Balham gateway to laughs

Last Updated on : 31st May 2017

Looking ahead to this year’s Balham Comedy Festival.

Sometimes a year passes by so quickly you barely notice it. I can’t believe that it’s already 12 months since I was writing about the Balham comedy festival’s 5th anniversary, and we’re almost at the launch of this year’s event. Being local to Balham, I like that we have a festival that each year manages to attract such high-profile acts to perform in a room that quite frankly looks like something from a budget Arthurian epic.

John Moloney

I know that Balham has come a long way in the 50+ years since Peter Sellers recorded ‘Balham gateway to the south,’ but it still seems like an event which is very significantly punching above its weight. NVN caught up with the festival’s host and producer John Moloney, of Radio 4’s critically acclaimed ‘John Molony show’ recently and took the opportunity to quiz him on the festival’s success and what to expect this year.

NVN: John it’s great to talk you. I’ve been going to the festival for a number of years now. The question I’ve always wanted to ask is how do you manage to get so much national talent on such a small stage?

JM: You’ve got to remember that while the festival has only been going for 6 years, the Banana Cabaret at the Bedford has been going for 30. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone in the world of stand-up has played here at some point.

NVN: Well I’m guessing that could be said about many comedy clubs, what makes Balham stand out?

JM: Ha, well you’ve been to Bedford. It’s an intimate space with a great vibe and a great connection between the acts and the audience. I think the timing helps as well.

NVN: How do you mean?

JM: Midsummer is a quiet time for comics, you’re either preparing to tour or getting ready for the fringe. Having the festival when we do means that a lot of the acts can use it as a testing ground for new material to use later in the year.

NVN: Ha yes, I noticed that when I saw Milton Jones last year, he was pretty blatant about it, but nobody minded I think.

JM: I actually think that the audience like to be in at the genesis of a new joke or routine, it is actually a genuinely special moment when new material is tried out. That you have such a great crowd at the festival means that you do hear a lot of new material, we’ve even had acts turn up specifically to try it out.

NVN: Such as?

JM: A couple of years ago we had Lee Mack dropping in to try out a new 20-minute set.

NVN: So have you got anything special planned for the festival this year?

JM: Well it’s great that we’ve got so many national names taking part again this year. There’s Stephen K. Amos, Jason Manford & Adam Bloom. We kick off on Thursday the 29th of June with a double header from Sarah Pascoe and Ed Byrne, what a way to start. And as well as the individual acts we’ll be running several best of Banana Cabaret evenings.

NVN: To make sure that people don’t miss it when do tickets go on sale again.

JM: From May 30th, with popular acts selling out quickly.

Further information

Now in its sixth year, Banana Cabaret’s annual Balham Comedy Festival, produced by the comedy club’s Dave Vickers and comedy legend John Moloney returns in 2017 to The Bedford in Balham from 29 June – 8 July.    Featuring  a dazzling array of top-notch comedy talent who will generate mirth, merriment and laughter at the annual joke fest,  the 2017 line-up includes  Stephen K Amos, Mary Bourke,  Ed Byrne, Simon Evans,  Rich Hall,  Jeremy Hardy,  Rhys JamesThe Kagools,  Joe Lycett,  Jason Manford,   Phil Nichol, and Sara Pascoe with more names to be announced.  The Balham Comedy Festival always offers comedy fans the chance to see Work in Progress and Edinburgh preview shows and this year is no exception.

There will be four Best of Banana Cabaret sets featuring the likes of Ninia BenjaminJarred ChristmasCarl DonnellyDave FultonJohn HastingsSally Anne Hayward, David Longley, Zoe Lyons, Joe Pasquale, and Allyson June Smith.   As with every Balham Comedy Festival there will be a few surprise guests joining the Best of Banana line-ups – previous years have seen the likes of Lee Mack, Marcus Brigstocke and Tim Vine dropping in for a fast paced 20 minutes – so who knows what surprises there will be this year!   Best of Banana Cabaret will be hosted by Festival producer John Moloney whose Radio 4 series The John Moloney Show enjoyed critical acclaim.



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