Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
Simon B Cotter
Snorri Hergill Kristjansson
Special guest who cannot be named
Stephen K Amos
Steve N Allen
The co-founder of Viz magazine, Newcastle-born Simon Donald turned to stand-up in 2005.
He set up the cult comic in 1979 with his brother Chris, where his creatings included Sid the Sexist. When Chris quit as editor in 1999, Simon took up the role of co-editor, leaving in 2003.
He has also been a stage manager, singer with a comedy rock band called Johnny Shiloe’s Movement Machine, manager of the indie band Hungover Stuntmen and presenter of a short-lived regional panel show, the Regionnaires, which aired on ITV Tyne Tees, in 2004.
His comedy act began as straight stand-up, but has recently evolved into character work.
The Stand Newcastle launch gig
The backdrop is very familiar, a baby-faced cowboy, holding a gun to his head. Only one thing is different – there’s a temporary ‘wet paint’ sign tacked to the corner.
This is the Stand’s newest venture, a 300-seat club in a reasonably intimate Newcastle basement, below a bar and what will be a swanky smoking terrace. There are a few finishing touches to be completed, but tomorrow the venue will officially open its doors and join the company’s much-respected clubs in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Despite the comedy boom spawning ever-increasing numbers of tours and pub gigs, the opening of a purpose-built comedy club is still a rare occurrence. And Newcastle is a perfect place for The Stand’s expansion, filling an obvious gap in the market between the Hyena provision for rowdy stag-night-style audiences and the smaller, or more occasional, gigs around town.
Following his £750,000 investment in the site, Stand director Tommy Sheppard says his aim is nothing less than having ‘the best comedy venue in England’. And last night, just a couple of hours after the building was signed off as being fit for purpose, the ball was set rolling with a private preview night.
As compere, Jo Caulfield was the first comedian ever to take to the venue’s stage. And her historic first word, to mark this momentous occasion? An awe-struck ‘Fuck!’
Amid jokes about reality TV shows and the relaxed attitude of Greggs staff to customer niceties, she introduced some of the local and/or Scottish talent that will be fixtures at the club over the coming months and years.
First up was Vladimir McTavish, a comic with close links to the Stand, having performed on opening night at both the other venues, too. You couldn’t accuse him of being too adventurous with gags about what he looks like or Susan Boyle, but he’s an eminently likeable bloke, who gets plenty of laughs from hitting the punchlines hard.
John Scott, a Scotsman now living in Newcastle built on that atmosphere, largely through the sheer number of local gags and references he crammed into his brief set, such as jokes about the glut of bridges across the Tyne, or a Geordie version of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Scott will be one of the regular, local comperes of the Red Raw new act night, to be held on Wednesdays, alongside Tony Jameson, John Smith, George Zach and Nicola Mantalios-Lovett. Chortle has previously compared the latter to Sarah Millican – both in accent and material – and that again proved to be true tonight, as she quipped about her appearance and chatted casually about sex in a charmingly self-deprecating way.
Four-strong improv group The Suggestibles didn’t really have time to stand out. They played the established game ‘Die!’ – in which they take turns to pick up a story until someone fumbles and is eliminated from the round – reasonably well, but the change of style from stand-up didn’t really strike a chord with the audience.
Next up, local hero Simon Donald, who was welcomed with a deafening cheer after being introduced as the co-founder of Viz. His character Barry Twyford has, unsurprisingly, a similar sense of humour to the magazine, using Geordie street slang in an apparently straight-laced questionnaire, in a juxtaposition that works well.
Continuing to play up the local pride was headliner Gavin Webster, who will have a Sunday night residency here, emphasizing his ‘ordinary bloke’ credentials by translating Geordie patter in to Queen’s English, and stressing that he has proper jokes – a word he gives at least a couple of extra syllables to. Indeed, there are some delightful non-sequiturs in his quirky but no-frills set.
Before this gig, Webster sang the praises of the new venue, saying: ‘The way the Stand allows you to develop distinctive ideas will give me and all the other acts based in the North East a huge boost, and will give the people of Tyneside and beyond a club that reflects the culture and the humour of the area.
‘This is definitely our moment. We've finally got a club that we Geordie comics can call our own.’
|Date of live review: Wednesday 26th Oct, '11|
Review by Steve Bennett
Simon Donald Dirty Great Fringepiece
Tuesday 9th Aug, '11-
Wednesday 11th Aug, '10-
I think Simon is outstanding. His characters are very original and very funny. More than what I can say about a lot of joke thieves around the place. Keep it up Simon.
Zack, you couldn't be more wrong! I watched this show within 10 miles of Newcastle and it was simply painful.
The inherent funniness and appeal of Simon Donald's act stretches far beyond the Toon and its environs. Got to see glimpses of one of his characters 'Barry Twyford' last year (the 'lunchables' shtick had everyone in stitches), great to see he's branched out into other characters too. Far more on offer here than just cut-out Geordie stereotypes - he can be both clever and crude with incredible ease. He clearly relishes awkward moments and tricks the audience into thinking he's lost the plot and then hits you with belly-laugh punchlines. One of the acts I always look out for at the Fringe.
Brilliant description of my act there from Zack there. There is literally nothing more to it than that. Keep up the good work, Zack, you're just what the comedy public needs. Love your work.
If you think being funny is talking in Geordie very slowly and repeat yourself continually then you'll love this. Awful. Only funny within 10 miles of Newcastle...
Simon Donald and Maff Brown
Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Simon Donald Is Completely Hatstand
Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Simon Donald's Dirty Great Fringepiece
Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Heroes of Alternative Fringe
Simon Donald’s School of Swearing
Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Simon Donald: Butch Straight Poof