By Kaveh Pourvand

Kaveh Pourvand performing
Kaveh taking risks at an open mic night.

Comedy is Big – The new Rock and Roll some say. The comedic elite bestrode our national life, taking up our attention like the uber cool kids in school: stadium gigs, TV shows, panel shows, festivals, DVDs — you name it — the big name comedians are doing it.

But further down the comedic ladder, at the very first rungs to be precise, there is a very different comedy world, that of the ‘open mic’ night; a selection of clubs that let anyone, regardless of talent or sanity, have a go at performing. This world is not as glamorous: You don’t quite feel like a rock star when doing stand up to a silent room of four people, who are only there because they’re on the bill after you. But it offers a genuine wackiness and spontaneity the big name clubs and TV shows lack.

And one of the best known open mic nights on the circuit is Fitzrovia-based Pear Shaped, where I performed that four person gig.

Taking place every Wednesday in the basement of the Fitzroy Tavern pub on Charlotte Street, Pear Shaped is an unlikely comedy club.

The small but long basement appears to be from a different era with its wooden décor and furnishings, as if it should host a long standing secret society instead of a comedy.

It is anything but a predictable night. The acts vary from polished to totally amateurish — quality is certainly not guaranteed; neither as I found out, is an audience. It can be packed one week and close to empty the next.

The only constants are the dry humour of MCs Brian Damage and Anthony Miller, and the presence of a banjo player, ‘Al Mandolino’ who entertains during the interval.

So yes, it is a world away from McIntire’s Comedy Roadshow, but potentially much more interesting. No real risks are taken in comedy performed on TV, DVD or stadium gigs. The stakes are too high and the pay cheque too big for the big name comedian to do anything other then perform tried and tested material, however much they pretend it’s spontaneously generated banter.

It’s a different ball game at Pear Shaped, an open mic night with inexperienced acts trying out new things. Many of the jokes will be awful, illogical, clichéd, under – rehearsed or just stolen. And that’s just my material. But sometimes, you’ll hear a joke, or perhaps a whole set, that will be comedic gold. And you, as the audience, may be the first to hear something special. Like being the first to listen to a record, before it goes on to be a huge hit.

Before they graced stadiums and DVDs, all the big name stars started out in small open mic nights, trying stuff out, hoping to get that beautiful and ephemeral reaction out of the audience we call laughter. You might be able to catch a big name when they’re small. Doors open at 8pm each Wednesday. Come along. Kaveh Pourvand

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