My gaff, my rules

Comedy Cafe owner Noel Faulkner on the punters – and comedians – he has to tolerate

All’s changed at the Comedy Café. As reported in Chortle, we have made the club in Shoreditch, East London, a more intimate place, moving upstairs to a room that seats 100 – it’s now like an AA meeting with booze.

The seating is only three rows deep in a crescent shape which makes it almost impossible for the wankers to get their conversations going, as the comic can almost lean into the crowd, slap them on the back of the head and ask them to behave.

While the desire behind the change was partly to discourage the orange people from Orange County – bless their white cotton socks – they’re still coming in droves. And I have to say that the majority of the older ones are good punters, who do behave.

Also, they’re not afraid to put their hands in their pockets to buy a round of drinks - and we can’t forget that we still need people to do that, despite our apparently puritanical comedy ways. So let’s not try to wipe them all out with agent orange; there are still plenty of good people there.

The real headaches are the 20-24-year-olds who prance about in skimpy dresses and unwalkable stilt heels. Although I must confess there’s nothing sweeter than an airhead in a miniskirt to take your mind off a boring act on stage, especially if you’re a dirty, sad old-man like me.

However, back to the purist we’re pretending to be. The room’s now a doddle to play as there are no corners for the numbskulls to hide in.

A few months back I asked a girl to be quiet and she said: ‘He’s not funny, he wrote all them jokes himself.’ A comic I told this story to, then told me a better one. A girl said to him: ‘He’s not funny, I haven’t heard these jokes before.’

Now the room is easier to play, the only problem is that bad open spots are now storming it, and demanding a weekend slot – hee hee hee! Little do they know that for the average comic it takes six years to get their act together, and another six years for key promoters to return their calls.

I’ve noticed recently that there’s loads more comedians than ever before. I’m using the word ‘comedian’ VERY loosely. Some people mistake 20 minutes of babble for a set – which it isn’t.

People often ask me, ‘What can I do to improve?’ and the simple answer is – write great jokes, which of course is something we all strive to do. And those that succeed gain success. And those that don’t end up running comedy clubs, in old warehouses, in the East End of London.

We’ve added the word ‘Theatre’ to ‘Comedy Café’, which is meant to imply that we are trying to get back to a more alternative, creative, thinking person’s evening. That’s not to say that hack comedy and dick jokes don’t have their place. No matter how great you are there’s always a good time for a wank joke. That can’t be resisted. A bit like a wank itself. Despite all the pontificating, the third joke in my set is a wank joke. So there’s room for everybody. Michael McIntyre’s proved that.

However, I think there’s a strong artist’s desire for a purer form of stand-up and storytelling that doesn’t have to have a gag every 15 seconds. And if you want to see stuff like that, Lee Camp is now touring the UK. Go see him if you want to see a high-quality, cutting-edge, young American comic.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a hack comic filling the O2 Arena - especially if it’s you on the receiving end of the finances. Good luck to anyone who can pull that off. But I know I’d much rather be out the back counting the cash, than be out front sitting through the act.

Published: 23 May 2012

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