'This year has been difficult for every comedian in the industry': Comedy is back in business as Preston's brand new club opens up in old Fives restaurant
After spending more than 14 months off-stage due to the Covid-19 pandemic, comedian Steve Harris has become the resident host of Preston's brand new comedy club.
The ROFL club has taken over the top floor of the old Fives Bar and Grill building, on Guildhall street, and is set to bring three headline acts to the city every weekend in an exciting new comedy night.
Following a difficult year, where all live performances were put on hold and performers were left without a platform for their act, comedian Steve Harris has spearheaded the opening of the new comedy club - the first Preston has seen in years.
Fives Bar and Grill first closed down for good on New Year's Eve 2018, before the grade II listed building was then put up for sale last year for £1.25 million.
After spending the past two decades travelling the world and performing in comedy clubs across the UK, comedian Steve, 50, said the opportunity had come at just the right time, as he had been actively looking to make a home at a resident comedy club in the North.
Speaking to the Post, he said: "The plans to change this building into a comedy club had been moving even before the pandemic. It was meant to open in September last year before lockdown, but obviously, it didn't happen and was put on pause.
"The building is so much more than a comedy club, there's a restaurant and a wine bar too so it will give people in Preston a full night out. Comedy clubs tend to do well on weekends because it is when people come out with friends and family.
"I was asked to be a resident MC at this new comedy club and all of a sudden we had the keys and we were in preparing for our first show - it couldn't have come at a better time. The past 14 months have been so difficult for every comedian in the industry."
The ROFL Comedy Club brand is owned by Lee Jones, also owning venues in Derby, Sheffield and Newcastle-under-Lyme, offering weekly stand up nights with experienced comics and popular TV faces.
And following Government guidelines, people can now look forward to booking tickets and enjoying the show in a socially distanced setting, followed by drinks and food at the downstairs Live Lounge.
In a year where many comics and performers chose to take their act online, by hosting zoom and live-streamed gigs, Manchester-born host Steve said he chose to spend time with his family after a long career performing across the world, adding that he needs the rapport of a live audience to get on stage.
Opening just last weekend, May 28, the first comedy night was a "huge success" following a miserable and challenging year for performers brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Steve added: "I have been in the circuit for years and have been all around the globe, at pretty much every club in the UK. This past year made me realise how much you miss your family as a comedian when you are off travelling, and I had already decided I wanted to look for a permanent residency when this opportunity came along.
"I have been performing at the ROFL clubs for years, so was asked to be the resident MC at this new club. There is nothing like it in the area, it is set to be a cornerstone of the cultural aspect of Preston.
"People in the area now have something new and exciting to go to on a weekend. After the year we have had, it is something I think people really need to lighten their spirits on a Friday or Saturday night.
"Over the years I have gathered enough experience and skills needed to hold a night like this and keep an audience on their feet. It will give people in Preston good, raw comedy in a safe environment that works for everybody, no matter who they are or how they identify.
"It is good for the soul to laugh and be around other people having fun, it's great medicine. Last week was just fantastic. Of course, the comedians were having to brush off the dust from the past year and it is difficult to perform something new to a new audience, but the response has been brilliant.
"We have put all the Covid-safe measures in and capped our numbers. It is time we started to trust these guidelines now and move on to save our industry and get the ball rolling again."
Also hosting his new weekly show on Preston radio station Beat 103, comic Steve will be interviewing the upcoming performers at the club every Thursday.
Doors open at 7 pm every Friday and Saturday before the performances kick off at 8 pm. Tickets can be booked from the ROFL website.
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