The party starts in South Hill Park’s Cellar Bar this Friday as they celebrate The Comedy Cellar’s 30th anniversary! This is a hugely significant birthday which marks the recurring event as one of the longest running comedy clubs outside of the capital – and you are invited to join the fun! Initially begun as ‘The Friday Alternative’ (and renamed The Comedy Cellar 10 years ago), some of the brightest sparks in comedy have set foot in the intimate setting, like Eddie Izzard, Jo Brand (appearing as “The Sea Monster”!), Sarah Millican, Alan Davies, Jimmy Carr, Micky Flanagan, Graham Norton and many, many more. The Comedy Cellar has a long and established reputation for helping launching the careers of many in the industry.
As part of the ongoing celebrations, South Hill Park’s CEO, Ron McAllister reminisces on the good old days when the event launched:
I remember in the early 80s at SHP, Friday night was Cabaret night in the Cellar, and therefore came under my jurisdiction as “Head of Music and Festivals”. This was when the first shoots of Alternative Comedy were sprouting in London at the Tunnel Club and Comedy Store.
Simon Houlihan, who was my Music Assistant at the time, and I decided to go and visit Malcolm Hardee’s famous (and notorious) Tunnel Club to see if we might be able to establish a comedy club here in Bracknell.
I think its fair to say we were a bit shocked at how raucous the event at the Tunnel Club was. Gongs were used to tell comedians to get off the stage , audiences were not slow to let them know what they thought of the acts, and if they really didn’t like them…. beer bottles were sent flying. (Yes beer bottles, and sometimes glasses too!) Health and Safety has come a long way since then…
Anyway, we managed to persuade the legendary Malcolm Hardee to run a regular series of comedy nights in the Cellar – and to compere them for us, for the trial period of one year. This was all back in 1986. We became the first weekly alternative comedy outside of London, and it has run continuously every Friday (except August) since then. So we are indeed the longest running and best known comedy club on the circuit outside of London.
Malcolm Hardee still appeared here from time to time in the late eighties and nineties, but he was actually succeeded by Eddie Izzard as our regular compere for six months. From the early days I remember seeing Jo Brand (appearing as “The Sea Monster”) and Julian Clary down there. Julian had an act called “The Joan Collins Fan Club” and he appeared with his dog, “Fanny the Wonder Dog”!
Those were heady days, and I am very proud of the legacy that came from that slightly scary visit to the Tunnel Club.
I am delighted to say that Malcolm Hardee was recently honoured by an award being named after him at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He was an inspiration and great fun to work with. Simon Houlihan still runs the comedy cellar and we have remained great friends over these past 30 years – thank you Simon for keeping the faith!