Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Interview: Patrick Monahan

(Photo from Patrick Monahan.co.uk)

"My dream job was to work in a Jaffa Cake factory."

 Iran born/ Irish bred Patrick Monahan; a unique comedian and an all round nice guy. Hailing from the north east of England he orienteered his way through the stand-up comedy circuit making a name for himself during appearances at Edinburgh Festival Fringes and various renowned venues throughout the country.
Since then he’s performed around the world, made numerous national television appearances and has become a comedy favourite with his friendly and energetic style. Most recently he won ITV1’s reality television series Show Me The Funny (2011) after overcoming  gruelling  challenges and beating 9 other comedians.
He's extended his tour dates after the phenomenal success of his Autumn tour and will be bringing his show to the MET studio on Valentine’s day. We had an exclusive chat with Patrick to find out more about him, including his love of cake, Robin Williams and hugs…

So you’re on tour at the moment, how is that going?
It’s fantastic, it has been great fun, I’ve been working non-stop because it was such a success last year that we decided to continue the show once we’d filled all of the autumn dates. Normally you think we’ll just do one tour of one show and then do a new tour but because we didn’t have enough chance to go around all of the venues we wanted to last year we said lets do a few more this spring, the places that I’ve not been yet, which is great.
What has been your favourite venue to date?
They’re all different and great in their own ways, they’ve all been great fun but if I had to think of a memorable show I’d say Newcastle- the last night of that was just crazy. Even before you started you could tell how good the gig was going to be because I go out before my show and tell a joke or two. Everywhere has been a laugh though.
Did you know you were the third person to ever appear in the MET Studio here in Stafford in 2010, are you looking forward to returning?
Yes, that was brilliant, a really great night because it was a lovely theatre and I remember just seeing this beautiful little studio- I just remember how small it was and how close you were in the centre. It’s so good in terms of the stage and the people, you can literally touch them and it was good fun. I like that, I think sometimes people get a bit scared but for me I loved it, you can really get hands on.
How do you think you’ve changed since that performance?
You change after every gig. I remember when I did my first hour show at a comedy festival and I was so excited, and we got a recording of it and you watch it and you think how did I get away with saying that and the material has developed so much since then. The more places you play the more tips you pick up and you can perform so much better.
Congratulations on winning ITV1’s ‘Show Me The Funny’, how did it feel to win?
It was such a laugh because nobody really knew what the show was about because they kept it really quiet. We just knew it was about apprentices and comics and then in the last week it went sort of X factor-ish. We got to play tough gigs every week and perform and write new material so I loved the challenge. Just to get half as far as the final was amazing. We thought as long as you don’t go out in week one you’ll have a laugh but to get to the final was just wow.
When did you decide that you wanted to get into the comedy scene?
Its weird because when I was a kid I didn’t know what stand-up was, I loved entertainment.  I grew up thinking that’s what I want to do and I’d love to just get paid for it. When I was a kid if someone had of said you’re going to stand in front of 400 people on a Friday night and entertain them I would of said no way! Now its just great fun to go and see people and perform, you don’t even really regard it was a job. During the day you have to write and its brilliant and then at night you see new places and people, it’s just fantastic.
When you were younger was there any other careers you fancied?
I think everyone has childhood dreams. To be honest mine was my dream job was work in a Jaffa Cake factory, I love cake, when I was a kid I used to think when I’m older, when I get a job, I’m going to spend 60% of my money on cake. I think I’m getting close to that now, I can spend a bit of money on cake. You can’t eat enough cake.
Aside from cake, what influences your material?
Well cake is always funny but my show involves hugging, dancing and anything nice, my shows are all about that. When I first started, the critics originally said oh this guys nice- too nice, where’s the bite and the aggression and then I didn’t change too much and over time they’ve come round. The comedy circuit is great, so wide and varied but the problem is now you’ve got so many acts who do cutting edge and dark material and try to be controversial, but mines the total opposite, my stuff is having a laugh and entertaining. People who come to comedy, they’re the ones who have been at work hearing about job cuts, debt and war and people just want to be entertained at the end of the day. I have a laugh, I really get to know people in the audience and there’s a bit of spooning and hugging.
If you were hosting a comedy show with an unlimited budget, who would you book?
I love Robin Williams, he’s mad, you’d get value for money with all his crazy voices and it’s almost like he never switches off, his energy is great on stage and off stage. Johnny Vegas too, he’s the same. You wouldn’t get Johnny off stage which is great because sometimes you get those comics who are really good but they look at their watch and go right that’s my 45 minutes almost up, bang, goodnight. But Johnny doesn’t have a watch and he’s rolling around and doing this and that, he’s great. So I’d book those two, it would be madness but it would be great.
What are your plans for the future as a comedian?
Writing, touring, I’m writing my new show for the Edinburgh Festival and other comedy festivals. I’ll also hopefully develop a game show- that’s my dream.


Patrick Monahan is on Tues 14th February 2012 at The MET Studio, Stafford Gatehouse. 

Book tickets

Patrick Monahan Official

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Rob Halden: Juice Comedy

(Photo from Stafford FM.com)

"The mark of any society is its culture and to have a thriving arts and culture section should be one of the key objectives of any town, village, city, country-  or any group of people together."

Juice Comedy is the brain child of comedy genius' Rob Halden and Neil Reading. The comedy club delivers a mix of established comics and exciting new talent to venues across Stafford and has recieved an overwhelming response from the public. After a hugely successful sell-out show in our very own MET Studio in Septermber, we caught up with co-founder, Rob Halden, to talk about his success and life on the comedy circuit.

Could you explain your journey to becoming a comedian?

