Northern Laughs

I was at friend’s house the other day and we were chatting books. He was particularly excitable about a book he got for Christmas – the I-haven’t-yet-lived-a-long-life-but-I’m-kind-of-important-so-I’ll-release-one-prematurely-style-autobiography unleashed without fail by people in the public eye – called My Shit Life So Far by the comedian Frankie Boyle. He recommended I borrow it. I said thanks but I got a castle of books vying for my attention. Nevertheless I picked it up, flicked to a random page, read an excerpt, and started chuckling. A few more shuffles through the pages led to more giggles. I might as well have read it, but it left me thinking about comedians… they are a sick bunch of people with the power to induce laughter about anything. Funny is good.

If you’re after a hoot with the onset of spring, then look no further than the northeast. The beginning of March sees the return of the now staple and annual NewcastleGateshead Comedy Festival, arranged by all-around funny man Warren Speed, who along with his own witty banter, moonlights as male burlesque dancer, I kid you not. A renowned performer, he has worked with the very ample and arresting Dita Von Teese in The Gentry De Paris Revue, but that’s another story.

Now in its fifth year, the ever-expanding festival, which runs for one week, will be held at a number of quality venues like Reds Bar, The Cornerhouse, St Dominics, As You Like It, and the renowned Sage Gateshead, which hosts the opening variety show Cabaret Excentrique, an entertaining bonanza of acts from some of the world top performers of burlesque, circus, dance, music, comedy, bellydance and acrobatics.

“The link up with the Sage came about largely because it’s one of the best venues in the country,” Says Speed, “and their Hall 2 is perfect for stand-up comedy.”

Performing will be some of funniest up-and-coming comedians currently tickling bellies across the country with their amusing shows, people like Des O Connor, who blends together music and comedy in a rather glittering way, Lee Fenwick’s fabulously captivating ‘Mick Sergeant’, an unemployed ex-shipworker who has plenty to say, Rob Temple’s very rude and crude Hypnotica, and Seymour Mace, a former clown who brings a very idiosyncratic style to the stage. And naturally, among other comedians, there will be some of the regions finest funny men in the shape of Dave Johns, Gavin Webster, and Patrick Monahan, whom I assume will all mock with plenty of aplomb the warm and simple qualities of northern folk.

Speed adds: “As a born and bred north easterner, who has lived in Newcastle for the last twenty years, I know how much we love to laugh up here, and I hope all of the festival shows bring as much hilarity to the region as I expect they will.”

The comedy festival is a most welcome addition to the rich, diverse, and increasingly celebrated arts and culture scene in the northeast, which is beginning to attract international attention. Historically, the region used to be a hotbed of comedy entertainment, second only to the Edinburgh festival. With things going from strength to strength, Speed is the man at the helm to make the northeast one of the preeminent places for quality comedy entertainment.

For more information and tickets, click here: newcastlegatesheadcomedyfestival

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