'Best of Northern' The Stand Comedy Club, Newcastle

A Good joke can change how we think – and even act. Lou Douglas heads to The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle for a practical lesson – and enjoys a fantastic night.
April 23, 2022

Andy Fury, Senior Content Marketing Executive, Writer and Comedian, welcomed a diverse audience to the intimate basement of The Stand on Thursday evening to host 'Best of Northern' – a showcase of local comedians comprising of experienced headliner Mike Milligan, along with Neil Harris and Bethany Gorman who performed their material earlier on in the evening.

Andy had the ability to instantly draw the audience in and set the (good) mood for the evening by pushing the boundaries of his conversations and observations just enough to have the room in stitches. We learned that coming from Hebburn, Andy isn’t shocked by incest, he had to educate an ex on modern modes of transport (but to be fair, did live in Ashington, where horses and carts still allegedly outnumber cars) and was surprised to find that the workers at Beamish Museum don’t just wear the costume, but embrace 1901 and its lack of communication devices just as Robert De Niro embraced his role in Taxi driver. Fully method.

First up was Neil Harris. Neil is a Computer Programmer who lives alone, has bunk beds but still isn’t allowed to have the top bunk and is a self-confessed geek with anxiety. Neil immediately had the audience in the palm of his hand as he recounted his story of finding himself on a “lads lads holiday” where he spent a lot of time reciting difficult equations to himself, as he was disinterested in the standard gym-based banter of his mates. Neil had the last laugh: “You couldn’t bench-press a fraction of the 149 pound weight I lifted!” his mate told him in the bar. Of course he couldn’t, he shared with the audience. “It’s a fuckin’ prime number!”

Neil ended his set by sharing his apprehension of choosing a Subway sandwich. It’s not as easy as we all might think if you’re someone with a mind like this genius: He mentally calculated his way through the menu options and as the figures kept rising, so did the laughter in the room and I suspect a little bit of angst as we all thought about the next time we’re choosing between Italian or wheatgerm, olives or pickles and toasted or not toasted! Neil Harris’s style of comedy is honest, genuinely funny and his relatable approach makes me look forward to seeing more.

After a little more interaction from the brilliant Andy, Bethany Gorman joined the stage. Bethany is a local girl who is a Performing Arts graduate and is most definitely defining her own style of comedy. Bethany’s delivery was much in contrast to the previous act, but she managed to walk a fine line between hilarious anecdotes and savage honesty. Bethany was comfortable talking about her lockdown hobbies – takeaways and self-love – and had her own personal slant on a stuffed crust! Her creative take on feeding herself as a skint student had me laughing out loud with the rest of audience – lube on toast… “It’s just seedless jam!” There were times when I wasn’t sure if I should be laughing at the jokes, but she was brave enough to say out loud what most of us (might) think about anyway. It will be fun to watch Bethany develop her act and see what outrage she dares to deliver next.

Headliner Mike Milligan: Writer, experienced comedian and regular columnist for The Evening Chronicle, held the attention of the room from the moment he walked on stage. I’m not sure I have the words to do this comedian justice. He is a true master of observation. Rather than jokes, Mike recounted situations and scenarios that each of us has either witnessed or been part of, in an intelligent and funny way. If you know the Toon, who hasn’t been asked for money by an “uber charva” for the metro, witnessed (or felt) the gut-wrenching disappointment in Greggs when they’ve run out of steak bakes, or wondered if Heaton is just “a buffer between Byker and Jesmond”. Mike has so much to say that the time he spent with the audience simply wasn’t enough. We never did get the answer to why the cumbersome “meathead” evolved into the charva – I think everyone was keen to explore this further – but I am grateful to have learned more about “Bonfire month” in Gateshead. I now know where to purchase professional-grade fireworks (The corner shop. But only if I send in a child to carry out the transaction), as long as I learn from the lesson in Charva Karma and mind my tracksuit pants near a naked flame when I’ve had too many ciders! This set was most definitely the highlight of the evening and the reaction of the whole audience supported this. I’ll be looking out for his next performance – and I’ll tell everyone I know to go.

This evening in The Stand, thanks to four talented people, gave me the opportunity to put all the day-to-day noise aside and laugh like I haven’t laughed for a long time! I left The Stand feeling the very positive effects of comedy and with a long forgotten but precious memory that was sparked by Mike Milligan: Chad Valley…

The ‘Best of Northern’ night is a regular at Newcastle’s Stand Comedy Club at 31 High Bridge, NE11EW.