How Ross Noble helped save one of Suffolk’s best (and cheapest) nights out
- Credit: Archant/Jerry Gilbert
Top drawer comedians. One of the most acoustically dynamic venues in the country. And tickets a snip at just £12 each. Surely The Fat Cat Comedy Club is one of the best-value nights out in Suffolk – if not the UK?
And yet it’s the club that almost never was. Having been set up in the mid-90s by St Edmundsbury Council at the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds (now Wetherspoons), with the Millennium looming and costs unviable, plans were afoot to wind the town’s modest comedy club down.
Until a group of mates stepped in to save the day – including Mark Proctor of The Friendly Loaf, and Trevor Lang of J A P Architects.
“Mark was talking to Tom [the original comedy club organiser] saying it was a shame no one was taking it over. Tom replied ‘why don’t you do it?’,” says Trevor
“A few phone calls later to friends, and we had a small team who were suddenly thrown into running and promoting a comedy club! This was in February 2000. We missed one show and were up-and-running by April.”
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But it wasn’t all laughs.
“By the end of the first year we were about £2,000 in debt on a credit card. We had to hire the venue, PA lighting and book the acts. It was looking like we were going to have to give up, and then in January 2001 things turned around dramatically when a new and exciting comedian Ross Noble played the club. The place was packed. We made a profit for the first time and people realised the quality of the acts we put on.”
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Mark adds: “When we took on the club it was a fantastic time for comedy. We managed to get loads of really brilliant people in before they made it big. Russell Brand. Sarah Millican. Tim Minchin. Lee Mack. Tim Vine. We don’t cut costs or hold back when we’re booking acts. We always aim to get really good headliners.”
Can the team tell who’s going to be the next big thing?
Mark laughs: “It’s difficult. Everyone’s sense of humour is different. We never know who’s going to break next, and that’s the beauty of it. One minute you’re watching someone on stage in Bury...the next they’re on TV!”
Buoyed by the success brought about by Noble’s stellar act, The Fat Cat Comedy Club made a few changes, including bringing the on-stage time forward to 7pm, so it wasn’t such a late finish on a Sunday night. And they’ve never looked back, now being regarded as one of the most respected clubs on the circuit, with average audiences of 350.
“Twenty-one years on we still love doing it,” says Trevor. “The feedback we get from audience members and the comedians is just great. Many comedians tell us that they've been looking forward to playing the club for the first time because of our reputation. It's not a bear pit rammed with hen and stag parties, so they can perform their material in a great friendly atmosphere, and the club is solely run by volunteers who simply love stand up comedy.”
“At the moment, with what we’ve all gone through, there’s a lot to be said about the power of laughter,” adds Mark. “It makes you feel a lot better and definitely does you good. Despite what’s going on, we should all be able to have a good laugh at life.”
The next show is on Sunday, October 10, featuring Rob Rouse, Carey Marx and Barry Castagnola. Tickets are £12 from the Apex box office.
November 14 – Tom Green, Jojo Sutherland, Mike Gunn
December 12 – Jayde Adams, Morgan Rees, Terry Alderton
January 9 – Tom Stade
February 13 – Jarred Christmas, Mike Wilmot