MIXTAPE: John Smith, Grinning Idiot Comedy Club | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: John Smith

I used to run and MC the cult comedy club The Grinning Idiot in 2000s and early 2010s. We attracted many of the best comedy acts in the country, from headline acts to up and coming local comics. Acts I booked included Reginald D Hunter, Angelos Epithemiou, Steve Hughes, Michael McIntyre, Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsey. As many a comedian will have heard from audience members, it’s not always wise to give up your day job and I went back to mine after a few years due to financial strains. However, I’m 50 this year and I’m putting on a one-off event to celebrate my birthday which includes my favourite act ever Terry Alderton, along with Paul Sinha, aka The Sinnerman from ITV’s The Chase, and up and coming local talents George Zach and Lauren Pattison. The gig takes place on Saturday 2nd July at Northern Stage, Newcastle and tickets are an inflation-busting £15! For this Mixtape, I’ve picked a few memorable moments from my life, that I’m always reminded of when I hear these tracks.

Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come on Eileen
In the early 90s, if Come On Eileen came on in the pub, I would occasionally get my top off and start swinging it round my head (not sure why). There was one time I did this in the Empress, Newcastle and my friends thought it would be funny to scratch my back. I forgot all about it and woke up the next day to a knock at the front door of my upstairs Tyneside flat. By the time I answered the door, there was no one there. I was only wearing boxing shorts, I stepped out into the street to see if there was anyone there and the door slammed shut behind me, I was locked out. I had to walk three streets away to the nearest BT telephone box in my bare feet and with a shredded back, to then make a reverse-the-call-charges phone call to my grandma, to bring the spare key. Luckily it wasn’t winter time and I was rescued in around 30 minutes.

D:Ream – Things Can Only Get Better
Life had gone to shit over the previous couple of years (relationship, property, job), so I moved to London in December 1999. I just got my first mobile phone as part of my job and agreed to meet with some new colleagues in central London on Millennium Eve. I agreed to ring when I got to Leicester Square tube station and they would let me know where they were to meet up. By the time I got to London there were so many people there that the network was busy all night and I couldn’t contact them. I was alone in a grotty toilet, in a grotty pub in Victoria when I heard the rest of the pub counting down 10, 9, 8 to the millennium. By the time I left the toilet, the rendition of Auld Lang Syne had finished. I laughed to myself, as the next song to come on was D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and I thought, I certainly hope so.

The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger
Chelsea Dagger was the intro music for the acts at the Grinning Idiot gigs and whenever I hear it I’m always reminded of the fun times we had. One of my favourite anecdotes is when I used to run the gigs at St Dominic’s Catholic Club, near Byker Bridge. We were there the day after a gig and the bingo was on. The bingo silence was broken by one of the newer acts in the area bursting out laughing. The barmaid Joan got really angry with him and without realising what she was saying, shouted across the room: “George, don’t laugh when the bingo’s on…we don’t laugh when you’re doing the comedy.”


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