Author Archives: Elspeth Millar

Stand-Up Comedy Archive Collections Autumn update

I wanted to give an update on the collections that we’ve now received into the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive, nine months or so into our Beacon Project to catalogue, digitise, provide access to, and continue to build this archive for stand-up comedy in the UK. Our current collections include material from:

  • Alexei Sayle
  • Attila the Stockbroker
  • BSUCA Events
  • John Pidgeon
  • Linda Smith
  • Monika Bobinska
  • Mark Thomas
  • Nick Toczek
  • Oliver Double
  • Richard Herring
  • Robin Ince
  • Tony Allen
  • What The Frock! Comedy

Some of these we’ve written about before, so I wanted to provide some brief updates on the new collections.

The BSUCA (British Stand-Up Comedy Archive) Events Collection is being created through the events that we are holding ourselves, on campus, and at the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We now have recordings of in-conversation events from Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, Mark Thomas, Stephen K. Amos, Jo Brand, Susan Calman, Alexei Sayle, and Nina Conti, recordings of Edinburgh Preview shows from Alfie Brown and Jimmy McGhie, and a recording of our inaugural Linda Smith Lecture, given by Mark Thomas.

Stewart Lee in conversation with Olly Double, 10 June 2015. Photo Matt Wilson

Stewart Lee in conversation with Olly Double, 10 June 2015. Photo Matt Wilson

The Alexei Sayle Collection is one of our most recent deposits, and contains material from the career of alternative comedian Alexei Sayle, including scripts for various TV and radio programmes and films, including his own TV and radio shows (‘Alexei Sayle’s Stuff’, ‘The All New Alexei Sayle Show’, ‘Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round’, ‘Lenin and the Rovers’) and others he acted in (‘The Young Ones’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Whoops Apocalypse’).

Scripts deposited by Alexei Sayle

Scripts deposited by Alexei Sayle

Material deposited by Robin Ince includes passes and badges for shows, tours and festivals in which Robin Ince performed, flyers and postcards for shows, zines made for Robin Ince’s Book Club and Edinburgh shows, performance notes for shows ‘Robin Ince Is As Dumb As You’ (2005) and ‘Robin Ince Knew This Would Happen’ (2007), and props (including Robin Ince and Josie Long puppets!)

Material received from Robin Ince

Material received from Robin Ince

Our most recent deposit has been from What The Frock! Comedy, a Bristol-based comedy brand which champions female comedy talent. We’ve received a copy of ‘The What The Frock! Book of Funny Women’ (2015), flyers, badges and bookmarks.

Material received from What The Frock! Comedy

Material received from What The Frock! Comedy

Nick Toczek deposited some wonderful flyers and leaflets from his alternative cabaret nights in Bradford, which he ran in the 1980s and 1990s. His collection comprises leaflets and flyers for the alternative cabaret and alternative comedy nights Stereo Graffiti, the Bradford Poetry Live Festival, Tumbling Hill Street Blues, Bradford Alternative Cabaret, Cracker!, and Korks Komedy Klub. Some of Nick’s flyers within the Linda Smith Collection can be viewed on our flickr account.

Flyers for alternative cabaret nights from Nick Toczek

Flyers for alternative cabaret nights from Nick Toczek

Richard Herring did a wonderful ‘in conversation’ event with us back in March (some sound bites are available on our SoundCloud channel), and he deposited material from his career performing theatre and comedy since his time at the University of Oxford until the present. The Richard Herring Collection contains scripts for radio, television and plays; promotional material for stand-up comedy performances, plus published material by Richard Herring (including books and DVDs). The Collection includes original material on paper (scripts, reviews, tour flyers and brochures), published material (books, pamphlets, and a DVD), born-digital material (documents and files saved to 3.5″ floppy disks) and 179 tiff image files from Richard’s ‘Comedy and Drama in Oxford notebook’ (loaned to and scanned by the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive).

These collections are all being catalogued, and will shortly be discoverable via the University of Kent Library catalogues.  But if you are interested to know more about the content of the collections, or to view and consult material please let us know via We’ve also got some really exciting new deposits and partnerships for the archive coming up this autumn so do check back in with us for more information!



(Second) student perspective – using the Stand-Up Comedy Archive

Postcard accompanying the book ‘Mark Thomas presents The People’s Manifesto’, which contains a selection of policies suggested during the ‘Its the Stupid Economy’ tour

Matt Hoss writes:

In my module Introduction to Stand-Up, I listened to unpublished materials from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and analysed a comedian in relation to their social context. I eagerly persuaded (some may say ‘coerced’) my group to listen to Mark Thomas. The audio was occasionally difficult to hear, however it retains and encapsulates the true passion within Thomas’ comedic rhetoric. The clip is an hour long and it involves the second half of his 2009 show It’s The Stupid Economy. The clip starts with Thomas reading out suggested policies written by audience members in the interval. Responding to their decrees, Thomas delivers witty anecdotes accompanied an undertone of political restlessness.

