Chris’s Sport on Freeview Guide – Comedy Store Updated!
First things first – a revised report on my trip to the BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Awards… which includes some ‘new’ material at the bottom of the article which, now the programme has been transmitted I feel I can say. Chris
Radio 4 Extra, New Comedy Award and my Trip to Manchester – September 8th 2014
To listen to the programme featured in the article, go to BBC Iplayer Radio right now:
A break away from Sport for this week’s feature – but it’s Freeview related and the channel I’m going to write about is worth knowing about. Now, you’ll have heard of BBC Radio 4, but have you heard about Radio 4 Extra? If not, check it out. Formerly BBC7, Radio 4 Extra broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on digital radio, and through Freeview television sets also on channel 708. I’ve discovered some gems on there – including radio shows of Eric and Ernie, during Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary season there was a brilliant range of dramas and stories… Saturdays they have a great slot called ‘The Comedy Controller’… It broadcasts a good mix of archive comedy and drama, but it’s not all repeats and a lot of people think it is. For example, starting this Friday (Sept 12th), they will be playing highlights of the BBC Radio 2 New Comedy Award heats, at 10:30pm. Eight heats, each featuring ten acts who each have to perform for five minutes in front of a live audience.
And so, I applied for tickets to attend the first Manchester heat on Monday September 8th with my friends Ian and Alan. I had a Plan B lined up in case we couldn’t get there – more on that later… But tickets we got (Amelia thank you for your help!) and so at 4:50 I left Bradford and drove along the M62 towards Manchester. Wet Wet Wet’s Greatest Hits playing in the car (which incidentally was the 1st CD I ever bought – from Woolworths in 1993, bit of useless trivia for you), and all was well with the world until a traffic just before junction 24 (near Ainley Top). Two lanes had been closed for what I believe what was a broken down lorry – I beginning to wonder if I’d get to Manchester at all…
Thankfully, the traffic didn’t hold me up too much. At 5:40pm, I was at Milnrow Metrolink Station, and now had a 50 minute tram journey to Deansgate Metrolink Station; this station is directly above The Comedy Store – and you’ll hear trams passing over frequently if ever you see a live show there. During my tram ride, I listened to ‘The Show What You Wrote’, a great Radio 4 comedy show where listeners are invited to submit sketches – Series 2 has just been made and I was lucky enough to watch the ‘Sports and Leisure’ episode being recorded in Manchester a couple of months ago.
I met up with Ian at 6:30, who was sat outside ‘Baa Baa’ (just a couple of bars down from the Comedy Store) enjoying a Brooklyn Brewery beer and watching the world go by. Sounds like a plan to me – I went to the bar and got the same drink for me to enjoy.
Me and Ian enjoying a beer outside Baa-Baa’s
I then gave Ian a book which my sister in law Katie had bought for me yesterday – but I already have – a Marks and Spencer’s book on Snooker from 1989! 60p from a charity shop – bargain! I gave Ian, like I do he likes his snooker. And I like the book because my favourite player Steve Davis was still top of his game when the book was published!
Ian in a state of disbelief after receiving the Snooker book!
We then moved on to another bar (just over the road from the Comedy Store) called Rebelllion and it was there that Alan joined us. It had been his birthday recently, so before the gig we gave him some belated presents (one of the bits I’d got him was ‘Dangervision’ – a compilation of the Rik Mayall/Ade Edmondson Dangerous Brothers sketches, available at www.networkdvd.net).
Alan enjoying a pre-show Guinness
I love Manchester – I lived in the Manchester area for the first 25 ½ years of my life and for a long spell on Saturday afternoons I’d venture into the city on the bus with my friends Antony and Craig and we’d look around DVD shops such as HMV, Virgin Megastore (remember that?), and we’d walk around some of the sights of Manchester, normally passing the Comedy Store before going for a coffee in Starbucks in St. Anne’s Square. The Comedy Store is a brilliant venue – first time I went there was 8 years ago… went to one Radio 4 show there called ’28 Acts in 28 Minutes’ where one act came on stage totally naked! Of course he got the best laugh of the night, but I’m guessing his humour didn’t transfer over to the audience at home…
View from our seats at the gig
Justin Moorhouse was the MC for tonight’s New Comedy Award heat – Justin of course co-starred in Peter Kay’s comedy series ‘Phoenix Nights’, but has recently been seen on the cobbles of Weatherfield… Full house inside the Comedy Store, and a really good atmosphere – you’d forget it was a Monday night with England on the telly against Switzerland. Justin was really funny, with a mini-set at the start (look for the picture of Julia and Paul on Justin’s Twitter page – they were frequently sat on the front row and referred to frequently during the night), and then another one just after the interval.
