Chris Lynam

Chris Lynam

An anarchic stalwart of the alternative comedy scene, Chris Lynam is most famous for his finale of sticking an exploding roman candle between his buttocks and singing There’s No Business Like Show Business.
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Bring out the freaks

Has live comedy become too safe?

The promoter of one of London’s weirdest comedy nights has complained that there are no more truly alternative comedians entering the circuit, causing him to close his gig.

Joe Wilson, pictured, is axing his Comedy Madhouse after eight years and 145 shows because, he says, career-minded newcomers have left him with too few weird and outrageous acts to fill the bill.

He said: ‘It has been great fun, but the comedy business has changed hugely since 1997, when I started the club. New comedians are more careerist and mainstream than they have ever been - and exciting alternative comedy talent is simply not coming through.

‘I would rather see the club go out on a high than suffer a slow and lingering death.’

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed across London’s open mic circuit.

Alex Petty, who has run the Laughing Horse nights for the past six years, agreed: ‘There are far fewer funny eccentric oddballs coming through

‘Newer acts have become a lot more career focused, often being formulaic and stereotypical rather than finding their own voice or doing something different or unique.

‘I'm sure that the increase in acts coming off of the vast number of comedy courses hasn't helped, and the fact that more people see comedy as a viable career, or an easy way into performing.

‘There are still some wonderfully mad acts out there: Woody Bop Muddy, Chris Lynam, right, the completely barking Ivan Steward, Peter Buckley Hill,  Jimbo… But all of those have been around for ages – recent additions are harder to think of.

So far this year only a couple of acts I have seen have been memorably eccentric – Cardiff-based Epileptic Dan, whose set is about the seven-deadly sins played out by the Hungry Caterpillar, and another act who sat at a fold-up table acting out Romeo and Juliet with inanimate objects.

‘One of the differences now is that the acts that used to try to be different have been replaced by a lot of acts that are just appallingly bad, rather than odd or eccentric, who often just do a couple of gigs and give up.

‘There are a few genuine nutters still out there - but these fall into the appallingly bad or disturbed category rather than the comic oddballs: the black comedian who blacked-up a bit more for a gig, the act who performed in a cardboard box, another one who performed dressed as a rabbit - all completely mad, seen once or twice, but then all who disappeared just as quick.

The complaint that there are few acts who can harness their weirdness into something actually fully is echoed by the Comedy Store’s Alex Rochford, who actively encourages all manner of new acts to face a turbulent audience at the venue’s King Gong show.

He said: ‘The “loons” never fail to make themselves known on the last Monday of the month. Usually the gong show has a high number of cringeworthy acts.

‘But I can see why Joe is having trouble finding good acts. Most of the acts I come across seem to lack the self knowledge, censorship and ability to ever become anything other than a novelty. I find some acts just stand there for the thrill being on stage obviously creates.’

Anthony Miller, one of the comperes of Pear-Shaped, billed as London’s second worst comedy club, said that there’s simply not the demand for oddball acts any more. ‘I used to be very weird,’ he said. ‘People would say "we love it" but then don't book you - so I've sold out and gone mainstream.

‘Weird acts are a risk. [Promoter and comic] Ivan Steward is still very cross that Paulo Ferrari let off a fire extinguisher, costing him £50. Great story for history but somewhat shit if you have to pay for it.’

The last night of Joe's Comedy Madhouse is at The Sun in Clapham on November 3.


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Published: 12 Oct 2005

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2015


Misc live shows

At Last! The 1981 Show


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