Room for a Laugh column - The world of Tom Taylor, promoter of Harrogate’s Sitting Room comedy club and finalist in Nando’s New Comedian Of The Year 2014 at Edinburgh Fringe
Last week the Tom Taylor LOL-wagon rolled into the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport for the second time in recent months.
My first visit to Stockport was the result of a government invitation to a Speed Awareness Course after a ridiculously-placed camera on the M60 took some incriminating photographs. I now know how Jennifer Lawrence feels.
It was an inauspicious start but one that allowed me to meet Course Leader Richard and Course Leader Martin.
CL Richard was the joker among the pack of marginal speeders, setting off at a cracking lick with: “Hi guys, welcome to speed dating. Oops, no, speed awareness!”
CL Martin was something like the two of clubs - earthier and with the air of someone who hated their job and hated you for facilitating it.
Why don’t you just drive slower was written all over his face?
On my way here, I’d found myself in a dilemma. The Speed Awareness Course was due to start in 35 minutes but my SatNav said I’d arrive in 45 minutes. I wasn’t something I thought CL Martin would find funny so I decided not to mention it.
In any case, CL Richard was now launching into the game show section of the course with real enthusiasm.
Firstly, CL Martin was sent round with a box of voting handsets, every bit the glamorous assistant sporting an egg stained Garfield tie in lieu of a sparkling dress and rejecting mascara and lipstick in favour of contempt.
Contempt. The new fragrance from Esso.
The game show was well presented and was obviously the part of his job that CL Richard enjoyed most.
I got every question right on my handset. My 80-year-old neighbour got them all wrong.
But winning wasn’t part of the deal. We both lost our £90 course fee.
Fortunately, my next visit to the area was strictly lawful and took in the hidden delights of Reddish, Stockport(ish).
They were very well hidden. I still haven’t found them but, in my defence, it was quite dark and not all the streetlights were playing fair.
My destination, the delightfully named ‘Thatched Tavern’, resplendent in concrete roof tiles, sat in the not inconsiderable shadow of Houldsworth Medical Centre.
The centre’s resemblance to Arkham Asylum in Batman was terrifying and I wondered, in the gig’s three year history, how many comedians had died on stage and been swiftly admitted next door.
The nettles had comprehensively defeated the paved drive and with wooden boards nailed across windows and rusting chains strung across the towering front gates I had assumed the centre had been abandoned after the escape of Poison Ivy and The Riddler.
I talked about this on stage/the patch of floor in front of the fireplace and, without wishing to boast, the assembled dozen smiled, nodded and laughed their agreement.
And here’s where I feel like I’m Jim Carrey in the Scarecrow’s adaptation of The Truman Show: incredibly the Houldsworth Medical Centre is still in use.
Granted, the NHS don’t rank it as one of their best surgeries - they describe it as “among the worst” on their own website.
The patient reviews are equally honest. My favourite is: “The doctor here has been off sick for over two years.”
It helps to note the staff list is one doctor long.
I am almost certain that at some point in the future when I relate this harrowing tale to fellow comedians, explaining that I gigged at the Thatched Tavern in Reddish, they will reply: “The Thatched Tavern? That’s not possible Tom. The Thatched Tavern burnt down in 1974.”
Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the St George Hotel, Harrogate on Wednesday, September 10.
Tickets and more information are available at www.sittingroomcomedy.com.
Tom Taylor tweets at @tomtails