The official judges were Steve Bennett (Editor of Comedy website Chortle), Alison Vernon Smith (BBC Radio Executive) and Alan Cochrane (who has appeared on ‘Just a Minute’ and Radio 4’s Fun House).
We were even treated to a 10 minute set from last year’s New Comedy Award winner Steve Bugeja whilst the judges were making their final decisions at the end of the night. Show finished at 10:10pm – I had to leave my friends Ian and Alan quite rapidly (I would have loved to have stayed out for a coffee and a further catch up but conscious of my journey home, and the fact my children are normally awake at 6am!), and caught the tram back to Milnrow, then the 30 minute drive home – getting back to dearest Bradford 10 minutes before I’d have turned into a pumpkin.
What was my Plan B I mentioned earlier for the night? Well, at the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club in Manchester on Mondays, they have a ‘Beat the Frog’ night – 10 wannabe stand up comedians can sign up and attempt to do jokes until they get kicked off basically. And, I’d signed up for it! I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy – and having watched last night’s heat at the Comedy Store it’s just inspired me to apply for next year’s competition; although getting to the heats would indeed be an achievement – Justin Moorhouse last night said to the audience that 750 people had applied for the competition, with only 80 people being selected for the eight heats. But, I’ll apply – watch this space…. The Final of this year’s Radio 2 New Comedy Award will be in December, and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2.
The remaining transmission dates on BBC Radio 4 Extra for the eight heats are indicated below:
Manchester Heat 2 – 10:30pm, 17th October
London Heat 1 – 10:30pm, 24th October
London Heat 2 – 10:30pm 31st October
To listen to the programme featured in the article, go to BBC Iplayer Radio right now:
And some previous heats are still on Iplayer Radio at present…
I’ve been advised approximately three minutes of each act will be played on as part of the Radio 4 Extra shows, there will also be backstage interviews included as well.
So, look out for the heats, but more importantly, look out for BBC Radio 4 Extra. Channel 708 on Freeview – make a note! Your TV set doesn’t just have to be used for something instantly visual – let your imagination run wild, it’s good to do that. Incidentally, my wish list for BBC Radio 4 Extra would be the following:
- The Now Show (brilliant BBC Radio 4 comedy series which you can hear this Friday at 6:30pm – I’d love to hear archive episodes… after all Dave repeats old episodes of ‘Have I Got News For You’ so I think this is plausible).
- The Russ Abbot Show – this was broadcast on BBC Radio 2, and ran for a few series. Russ of course has been on BBC1 recently in new sitcom ‘Boomers’ and his comedy is often forgotten.
- The Archers – ok, I’m not a regular listener but if ever I’m out in the car between 7:05 and 7:20 (and at that time it’s normally on the way to collecting a Chinese take-away order), I’ll tune in to BBC Radio 4 and it doesn’t matter where the storylines are up, I’ll be instantly hooked. I think they should repeat some vintage episodes from Ambridge…
If you’re a Radio 4 Extra listener, please leave a message on the blog and give the readers some tips of your favourite programmes to look out for!
You can find my video diary of the day at http://youtu.be/VnJ47iad8G4 and you can tweet me @chriscbenson too – keep in touch! You can also follow my blog on my Sport on Freeview page on Facebook – don’t forget to ‘like’ it!
Me, Ian and Alan decided to unofficially ‘score’ the acts as they came on during the contest in Manchester – and now the episode has been broadcast, I feel I can comment on some of our scoring. Ian correctly guessed that the winner would be Andrew McBurney; Ian gave him 8 points out of a possible 10. Alan’s two favourite comedians were Russell Hicks and Darren Walsh and he gave them both 7 out of 10. Overall, with our scores combined the winner would have been Joshua Ross – he had a combined score of 22 out of a possible 30. Whilst judging, I found it really hard to keep listening to the whole of the act, if I had already made my decision about someone based on a couple of gags. It was Ian who gave me some advice during the night when I was about to score someone a ‘5’ when they hadn’t even finished and he said “Give them chance” – wise words, my friend. Hey, I’m only human – that’s why I’m not a judge!
