Jabez Clegg Comedy Night: Jabez Clegg, Manchester, 1997
Peter Kay Live: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 1998
Peter Kay: Mum Wants a Bungalow Tour: Hammersmith Apollo, London, 2003
Peter Kay: The Tour That Doesn’t Tour Tour: Evening News Arena, Manchester and the O2 Arena, London, 2010
Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights Live: Phones4U Arena, Manchester, 2015
I have seen a lot of comedy over the years and I’ve seen a lot of comedians come and go. Peter Kay has staying power and is a truly great comedian. I first saw him play a tiny Manchester comedy student club called Jabez Clegg in 1997 which has since closed down. It was a perfectly sized 200 seater venue in which he could showcase his clear talent. His stories of working class Manchester life and character studies of people he met along the way shone through in his twenty minute set. Like fellow comedian from a past generation, Manchester born Les Dawson, Bolton born Kay’s stories immediately demand attention and the delivery and timing make them hilarious. At the time, Kay has recently won the City Life Comedian of the Year Award and he was fourth on a bill of five acts that night. I can clearly remember laughing so loud at his routine that night that I missed the fifth act! I later learned that the fifth act was a not long started Dave Gorman and I felt guilty not to have heard him properly through all my laughter.
I saw Kay live again in 1998 at the Manchester Bridgewater Hall where the act was even more polished and I could see he was going to be a household name. I went with a friend that night and we sat very near the front of the stage. Before the show began my friend said to me that she had heard that I had a very loud laugh and because she was sitting next to me would I mind being a bit quieter so she could hear the stories and jokes. I reluctantly agreed and when Kay appeared on stage my friend was laughing louder than me and I couldn’t hear much pf the show!
Kay really hit the big time with his giant Mum Wants a Bungalow Tour in 2003. Initially not expecting to be as big as it was, the tour lasted an incredible 180 nights beginning in theatres and ending up adding extra weeks playing arenas. What is interesting about the tour was his confidence and ability to perform anywhere with just a microphone and stand for company on stage. To walk out onto a stage and play to a small crowd is daunting enough but he effortlessly had arena crowds in the palm of his hand towards the end of the tour. The tour was selling fast and I could only catch him at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and as I watched I wondered if the broad Northern comedian would work well with audiences in the South. I had no fear as he made his stories universally appealing making everyone relate to him.
Kay had a long period away from the spotlight and then returned to the live circuit triumphantly again with The Tour That Doesn’t Tour Tour in 2010. The title came from the fact that because Kay now had a young family he wanted to stay near them but due to massive demand gave in and toured the country. From the moment he appeared on stage he demonstrated once again what a comedy genius he is. Like all the great comedians he created a world that the audience instantly recognised that is both extremely funny and alluring. He effortlessly commanded the stage delivering hilarious down to earth stories and observations with ease. He also has a great comedy face and laugh which enhances his presence. I saw this tour twice – once at The Manchester Arena, where in the afternoon of the build up to the show, it felt like everyone in the streets was celebrating his return and later on in the run at London’s 02 Arena playing a week in front of 20,000 people a night.
In 2015 billed as one night only which later again due to demand turned into a fifteen night run, he resurrected his greatest television success and delivered Peter Kay’s Phoenix Night’s Live at the Manchester Arena in 2015 in aid of the Comic Relief charity. Everybody who starred with him in the classic 2001 TV series including co-writers Dave Spikey and Neil Fitzmaurice plus Justin Moorhouse, Janice Connolly and Patrick McGuinness amongst others all returned for the live show. It was wonderful to see the Phoenix Club in such a big place and it was a brilliant night.
I do not know anyone who doesn’t like or admire Peter Kay, he seems to appeal to all ages and backgrounds. In my mind, he is the best of the modern comedians and long may he continue.