Always Be Comedy: The Tommyfield Pub, Kennington, London / The Exhibit, Balham, London, 2015 (continuing)
Always Be Comedy: The Tommyfield Pub, Kennington, London, 2016 (continuing)
Always Be Comedy: The Tommyfield Pub, Kennington, London, 2017 (continuing)
99 Comedy Club: Radisson Blu Hotel, Leicester Square, 2017
Always Be Comedy: The Tommyfield Pub, Kennington, London, 2018 (continuing)
Unspun with Matt Forde (TV recording): ITV Studios, Southbank, London, 2018
Always Be Comedy: The Tommyfield Pub, Kennington, London, 2019 (continuing)
Vix Leyton’s Comedy Roulette: Online: 2020
Always Be Comedy Online: 2020 (continuing)
Always Be Comedy Online: Films To Be Buried With: Online: 2021
Always Be Comedy Online: Online: 2021 (continuing)
James Gill is the resident compere and co-founder of London’s best comedy night Always Be Comedy. In 2015, I was invited along to the club and have been going on a regular basis every week since the beginning of 2016. In 2017, it was a pleasure to watch him MC and control a Saturday night crowd at 99 Comedy in Leicester Square, London.
In my opinion, James Gill is the greatest comedy MC currently in the country. Being Master of Ceremonies is not an easy task and I have seen many fail over my years of watching comedy. The showcase features ‘big comedy names and the best new talent’. It was co-created (with the help of Stuart Keeping, Paul Langton and Tim Lewis) and is hosted most weeks by Gill. Watching the great compere psyching himself up before he goes on stage to start the show reminds me of my favourite actor Jack Lemmon who famously used to say ‘Magic time’ before the start of filming. Gill always walks onto the music of Pearl Jam with the cry of ‘Hello Kennington’ and has an uncanny ability of naturally entertaining and involving the audience in comedy and games stirring them up into an excitable frenzy so that they can get the best out of the big main acts that appear on the bill each week. The acts and audience love watching him every week and I cannot recall anyone trying so hard to get an audience laughing and involved at a comedy night.
Gill also comperes other comedy nights and TV recordings. I was fortunate to see him work his magic at a TV recording of Unspun with Matt Forde in March 2018.
Everybody who I have talked to in the Always Be Comedy audience and friends who I have taken to the club have really enjoyed watching Gill’s comic skill fronting the night. Indeed, an time I attended in 2018 was no exception with Gill once again coaxing me up on stage from my regular front row seat to perform what has become my regular pub singing bad rendition of a famous rock classic (Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi) which I am more than happy to do. Before I started going to the club, I would not be seen anyway near the front of a stage. Since going to Always Be Comedy my confidence has increased tenfold by regularly winning over an unsuspecting audience to join me in a singalong as ever encouraged by the great MC. Every time I am asked to do this, it gets an amazing reaction from the audience and comedians on the bill.
One evening at the club in 2018, Gill introduced me onto the stage from my front row seat. The crowd were expecting the usual song for my sing-a-long but on stage, however I announced that I wanted to sing a new song. I then burst into a brand-new awful rendition of Satisfaction in honour of the awesome Rolling Stones gig I was lucky enough to attend previously in the week. The crowd loved it and whilst they were cheering, I yelled out ‘Do you want more?’ And everyone yelled out ‘No!’. The brilliant MC could not stop laughing as I sat down chuckling. The song has become a staple and I am delighted to make a weekly contribution to the comedy albeit with my bad singing. Over time the renditions have shall we say developed into infamous medleys!
Gill manages to find top quality comedy acts for every show, but his compering skills play a massive part in effortlessly entertaining the crowd, making newcomers welcome and engaging with regulars in turn making each show such a success. His genuine love of his craft shines through and his likeability on stage is immense. I am so grateful to Gill’s enthusiasm as an MC to give me the confidence to get up on stage when he wants and entertain the crowd. As well as a great MC, Gill is also a terrific comedian and can create a brilliant routine when required. This was put to great effect when he made his stand-up comedy TV debut on Harry Hill’s Clubnite in November 2019.
In April 2020, Always Be Comedy delivered its first online comedy show due to everybody being isolated being of a global pandemic. It was so great to have the show live in my own home and Gill proved yet again what a funny, supportive and brilliant compere he is.
In July 2020, Gill made a guest appearance at Vix Leyton’s Comedy Roulette which also featured comedian Tiernan Douieb and myself! It was wonderful to hear Gill reminiscing with answers to topics on balls generated from a bingo machine.
Also, in July 2020, I had been watching Always Be Comedy live and online for five years. On Thursday 2nd July 2015, I ventured to The Tommyfield pub for the first time. I sat mid-way, out of sight and watched in wonder as Josh Widdicombe performed new material with such hysterical and pristine comic talent that I knew I would return week after week. Since I have been going, my confidence has soared over time in my promoted regular front seat, and I wish I had been there from the very start nine years ago.
On Christmas Day 2020, a very special online charity marathon show that lasted over three hours capped off an incredible year for Gill and Always Be Comedy. The show which raised over £4000 for Home Start – a network of trained volunteers and expert support helping families with young children through their challenging times – had an incredible roll call of comedians. Taking part were Ed Gamble (with a hysterical routine about this blog), Rachel Parris & Marcus Brigstocke, Jayde Adams & Rich Wilson, Suzi Ruffell, Jo Caulfield, Lucy Beaumont, Rhys James, Sunil Patel Matt Forde, Brennan Reece, Brett Goldstein, Lloyd Griffith, Ray Badran, Jacob Hawley, Aisling Bea, Paul McCaffrey and Al Murray. Apologies If I have left anybody out, there was so many and I was too busy laughing at their Christmas stories to count. The generosity of the comedians giving up their time to make us laugh on Christmas Day after the terrible year of 2020 was astonishing. Without Gill at the helm, it probably wouldn’t have happened and his work ethic compering and creating the online comedy shows with Tim Lewis saved me in lockdown. I don’t know what I would have done without online comedy.
I was delighted to see that it wasn’t just me praising the club as it featured on TV and in newspapers in 2020 as one of the best online clubs to watch during lockdown. So much so, that in November 2020, Always Be Comedy was the deserved winner of the JOE Annual Comedy Awards for Virtual Shows. It is incredulous that both Gill and his Technical advisor Tim Lewis have kept the online and live social distanced club nights going from strength to strength during an extremely difficult and challenging year. The front row (including myself) and the audience are privileged to be entertained so well week after week.
In January 2021, Always Be Comedy Online presented the award-winning podcast Films To Be Buried With featuring Brett Goldstein as host and Gill as guest. The set-up is that the guest has died and looks back over life choosing films that have most influenced. Gill’s favourite film was Planes, Train’s and Automobiles and there were some inspired choices which made for a very entertaining evening. If you want to listen to all Films To Be Buried With episodes, please click on Brett Goldstein’s blog entry as the link details are there),
I am extremely pleased and proud to be part of the Always Be Comedy audience and this brilliant night. I look forward to next week seeing what James Gill does best welcoming audience and comedians for a night of fun and laughter.
To my knowledge, Gill and I are not related but I am very glad to call him a friend and ‘comedy brother’. He is a very warm, funny man and it is a continuing pleasure to watch the great compere perform every week.