Hatty Ashdown – a comic and mum from South East London and MC of Screaming With Laughter, the original London lunchtime comedy club for parents and babies – describes the perils of mixing comedy and kids.
“Everyone knows dealing with a heckler is one of the biggest challenges for a stand-up comic – well, how about when that heckler is 1 year old!
I took over running Screaming With Laughter from comic Lucy Porter (the one off the telly) earlier this year, and MC’ing these shows is different to any other gigs I’ve done. It’s an amazing, unique challenge as a comic. I often say to other acts it’s like patting your head and rubbing your tummy and requires you to think differently, but once you get the knack you’ll look for another opportunity to show it off.
The obvious thing you have to get used to straight away is babies crying whilst you’re performing. Babies cry. They cry when they wake up, they cry on their way to the show, they cry when you come on stage, they inexplicably stop crying when you’re off stage, and then begin again when you return. That’s babies and we welcome it. If someone made that noise at a regular evening gig you’d have to reference it, but at SWL we don’t. That’s the point, this is a safe place for parents to come and enjoy comedy without fear that they’ll get called out for bringing their kid.
It’s a challenge for a stand-up, but one that hopefully makes us better comedians. The jokes have to be really clear and really good. You’re performing to people who can be distracted, tired or feeding a baby (and are often all three!), but overall they are the most appreciative audience I’ve come across in my career. Being able to give those new parents an hour of laughs in an adult environment is fantastic. Happy parents make happy babies, and one of the most satisfying things is seeing them leave with a little spring in their step after laughing with other grown-ups.
As a mum myself I know what it’s like having half-finished conversations, drinking tea that’s had to be reheated 7 times, all while trying to look like ‘hey I’m in total control… yes, that is a biscuit stuck in my hair’. At our clubs, as long as the grown-ups are laughing it’s all good. To be honest, it’s nothing compared to a gig for a rowdy hen or stag-do – at SWL at least you know there’s a justifiable reason why one punter has just thrown-up.”
See the website for dates and a club near you and we look forward to seeing you and your baby soon. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for up-to-date news. We have clubs in Chiswick, Bethnal Green, Islington and Balham, with Crouch End and Dartford coming soon.
Club doors open 12.30pm (check event info), show time is 1pm to 2.30 pm (with an interval) – we have fantastic front-of-house staff to help you to your seats and hold a baby for any loo breaks! Buggies must be parked in the designated area and it’s advisable to bring a car seat, sling or pram basinet for baby. Limited numbers can keep buggies with them on the front row and some venues have baby play-mats. The age limit is 12-15 months as acts do their normal club sets. We also welcome grandparents, aunties , friends etc and pregnant ladies!