Last week I was invited to attend a press and blogger event for the launch of a comedy event in the centre of Brighton. Led by a previous winner of Big Brother, of which I have never watched, I had no idea what I was in for. I checked online about him to find various stories of his apparently infamous win back in 2006 to a music video I actually remembered from University. The only thing I knew for a fact, my cousin who watches every Big Brother she can will be jealous of me meeting Peter, the winner of the 6th series.
On Wednesday 8th July I headed towards the Grand Central pub next to Brighton Station, somewhere I only really have visited when waiting for friends to arrive or with them for the next train home. I have memories of watching Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win a few years ago nursing a lemonade.
The pub as a whole looked normal though somehow fresher and cleaner than my last visit a few months ago. The biggest biggest change though was a velvet covered door on the back room – it stood out from the rest of the decor but at the same time was not overly obvious unless you look right at it. Next to what I can only assume was a hen do from the pink tiaras from a group of women, I guessed this was what I was looking for and opened the door cautiously to find a flight of stairs leading to a megaphone glistening at the top. Turning around the corner and my senses were exposed to what I can only describe as a nose dive into a 1930’s style steampunk attire. Neon and red lights lit the dark but luxury venue with a piano lit with tea lights next to a velvet backed stage. As I scanned the room I could see tables filling the room all with their own little cute lights and a smell of something delicious floating on the air.
I had planned to attend it at a simple event to another blogger friend, Tea Cake and Make (who you should really check out!) so it was great to see her there ahead of me talking to the event organiser. We were offered drinks, a chance to sit down and learn more about the venue’s recent renovation, the event and story behind how it all came about.
Apparently to everyone else this pub had a very rough sports bar reputation – the Nightingale Room, which is where we currently were, was previously just a completely black room for creative drama performances. While the creative drama group still are running, they are now often touring around the UK due to their success rather than constantly residing above the pub. In Brighton there is a big shift to providing comedy and entertainment venues for tourists with locals having to put up with attending these sort of events with overly drunk hen do, stag parties and tourists. Other than the yearly barrage of local entertainment at Fringe there is little about local humour to bring the community together. The Nightingale wants to break the trend and provide a hidden venue with events locals will adore. With its location next to the station, there are taxis, buses and trains so even those that commute to and from Brighton and enjoy this quirky venue. They wanted to do more with this fantastic space in the centre of town.
I’m not going to lie but I love it! I am not into overly loud pubs or nightclubs, and going to cabaret nights at Proud Cabaret is hard for me to get to and can be costly with travel and entrance fees so the idea of a closer location would improve the likelihood of going – it is only a 15 minute walk from my house and a 10 minute door to door bus!
Everything about the Nightingale has been carefully chosen, from the room’s decoration, the menu, the Gin specialist bar even to the staff. It felt like a step back in time to an era of speakeasies and flapper girls all while being completely trendy and quirky – it screams Brighton. Everything on the menu sounded just as outrageous yet elegant – something you might only see in a Michelin star restaurant. I choose for a mushroom on toast dish and it was a spectacular and complex approach to a simple sounding recipe. As a supertaster it was overwhelming in the rich flavours and just added to the whole experience – as I said everything has been carefully chosen to work together to create an incredibly sexy and fun experience.
While we waited for food the owner gave us a tour of the stage in the centre of the main room. It is a relatively small stage but it is perfect for the size of the room. It has been designed carefully in such a way that the height, location and size is just right so that everyone in the room has perfect view. The room takes on such a different appearance from the stage – compared to the huge stages like the Dome, this must be terrifying as you can see everyone yet still remain the focus for everyone else! From our booth we could see only the stage and the small lower table in front of us but here on stage it was clear everyone has a perfect view – this venue really has been carefully planned out.
With mouthfuls of mushroom toast we were greeted to the man of the day Peter – straight away he was very gentlemanly with asking if he should wait for us to finish. With Tea, cake and Make having to return back to work we begged him to stay while she got to ask him questions briefly before having to rush off. Quickly we found out that despite feeling very ill from a cold and having to leave his mother in France yesterday, he was here at this event to help promote it. As someone who is based in Brighton, Peter was chosen to spear head this comedy night so that he can make an event more suited for those living and working in Brighton.
