Salt of the mirth

Norwich has a new comedy club, the first one dedicated to showcasing up-and-coming local stand-up comedians. Organiser Dan McKee spoke to KEIRON PIM ahead of its opening night this Thursday.

In Victorian times, “salt box” was the slang term for the cell where a condemned man was held before being sent to the gallows.

Organisers of Norwich's newest comedy club will be hoping no one dies on stage when it launches tomorrow, and it looks unlikely given that they have a strong line-up to kick off with.

The Salt Box Comedy Club opens with two up-and-coming comedians.

James Kettle is originally from Norwich but now based in London; Carrie Ann Guthrie is from the southern USA and now based in Norwich.


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The compere for the evening will be Dan McKee, who is also from Norwich and is the club's founder.

“I wanted to find a venue within the old city walls, and our venue on Ber Street just fits the bill,” says Dan.

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Norwich already has an established stand-up venue in the Red Card Comedy Club, held at Norwich City's stadium at Carrow Road, while Norwich Arts Centre regularly features comedians.

The famous London-based Comedy Store also holds a monthly night at the Forum, and all three venues attract plenty of well-known names from the national stand-up circuit.

Salt Box is looking to be different in a couple of ways: the emphasis will be on giving a platform to promising local comic talent and it will cost only £5 to get in.

“We wanted to find something at a halfway level, not for established names but for local stand-ups who are working their way up,” he says.

Dan wanted to pick a name for the club that reflected its location on Norwich's historic Ber Street.

Once the domain of an array of butchers and rough-and-ready characters, it was known colloquially as Old Blood and Guts Street, but thankfully Dan decided against the 'Blood and Guts Comedy Club'.

The Jolly Butcher's was one of Ber Street best known pubs, with landlady 'Black' Anna Carrara a well-known

local character, but 'Black Anna's Comedy Club' also fell by the

wayside.

So the Salt Box Comedy Club it is, making ironic reference to the chance of comedians metaphorically 'dying' on stage, and it is scheduled to run every three weeks on a Thursday at the Horse and Dray pub.

The pub on Ber Street recently reopened as part of a regeneration drive in an area once renowned as a red light district but now earmarked for new homes and offices.

Increased footfall in the

area should help Ber Street's formerly struggling pubs pick up trade.

As for the kind of acts that will be appearing at the Horse and Dray, Dan said they would be “alternative” and at around the level of someone who would feature as a support act at the Norwich Arts Centre.

“James Kettle is an 'angry young man' comedian,” says Dan.

“He describes his act as 'bleak and interminable', and says that the fact that people are willing to laugh at him on a regular basis is in many ways 'the final insult'.

“He is very highly rated and been on BBC7, and been name-checked by the stand-up comic Russell Howard.” Howard's exact words were that “there's definitely a place for angry young men. James Kettle is desperately angry - but very good”.

The Observer's comedy critic, Stephanie Merritt, adds: “James Kettle has a distinct persona that I think will take him a long way”, while the BBC has likened to him to “a cross between Simon Amstell and Bill Hicks” with a “dark, twisted and deadpan take on life”.

Carrie Anne Guthrie, on the other hand, has been described as exuding southern charm…

Dan says: “She has been gigging a lot in London and has started to get to a level where she is compering a few shows.

“She is probably about 18 months ahead of my own career!”

Dan went to Norwich School, where he met James Kettle, and has just completed a post-graduate law conversion course at UEA.

“I have only started recently doing stand-up, but I have done quite a lot of comic acting,” he says, including performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Now he's looking to put that experience towards creating a home-grown comedy club to showcase the region's best up-and-coming comic talent.

t The Salt Box Comedy Club is at the Horse and Dray, Ber Street, Norwich, this Thursday, November 15, from 8pm. Entry costs £5. For more information see www.myspace.com/saltboxcomedy

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