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Jesterlarf: Having a laugh in Cambridge for 20 years

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The popular Jesterlarf comedy night returns to the Cambridge Junction later this month, but this time it will be an extra special occasion as it marks 20 years of the event.

Joe Lycett. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography
Joe Lycett. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography

Founded by Andy White in 2002, the monthly Jesterlarf Comedy Club has hosted many of the top names in British comedy. Moving from its regular first Friday of the month slot, this month the event will take place on Saturday, May 21.

The show is called Tom Davis & Friends. Host Tom went from scaffolder to market stall salesman to stand-up comic to writer and actor and star of BBC hit comedy King Gary and Dave’s Judge Romesh.

Appearing alongside Tom are Geoff Norcott, Angela Barnes, Dinesh Nathan and Joseph Emslie, although as highlighted on the Junction’s website, shows can change without notice due to unforeseen circumstances and commitments of artists. We put some questions to Andy White:

Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Jesterlarf! Tell us how it all came about.

It was 2002 and I’d had enough of factory jobs and building site lackey work so booked out my old comprehensive school hall in St Neots and put on a comedy night with acts that at the time no one had heard of that included Russell Howard and new act open spot Gary Delaney.

Everyone loved it and they drank the bar dry so it was goodbye building site and factory and hello comedy club promotions. Two months later I started the Cambridge club at the Grad Pad in Mill Lane where the club stayed until 2007 when we moved to the Junction’s J2 (formerly known as the Shed) and we’ve been there each month ever since.

Stevenage, Kettering, St Albans and Peterborough were added to our stable where our opening night had Micky Flanagan, Jason Manford, Tony Gerrard (RIP) and John Ryan. So here we are 20 years later.

Jo Caulfield. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography
Jo Caulfield. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography

How will you be celebrating?

Put on a good show and at the end of the night a curry with all the Junction staff and some mates, a few beers and maybe some dancing.

Who are some of the big names in comedy who have performed?

The list is endless. Think of a famous comedian currently performing and they’ve most likely played the club at some time and some venue.

Kevin Bridges. Picture: Steve Ullathorne
Kevin Bridges. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Who are your current favourites?

Kevin Bridges is sensationally funny and probably my favourite, Sean Lock (RIP) was in my top five comedians of all time. Micky Flanagan, of course, Jo Caulfield – not only one of the best comics out there but funniest comedienne by a country mile – Canadian Tom Stade because he’s crazy, cool, calm and funny, and Jeff Innocent, the best circuit comedian for the last 15 years who’ll never make it to TV screens because he’s too old and threatened to punch the lights out of a TV exec!

What would you put Jesterlarf’s success down to?

Always booking the best acts who are funny and the very best emerging talent. I’ve never booked acts just to tick social, geographic or diversity boxes – you’re either funny or you’re not and I don’t just book acts because they have TV credits this and TV credits that. There are many acts that do get on to high-profile TV shows but frankly in my opinion they’re not very funny.

I’d hope that comedy fans appreciate and respect our booking policy and know that they will get top-quality funny acts at our shows. That said, over the years we’ve had some stinkers that have spectacularly bombed on stage!

Plus, I’ve always been conscious to keep the ticket price affordable. Money is hard to earn and easy to spend so when people do part with their hard-earned cash I want to make sure they get a top-quality night of fun entertainment.

Sara Pascoe. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography
Sara Pascoe. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography

What are your future plans?

Provided talented and funny comedians keep emerging and being funny, then we’ll put on more comedy – plus we’re branching out into music.

How has the comedy scene changed in the past 20 years?

Back in 2002, all comedy was small venue-based. Baddiel & Skinner had played Wembley Arena in 1993 which was crazy and from that Lee Evans and Eddie Izzard filled huge venues but that was it. Now it’s commonplace, and good luck to them – but it’s not for me; sat at the back watching an act on a giant screen seems daft and not different to watching a DVD at home.

Plus of course the money. Back in 2002 Micky Flanagan would play my club as a headliner for £250 and now I’d need an ’80s Casio calculator to work out his fee.

Micky Flanagan. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography
Micky Flanagan. Picture: Claire Haigh Photography
Andy White, founder of Jesterlarf. Picture: Andy White
Andy White, founder of Jesterlarf. Picture: Andy White

Jesterlarf returns to the Cambridge Junction’s J2 on Saturday, May 21. For more information, visit junction.co.uk and jesterlarf.com.

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