Thomas demonstrates his tremendous craft by voicing his politics but also estranging us from it through absurdity. For example he envisions a simple solution to the Israel and Palestine crisis by transferring their mortgages to Northern Rock and sending “busloads of Geordie Bailiffs”. The interweaving of pertinent issues within our society represents how Thomas topically frames his intelligent and poignant jokes, which suit the structure and the significance of his set.

Overall, the archive grants access to significant pieces of Stand-Up which is both a rare opportunity and a genuine delight.

Student perspective – using the Stand-Up Comedy Archive

The University of Kent has a history of teaching comic performance and provides a number of opportunities for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level to study the theory and practice of stand-up comedy. We think it is fantastic that the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is based within a context in which students themselves are studying and performing comedy, and we hope that the archive will inspire performance as well as record it.  Thank you to Yolanda Cooper for writing the first of our ‘student perspectives’ on using some of the audio-visual material within the collections.

Yolanda Cooper writes:

As a third year Stand-Up comedy student, I was given the humbling opportunity this week to work with a fantastic, rare clip by the hilarious Mark Thomas from his ‘It’s the Stupid Economy’ tour. My task was to listen to the clip (recorded in Sheffield in 2009) – a treat in itself due to the small collection of people who have had the opportunity – and select a section to analyse contextually.

CD from the Mark Thomas Collection of a recording from the Sheffield leg of his 2009 'It's the Stupid Economy' tour

Making the decision as to which part was my favourite proved a hard and perilous task after listening. (It was all hilarious!)  Along with Thomas and his audience I agree that perhaps we should change our anthem to ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet and that we [Britain] are in seriously financial trouble when Primark has a sale! Consequently, not only was I able to laugh out loud at the comical truths of our nation that Thomas describes, but his witty political satire charged the realisation that we as Brits don’t say what we think.

After analysing the chosen segment, my group and I presented to the class our findings and research regarding the context of the specific jokes. Luckily for us the show was performed in 2009, so the political references he was making were still relatable to our generation!

This was just the beginning of my exploration through the archive, which is an exciting platform for students and the public alike to investigate further rare comedic material. Not only did Thomas’ clip make me laugh, it also inspired me, an occurrence that wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

Alexei Sayle in Conversation- Postponed

Unfortunately the first of the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive’s ‘in conversation’ series has been postponed. The event, with Stand-Up comedian Alexei Sayle, was due to take place on Saturday 7th February at the Gulbenkian.
Further details of the postponed event, and other events in the series, to follow.

Postponed poster

Politics and Humour Conference

Tory Gillespie writes:

Nick Hiley and Olly Double at the launch of the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

Nick Hiley and Olly Double at the launch of the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

Exciting news! The official launch of the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive took place on Friday 16th January 2015, as part of the Politics and Humour conference held at the University of Kent. What an appropriate setting in which to launch a collection that houses so much fantastic work from politically-minded comedians such as Linda Smith and Mark Thomas. The Glorious Launch (which was really just us saying interesting things and having a few drinks, but we did have fun) was held at the Gulbenkian Theatre, who have been incredibly supportive to this new venture. The conference itself was a star-studded affair, in academic terms. Keynote speaker Dr Sharon Lockyer (Brunel) shared her research on disability and stand-up comedy and our internationally-renowned guest speakers, including Kent’s own Dr Oliver Double, shared interesting and diverse research from the broad field of comedy. In the evening we were entertained by two of the most prominant new political comedians – Grainne Maguire (The Now Show, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle) and Liam Williams (Russell Howard’s Good News) – who we hope at some point in the future will donate some materials to the archive.

The rest of the conference was highly entertaining, with topics ranging from satirical political organisations in Northern Ireland to the practice of evil clowning. It was a great weekend and a fantastic way to launch the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.


Alexei Sayle in conversation

Our first ‘in conversation’ event for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is taking place on Saturday 7 February at 07:30pm. Stand-up comedian, actor and author Alexei Sayle will be taking to Olly Double about his career and the art of stand-up comedy. Tickets can be booked via the Gulbenkian box office. The series of ‘in conversation’ events will be recorded and added to the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.


Alexei Sayle 'in conversation' poster



First Steps for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive

Errin Hussey, Digitisation & Data Entry Assistant, writes:

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive began in 2013 and four collections have formed the basis for the archive so far:

– The Linda Smith Collection
– The Mark Thomas Collection
– The Tony Allen Collection
– The John Pidgeon Collection

One of the first priorities as part of the 2015 Beacon project was to look through the collections and box-list their contents, paying particular attention to the nature of the material and the amount of Audio Visual materials given to the archive.

