With music seemingly taking over the Belfast entertainment scene comedy nights are few and far between in Northern Ireland, but Marcus Keeley, organiser of Voicebox Comedy, is trying to change that. After trying out stand-up at university he returned to Belfast hoping to continue honing his skills. The only comedy clubs at the time, The Empire and The Laughter Lounge at The Odyssey, didn't interest him as an audience member, nevermind a performer, and this was when he decided to try and organise his own night. "I endeavoured to create an accessible amateur comedy night, with a slight lean towards the alternative style of humour. I also wanted to make it extremely welcoming to first-timers; something which a lot of comedy clubs tend to overlook. After an admittedly ramshackled short series of nights, Voicebox Comedy Club came back regularly during the summer of 2009, and has been packed every month!"
With a sheer lack of comedy clubs in Belfast you'd think comedians would have been coming out of the woodwork when Voicebox started up, but it had a bit of a slow start: "Originally when I started Voicebox, I sent out e-mails, ads and so on to find out if there were any comics in a similar position as me. Around four or five of us met up and I asked them to do the night. Since then, some have went on to start their own comedy clubs and others have disappeared from the scene. Generally speaking, once the amateur nights got a bit of momentum going, eventually people thought 'oh, I'll have a go next week'. Of course, there's people who only do it once then vanish, which is a shame, but within the scene the majority of people are very supportive with new comics." Since then comedy clubs have sprung up all over Belfast and there's plenty more to be found throughout the rest of Northern Ireland and Dublin.
As stated before, Marcus was inspired to start the night after trying out a bit of stand-up at university, so what delights can we expect from him? "I prefer the alternative style of humour, being a big fan of Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer, Rik Mayall & Adrian Edmonson, Dylan Moran, Charlie Brooker, Tim Minchin, these would probably be the comics/writers who give me the most influence. People see my stand-up as being rather dark, exaggerating the negative aspects of how people interact with each other and my own personal failings to surreal degrees." But it's not all doom and gloom: "I also do character skits/videos with a bit more focus on satire or the ridiculous. Of course, not everyone enjoys the above, but I don't see any fun in doing comedy that everyone gets or appreciates. There's enough local humour based comedians around for that."
With 2010 comes a new start, so what's on the cards for Marcus and Voicebox Comedy? "Voicebox is always growing, which is largely in part to the fantastic audience following we have, the comics who enjoy the night and get on board, and of course Safehouse Arts Space where it's held. It's a very open comedy night; I understand that not everyone shares my point of view on humour, so I'll try anything once or twice - I don't want to speak on behalf of the audience." So why not become part of that audience?
You can find out more about Voicebox Comedy at www.nicomedy.com and http://www.safehousearts.org.uk/