Comedy / News

Back with a Roar

By Steve Wright, Friday Oct 3, 2014

Riproar, the successor to Bristol’s long-standing Jesters Comedy Club, returns this autumn with a brand new home and some top acts in the pipeline. Steve Wright gets the lowdown.

Bristol’s stand-up scene receives a massive shot in the arm at the very start of next month with the return of Riproar Comedy.

Under the Riproar and, previously, Jesters labels, owner David Trew has been programming comedy in Bristol for nearly 20 years, so his return to business – in a multi-purpose building slap-bang in the centre of town – gives comedy-lovers plenty to celebrate.

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Housed on Cheltenham Road from 1995 to 2009, Jesters became one of Bristol’s key comedy venues, hosting the likes of Bill Bailey, Peter Kay, Catherine Tate, Matt Lucas, Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand during its 15-year lifespan.

After David was forced to leave both premises and name behind, Jesters’ successor Riproar found a home in a brand new performing arts centre at Bristol Cathedral Choir School, and latterly on the fifth floor of the Arnolfini.

Neither arrangement lasted long, but David feels far more hopeful about Riproar’s new home, a three-storey premises on Union Street.

“We are no longer tenants: we now have a home of our own,” he enthuses. “We’ve signed a 20-year lease, so unless we stop paying rent, we’ll be there at least until I’m due a free bus pass.”

The new Riproar will feature a ground-floor cafe and bar, Steam, with live comedy on the first floor and studio and office space for creative types above that.

There will be no return to the Jesters name, which served David for some 15 years at two premises on Cheltenham Road, one of which is now the Tesco that prompted the Stokes Croft riots of 2011, the other former Magic Box, talked about becoming an Islamic cultural centre and mosque.

“There were legal issues with the ownership, despite it being my ‘baby’, so to speak,” David explains. “So I figured that a clean break, and a continuation of the brand I’ve been using for the last three years, was the best choice.”

David has lured a fine crop of comedians to Union Street for the venue’s first few months – visitors include the rising star Ola, a charismatic, confident comedian who likes to wrongfoot his audiences’ expectations; the effervescent, well-travelled Malawian expat Daliso Chaponda, whose wide-ranging material spans politics, religion, sex and romance; Mandy Knight, a feisty, flirty comedian and former Time Out Female Comic of the Year; Stuart Goldsmith, a former street entertainer with a sharp mind and, as you’d expect, a hugely engaging, high-energy stage presence; and the effervescent Cerys Nelmes from Wotton under Edge.

Opening on Saturday, November 1, Riproar will feature live comedy shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

The setup will be familiar to fans of Jesters’ and Riproar’s previous incarnations: each night will feature three top circuit comedians plus a DJ set after the show.

“I am confident that our quality line-ups and our fresh, locally-sourced food will help us to stand out from the crowd,” says David. “We’ll also be the only comedy venue in Bristol with its own, dedicated club, as opposed to being in someone else’s room, on a hire or co-partnership basis. This gives us many advantages – not least the ability to do what we want, when we want.

“We’re in a fabulous location with massive footfall, and the comedy space is ours to do with as we please. One of my associates has told me that if I can’t make this work, I need shooting.”

Riproar Comedy, 15 Union Gate, 63 Union Street, Bristol

0117 985 6767

www.riproarcomedy.co.uk

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