Is there such a thing as middle-aged comedy? Simon Lipson, a 55-year old stand-up and impressionist thinks so. Later this month he launches The Grown Up Comedy Club, a monthly night at the King’s Head in Crouch End, London.
Tagged “Comedy for the been there, done that, got the mortgage generation”, it will feature a bill of stand-ups all aged 40 and over, all stalwarts of the circuit and veterans of life, performing for, hopes Lipson, an equally mature audience.
“Although I’m not prescriptive. There’s no house rule that you have to be over 40 to come in. I’m just saying, here’s a club with mature comedians dealing with topics that are specific to mature audiences.” Think gripes about teenage children and gags about M&S; an antidote to the usual circuit fare of, in Lipson's words, “young comedians in t-shirts and long hair doing material about video games, acne and masturbation.”
Lipson was a latecomer to comedy, a former solicitor who performed his first gig aged 34, coincidentally also at the King’s Head. From there he built a lucrative and successful career on impressions and voiceovers, appearing on three series of Dead Ringers, among other shows. A few years ago, he decided to give up stand-up for good. “I’d be standing in a dressing room with the other comedians and I’d just feel like Dad. If you’ve got a daughter of 20 and you’re standing next to a comedian of 23, it’s a bit uncomfortable,” he says. “And they were doing material I couldn’t relate to. Not to say that they weren’t funny - they were great - but I just felt they weren’t relatable to me anymore. I felt too, among the more mature members of the audience, a sense of, ‘Well, I can see he’s funny but he’s not talking to me.” Similarly when he got on stage and started talking about his daughters, he realised his audience was closer in age to them than to him. “I just sounded like a grumpy, old baffled father with teenage children.”
You might think that funny does not get old, no matter how many wrinkles, divorces and grown-up children a comedian has accumulated. The Pythons (combined age 357) proved that old age is no barrier to humour or ticket sales this summer. Frank Skinner has just embarked on a new tour, aged 57, so too have Alan Davies, 48, Dawn French, 56, Lee Evans, 50 and, later this month, Billy Connolly, 71. Buying a ticket for an individual show is a different matter, though. There are few club nights that cater to older audiences, or comedians. Grown Up Comedy is for “people who like going to comedy but don’t really want to be preached to by a young person who is not talking about anything they relate to. People who might otherwise feel they’re too old for a comedy club.”
Each night will have three 40-plus acts, Lipson as MC and an open spot. Among the comedians lined up are Mary Bourke, a 50-year old staunch feminist, Andre Vincent, 50, who jokes about having cancer and Ben Norris, a 40-something father of triplets. The first gig on 16 September will feature JoJo Smith, delivering raunchy, raw material about being a single “53-year old loose cannon”, Bennett Arron and Steve Best.
Now all it needs is an audience. As Ogden Nash put it, “Middle age is when you’re sitting at home on a Saturday night and the telephone rings and you hope it isn’t for you.” Grown Up Comedy is on a Tuesday night. Lipson laughs. “It starts at 8pm and we won’t go too late. We don’t want people to miss their vital old-age sleep.”
Grown-Up Comedy starts on 16 September, Downstairs at the King’s Head, London N8.