XS MALARKEY CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF MIRTH MAKING IN MANCHESTER
Joe Lycett last night broke off from his set, during his Arena show, to plug what he has described as “the best comedy club in the world:” – Manchester’s own XS Malarkey, which celebrates 25 years of continuous Tuesday night comedy next week.
It began at Scruffy Murphy’s in Fallowfield in 1997 but is now at The Bread Shed and on Tuesday will be boasting five super-secret headline acts. The birthday show is sold out, but the club, which has always kept its door charge to a minimum, will then continue with its usual weekly mix of established acts and up-and-coming talent.
Over the years the gig has charged a pittance to see everyone from Peter Kay to Jack Whitehall via Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Diane Morgan (aka Philomena Punk), Nish Kumar and Stewart Lee. The likes of Justin Moorhouse and Alan Carr played their very first gigs there. “We charge as little as possible and we don’t let in stag dos, hen dos or office parties. It’s all about the comedy and creating a great atmosphere for all sorts of different comedians who can just do their stuff instead of having to waste their energy on crowd control. People love playing it which is why big acts still make the journey to try out their new shows with us – our Edinburgh previews frequently feature those who go on to the best reviews of the subsequent fringe. There is a positive vibe means that some acts who are a little bit off kilter flourish – they’re able to be a bit more experimental under the more benevolent gaze of the Malarkey crowd” says resident compere Toby Hadoke, who founded the club when he was 23 and had been a comedian for just over a year.
Hadoke has since become a Comedy Store regular, toured his one-man show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf to the West End and around the world, established himself as the resident presenter of the 7th Dimension on BBC Radio 4 Extra, and has recently been seen playing traffic warden Fergus Dunford in Coronation Street (opposite his real life partner, Izzy Armstrong actress Cherylee Houston MBE). But he still never misses a Tuesday MCing the club he founded which is now also co-run by a keen collective of comedy enthusiasts including Ros Bell who approaches the comedians and books the live shows, Jon Turner who does the artwork and mans the door, Joe Hollingsworth who scouts for comedians and does the tech, and Jay K who also does tech magificently and plays the live piano music that creates such an atmosphere on the night.
Malarkey didn’t even miss a Tuesday during the pandemic, when the regular shows went on line and showcased comedians from all over the world including Parks and Recreation’s Jon Glaser, 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander, Australia’s Alice Frazer and many more, as well as providing much needed paid employment for over 100 working UK comics during a period of total shut down and limited opportunities for performers.
“Thanks to the support of some big names like Ed Gamble, Marcus Brigstocke and James Acaster playing the shows we were able to generate a regular online audience, who made voluntary donations, which meant we could pay 4 acts every week for the whole of the pandemic,” says Hadoke, who, as usual, did every show. And, as usual, didn’t always get paid “That’s the downside of us charging so little,” he says, “but I get enriched by the club and the audience in other ways so it’s fine.”
Here’s to the next 25 years – “when I’ll be 73” gulps Hadoke, who has now been presenting the show for over half of his life.
XS Malarkey, at the Bread Shed, Grosvenor Manchester.
The birthday show is at 8pm on September 27th and the club continues every Tuesday thereafter.