Manchester comedy scene mourns Stan Vernon | Trailblazing comedian and promoter dies at 63

Manchester comedy scene mourns Stan Vernon

Trailblazing comedian and promoter dies at 63

The funeral takes place today of Stan Vernon, one of the founder members of the Manchester comedy scene, who died last month at the age of 63. 

Vernon was an early winner of the City Life Comedian of the Year, in 1992, and had been diagnosed with a brain tumour over a decade ago, but defied the prediction that he had just a year to live.

Fellow comedians have been paying tribute. Dom Carroll said he was ‘gutted’, adding that his material was ‘brilliant’; and Brendan Riley said it was ‘very sad news’.

Vernon was known for an act that was both surreal, inspired by the likes of Monty Python and Spike Milligan, and forthright. 

In a 2004 interview with the Manchester Evening News, he described his direct approach: ‘I hate those comics that spend the first five minutes telling the audience how lovely they are and how happy they are to be there saying, "haven’t you got nice factories round here, isn’t your sky fab?" It’s laziness getting the audience on side in that way.’

‘He was always good value,’ said Toby Hadoke, compere of the long-running XS Malarkey Comedy Club, which Vernon headlined in its third week, 24 years ago. 

‘You couldn’t take your eyes off him when he was in full flow, smashing surreal word combinations together to illustrate his priceless invective. 

‘He could be a handful, a tricky bugger sometimes - on- and off- stage - but he had a good heart and was very supportive to me when I was starting out, giving me gigs and recommending me to people. I wasn’t the only one [he helped], either.’

Vernon died at his home in Heald Green,  Stockport on September 21. He leaves a daughter,  Candice, and siblings Michael, Christine and Marilyn.


OBITUARY

by Toby Hadoke

Stan Vernon - a striking presence in a leather jacket, his bald head throbbing with prominent veins which distended as he prowled the stage and fixed the audience in his glare, was a fearless compere and a headline act capable of taking on the most boisterous audiences. 

He was a regular at the city’s Frog and Bucket since its inception and was crowned City Life Comedian of the Year in 1992, sharing the award with Paul Glasswell. The awards had only been established two years previously, with Caroline Aherne’s Sister Mary Immaculate the inaugural winner, followed by Dave Spikey in 1991. 

Vernon’s frenzied performances contained a surprising amount of bizarre surrealism for someone who looked not unlike a bouncer - one of his most memorable routines was a hilarious flight of fancy about what would happen if a herd of wildebeests realised that there were lots of them but only one lion. 

His set usually ended with a story about a terrifying trip on the last 192 bus home through Manchester on which he pretended to be asleep to avoid trouble only to be woken up by a man demanding: ‘Have you been dreaming about my bird?’

Vernon started his career under his real name Steve Vernon but had to change his name because acting union Equity already someone of that name on their books. He founded the popular comedy club the Laughter Lounge in the mid-1990s and was committed to giving a helping hand to young acts who he thought had something going for them.

He took a sketch show to Edinburgh with fellow comedian Mark Attwood, and the two wrote and starred in a comedy short for Granada Television called Sweepers. Vernon was also a playwright and contributed scripts to BBC Radio 4’s The In Crowd starring Robin Ince.  

Having been diagnosed with a brain tumour over a decade ago he was given a year to live but defied expectations, although he slowly drifted away from the comedy scene after organising a fundraising charity show - which had John Bishop on the bill - for Christie’s Hospice at the Dancehouse Theatre in 2007.

‘One of the true originals of Manchester comedy,’ remembers Jason Cooke, comedian and promoter of Manchester’s Comedy Balloon. ‘He terrified the bones out of a lot of people but he was a sweetie.’ 

Cooke also recalls that Vernon revealed his nurturing side when advising him that ‘running a comedy night takes more love and care than most people realise’.

The comedian Martin Mor who worked with him a lot in those early days says that ‘as a promoter Stan Vernon was part of the very foundations that the Manchester Comedy scene was built upon. As an act he was a force of nature, unpredictable and often brilliant. A proper alternative comedian’.

Fellow  comedian Tony Burgess, who won the City Life competition the year after Vernon, recalls: ‘I remember I was moaning about my own problems when Stan told me he had a brain tumour that would probably kill him. I was a bit embarrassed and kept apologising and he just said, "Whinge away kid, make hay and all that. There’s no point talking to my gravestone, it won’t answer back. Keep it short though, you’re boring me shitless." 

‘Stan was no-nonsense, kind, always had time for you and always made you laugh." '

Published: 20 Oct 2020

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