Room for a Laugh: The world of Tom Taylor, promoter of Harrogate’s Sitting Room comedy club and finalist in So You Think You’re Funny contest at Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Crazy sponsorship deals are the bedfellows of football, this is what I want to believe. Of course, in reality, we can commercialise anything. And we will.
As a cricket fan of the 90s and 2000s, I had accepted that cricket was sponsored by ‘party sticks’.
Or cigarettes, as I later discovered they were called. This was just the way of the world. A world not made entirely of candy.
And I challenge you to think of a more fitting sport. Players break for lunch and tea, trot around in a fetching garden party getup of white linen and, when not trotting, stand casually in an expanse of grass or perched on a bench waiting to drop a catch. Why not light up between overs? It’s not something you could do in, say, Formula 1. The cars move too fast.
Football has enjoyed some clangers of sponsorship deals.
Financially troubled Greek club Voukefala were sponsored by a local brothel in what was termed a “strictly economical” agreement, Wet Wet Wet sponsored their hometown club, Clydebank, in the mid 90s and the now disbanded Scarborough FC was briefly sponsored by Black Death Vodka. Now disbanded.
In 1981 Perrier created the Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Since then, the awards have been passed through the hands of Intelligent Finance and Absolute Radio before falling into the mitts of Fosters Lager.
Fosters, of course, being the new kings of comedy what with their amusing adverts and scantily clad beach users.
There is, however, a new challenger. And that challenger is Nando’s.
I have just returned from Edinburgh and the Nando’s New Comedian of the Year competition.
There were six finalists, whittled down over multiple heats and two semi-finals, and none of us questioned why Nando’s were sponsoring a comedy competition. It was just one of those things. A given. Like pressing harder on the remote when the batteries are dead, counting trousers in pairs or buying fun-sized chocolate bars. What is fun about getting less chocolate?
I was thrilled to come second in what my editor here refers to as the Great Chicken Contest and I am now basking in my prize of four combo meal vouchers, a selection of marinades and rubs plus a foldable Frisbee and two bottle openers. Quite a prize.
I was doubly thrilled as my keyboard broke halfway through my set. Thrilled at placing, not at my keyboard breaking.
It was an awful moment and a moment when I realised I had no jokes. I was utterly reliant on songs performed on a mid 1980s low-to-mid-range portable home keyboard with 8-note polyphony and a choice of 12 programmed rhythms of variable tempo.
I had material I could feasibly let loose but I wasn’t convinced as to its quality, especially a capella.
The sense of looming dread and the need to say something was uncannily similar to a job interview.
I had prepared for this gig, I had learnt my songs, learnt what to do with my face to make people laugh and thought up some bits to say between songs.
Similarly, I walk into interviews with a great stock of bankers:
When shown to the interview room, walk further up the corridor and say, “I always go the extra mile!” Then click your heels.
Show you give 110% by pouring 10% too much water into your glass. Smile knowingly. Give your interviewer a hollow pork pie. Then lean back and say, “That’s your company – I’m your pork.”
Yet despite hours of preparation and honing, it all comes down to one moment: “What are your weaknesses?” And suddenly all that preparation and practice disappears and your brain empties but for one word: “Perfectionism.”
Looming dread and the need to say something.
“Perfectionism and Ryan Gosling.”
Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, September 10 with Radio 4 regular and ITV game show star The Chase, Paul Sinha, plus Christian Reilly, Ian Smith and Katie Mulgrew.
Tickets from www.sittingroomcomedy.com.
Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails