One of Cambridge’s best-loved comedy clubs celebrates two decades with a brilliant birthday show this May
Image © Claire Haigh
Back in 2002, fed up with factory jobs and site lackey work, Andy White decided to book out his old school in St Neots and put on a comedy night, featuring little-known acts ready to make a name for themselves on the comedy circuit. The evening included stand-up from Russell Howard and Gary Delaney, and was such a success that the audience drank the bar dry! This gave Andy the nudge he needed to become a full-time comedy promoter. He started Jesterlarf’s Cambridge club two months later at the Grad Pad on Mill Lane, where it stayed until 2007, before moving to the Junction J2. Flash forward 20 years and Jesterlarf is still filling the venue with laughter. Ahead of its 20th anniversary show this month, we caught up with Andy to share his memories from over the years.
What have been some of the funniest moments since Jesterlarf started?
There’s been a lot, but three stick out for me. Firstly, an 18-year-old Kevin Bridges did a ten-minute open spot that stretched to 30 as he was so funny – everyone in the room could’ve listened to him all night. Secondly, when my headliner for a sold-out Stevenage gig never showed, I had to call in a hungover Micky Flanagan on his night off. When he arrived, he said, “Andy, get me two pints of Stella Artois to take the edge off.” He then went on stage and blew the roof off – that’s professionalism for you! And thirdly, we used to run a night called Off The Wall at the Boathouse pub in Cambridge, which was for alternative, wacky acts. One evening, this little old lady turned up; off stage she was delightful, but on stage she was mad as a box of frogs! Turns out she was one of the country’s top criminal forensic scientists who worked on heinous murder cases.
Have there been any low points for you?
Fortunately there haven’t been too many, but one low that turned into a high was at an horrendous corporate event in some swanky hotel. The audience hated the closing headline act and the CEO kept heckling and doing his own awful jokes… obviously the act destroyed him, but the gasps of disgust were palpable. The performer did his stage time, returned to the dressing room and wanted to get away as quickly as possible. However, the only way out was through the room where the audience sat. But then he spotted a dumb waiter lift. It was a real squeeze, but he just managed to fit, so we sent him up to the second floor – only imagine his horror when he arrived to discover that the audience had moved from the comedy room to the breakout room on the second floor, for champagne and nibbles!
What can people expect from the anniversary show?
It’s going to be a cracker. Tom Davis is stepping back into stand-up comedy after a few years away to concentrate on hit BBC show King Gary. He’s invited top comedians, with Geoff Norcott and Suzi Ruffell doing a rare club set, now that they are established theatre-filling acts. We’ve also got two brilliant new performers – Dinesh Nathan and Joseph Emslie – who have won a host of awards.
Book tickets now for the anniversary show on 21 May, at Jesterlarf’s website.