You’re never too old to take the mic

At first I was a ‘compere’ – a weird word that even the French don’t use much, then I became an ‘MC’ (note to younger readers: MC stands for ‘master of ceremonies’), ‘fronted’ stuff and occasionally now I am the ‘host,’ or in TV terms, the ‘presenter’. The lexicon of performance is always changing and so are the gigs over which I continue to preside.

When I started in comedy there were no competitions and I was already too old to be eligible for the first of the ‘new act of the year’ shows – so I compered them instead.

For many years I did the Gilded Balloon ‘So you think you’re funny’ gigs in Edinburgh and at the Hackney Empire version in London (in fact, I still do that one), as well as numerous beer-sponsored ones and, once, The Pot Noodle Challenge. The emphasis in all these shows was to find the ‘new thing’ who would also, preferably, be the ‘young thing’.

So I was pleased to be asked to MC something a bit different last week in the shape of ‘the Old Comedian of the Year’ competition put on by the Museum of Comedy in the Leicester Square Theatre.

The comedians competing for the £1,000 first prize (£500 for second and £250 for third) have all been doing comedy for five years or more and are at least 35 years old. None has been picked up by TV and most still have day jobs or are retired.

You may surmise this means they were not much cop – but you would be wrong. The older comedian can talk about things that are a mystery to the usual crop of young men with haircuts who dispense streams of knob gags and bang on about their girlfriends or the niceties of flat-sharing.

All the acts on display were original individuals who had found their own voices and been around the block often enough that they could tell us something new – though, come to think of it, there were a few knob gags.

Often at these events one person on the bill tanks, but not here.

I very much enjoyed the character acts, especially confused housewife Linda Larkin and the deranged Dr George Ryegold (Toby Williams).

The deserved winner was the vivacious and witty Tim Shishodia and the night was rounded off by the brilliant Tim Renkow, but I think my favourite comic on display was sassy 81-year-old Lynn Ruth Miller who only took up stand-up aged 70 and is actually older than Barry Cryer (which I had not thought possible).

So are you recently retired and looking to take up a hobby more challenging than rambling in the country, reading the paper or attending steam railway rallies? Then put on your outdoor shoes, get yourself a booking at your local open mic night and confirm one of the great joys of comedy – you are never too old to be funny.

Okay, I’m off back to the care home now…