Before we started the interview, owner of the venue gave us an overview of the journey of the comedy cappers, from the history of the venue to Peter’s journey after leaving the Big Brother house in 2006. Two years ago Pete had done a sell out stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where he talked all about his life with terrets. For him it was a turning point where he found out he loved making people laugh and with each performance grew stronger, funnier and more confident. It was at this point that he realised that this was what he wanted to do – make people laugh. it was at this point that promoters who now run the Nightingale Room came across him and realised that they had found an inspiring new talent. Since then Peter has been busy pushing himself in local comedy courses and appearing at various venues to help nurture his skill before taking on such a high end venue.
The conversation turned to Peter’s puppets – a key part of his act. It turns out that we both have a number of similar interests and one of them is sewing. I was shocked to find out that all Peter makes all of his puppets – despite being impressive puppets he plays it down as something easy to do. They are not puppets that you might find in Sesame Street or the Muppets though this is not due to quality but to the quirky and creative style that you will only find in Brighton. He described the story of suddenly just wanting to make a puppet while in Thailand years ago and quipped about going to a tailor for the fabric and then waiting for the ladies to “pop out the ping pong balls” so he could catch them and use them as eyes. I am still not sure the truth of this story but it had everyone in fits of giggles.
It turns out that he has made over 20 different puppets over the years, always creating them at pivotal moments in his life. In the past he has created videos with them and found that not only did they help manage his terrets but also in improvisation. I am to going to lie but as a fan of Avenue Q, the Muppets and Sesame Street, I was interested in how these puppets would shape the evening – the promoters were also very excited about their role in the show. After spending a few minutes talking about sewing and his aspiration to save up for a sewing machine to make more he showed off his puppets even showing off two of his characters.
The first puppet he showed was an aggressively funny character that reminded me of the voice of Voldemort in A Very Potter Musical – it seemed to be able to make you giggle all while it was just asking for chips. The second puppet was so different, while it was calm, poliet and caring but its nature was adorably funny. It may you lean in to hear innocently funny lines. Talk turned to his inspiration when it came to the puppets and it was at this point that he reached the revelation that different parts of his personality was in each and everyone of them. It turns out that he is a massive fan of Elmo, including the original voice actor behind him – shockingly he came out with an incredibly accurate Elmo impression. These puppets will be a fun and interesting part of the evening but while they will play a key role in his comedy evening, he only has them on stage 5 minutes at a time. He uses them as a way to get all the crowd excited or a way to break the ice with a crowd. With over 20 puppets and their characters to choose from, he is able to tailor each night to the audience.
When asked what his favourite puppet was he actually pointed towards the two he had just voiced – they have stories behind where and when he made them. For one it was because it was the first one he made and for the other it was made to cope with the lose of his best friend. Our conversation continued and it was clear that a dream for him would be to have his own show with all his characters on BBC or another channel. There have been attempts at making puppet shows for an adult audience such as Mongrels but they never reached in his opinion their true potential.
For someone so used to sharing a stage with a band or others, his puppets seem to take centre stage but they are only in his act 5 minutes at a time. They have helped him though with his confidence and ability to wing it on stage. With all of this experience he talked about how every show is always different based off the skills of improvisation. Not all of his jokes are off the cuff but come from ideas written down in his notepad – after the table erupted in laughter at a joke he was quick to grab it and jot down what had caused the uproar. When he returned we talked about his act when he doesn’t have a puppet by his side – it turns out he get nervous so suddenly fills with buzz and energy. He seemed to feel like this was unusual – and seemed surprised when I opened up about my inability to stop talking when I get nervous. We giggled over stories of inability to stop talking or bouncing around a stage – while my nervousness causes me to get a dry mouth it turns out he falls off the stage every so often as he bounces around the small stage. Apparently talking to the owner afterwards he manages to use this just to erupt the audience in laughter with quips about it the rest of the night.
Straying on to other topics I asked him things like his favourite place in Brighton to inspiration behind his music and comedy. After much thought, it turns out that where I live, Brunswick, is his favourite area of the area as it is pretty but more importantly has shops and things open 24/7 unlike the rest of the city and in the past his music was based off just getting the chaotic thoughts out of his head.