The Linda Smith Collection

Day 1 began by looking through the vast 25-box collection belonging to comedian Linda Smith. Linda’s collection was donated to the University’s Special Collections by her partner Warren Lakin. This huge wealth of material includes books and folders from her school-days to scripts, press and recordings from her stand-up tours and radio shows. All the boxes were so well organised and labelled that it was easy to get a good footing in understanding the collection.


The large 25-box Linda Smith Collection currently in the Special Collections store.

To start, there were four boxes full of audio-visual materials including CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes & DATs. These materials consist of both published and private recordings from tours, radio and TV shows including ‘A Brief History of Time Wasting’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘The News Quiz’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘Just A Minute’ (BBC Radio 4), ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ (BBC Radio 4) and ‘Have I Got News For You’ (BBC One).

The following 21 boxes consisted of documents including school folders and reports, scripts, set lists, promotional leaflets, photographs and press. Some of the many highlights in these boxes include a variety of early stand-up notes, transcripts for the 1985 ‘Tuff Lovers’ tour with Ann Lavelle and the 1992/3 ‘Hello Cruel World’ tour with Steve Gribbin, contracts, personal diaries, and detailed documents regarding Warren Lakin’s biography: ‘I Think the Nurses are Stealing My Clothes: The Very Best of Linda Smith’ including early drafts and correspondence with contributors.


A clearer view of some of the boxes in the Linda Smith collection: sorted, labelled and donated by her partner Warren Lakin.

 The Mark Thomas Collection

The second prominent collection in the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is the Mark Thomas Collection.  Mark has donated an extensive assortment of personal material to the archive spanning his career. The collection includes audio-visual material from his stand-up shows through to his TV appearances, personal diaries and notepads, and press cuttings both written by and about Mark. A significant part of Mark’s collection and career centres around his involvement in various activist campaigns. It has been interesting to see how these activities, and his stand-up career provide context and inspiration to each other.

Personal stand-out features of the Mark Thomas collection have to include the detailed notes and plans for campaigns, working with groups such as Action Aid, and tackling problems of the big corporations such as Coca-Cola and events such as the Defendory Arms Fair in countries all over the world including India, China, Mexico, Columbia, El Salvador, Greece and Turkey. There is also a large selection of photographs taken from Mark’s McDemo’s campaigns (McDemo’s was a joint-enterprise project created to enable activists to campaign on behalf of other members of the public- creating posters and chants to demonstrate in central London). In 2009 Mark launched a tour entitled ‘It’s The Stupid Economy’, part of which sought to find the ‘People’s Manifesto’. The Archive holds the original writings of members of his audience suggesting issues they would like to be raised in their manifesto. Each night the audience would decide on the most popular points and Mark went on to publish these in his 2010 book ‘Mark Thomas Presents the People’s Manifesto’.


A quick snapshot of the Mark Thomas Collection including many boxes of AV material, posters and a bag full of campaign ephemera.

Other collections that have already been collected within the BSUCA include the John Pidgeon Collection and the Tony Allen Collection. More shall be written about the exciting material held in these collections in future blog posts.

The next stage for the BSUCA Beacon project is to consider the arrangement of the current collections and formalise a plan for digitization!

Please do send us your thoughts by email ( or tweet us (@unikentstandup)

Our new British Stand-Up Comedy Archive blog

Elspeth Millar, Project Archivist, writes:

Welcome to the blog for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive ‘Beacon’ Project, which will be active throughout 2015.

The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive at the University of Kent was established in 2013 to celebrate, preserve, and provide access to the archives and records of British stand-up comedy and stand-up comedians. You can find more information on the archive itself and the Beacon project on the ‘about’ page of this blog, and through our blog postings as the project develops.

The 2015 Beacon Project aspect of the BSUCA will organise the public launch of the archive; catalogue, preserve, digitise, and make accessible the existing collections; publicise the collections and their use; and identify new collections for deposit in the archive. We also have a number of public events planned, including the inaugural Linda Smith lecture, a series of ‘in conversation’ events with Olly Double, and a conference in January 2016.  Further information can be found on the events page of this blog.

In addition to the purposes and aims listed above, within this project we also aim to ask and answer questions and challenges that may arise from an archive of Stand-Up Comedy, such as…

  • What archives do comedians collect and keep? What should we encourage them to keep?
  • Who will use the collections, and how should we encourage and facilitate their use? How will issues of copyright, ownership, and data protection affect this use?
  • How should we store and provide access to the material that we are preserving?
  • What archives/records are within scope?

We hope that the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive and this blog of the project will appeal to stand-up comedians, historians of performance, people who like stand-up comedy, journalists and broadcasters, as well as those interested in the archival and digital preservation issues that we will come across through the project.

Please do send us your thoughts by email ( or tweet us (@unikentstandup).