though.
Then came the bookish sweetheart that is Josie Long. Voted as Best Newcomer at Edinburgh in 2006, unfortunately her set only seemed to last about 15minutes. But she filled the time well with a couple of one-woman plays that lasted around a minute and then by playing audio extracts from a (fake) documentary she was making on Second World War veterans. What’s not to like?
Before the second interval it was time for an all-out pun assault with Tim Vine. His set consists of mainly one-liners and to give you some idea of how quick and fast they come, in October 2004 he broke a world record for the most jokes told in an hour (where each joke had to get a laugh from the paying audience to count). The previous record was 362, yet he nailed 499 over the 60minutes. However, Vine did take a brief diversion away from the one-liners to offer up four rounds of his ‘Pen Behind The Ear’ game (where he literally tries to toss a pen behind his ear until he gets one in) and then a hilarious ventriloquists routine where his puppet has a puppet, which has a puppet. Believe it or not he’s also the younger brother of author and TV presenter Jeremy Vine.
After the second interval it was reiterated to the crowd that, despite being on the original line-up, Stewart Lee was not going to be able to make it as the event clashed with his mothers seventieth birthday. Cue much pisstaking from compere Kitson. Then we were treated to twenty minutes or so with singer-songwriter Gavin Osborne. This featured tunes about lost high school loves, turning 30 and a burglary gone wrong in Michigan fast food joint. This might not have been as laugh-out-loud funny as some of the other acts, but it was enjoyable all the same.
Then to end the night Ed Byrne hit the stage. You know what you’re going to get with Ed these days and he didn’t disappoint. Having recently got married he had plenty of material about planning his wedding (“£1700 for the invitations?”), his wife and more general material about his family. It’s true that you can’t quite listen to his Irish tones without thinking of those Carphone Warehouse adverts, but his material is funny enough to cover for it all the same.
So yeah, all in all a brilliant night at Just The Tonic and a nice change from their always fun nights at The Approach. Happy birthday guys, here’s to another fifteen years of laughter!
Just The Tonic's 15th Birthday Party was at the Royal Centre on Saturday 13 June 2009.
Just the Tonic website