Yesterday, I talked to comedy club owner Noel Faulkner via FaceTime. It was raining heavily. He couldn’t be bothered to go out. I did not blame him. I was getting drenched coming back from Iceland. The supermarket, not the country.
Noel ran the Comedy Cafe club in London’s Shoreditch for 27 years. It closed in January this year but, next Saturday (16th September) it re-opens in Shoreditch in a different location.
“We talked to a lot of venues,” Noel told me, “but most of them didn’t understand what the fuck it was we wanted to do. Most of them wanted hundreds of pounds in rent every night. They just didn’t understand that comedy is not the big money it used to be.”
“But now you have,” I said, “found somewhere.”
“Yes. The Ace Hotel in Shoreditch High Street – in the Miranda Room, a nightclub basement room with a nice atmosphere for comedy – it’s a lovely room. Holds 100 people. Lovely restaurant upstairs; great food.”
“Are you going to make money on it?” I asked.
“We’re not going to make any money,” said Noel. “We just want to keep it going because we enjoy what we do. And I have a really good promoter working with me. His name is Steve McCann. Us Irish have to stick together.”
“What have you been doing in your time off?” I asked. “Writing your book?”
“Shake, Rattle n Noel? The famous book I’ve been writing for twenty years? I’ve done 40,000 words so far.”
“So what were you doing?” I persisted.
“I’ve been sailing on a chartered yacht in the Greek islands.”
“You could be the L.Ron Hubbard of your era.”
“More like the Howard Hughes of comedy. I spend all my time on my yacht and in my penthouse with the curtains drawn. That’s the image I want.”
“So did you miss comedy?” I asked.
“I can’t tell you the truth coz you’d fuckin’ print it!”
“Can I print that?”
“You can print that.”
“Did you miss comedians?” I asked.
“Yeah. Like the time I had fuckin’ herpes.”
“Do you want to re-phrase that?”
“I missed comedians like I miss haemorrhoids”
“I will,” I told him, “add in that you were laughing when you say that.”
And he was.
“But I can tell you,” he continued, “and you can put this in too – that I WAS very impressed by the amount of serious and good comics who called me up or came up and talked to me and asked me if everything was OK and how I was doing.
“The opposite side of that is, since we said we were opening again, I’ve been getting hundreds of Facebook requests. To me, Facebook is for friends. Becoming my ‘Friend’ on Facebook will certainly not guarantee you a gig at the Comedy Cafe. There’s a lot of shallow people in the business, like all businesses.
“But a lot of people have been very good and kind to me and very concerned, like Alan Davies and Ed Byrne. Alan Davies is kicking off the new Comedy Cafe on opening night. With Jimmy James Jones and Lauren Pattison – and Greg Faulkner is MCing.
“Is Ed Byrne playing the Cafe soon too?” I asked.
“He wants to, but he’s a bit busy at the moment. He asked me before I asked him.”
“Are the shows going to be monthly or weekly?”
“Weekly. Saturdays and Tuesdays, at first… Tuesday is the ‘new act’ night. We used to have the best new act night in the country.”
“Why was that?”
“Because we always had 100 people in the room. You didn’t have to bring a friend and you didn’t have to buy two drinks if you were a comic. We really had the best new act night in the country and nobody ever gave us that recognition.”
“So,” I said, “a new start in Shoreditch.”
“We have also opened a Comedy Cafè in Oslo,” Noel told me.,“in Norway. Same logo and everything.”
“Yes, Last week was the first one. We were approached by Bjorn-Daniel Torum. It’s once a month right now, so we can see how it goes.”
The Facebook announcement of the new club read: “One of London’s most iconic standupklubber through 27 years is coming to Oslo.”
Noel is clearly the unsinkable King of Standupklubbers, which made me think…
“You should,” I suggested, “open a comedy club on a yacht sailing the Greek islands. You would have the best of both worlds.”
“I thought about that when I was out there,” said Noel. “There was fuck all to do in the evenings.”