Club drops 'bring a buddy' demands

Comedians' pressure forces U-turn

London’s Monkey Business comedy club has bowed to pressure from comedians and abandoned its controversial policy of demanding that new acts bring their own paying audience.

Earlier this week, Chortle reported that several stand-ups were furious about the venue’s insistence that up-and-coming performers brought at least two friends, paying £6.50 a head, if they wanted to appear on the bill.

However, promoter Martin Besserman – who previously argued that his policy was essential to his night’s survival – has now performed a U-turn in the face of the protests.

He said: ‘After speaking to good friends in the business I have decided to have a complete change of policy regarding my new act night. There will no longer be a requirement for new acts to bring along friends.

‘I hope our reputation of being a good club will be strong enough to keep audiences interested.

‘I really thought that the policy of requesting new acts to bring friends would inject life into the new act scene by creating decent-sized audiences and a supportive atmosphere for the performers.

‘This, in fact, did happen but I can see now that it has caused resentment. I am therefore changing my policy even though I believe that this may well lead to the collapse of my new act night altogether. We shall just have to hope for the best.’

Critics of the arrangement said it was effectively a charge on comedians to perform, and questioned what the role of the promoter was if the acts brought along their friends, meaning there was no requirement to try to build up a regular audience.

‘Bring a buddy’, and similar ‘pay to play’ set-ups were largely blamed for decimating New York’s once-vibrant comedy scene, with acts booked on the basis of how many friends they could persuade to buy tickets – not how good they were.

Published: 8 Jan 2010

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