The Mitchell Brother, a Belgian Muslim, and a reporter from the Daily Star... | Dominic Frisby recalls his most memorable gigs

The Mitchell Brother, a Belgian Muslim, and a reporter from the Daily Star...

Dominic Frisby recalls his most memorable gigs

First gig

It was 1997. I'd written a song called the Upper-Class Rap: 

I'm the Upper-Class Rapper.
Well, how do you do?
A hippety hop
And a boopety boo.

These days, there seem to be hundreds of posh rappers, but back in the 90s there was only one and it was me. I thought it could be an amusing novelty single, so I phoned up a friend of mine from university, who I knew was a music agent. 

'Go and try it at my brother's club,' he said.

His brother was Malcolm Hardee and the club was Up The Creek. I knew nothing about either or the dangers I was about to step into. 

I told no one I was going. Malcolm was, shall we say, unfocused as compere. The first act played to silence. The second was Gina Yashere and she did well, but it was still pretty quiet in there. Then we got the interval. I don't know what the audience took in the interval but they came back in a completely different frame of mind. 

It was time for the open spots. The first was a guy called Hovis Presley, now no longer with us I am sad to say. He was so funny! Oh, my gosh. His lines were hilarious. The audience, however, did not go with it. They were heckling and screaming for Malcolm to get him off. But Hovis would not back down. The more they heckled the more he went on. He started reading them poems. 

By the time he got off, the room was chaos. Malcolm made no effort to get them back. He just went: 'Well, this next add could be shit too. He's a mate of me brother's. It's his first time on stage. Please welcome…'

This was just before the General Election that gave us ten years of Tony Blair. It's amazing to think, but the Tories were even more hated then than they are now. I walked on wearing a double breasted suit I'd borrowed off my flatmate, and they bananas. You couldn't hear anything for the noise. I didn't know what to do, so I just did the song. The audience laughed.

My reward was a paid ten minutes the following week. That went well too. Malcolm and Jane gave me another 10, which went well, and so I got my first 20 - on the day Diana died. Suddenly I was a stand-up comedian.

Best gig

It's hard to beat rocking Up The Creek. I once got three encores at a gig in Huddersfield, after doing an hour show. Always have your best gigs in places where you are seen by as many influential people as possible.

And of course there's the King's Head - more on that in a moment ...

Worst gig

It was back in 2003. I was just easing off doing characters. I had just read Frank Skinner's book in which he went on about how he didn't like character comics because, as an audience member, he wanted to get to know the real comic, and leave with a piece of them. He wanted some truth.

So I came up with this routine in which I went into unnecessary detail about my private life. It kept going down really well, so I based an Edinburgh show around it, and the previews all went really well.

Then Chortle came on the first night, which was beset with technical problems, and Steve Bennett absolutely panned the show. I didn't get one star, but two which was worse in a funny kind of way.

But that review set the tone for the festival, and it was very hard to change course and get on a different tack. I don't think it was a two-star show, even if on the night Steve saw it, it was.

Then about a week later I had the weirdest night ever with my then wife, involving ouija boards and all sorts of weird shit, that led to us getting divorced. Trapped in a mediocre show for a month while trying to save your family in London. How bad can a gig get!

Gig that changed my life

While all this was going on, in the months before and after Edinburgh that year, the promoter Peter Grahame had kept coming up to me and muttering: 'I really like what you're doing at the moment. It's really good.' And he was just so supportive. 

And then he offered me the gig as resident host at Downstairs At The King's Head. This was way back in 2003. Here we are more than 15 years later, and I'm still there.

Weirdest gig

I was compering the King's Head one time, and the final act, who shall remain nameless, was one of those acts who is on the edge.

When the audience goes with it, it is really funny, but if they don't they get upset. This was one of those bad nights. And it was the night after the Nice terror attacks and there was a strange vibe in the room anyway. It was really hot and there weren't many in.

The guy who plays the third Mitchell brother in EastEnders was in the audience. He was being very loud and conspicuous, so everyone was looking at him, which made it even weirder. 

He was very muscular, had drunk a lot and took it upon himself to start having a go at the comic. But the comic kept carrying on and wouldn't leave the stage. Mr Mitchell got more and more aggressive. He was standing in the aisles telling the act how bad he was, waving his arms about, pointing and threatening him. He was so physically formidable it was quite scary.

There then also happened to be some reporter from the Daily Star in, who started videoing Mr Mitchell losing his rag. So Mr Mitchell's Mrs then threw herself between the reporter and her fella, so the reporter would not get any footage. It was now impossible for the act to leave the stage, even if he wanted to. 

It all happened very quickly, and I was just trying to figure out a way to tidy this all up, when then girl who worked on the door, who was a Muslim from Belgium, and very upset about the terror attacks the day before, then rushed onto the stage, grabbed the mic off the final act and started telling the audience how we all need to learn to love one another. 

Like I say. Weird.  

Dominic Frisby: Libertarian Love Songs is at Banshee Labyrinth from August 3 to 25 (except 15) at 17:10.

Published: 5 Aug 2019

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