A comedy duo paying hommage to the original ‘Silly Billy’ in a surreal stand-up night is drawing in the crowds.
Silly Billies monthly show at the Cumberland Arms in the Ouseburn, Newcastle, started last autumn and its out-there style, blending comedy and performance art brings something fresh to the city, according to organisers.
Founding members Jack Gardner and Sam Megahy have named their night after a character in a 19th Century painting of Newcastle’s eccentric residents.
The image Hell’s Kitchen by painter Henry Perlee Parker created in 1817 includes pauper William Scott, or ‘Silly Billy’ as he was known to city folk and a copy is on display in Newcastle City Library.
Jack was shown the picture by his wife Katie, 27, and the pair thought the fact the original ‘Silly Billy’ lived in Newcastle fitted perfectly with their feeling that the city’s long tradition of quirky humour should be celebrated.
Jack, 26, who works full time as a teacher, said: “I like the idea that there’s been a history of outsiders and unusual comedy within the city and our night taps into that theme.
“Our night is an antidote to the club tradition of stand up. Silly Billies celebrates unusual acts and surrealism and things that might not go down so well in traditional clubs. It’s experimental. It’s all about letting the acts take risks.
“There’s a history in the region of surrealism and people coming up with silly stuff like Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, Ross Noble and Viz comic and at the moment I feel there’s a lot of exciting acts coming up.”
Jack and social work trainee Sam Megahy, 26, from Bensham in Gateshead perform together on the night and also invite acts to take to the stage from across the North East.
The packed-out monthly gatherings are also a chance for artists to polish off their routines before heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer.
Jack, who grew up in Chester-le-Street and went to Park View Community School, started his first foray into comedy aged 13 and during his time at university in Leeds he was part of a sketch group that performed regularly in Edinburgh.
Tonight’s Silly Billies show starts at 7.30pm. Comics include Sean Turner from South Shields, Stu Ferrol from Newcastle, sketch group Heavy Petting and Natalie Wicks, both from Middlesbrough, comic Liberty Hordes and Rahul Kohli from Heaton, Newcastle.