COMEDY club compere Spiky Mike is celebrating ten years of his Funhouse brand with his busiest summer yet.
Mike, who can be seen on Monday at the Wetmore Whistle, in Burton, started his first comedy night at the Blessington Carriage in Derby back in 2004.
He instantly found a winning formula and his Funhouse Comedy Clubs now take place in more than 40 venues in and around the Midlands.
There are four in Derby alone, as well as the regular sessions at the Wetmore Whistle and monthly events in Ashby and Appleby Magna.
Yet it all started more or less by accident.
Mike says: “I had been doing comedy for about a year and it seemed a good way to be able to gig regularly and not to travel all over the country, which I’m not so keen on. I never dreamed it would turn out like it has.”
In fact, Mike has never had to seek out new venues, instead they have come to him, asking him to repeat the winning formula that he developed at The Blessington Carriage.
Now, Funhouse has earned a reputation as being a valuable proving ground for up and coming comedians, with Sarah Millican and Rhod Gilbert among the big stars who have played for Mike.
Even when they have cracked the big time, Mike’s been rewarded for the helping hand he has given them by seeing them return.
And such is the reputation of the Funhouse brand that Jasper Carrott once did a secret gig for Mike.
“It has been an exciting few years from what was just originally about me getting stage time for my stand up,” he says.
“For a few years we were sponsored by Magners, which gave us a big boost and helped build up the brand.”
Mike’s still the compere for a lot of the shows, including the Blessington Carriage in Derby and The Wetmore Whistle in Burton, which he says is a different skill from being an act.
“You can do a bit of material here and there but primarily your job is to get the audience relaxed, in a good mood and paying attention to the show.
“The idea is to create a nice, happy vibe.”
Mike’s eager to give new talent a chance and on Monday in Burton 15 wannabes will take to the stage for The Gong Show-style Should I Stay or Should I Go competition (doors open at 8pm, tickets £4 in advance)
He says: “There are quite a few people who did their first shows at these nights and who are now professional acts.
“One prime one is Chris Ramsey. He did one of our shows and got gonged off as he’s a Geordie and no-one could understand what he was saying. He learnt to speak more clearly after that and has gone on to be a big star.
“Daniel Rigby did his first ever gig at one show and was so nervous he couldn’t do it and walked off. The compere that night persuaded him to go back, he won the competition and year ago he was on TV and won a Bafta for his portrayal of Eric Morecambe.
“What’s also nice is that Sarah Millican did an unpaid slot at the Blessington Carriage and then has come back half a dozen times since.
“Rhod Gilbert came back and did a gig for 60 people as a warm up for his show at the O2 Arena. He joked that the whole room was smaller than a tenth of the stage at the O2.”
So after all these achievements, Funhouse Comedy deserves to celebrate its first decade and is planning some special events.
Mike says: “We are doing two tenth anniversary shows, one at the Blessington Carriage, our longest-running venue on May 12, and then a bigger show to launch a new regular night at Derby Assembly Rooms on May 30.
Go to www.funhousecomedy.co.uk for all events.
Funhouse Comedy will also be staging several events at the Derby Comedy Festival, which runs from June 13-22.
Go to www.derbycomedyfestival.co.uk or call 01332 255800.