The biggest comedy club in the south is celebrating its fourth birthday this month with what promises to be a laughter-packed party.
But it started almost by accident. Comedian James Alderson had been touring the country and performing abroad, but wanted to start a comedy club close to home. His wife was running a part-time cake-making course at Horndean Technology College and one day he wandered in.
‘The main hall was terrific. It had better lighting and sound and technical set-up than many comedy clubs I’ve performed at, and the seating was perfectly tiered,’ says James.
‘When I mentioned it to comedians and to locals, they really didn’t think it would work.’
With most comedy clubs taking place in purpose-built venues, or run in pubs and nightclubs, James encountered a fair bit of scepticism about the idea of running one in a school.
‘Most people thought it would put people off – I can understand why, and I had my reservations, but on the first night we had 280 people turn up. ‘I was amazed, and it’s grown from there. Two years later we sold out with 450 people in the room, and it’s stayed that way for the past two years now, selling out every time!
‘Every show I make sure there is a real mix, but all the comedians have been on telly and are at the top of their game headlining all the best comedy clubs in the country, like The Comedy Store in Leicester Square, London.
‘I also now host the nights, so I think that brings a bit of local knowledge and laughs to the night.
I hand pick the comedians to perform. Some comedy clubs leave agencies to supply them with a conveyor belt of cookie cutter comedians, but I want everyone to enjoy every comedian, so I make sure that I only invite comedians to perform that Horndean will love.’
Comedy All Stars has had the biggest and best comedians grace its stage, including Katherine Ryan, Russell Kane, Tom Stade, Paul Chowdry, Romesh Ranganathan, Gary Delaney, Zoe Lyons and Sean Hughes.
Every show I make sure there is a real mix, but all the comedians have been on telly and are at the top of their gameJames Alderson
‘Obviously as I gig around the UK, I have the privilege of sharing the bill with lots of big names. If I think the Comedy All Stars audience will love them, I invite them down to do a spot at Horndean. First of all they’re nervous it will be full of school students and children, but when I put their mind at rest that it’s over 18s only, and mostly couples and groups of local friends and families, they agree, and many famous comedians have listed it as one of their favourite gigs to perform at.’
September 23 features two of James’ closest comedy pals on the bill, Larry Dean, recently voted Scottish Comedian of the Year, and guitar-wielding funny man Jonny Awsum, who performed at their first ever show and now headlines the UK’s biggest comedy clubs. Headlining is Live At The Apollo star, Canadian Mike Wilmott.
Keeping the price low is also important to James.
‘Many comedy clubs charge £15, £20, £25 for a night of laughs, but we don’t want to be greedy.
‘I love MCing the night and as long as people keep coming, we’ll keep the price as low as we can to ensure we get a great crowd in.’
Barton Hall, Horndean Technology College
Friday, September 23