COMEDY: The joke's on you

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Indy Lifestyle Online
You heard it here first: pub quizzes are the new rock'n'roll. They've turned them into something of an artform at Upstairs at the East Dulwich Tavern, where hordes of eager potential Brains of Britain have been known to cram in to participate in a quiz chaired by Mark Lamarr or Paul Merton.

Next Thursday's quiz will be hosted by Men Behaving Badly's Neil Morrissey (right) and Tony Hawks from The Best Show in the World ... Probably. The evening is part of a benefit week which aims to turn the venue into a place able to put on four plays a year. "When you say you need to raise money for the theatre, you instantly get people's support," says Janet Prince, artistic director of Upstairs at the East Dulwich Tavern. "You never have to explain it."

She goes on to pinpoint why pub quizzes are so popular. "People like them because you can sit and have a drink, but you don't have to talk to each other all the time. They're very good for first dates. We have a group of nurses who come to every one. They recently sent us a postcard from Australia saying they were missing the quizzes and couldn't wait to come back and set more medical questions. And when celebrities host it, they add a touch of showmanship."

But you do, of course, have to beware of the one constant at a pub quiz: the resident anorak. "You discover there are all these closet quizzers," Prince sighs. "They take it so seriously. It's like my grandad's bingo - eyes down. When Paul Merton was the quiz-master, they didn't want him to do jokes. He was told to just ask the questions."

None of that should spoil next Thursday's quiz, however. "That will be packed," Prince predicts. "We'll have people hanging from the rafters. Neil Morrissey is coming to do it even though he has to leave early to catch a late train for Manchester where he's filming the next morning. That's the level of people's commitment to it."

The programme for the week of benefits at Upstairs at the East Dulwich Tavern, 1 Lordship Lane, SE22 (0181 299 4138) includes: Tue 3 Mar: Steve Frost's Impro All Stars, featuring Josie Lawrence, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen, Andy Smart and Neil Mullarkey from the Comedy Store Players. Thu 5 Mar: Celebrity Pub Quiz, hosted by Neil Morrissey and Tony Hawks. Sun 8 Mar: Gala Night with Sean Hughes, Owen O'Neill, Doon Mackichan, Adrian Dunbar, Art Malik, Steve Frost, Mark Arden, Don Warrington and Denise Black all performing new work.

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