Final Big C line-up announced – see you Monday!

ROY WALKER
GEORGE WENDT
JOSIE LONG
SUSAN CALMAN
NICK HELM
FRISKY & MANNISH
TOM STADE
FASCINATING AIDA
DAN NIGHTINGALE
STEVE SHANYASKI
JOE LYCETT
THE BOY WITH TAPE ON HIS FACE

We’re thrilled to announce the final line-up for the Big Comedy Gala, in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, with George Wendt kicking off the show this coming Monday evening by introducing our fabulous host, Roy Walker.

Wendt, who played Norm in Cheers and who is also known for appearances in The Simpsons and Family Guy, is in Edinburgh for Re-Animator The Musical at Assembly George Square this August.

Roy Walker and George Wendt head up an all star line-up at Venue150@EICC on Monday 13 August, including 2011 Fosters’ Comedy Award Nominee Nick Helm; BBC Radio 4 regular Susan Calman; Tom Stade; Cheap Flights YouTube sensation Fascinating Aida; Josie Long; Fringe favourite The Boy With Tape On His Face; and comedy newcomer Joe Lycett.

Those of you who joined us last August at for the inaugural Big Comedy Gala  – also at Venue150@EICC – will be pleased to hear that we raised £18,433, all of which went directly to Macmillan Cancer Support. This year our goal is to raise £20,000.

You can book tickets now by calling 0131 226 0000 or 0844 847 1639 or buy online: www.venue150.com or www.edfringe.com / www.bigcomedygala.com. Tickets: £22 (subject to booking fee).

You can also find the Big C on Twitter (@bigcomedygala), and Facebook (facebook.com/bigcomedygala or search for big comedy gala).

Please share this message with your friends, family and on social media!

The Big Comedy Gala in Aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, Monday 13 August 2012, at 21:30 (2hrs). Box Office: 0844 847 1639 or 0131 226 0000.

BBC Radio 4 regular Susan Calman joins Big Comedy Gala celebrity line-up!

Susan Calman joins the Big C

Susan Calman, the star of Rab C Nesbitt, BBC Three’s Dead Boss, Have I Got News For You, and Channel 4’s Ugly Kid, as well as being a regular on Radio 4 (The News Quiz, The Unbelievable Truth, Vote Now) and Radio Scotland (Funny Friends), today announces she’s joining the all-star line-up at the 2012 Big Comedy Gala in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

From Glasgow, Calman gave up a lucrative career in corporate law to become a comedian and has proved herself one of the fastest rising stars in comedy. She reached the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards and So You Think You’re Funny in 2005, she was also a finalist in Funny Women in 2006.

The feisty Glaswegian went on to become resident compere at Glasgow’s famous comedy club, The Stand, and has been awarded Best New Comedian at the Scottish Variety Awards as well as a Scottish BAFTA.

Calman will join a star-studded line-up at the Macmillan fundraiser, including: Roy Walker (host), George Wendt, Nick Helm, Nina Conti, Tom Stade, Fascinating Aida, Joe Lycett, Dan Nightingale, Steve Shanyaski and The Boy with Tape on his Face.

For more information, interview requests or images, please contact Miriam Attwood on 07825 642225 or email press@bigcomedygala.com.

You can also find the Big C on Twitter (@bigcomedygala), and Facebook (facebook.com/bigcomedygala or search for big comedy gala).

The Big Comedy Gala in Aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, Monday 13 August 2012, at 21:30 (2hrs). Box Office: 0844 847 1639 or 0131 226 0000. Buy online: www.venue150.com or www.edfringe.com / www.bigcomedygala.com. Tickets: £22 (subject to booking fee of £2 to £2.40 per ticket + postage).

The Big Comedy Gala in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support is in its second year. The sell-out 2011 event raised £18,433.08 for Macmillan Cancer Support and featured Ed Byrne, Rich Fulcher, Fred MacAulay, Sarah Millican, Danny Bhoy, Frisky & Mannish and Roy Walker.

