We Recommend: Late 'N' Live Guide To Comedy
Few comedy clubs have the reputation of Late ‘n’ Live. If you find yourself at the Edinburgh Fringe festival these days, you’ll be spoiled for choice over late-night comedy shows. But for many years there was really only one game in town: the legendary Late ‘n’ Live. Alas, the show is now a shadow of its former self, attempting to keep the anarchic spirit alive in an utterly unsuited venue, after the original room on Cowgate burned down.
I was lucky enough to see the show in it’s original format once back in 2002, where I witnessed a character act performing as a street trader get boo-ed off after about two minutes, another act whose entire set appeared to be downing four pints of Guinness and then looking very ill, and a young, yet to be on TV, Jimmy Carr stealing a heckler’s jacket. It’s reputation for anarchy was certainly well-deserved.
This new four-part BBC Scotland series aims to chart the history of the club. Given that nearly every successful comic you see on TV these days will have a Late ’n’ Live story, it’s no surprise that this documentary features name such as Russell Brand, Johnny Vegas, Dara O'Briain, Ross Noble, Rich Hall and Bill Bailey.
There are, however, two crucial names missing from that list, two comics that stamped their identity on the gig more than any other over the past two years. They’re likely missing for very different reasons. Daniel Kitson was the regular MC of the show for many years in the early 2000s, before deciding that finding increasingly inventive ways to insult hecklers wasn’t what he wanted from comedy, and re-inventing himself as a comic’s comic, a storyteller and a wonderfully whimsical and erudite performer. Kitson generally refuses to do any TV appearances now, so his absence is understandable.
Also missing is the man that took over from him on MC duties, who you’re much more likely to have heard of: Russell Howard, who is probably now far too busy and famous to appear on a BBC Scotland documentary. The second time I attended Late ‘N’ Live, in 2006, Kitson turned up to start heckling Howard, until the whole thing degenerated into an on stage wrestling match. Howard got the upper hand, much to the audience’s delight. “They just like the idea of the future dicking on the past,” quipped Kitson.
To tell the story without those two might be an interesting challenge (or maybe they’ll appear in future episodes), but it should be an interesting insight into one of comedy’s most notorious gigs.
Late ‘N’ Live Guide to Comedy airs on BBC Scotland at 11:05pm starting Monday 23rd January, and will be available on iPlayer shortly afterwards.