Promoter under fire for launching a 'degrading' comedy night | Audience encouraged to throw things at comedians in show billed as ‘just a bit of fun'

Promoter under fire for launching a 'degrading' comedy night

Audience encouraged to throw things at comedians in show billed as ‘just a bit of fun'

A comedy promoter is coming under fire for staging a show that encourages the audience to throw things at comedians.

Sam Rhodes, pictured, will be giving punters beanbags to hurl at acts they don’t like in his new gong-show style night in London. The comic who faces the fewest projectiles will receive £30.

The monthly  show, which starts at The Raven in Tower Bridge next Thursday, is also a ‘bringer’, which means the performers must take friends with them to make up the audience. But tickets are free

Writing on Facebook, Freddy Quinne said: ‘There's an extra special level of cruelty in completely degrading people and making them bring their own friends to watch it.’

And Wil Hodgson said the idea needs  ‘nipping in the bud right now because if they become even remotely normalised it’s going to take the new act scene and possibly even the circuit in general down a very bad path indeed…. This needs to end before it’s even started.’

Vix Leyton added: ‘I just think it undermines the craft. No other art form is put in the stocks like this, if you don’t like a singer or a play you would never be licensed to bottle them off effectively - it’s disrespectful and frowned upon. I know it could be seen as a bit of fun, but I think the optics for the industry are very bad if this is where we go with it.’

Mark Nelson joked: ‘Ignore all this Sam. Double down mate. 12 acts. 1 minute each. Audience each get a snooker ball in a sock. Anyone who doesn’t last 1 min gets beaten to death. Worst act then gets their corpse sodomised by the cheering crowd.’

Poster advertising the bean-bag night showing a man defensively protecting himself agains unseen projectile

But Rhodes – who performs stand-up himself – defended the format as ‘just a bit of fun’, saying: ‘I'm just a working class guy trying to make it in a business that's hard for us, trying to put on fun alternative nights people will enjoy.

He told Chortle: ‘The idea is a simple one, not too different from a gong show. People who know me and know my formats – usually leaning towards the silly and alternative – will know there's no malice involved. 

‘The beanbags are no bigger than a teabag, and the atmosphere is more circus than a boxing ring. 

‘I will, of course, as the host not ask anyone to do anything I'm not willing to do myself. Is this for poetic comedians doing thoughtful hours? Obviously not, but for gag guys with a fun five or ten it should be a right laugh.

‘I don't think this will encourage bad behaviour in pro audiences, the framework is laid out and the night is clearly explained, people are smarter than we give credit for. 

‘There's a cash prize of 30 quid for least beanbags and a bottle of bubbly for most.’

The format is based on the occasional Tomato Throw Show that has been run at The Comedy Bar in Chicago for several years. There audience members are given plastic tomatoes to chuck at the performers.

Rhodes who has gigged there, added: ‘The show in Chicago is a grand old time with a warm atmosphere that I'll be also aiming towards with my show, as I do with all the Sam Rhodes Comedy Explosion shows. 

‘It's a once-a-month fun experience for new acts looking for something different, and the format will not be creeping into my pro shows or showcase nights.’

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Published: 6 Jun 2023

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