Say What You C

With a little under 4 weeks to go until the big night, we felt it was about time we profiled our wonderful host Roy Walker.

Roy travelled to Edinburgh last August to perform at the very first Big Comedy Gala.  Limited to just 5 minutes per act, he took to the stage with his unique brand of deadpan and won every single member of the audience over.

This year, we’re delighted that he’s agreed to take the reigns of the show and guide you through our evening of top-flight entertainment.

The following article was first published in the Scotsman on Saturday 26 July 2008, shortly before Roy performed for his first time on the Edinburgh Fringe. 

GOODBYE MR CHIPS

ROY WALKER has just had an intimation of mortality. “I woke up this morning and thought to myself: ‘Is it possible I could have a heart attack?’ So I jumped out of bed, did some exercises, and passed on the extra sausage.” The cause of the veteran comedian’s anxiety is his Festival Fringe debut on his 68th birthday and the anniversary of his sacking as host of Catchphrase. “I can’t sleep because I’m so excited about Edinburgh,” he says in the softest Belfast voice.

A few years ago, Walker was on the verge of quitting the old country. “I fancied the West Indies: nice jobs on cruise ships and sunshine for my creaking bones.” But then Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles – who seemed to regard Walker’s dismissal as the injustice of the age – dreamed up Car Park Catchphrase for his breakfast show, using original quiz snippets. Now Walker is cool, a cult hero to students. “To be selling out universities and hearing 3,000 kids chant ‘Roy Walker! Roy Walker!’ football-style – incredible,” he says.

It’s easy to be cynical about old show-bizzers on the Fringe; there are so many. Michael Barrymore, Les Dennis – they used to be on ITV and now their game is eye-ron-ee. But Walker has had post-modernity thrust upon him and is genuinely surprised by this turn of events. In fact, he could be just about the most genuine (ex)-wearer of a shiny suit and flaunter of a cheesy grin there’s ever been.

We meet in a London bar. He’s just done breakfast telly; after me it’s Jonathan Ross. His press officer waves around a hectic itinerary. He barely has enough time to hyperventilate and his forthcoming autobiography may have to be delayed. He wants it out for this Christmas; the press officer reassures him that next Christmas will be fine. But Walker wonders if this autumn in his career might not be over by winter 2009. You should take nothing for granted in comedy, and he likens it to boxing. There have been more than a few punches below the belt.

His reminiscences about Belfast at the time of the Troubles certainly put the odd heckle into perspective. By day, he ran a fruit shop; by night he was the compre at the Talk of the Town club, everyone’s ideas of a grand evening out. That was until two men confronted him, stuck a Browning pistol in his face and demanded to know: “Are you married to a Fenian?”

“Protestants and Catholics drank together in the Talk of the Town – integration happened in front of my eyes every night,” he says. “As a Protestant myself, I had lots of Catholic friends – the Army had been full of them. Bob Hope said you should never admit to anything and that day I didn’t. But then I was told: ‘We’re giving everyone 24 hours – that’s you and them Fenian lovers across the street.’

“I got one of the cards I’d used for the apple prices and on the back I wrote: ‘The owner of this shop served Queen and country for six years’. I stuck it in the window, closed up and walked down the Woodstock Road for the last time.”

The shop had been a kind of annexe to the club with the likes of George Best and Guy Mitchell even taking turns behind the counter. But the terrorists were true to their word and firebombed it. Walker and his wife Jean couldn’t even say their goodbyes because houses were being torched close to where their three children were sleeping.

Walker fled to the mainland, desperate for work. “I’d been ‘Mr Belfast’ but in Sunderland I had to wait by the phone at nine o’clock hoping that some other poor comic had been paid off after his first act. That seven quid got me my digs.” Once he raced round Manchester in a beat-up Ford Prefect and played five gigs in a night. “The last one was at Stalybridge Celtic Social Club; Bernard Manning had just come off and he didn’t think I’d be able to follow him.” Walker not only did that, he followed him on to The Comedians, the show that brought clubland humour to the TV masses.

