I very conveniently quit my stand up career (ok, let’s be real, went on an indefinite hiatus) about three weeks before everyone realised that everything was about to look very different indeed for live comedy. So at least I had a headstart on the withdrawal symptoms.
I was ending on a high, though. My last gig was something very special, but before that I’d spent most of January doing Belly Laughs gigs, some of the most enjoyable gigs in Bristol to do. Organised by the Bristol comedy godfather that is Mark Olver, Belly Laughs is a series of charity comedy shows in restaurants every January. People buy a ticket, they get fed and amused, the money goes to the Julian Trust, and they’re such lovely gigs to do. Not least because we’d occasionally get very delicious free food too. There were about 40 of them this January, including 12 in one day for Wapping Wharf night. It’s absolutely incredible.
So when the local food scene ground to a halt, the local comedy scene ground to a halt, and charities were more in need than ever, of course Mark was going to do something about it. We were going to do Belly Laughs At Home. A three hour variety spectacular, filled with the best of Bristol. The message went out far and wide in the Bristol comedy group chat to make a funny video about why they loved Bristol. Restaurants like BOX-E and the Curry House got involved offering takeaway deals for the evening.
A crack team was assembled - I spent an afternoon building a website for all the acts to upload their videos to; the wonderful David Hoare figured out how the hell we pull this together on Twitch. The incomparable Ewins and Kate edited all the videos. And in the middle of it all, Olver somehow made it look effortless.
This all happened in two weeks, conception to one Sunday night in May when more than a thousand people tuned in to celebrate Bristol, food, and comedy.
In a year like this, being part of Belly Laughs At Home was an absolute tonic. It felt like I was doing something. We raised £37,000 for charity. I was seeing my friends on screen being brilliant in a way I hadn’t been able to do for weeks. It felt warm, and comforting, and just what I needed mid-lockdown.
So. I might have quit stand up. But it felt right to make a little something for it. This was a 2 and a half minute routine I’d written a few months beforehand on the train home from London, in a state I can only describe as half hungover and half still drunk. It made me laugh a lot. It worked the first time on stage, but I could never make it fit. So I’m glad it found a home. That and my friends emotionally blackmailed me into doing something for the show or they wouldn’t buy tickets.