When Preston’s comedy club the Frog and Bucket announced it was having its last laugh after five years, disappointment rippled not just in Preston, but throughout the country.
Comedian and Lancashire Evening Post columnist Dan Nightingale, 32, who lives in Penwortham, near Preston, explains: “I think everyone in the world of stand-up was pretty disappointed when they found out the Frog and Bucket was closing.
“It was a big thing when Preston got its own comedy club and I was surprised and delighted.
“It is great to be able to do a gig in your home town so it was a real shame for me personally when the Frog closed its Preston venue.
“But it isn’t just the local comics who were gutted as comics from across the country enjoyed playing at a nuts and bolts comedy club which is what the Frog and Bucket in Preston was.
“There was a simplicity to the venue which made it great, It was an all on one level, low ceilinged comedy club and the comedians who played there got a good and genuine reaction from the crowd.
“It was a real shame for everyone when it closed.
“However, I think the underlying problem was that it was not the right building or the right spot in Preston for a comedy club.”
Dan is delighted that Guild Hall bosses have come to the rescue of the Frog and Bucket comedy nights.
Preston’s largest entertainment complex will now be holding regular comedy shows, with the first one being on Friday November 7.
That first night boasts a line-up featuring Alex Boardman, Katie Mulgrew, Daliso Chaponda and John Lynn.
Alex cut his comedy chops writing for John Bishop and Sarah Millican, and is now in much demand nationwide.
He has a fun, free flowing style and natural charm which helps him pull off a unique brand of “flattery and abuse” with a lack of malice.
Katie has comedy in her blood, but is determined not to be best known as the daughter of LEP columnist and old school comic Jimmy Cricket.
Not that this is likely, as with two critically acclaimed Edinburgh shows to her credit already she is very much a rising star in her own right.
Malawi-born Daliso began his comedy career in Canada with the acclaimed one man show ‘Feed This Black Man’ and recently relocated to the UK.
Irish comic John Lynn is a regular face in Irish television and has performed stand-up all over the world.
An impressive line-up to get the ball rolling, and Dan, who was voted Preston’s Entertainer of the Year, is confident the audience is in place.
He says: “I think Preston does warrant a comedy club and can make one work.
“There are enough people in and around Preston to support a comedy club if you do things differently.
“I think it is great that the Guild Hall is taking on the Frog and Bucket comedy nights as Preston does not want to lose comedy altogether.
“It has been a bad 12 months for Preston with things disappearing – especially with 53 Degrees announcing it is closing, too.
“If you enjoy going out to see things rather than just going uptown drinking, it is very disheartening.
“Manchester is always there for a night of entertainment but Preston should have its own nightlife and culture –especially with Preston having city status.
“You would think that with a university the size of UCLan, there would be enough people to have a need for a comedy club.
“Hopefully, within another year, things will be up and running to a decent level again and the Frog will quickly bounce back with its new nights at the Guild Hall.”
Although the Guild Hall will be operating the Frog and Bucket’s comedy nights featuring known comics on the comedy circuit, the amateur Beat The Frog night, held on a Wednesday where unknowns took to the stage to test out their humour and attempted to survive five minutes before the crowd, is no more.
Which is why Dan has taken it upon himself to resurrect the format with a brand new amateur comedy night in Preston, beginning this Sunday at Blitz on Great Shaw Street.
Dan explains: “I gig all around the country at weekends but the Wednesday night at Beat The Frog was the night I loved the most.
“It was a chance for me to play to a local crowd and also mingle with a younger and student crowd.
“You get a chance as a comedian to try new material.
“That’s how the most exciting and newer comics are coming through.
“The move to the Guild Hall is great, but it is not taking the amateur night, so I have decided to do something with that myself.
“Beat The Frog was a really good fun night of comedy.
“Because people have paid less to get in, it changes the attitude of the crowd.
“They are more forgiving and willing to see risks being taken and see new things being tried.
“That is exciting, not just for new comics, but also more experienced acts.
“The bigger picture is that these comedy nights are where you get your next Peter Kays and John Bishops.
“New acts needs stage time.”
After speaking to Frog and Bucket bosses, who were happy for Dan to take the concept elsewhere, Dan has decided to launch a new amateur comedy night called Survive The Five.
Dan will run the nights ,together with fellow Preston comedian Freddy Quinne, and the night will be held every Sunday night during term-time at the Blitz.
Dan says: “Survive The Five is a whole new night, but we are going to try and keep the spirit of Beat The Frog alive.
“Amateur comedy nights are so important and it would have been a tragedy to see this type of night disappear from Preston.
“We are holding the nights at the Blitz as it is the student end of town and these nights tend to appeal to a younger crowd.
“We are trying to build it up from scratch. We are not doing it to make money.
“It is about trying to keep one of the best nights on the comedy circuit going.
“We are trying to get a siege mentality – which is ironic when we’re going to be playing at a place called the Blitz!”
The first Survive the Five comedy night will be held at Blitz on Sunday. Doors open at 7pm and it will start at 8pm and costs £2.
l Read Dan’s column in Monday’s Lancashire Evening Post.