Manning and Frank Carson were top dogs and could afford the best lounge suits; it was shabby velveteen for the rest. “Bernard and Frank were bullies but everyone hated each other – it was worse than chorus girls – and you had to be careful not to let another comic see your idiot cards or he’d ruin your act.” By then, dizzily, Walker was earning £50 a night.

Bob Monkhouse best summed up his comedy: “A well-dressed gent with thick greying hair and a polite air, Walker’s soft Ulster voice, his lack of aggression, the composed expression hiding a gentle smile, his amazing pauses which defied interruption, somehow overawing and silencing hecklers…” His act used to be based almost entirely round married life, but when Jean died of cancer in 1988, he had to throw a lot of gags away. “That was tough; I couldn’t be bothered with comedy for a long time.”

He also used to bait the crowds. Everyone did in the gloriously politically incorrect Seventies, but the style didn’t suit him. He thinks he’s only ever sworn once on stage. So what gets him angry? “Our soldiers dying in Afghanistan, Tony Blair buying another house…” Walker’s youngest son Phil is currently in Afghanistan, entertaining the troops. The oldest son Mark is also a comic, while their sister Joanna is an actress. Did he warn his boys about the perils of comedy? “No, because they wouldn’t have listened. I never did. My dad died before I got to know him; my mum wanted me to stay a choirboy.”

As a lad, Walker went to work at 12 to bring a few extra pennies into the house, so a stint on the Fringe competing against younger, supposedly cleverer comics doesn’t faze him – despite the odd early morning dose of the collywobbles.

His show will cover his entire career, including those 14 years of Catchphrase (“Say what you see … it’s good but it’s not the right one”), so there’s no shortage of great material. His only real dilemma is whether or not he should break the habit of a lifetime and swear.

He laughs: “I always get mistaken for Tom O’Connor and he dines out on that. Once I got stopped by a whole family in an airport. The mother said she loved my act because I didn’t use bad language, but she thought I was that man O’Connor. I told her I wasn’t and in front of her kids she said: ‘Well, who the feck are you then?’

His second F-word gag relates to a piece of old Belfast graffiti – underneath ‘No Popery here’, someone had scrawled ‘Lucky feckin’ Pope’ – and this is the cue for more reminiscing. “When I walked away from my shop, I had a lump in my throat. But when I turned round for one last look, I laughed. I couldn’t see my sign-off – only a board from the previous day: ‘Salad days are here again.’

For Roy Walker, who’s since had a hometown street named after him, they’re still here.

The Big Comedy Gala in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support is Roy’s only Edinburgh gig this year.  It’s on the 13th August at Venue150@EICC and you can buy tickets here:

The Big C Tickets

Opinions are like nipples…

This week on the Big C blog, we’re revisiting an old favourite. We love author David Thorne’s 27b/6 website – if you’ve not checked it out already, set some time aside for it pronto! We’ll be very surprised if you don’t leave the site wanting more.

To illustrate his comic genius, here is an excerpt from one of his articles, based on an email exchange between David and a disgruntled cat lady…this had us crying with laughter – literally:

Opinions are like nipples…

“Dear Ella,

Your efforts to protect both cats and customers should not go unacknowledged. If you have access to a printer and scissors, you could make yourself a little badge.

Anyone can form an opinion but it takes a certain type of person to carry that opinion through to consumer censorship. In a million years, if mankind dies out and cats inherit the earth, they will probably build a statue of you featuring a cat nestled in one arm, a can of petrol in the other, and a pile of my books at your feet. Or one of you cleaning your bum with your tongue.”

Read the full article here.

The Big Comedy Gala in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. Monday 13 August 2012 at 21:30 (2hrs), £22 (subject to booking fee of £2 to £2.40 per ticket + postage).

You can book tickets now by calling 0844 847 1639 or buying online at venue150.com.