For many comedy fans who have tried to set up their own comedy nights, they will know of the true hardship of trying to successfully run and promote something before there’s any actual hope of breaking even. Thus The Frog and Bucket which is celebrating 25 years in the live comedy business is a true remarkable feat when taken in consideration of how many comedy clubs start and fail. Situated in Manchester at the end of Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter, Dave Perkins originally founded The Frog And Bucket in 1994 at the Britannia Pub in Newton street before moving to its location today a former bank. Initially a pro-weekend venue, The Frog And Bucket opened its doors for amateurs to give stand-up a go, where acts such as John Bishop broke their stage virginity. It was a venue that was a regular for some of the North’s comedy elite such as Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas and Jason Manford.
The amateur night now known as Beat The Frog, a gong show that was more or less nicked from neighbours comedy store by Dan Nightingale that saw him banned from The Comedy Store for years, is viewed as the chief new act competition in the North. Tuesday and Wednesdays have often been open for experimental nights, which is where Short Com had it’s original berth.
From cleaning the floors for pocket money, Jessica Toomey has taken over the reigns of the club from her father Dave Perkins. She’s now tasked with seeing the venue continue to have it’s doors open in a changing cultural landscape of Manchester, I asked her some questions on her plans for the future.
Congratulations on reaching 25 years and being an institution in Manchester. Any secrets as to how you’ve kept your doors open for all that time?
Thanks, I think the success is down to the North West Talent that we’ve showcased over those years and staying true to our values of supporting and nurturing new Northern Alternative talent.
Some of today’s most recognised comedians got their start at The Frog and Bucket. Do you do much in terms of nurturing and preparing acts for that platform?
Our Monday Open Mic night is the foundation to it all, there has to be an entry point for anyone to have a try, its a great platform for comics to play to a real audience of 200 customers in a real club setting with the support of a professional compere to set the audience up right for them. I also insist that the Monday Beat the Frog MC has come through the competition themselves so they can set the room right and manage audiences support for nervous new acts. We record all the open spots so they have the opportunity to review the performance and we offer feedback when wanted. We introduced a Comedy Course 2 years ago too which has helped many acts in many areas such as combatting stage fright to help with writing.
Taken over the reigns, you have stated that you will be putting female acts at the forefront. From your own experiences, how have attitudes changed to female acts at your club over the years? Other than being more diverse in terms of bill curation, do you see other ways to challenge attitudes of the audience to be more open?
Society has progressed so far in recent years, I think the Frog now has quite a progressive audience due to the huge student population who seem to be staying in Manchester after graduating. I think now efforts aren’t needed in opening my audience to diverse acts but attracting a more diverse audience,
I was in Manchester the other week for the first time in about two years and amazed at the transition of what many would call gentrification. Have you found different audiences coming through the doors of late?
Yes definitely, a lot more tourists attracted to the area and we now have many regulars as so there are now thousands of residents on our doorstep. When we first opened there wasn’t much else around here and we were very much a destination venue but thats no longer the case.
Here’s to another 25 years to The Frog and Bucket.
The Frog and Bucket celebrates its birthday on Sunday the 24th of February, for tickets follow the link here https://frogandbucket.ticketsolve.com/shows/873597200/events/128182188
Words by Chris Aitken