He kept giving to comedy right to the end | Kev F Sutherland remembers his friend Alan Seaman, who has just died at 64

He kept giving to comedy right to the end

Kev F Sutherland remembers his friend Alan Seaman, who has just died at 64

Our good friend Alan has died, unexpectedly, at the age of just 64. Comedy lovers will know him as the promoter and compere of comedy shows in Leicestershire at various locations, usually under the banner of Ship Of Fools comedy. As well as being each other’s Best Men at our weddings, our association together went back many years, including us running one of Leicester's earliest comedy clubs.

It was an unimaginable forty years ago that he and I started performing comedy together. We met, he and I and my wife to be Heather, in 1984, as contributors to BBC Radio Leicester's youth programme Primetime.

This weekly show gave a break to a number of talents who went on to become professional broadcasters. Alan and I specialised in comedy and, though he also busied himself reviewing and interviewing bands when he got the chance, it was comedy sketches that became our most popular contributions.

We got the chance to take our ideas to the live stage when we discovered a comedy club that was being run above The Magazine pub in Newarke Street. When he and I started doing stand-up slots, at what was then called The Magazine Jokespace (a play on the name of the neighbouring Magazine Workspace), run by actors from the Phoenix Theatre across the road, we both disguised ourselves as characters. I was comedy policeman PC Bharsted, and Alan was bespectacled insurance clerk John Dull.

The John Dull character was inspired by Alan's then day job, working as an insurance clerk for Norwich Union, a job that linked him, nominally, to his native Fakenham in Norfolk.

Though he and his family had moved to Leicester when Alan was a schoolboy, he would regularly return to Norfolk. Indeed one of the shows he went on to perform at the Leicester Comedy Festival in the 2000s was entitled Normal For Norfolk. He and his wife Sonia had, in recent years following the death of his parents, bought a house in Kings Lynn to do up.

After performing stand up comedy for a while in Leicester, Alan and I ventured out into the then nascent comedy circuit. The listings in Time Out still classed it as Alternative Cabaret and we travelled to art centres and pubs across the Midlands, on bills that would regularly include folk acts and poetry, pure comedy nights being a rarity, as well as dipping our toes into the London scene.

It was in 1987 that Alan and I took over the running of the comedy club at the Magazine, renaming it The Monkhouse. An image of Bob Monkhouse, from an advert in a 1950s Eagle comic, was our logo. Bob had nothing to do with the club, having been chosen as an ironic example of precisely the sort of comedy we thought we were providing an alternative to, and I doubt he ever heard of our existence. Don’t look for it, it’s not there any more, the pub being demolished in the 1990s to make way for new court and office buildings.

Alan did most of the work, namely booking the acts, who included early gigs by Jo Brand (then The Sea Monster), Patrick Marber, Mark Lamarr, Frank Skinner and many more. They would regularly sleep on the floor of his house in Markfield after the show.

My main responsibility was designing the posters, which I ran off on the photocopier at work. In those days before social media, that and word of mouth was the only publicity we had. The monthly shows were regular sellouts. When I moved away in 1989, Alan kept the club going, and maintained his efforts as a promoter and performer.

Though we lived in different parts of the country, Alan and I continued to collaborate through the 1990s, on comic strips including the UT music parody in Sounds magazine, and in a range of humour magazines.  Heather and I have kept in touch with Alan, Sonia and the kids ever since. I was a mystifying choice of Godfather to their eldest, Kate, a role which I doubt I've done justice to. I returned to play at Alan's shows at The Looking Glass on Narborough Road and Ha Ha Comedy in Market Harborough in recent years. 

We were very very lucky to be able to visit him in hospital when he’d got the news of his illness. He described it as an 'aggressive cancer', which had come upon him very quickly and he knew he didn’t have long.  We are so sad at the loss of him, and give all our love to Sonia and the kids. He kept giving to comedy right to the end. Nice work, Uncle Anal.

Published: 1 Apr 2024

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