My favourite comedian on the night was Jules Oliver (the runner up was Adam Hastings who earned the remaining position to the next stage of the competition). Sadly, Jules didn’t get through but Jules was kind enough to do a Q & A with me shortly after the show.
Chris – So, you’ve been doing stand-up for almost three years, what was that first gig like stepping on stage and hearing those first laughs?
Jules – It was pretty nerve-wracking, but it was a tiny, friendly pub in Brighton’s North Laine, so not exactly The Comedy Store. Half the people were my friends, which in some ways was harder, if it had been strangers maybe I could have just run away afterwards, if it hadn’t gone well. However, after I got my first laughs, I knew it wasn’t going to be complete silence, which is pretty much the best you can hope for. I was buzzing afterwards and had a large glass of wine to calm down.
Chris – I saw you last week in the BBC New Comedy Award heat in Manchester, and during your performance, the ‘f’ word appears – what is so bad about falconry?!
Jules – Thanks for giving me the chance to explain! Don’t get me wrong, I love the bird, and I suspect if I actually did Falconry myself I would find it exciting. However, I spent a wet afternoon once at Carlisle Castle watching a display. I think it was one of the most boring things I have ever seen. I mean even I know that if you get a predatory bird and attach a chunk of meat to your arm, it’s going to come back. Maybe if the bird had gone off piste and kept us on our toes I would have enjoyed it more.
Chris – Which comedians (old and new) make you laugh and have you had the chance to meet any of your idols?
Jules – There are so many that I like, Simon Evans, Romesh Ranganathan, Seann Walsh, Anna Morris, Rachel Parris, Angela Barnes. More established ones, Paul Foot, Micky Flanagan, Peter Kay. I totally love Steve Coogan and anything Partridge related. However, my all time favourite stand up is Harry Hill, I’ve seen him so many times. I’ve liked him since his Channel 4 shows in the 90’s. I met him at a book signing (not very glam), and I told him I was about to do my first stand up and gig and asked him for any advice. He said ‘if it’s going badly, get off stage as quick as possible, if it’s going well get off stage as quick as possible, and relax’.
Chris – Onto sport – do you watch any sport on TV, if so which events do you try and catch?
Jules – I’m sorry, but I am not really into sport at all. Essentially, I was a sport orphan. My parents are obsessed with Football, Golf, Formula 1, Cricket, Horse racing, pretty much anything really. My dad is a Spurs season ticket holder, and my mum Leyton Orient. As a teenager with one TV in the house, I think I begrudged the amount of time that sport was on the TV. So I’m sorry about that, I did get some tickets for the Paralympics though and I enjoyed that, does that count?
Chris – Is there a sporting event you’ve not been to that you would love to go to one day?
Jules – Maybe Wimbledon, although that would be more for the event. Maybe I could have Cliff Richard’s seat? He might not need it anymore. I always remember my friend telling me she liked cricket, as she’s been to watch it in Australia and had nice food and champagne whilst she watched it. I pointed out that maybe it wasn’t the cricket she liked, but picnics? A sunny day in Sydney is quite different to a wet one in Britain watching Kent V Sussex.
Chris – Your website is http://www.julieoliver.co.uk – with all sorts all there, including a clip from a show, gallery and forthcoming gigs – readers can also find you on Twitter – what’s your address?
Jules – @julesolivercom
Chris – What made you venture into stand-up comedy, how did it come about?
Jules – When I moved to Brighton from London, I had more time on my hands and felt like testing myself a bit. I’ve always loved stand-up comedy and had never done anything that outgoing before. I fancied testing out my creative side. I saw an advert for Jill Edwards comedy course. Seann Walsh and Jimmy Carr are ex-pupils of her so she has great credentials. Anyway, I gave it a go and loved it, and one thing led to another and I did my first gig. I just take one step at a time, but I am really enjoying it at the moment.
For more information on all of the acts in the heat, please visit: