Remembering Get Up Stand Up – greatest comedy night of all time

Of all the things I’m proudest of in life – my shredded abs, my rock hard buns – I think the comedy night Interestment Presents… Get Up Stand Up which ran from September 2009 to February 2011 is my greatest achievement of them all.

It started embryonically one evening in the Bread and Roses pub in Clapham with my then girlfriend/now wife Hannah (also mother to my brace of adorable swines), who was trying her hand at stand-up comedy. Back then, possibly as now, a thankless mule trek from one half empty venue to another to deliver your zingers to a room full of frowning faces.

“Why don’t we put on our own night?” we said in unison, like a pop group on Going Live announcing their new single. We knew people. We knew some people. We definitely knew the landlord. There had been talk of a cobwebbed “upstairs room” that used to host all kinds of sordid entertainment, with a little stage and room for some chairs. So as quickly as it takes to order two pints of lager (one with a dash of lime) we’d procured the first Friday of every month for our makeshift comedy spectacular. They’d give us the room for nothing, we’d get acts for upstairs, DJs for downstairs in the pub, make a real party of it and pull in the punters. Fair to say, we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were doing.

We enlisted the help of our pals, cobbling this thing together. We designed fliers, a logo, pestered Time Out to be featured in their listings, begged student photographers to take pics, a video whizz to film it, and while our pal Kishore helped Hannah assemble the acts for the night, my stomach tied into knots, envisioning a humiliating evening of a thousand tumbleweeds. But somehow people turned up in droves. Too many on the inaugural outing in fact, with the room sardine tin full and sweaty as fuck. Soul, funk and hip hop downstairs, big lolz and smelly pits upstairs.

And they only got better and better after that, with MC Lloyd Griffith the master of warming up the crowd, and a conveyor belt of great acts providing the jokes, mainly the cream of the up-and-comers looking for a smaller gig on a Friday night (the logic being that only the really recognisable names get the big clubs at the weekend). Some have gone on to fame and fortune, like Rob Beckett, Romesh Ranganathan, Joe Wilkinson, Josh Widdecombe, Jessica Fostekew, Lou Sanders, Brett Goldstein, while others have lingered on the circuit or disappeared. As you suspect is often the case with these things, the weirder, funnier ones were mostly left behind as legends in their own postcode, too polarising for mass public consumption.

Eventually, after a year or so, we had one disappointing show and hooked the night with a shepherd’s crook and called time on Get Up Stand Up forever. It was never about making big bucks, nor building an empire, it was purely about having a laugh and getting people ready for the weekend. To enjoy some comedy, to hang around the bar afterwards, or to secretly slope off to eat a massive pizza (meat feast). We didn’t want it to grow stale or to become a hassle, so as quickly as it started over the ordering of a pint, so it ceased to be in about the same amount of time. But like all the best stuff, for a little while there, for some of us, it crackled very brightly indeed.

Our MC, Lloyd Griffith

Joe Wilkinson, one of the regulars

Jessica Fostekew

Rob Beckett

Tom Rosenthal

Lou Sanders

Romesh Ranganathan

Joel Dommett

Daniel Simonsen

Rachel Stubbings

Josh Widdicombe

Get up Stand Up ledge, Tim Shishodia

And of course, let’s never forget the DJ downstairs…

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