1988...The Every Other Thursday Club
Why is it Every Other Fortnight..?
Why on a Monday..?
Why new material..?
Find out here...
Everything started with Jim Tavare...
1988 was a momentous year. The concept of the world wide web was first discussed at CERN, Russia was fighting the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan whilst the Iron Curtain began to crumble in Hungary. And in London 25 year old comedian Jim Tavare decides to open a fortnightly comedy night for professional comedians to try out new material.
This was still early in the explosion of the new 'alternate' comedy circuit. And at the time there was no other venue where professional comedians could try out brand new sets.
Every Other Thursday Club...
It was to be called The Every Other Thursday Club and it initially ran for 6 weeks from January 21st 1988 with fellow comedians Mark Thomas, (Mary Whitehouse Experience, Mark Thomas Comedy Product), Dave Cohen (Horrible Histories), Hattie Hayridge (Friday Night Live, Red Dwarf), Ivor Dembina (This is Not A Subject For Comedy) and Jim Miller/ James Macabre (Comic Abuse). It was an opportunity for the team to prepare for the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. Jim Tavare also recalls that they had a house band-Hot Lemon- which featured Jim Tavare (bass), Dave Cohen (guitar), Mark Thomas (drums) and James Macabre (vocals). Jim Tavare recalls entry price for the first gigs was 88p (although advertised at a whopping £2.50!
The venue was the Cleveland Arms Pub near to the Post Office Tower (now The BT Tower) described as Dave Cohen as "a nuclear bunker of a pub". Dave recalls the early gigs were quiet but after supportive reviews from Malcolm Hay, the then comedy editor for Time Out, the audience soon grew.
flyer images courtesy of Jim Tavare and James Miller
Every Other Monday Club...
After their Edinburgh run they continued the gig but switched venues; Jim Tavare recalling that they were "thrown out as the landlord wanted loads more money". The gig switched to every other Monday at The Camden Head, Islington and they expanded the group to include Jo Brand and others. (Jim Miller recalls Donna MacPhail was also involved in the early shows; and Dave Cohen remembers that Jeff Green, Patrick Marber, Maria McErlane and Martin Soan were amongst the early regulars).
The gig grew to cult status with Ivor recollecting queues down the street on nights when Eddie Izzard and Sean Hughes were playing. In fact Ivor mused that it may have been the change in audience with "people just turning up to see celeb on the cheap" that brought about the end of The Every Other Club.
1990... The Fortnight Club is born
Where it all started...
1990 was a momentous year. Nelson Mandella was released, Margaret Thatcher resigned, Sadam Husain invaded Kuwait and Germany reunified. And in London a young Alan Davies (QI, Jonathan Creek, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled), and Jenny LeCoat (writer of Another Mothers Son, Eastenders, Holby City) decided to set up a fortnightly new material night for professional comedians.
The success of the Every Other Monday Club meant that there was a demand for another similar night where pro-acts could try out their new material in front of a receptive audience. With the blessing of the Every Other Monday team Alan and Jenny set up the Fortnight Club to run in the alternate Monday to the Every Other Club. Jenny recalls; "We basically pinched the idea from the Every Other Club which had already been running about 6 months" (probably 18 months- editor). Initially the Fortnight Club was to be at the same venue, the Camden Head, however the room was already booked and therefore the Fortnight Club started at The Market Tavern Islington October 1990.
Alan and Jenny were joined on that first night by Brenda Gilhooly (who was developing her character Gail Tuesday for Friday Night Live), Harry Hill, Bill Bailey and Mark Billingham (before he was a crime writer) and they were to become the original team.
Later regulars were to be Lee Hurst, Simon Clayton, Simon Godley, Dave Thompson (Tinky Winky!) and Logan Murray (who most regularly emceed as Ronnie Rigsby).
The Fortnight Club eventually moved to the Camden Head venue where the team were joined by, amongst others Mary Bourke and Howard Read, before moving to The Read Lion Theatre Islington, and then ran for a couple of years at The Ku Bar Leicester Square with Ronnie Rigsby, Gary Colman and Jo Romero as regular MCs.
30 years and still going strong...
In 2018 the Fortnight Club moved into The Southgate Club (the oldest independent Social Club in the country and so a fitting home for the worlds longest running new material night for professional comedians) for a successful 2 year run with new resident host is now DOMINIC HOLLAND (Perrier award winning comedian, as seen on The Royal Variety Show, Have I Got News For You, The News Quiz).
Now in its 30th year the Fortnight Club it the worlds longest running new material night for professional comedians.
Over the years pretty much all of the UKs top comics will have popped down to The Fortnight Club to test out their new bits of material.
And whilst we often get 'comics off the telly' popping in, the club is not about that. It's about creating a fun environment where a carefully curated, and varied line-up professional acts can try out their new 'bits'.
It's playful and it's fun, and we look forward to seeing you there.
- Time Out