The anxieties of turning vegan, rating supermarkets out of ten when you have just used the self-service checkout and complications understanding the ‘Love Island’ generation are not the sorts of things you’d usually hear at a business meeting.
But this was no ordinary boardroom get together.
Men and women from firms across the city and county came to De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) early this morning to see the Leicester Comedy Festival - the biggest of its kind in Europe - officially launched during an annual business breakfast.
Over the next two weeks shows by the likes of Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Rhod Gilbert and more than 800 others will be staged across 90 venues, with support from DMU, which partners the event.
At the festival launch, the audience was entertained by award-winning stand-up Patrick Monahan, who, apart from winning ITV’s Show Me The Funny in 2011, holds the world record for the longest hug (which lasted 25 hours 25 minutes!).
Patrick provided the ultimate pick-me-up and had everyone chortling away into their sausage or meat-free cobs with a routine that saw him using all the resources available to him, namely, to their credit, a game-for-a-laugh audience.
The 43-year-old comic pointed out the younger people in the Leicester Castle Business School venue, calling them the Love Island generation, and accused them of thinking nothing happened before they arrived on the scene.
Pointing to an older audience member, he said: “Look. He was in the first ever series of Love Island. He was on his own, mind… and it was called Castaway’.
Turning to the challenge of living with a partner who is vegan he said: “It’s so hard. Whenever we want a takeaway we have to phone Interflora”.
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And when buying vegan food he added: “I admire vegans having good morals, but they can’t get a supermarket sandwich for less than three quid!”
Then there was the issue of business surveys.
“You are asking me how you can improve what you do. If I knew, I’d be running the bloody place.”
Jobs for the ‘Love Island’ generation were also called into question when Patrick explained that his niece was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said a ‘social influencer’.
Patrick said: “In my day, a social influencer was someone who came up to me and a bunch of mates in the street and said ‘Here, Gary’s mum’s got chlamydia. Pass it on’.”
Afterwards Patrick added: “The thing I love about Leicester Comedy Festival is it is one of the big events that comics want to perform in and yet it is thanks to DMU and local businesses and local people that it can happen. Leicester people feel a part of it.”
If there was a business end to the event, which was held at 8am today, it came from Geoff Rowe, the Leicester Comedy Festival director, who launched the festival while he was a student at DMU 27 years ago.
DMU has been a major partner with the festival for many of those years and provides opportunities for students to work behind the scenes and gain vital experience of organising major events.
Geoff explained how the festival was a charity and highlighted the important work it does with the Leicestershire community, from promoting good mental health, to running comedy shows for the elderly in care homes and getting children to write their own jokes and perform stand-up to a live audience. It also supports new comics to help them make that big break.
Geoff added: “The Leicester Comedy Festival is marking its 27th anniversary. It was started in 1994 by a bunch of naïve but enthusiastic DMU students.
“Little did we know then that it would grow to become the biggest comedy festival in Europe.
“Our partnership with DMU is incredibly important. Put simply, and I do mean this, we could not do it without DMU. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who supports what we do during the festival and all year round.”
Gary Pitt, from Leicester’s Howes Percival LLP solicitors, was one of many businesses at the breakfast launch. He said: “I think the comedy festival brings a lot of people to Leicester. It is a massive event and a real showcase for the city. It’s important for business to support something that showcases what Leicester can do.”
This year there will be 800-plus shows in more than 90 venues, from today until 23 February.
Headline acts include Jo Brand, Stewart Lee, Milton Jones, Shappi Khorsandi, Paul Sinha, Josie Long, Jason Byrne, Tony Slattery, Angela Barnes, Griff Rhys Jones, Andy Parsons, John Shuttleworth, Dane Baptiste, Rhod Gilbert, Mark Steel, Flo & Joan, Arthur Smith and Reginald D Hunter.
To see the full programme and book tickets visit https://comedy-festival.co.uk/
Posted on Wednesday 5th February 2020