At the weekly Friday nights he told me all about how he will be ending each night with a song with the pianist with that week’s planned song to be “Always look on the bright side of life”. When he found out I sang Opera he got excited – apparently he thought the idea of Techno Opera would be incredible! I have no idea – I listen to Opera and rock, not techno and trance. The conversation changed tone when it came to recent years though, after his best friend passed away locally his music style changed – it went from chaotic thoughts set to trance to getting emotion out in another way via techno. With this pure emotion driven into his music he felt it had made it so much better but also pushed his musical talent. He now goes under the name of “The Daddy” in honour of the nickname wobbly bob had given him before he died.
While his music may be inspired by emotional and personal experiences, his comedy is more from trying to keep his “eyes firmly peeled open so not to miss things pass by”. Basically if you live or work in Brighton you could be acting as the inspiration to his act every Friday night, mixed with events and news from further a field. It did draw the conversation to the venue as he realised “F*&k – this is a high end venue! I have to step up my game!” Apparently working at the Nightingale in recent weeks has made him really focus on improving.
“It has definitely pushed me as I am performing in a top quality comedy venue. I have really had to take this seriously and that is really making a difference”
At this point, due to his fame with most people coming from winning Big Brother in 2006, I had to ask at least one question about his time in the infamous house. I chose to ask him his favourite time in the house to be very quickly leaving followed by laughing. It turns out that his time in the house is something he is trying to put behind him. While the venue are using this as a marketing tool it was this point we both realised neither of us cared or wanted to talk about this topic (the question had followed “I’ve never watched it but I guess I should ask…”).
After the laughter had died down we focused back to his comedy and weekly performances, talking about his favourite guests, idols and who he would love to come to one of his nights. Turns out that he is a massive Red Dwarf fan so a few weeks ago he was blown away by meeting the actress who plays the female Holly from the infamous show. They had met and talked in the changing room where he found out how funny, friendly and down to earth she is. He also quipped to me that had she been younger he would have shared more than just a stage with her had he the chance!
Popular comedian Ross Noble was his choice of a guest – he finds his mind and performances fascinating. The quick witted humour and off the cuff funny comments seem to win Peter over. By this point of the interview Peter seemed to be hitting his stride with humorous quips about his current favourite stand up comedian.
When Peter opened up though about his all time idol, Jim Carrey it was great to hear about the comedy and life inspiration that the infamous actor has given him. It turns out that until he came across this actor that he felt strange and difficult to accept who he was. Jim Carrey not only made him laugh but come to realise that being a bubbly, funny and quirky boy was not an issue and there were other people like him – and they were being paid to be like that! He really seemed to find his films a turning point each time and his adoration has not decreased at all. He is so admiring that he quipped how he “would happily share a bed with that man!”
With so many other people waiting to talk to Peter, we had to round up the interview and I asked him about how he felt about his journey and residence at Glamorous venue. It was great as he opened up about the massive journey he has been on in recent years, from losing a very close friend to now trying to get back on his feet and make a name for himself based off his talent rather than personality. He continued on just how hard a job it was to make people laugh but more how he is having to take to the stage all by him self after years of always working with a band or others.
Interviewing Peter was an incredible experience, I had the chance to talk to someone about their life journey full of emotional turmoil that now uses their spirit of life to bring joy and laughter to people every week. He was very thoughtful and clever throughout the interview getting faster and funnier as the interview went on. He was always asking questions to make sure that I was happy, comfortable or what I was interested in. After he had talked to me I overheard him dealing with another group – his quips were very different to those used on our table. It is clear that he tailors his approach to his audience. For me that just increased my opinion further of this upcoming comedian.
I talked briefly to the owner, promoter and other staff and it was clear that they have such a high opinion of him. They all seemed to have heart warming stories about how he had moved them somehow, or how they broke an audience with his funny antics. I know that I can’t wait until my calendar calms down so that I can see Peter perform in front of a full house. I’m also looking forward to trying their specialist bar and menu, as well as seeing the venue in its full glory at night but I’ll definately aim for a Friday night now!
Great news for you! I have been offered a special code for any one who wants to check out this night for themselves with a promo code for £5 off a comedy capper ticket. All you have to do is put in “Pete” at www.comedycaper.com in the promotional box. The shows are every Friday at 8.30 with table service offering amazing food and a specialist gin expert manning the bar. Each week they have different acts joining Peter, so check out their twitter @comedycapper for an up to date news of who is performing.
Will you be going? Do you remember Peter from Big Brother? Or his music video for Cosmonaughts? What is your music or comedy idol and how have they impacted your life? I would love to hear from you so leave a comment below!