I've always loved comedy, I’ve always been, modestly speaking, funny through school and university so it sort of became my defining point. People would say oh he’s the funny one. I wanted to try stand-up comedy but it  looked difficult and scary so I never went ahead with it. Neil Reading (co-promoter of Juice Comedy) and myself talked to the landlord of Joxer Brady’s about putting on a comedy night on a Monday night. It was an open mic night and the only people we had on the list to perform were myself and Neil, I suppose it went from there. We ran those nights once a month, it took me a long time to find my comedy voice, its only been in the last year and a half that I’ve found what I want to do in terms of performing and I’ve taken that to different venues such as The Frog and Bucket, The Comedy Store in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.
So you have a real passion for comedy then?
Absolutely. I’ve got a passion for comedy but specificly a passion for stand-up comedy and new comedians, I’m passionate about giving comedians the space to perform and try things out. In the industry the only thing available for new comedians are these competitions called Gong Shows where you have to impress an audience and if they don’t like you, they gong you off. So the audience is in control and these are very combat like situations- if they don’t like you they hurl abuse and you leave the stage. That’s obviously entertaining for the audience but as a new comedian it doesn’t provide you any space to breath or learn the craft. So I’m passionate about new comedy and also bringing new acts to Stafford- Stafford has a very good comedy scene.
Describe your comedy style in three words…
Strange, deadpan and vicious.
What were your visions for Juice Comedy when you first started developing it?
It was just a case of no real comedy nights in Stafford. The Surgery had stopped running their comedy nights so aside from the big names at The Gatehouse there was no regular comedy night or club. So it was really just to see if we could bring regular comedy to Stafford and if we could keep it going.
Who worked with you to create it?
Neil Reading- the founder and myself. Joxer Brady’s over the three landlords they’ve had, every one of them has been supportive and let us carry on being silly. In the beginning it was a bit of a risk and a gamble, just two lads messing around once a month, so a big thanks to them for being so supportive.
What are the most essential elements to making a great comedy show?
First and foremost, funny comedians. A receptive and warm audience- I play a lot of gigs where there’s a stand offish nature, arms folded- show us why you’re funny, people that haven’t perhaps relaxed enough, so a receptive audience is really key. I like a mix of comedians, you wouldn’t want four one-liners, four deadpan or four prop comedians. But also there’s a je ne sais quoi to a room and The MET Studio here is one of the best rooms for comedy, I mean I’ve played The Standard in Edinburgh and The Comedy Store in London and Manchester and they’re just not as good. The MET has a nice working relationship with the stage, the audience and the comedians.
The last juice night at The MET Studio sold out, why do you think it was so successful?
Because I’m so brilliant [laughs]. Eight years of slogging away, building up a name, we did some nice little viral videos. Pounding the pavements, handing out flyers, I think we’re at a stage where we’ve got a name locally, if you’re interest in comedy then you’ll probably know about us. Great line ups help too, we’ve had Stephen Carlin, Phil Walker- Roy Walker’s son and so on. We're at a 50% ticket sell for the February gig so that’s great.
How did it come about that the Juice night would be in The MET Studio?
Its always been my intention to one day, hopefully, put on a show at The Gatehouse. When I went along and saw the regular comedy nights at The MET and saw how good they were I started looking at putting a show on there. Playing to such a capacity in the main theatre, over 500, is a huge amount, and it’s a lot of seats to fill without big names on the bill and even if you half sell it, a half sold theatre is not good for comedy.  Once I went to The MET and saw how engaged it was- being right up there with the comedian in terms of proximity, it looked like a realistic opportunity.
What do you think the future holds for Juice comedy and the arts industry in general in view of the second recession expected this year?
The mark of any society is its culture and to have a thriving arts and culture section should be one of the key objectives of any town, village, city, country-  or any group of people together. I think with the continuing success of comedy at the MET and with other venues were expanding to, I see only good things. Any recession does affect people but I’ve not noticed a drop off in attendance figures in any of our shows. I don’t think you should reduce your ambitions or limit you horizons just because your having a hard time- if anything you should push through. Certain things are always recession proof, people always have some money for a fish and chip dinner, a night at the cinema, a DVD or a night out- people want to enjoy themselves.
What are your plans for the future for Juice Comedy and yourself as a comedian?
Well I’ve just inked a deal with The Gatehouse to perform myself at The MET Studio for the first time with another guy- I don’t usually perform in Stafford I’m usually all over the country. A lot of people in Stafford keep asking- where can I see YOU? The chap I’m performing with, Tom Allsop, who's Cannock based, gets asked that question too. I’ve already booked the acts for the September Juice and some other venues interested in the night too. I’m doing a lot more writing recently for East Midlands advertising companies and hopefully getting a radio sitcom and I’ve got a comedy radio show on Stafford FM. Lots going on- I’m very tired basically [laughs].
Can you recommend any exciting new comedy talent?
Gary Delaney who I know has played The Gatehouse, he’s one of the top comedians in the country today- he’s phenomenal. Johnny Sorrow who is interesting to say the least, he won a prestigious award at the Edinburgh Festival called the Malcolm Hardee award for comic originality, it’s not for your standard jokes about things I’ve seen in the paper recently. He’s a very peculiar, interesting and talented performer, hopefully I'll be able to do something with him in the future. Phil Pagett is probably the best joke writer in the country for razor sharp gags and one-liners. There’s loads of really good comedy, especially in the West Midlands, it’s about paying attention and perhaps throwing yourself into evenings where you’re not sure if you'll what you’re going to see.


'Juice Comedy Night' is on Fri 3rd February 2012 at The MET Studio, Stafford Gatehouse. 

Book tickets

Juice Comedy Official