Comedy fans and performers have breathed new life into the legendary Manchester comedy club, the Frog and Bucket, after the 27-year-old venue was turned down for government arts funding last year.
A high profile Go Fund Me campaign to Save the Frog and Bucket Comedy Club raised £23,000 by the end of 2020.
The venue was then able to apply successfully for match funding through the National Lottery Project Grant.
The funding and charity cash combined have secured the future of the longest running comedy club outside of London, and the cash has also equipped the club with the tech needed for quality visuals and sound for streaming new online shows on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Managing Director of the Frog and Bucket Jess Toomey said: “It’s been great fun. It’s not the same and people still want that live atmosphere you can’t get from streaming.
“But we’re seeing people dressing up and making a night of it. We had a couple who met at the Frog a while ago join a live stream to celebrate their anniversary. It’s been lovely.”
A new function on Zoom allows a limited “front row” of around 30 people to unmute and interact with the comedian during their performance.
“We are seeing a lot of people join the virtual ‘front row’ on their own,” said Jess. “I think the interactive element is quite attractive to people feeling isolated.”
Jess took over as Managing Director of the Frog and Bucket 17 years ago from her father, who founded the club in 1994, and said that comedy was the family’s livelihood.
The live stream shows, made possible by the new funding, will allow the club to keep going and stay on people’s radars until it opens up again for live events.
The legendarily brutal amateur competition ‘Beat the Frog’ has returned in virtual format on Monday nights.
Acts will attempt to stay on stage to deliver a five-minute set, while three audience members, participating via Zoom, will have the power to ‘croak’ off the act.
The brave hopefuls will appear from the club or from their homes via Zoom.
The flagship show Barrel of Laughs will also go online every Saturday to showcase the best of the country’s headline acts.
Comedian Jack Whitehall gave £6,000 to the Go Fund Me, and said on Twitter: “I started my career at this club, I wouldn’t be where I am without their support, government deemed it not “culturally significant”.
“I think a lot of people beg to differ.”
Among the many other comedians who rushed to the club’s rescue are the Last Leg’s Adam Hills, the acclaimed Richard Herring who used to stop by with his solo show each year at the club, and All Killa No Filla podcast legends and Frog regulars Kiri Pritchard McLean and Rachel Fairburn, and Peep Show’s Isy Suttie.
The club is credited with launching the careers of many other notable comedians.
It was the site of John Bishop’s first gig, and helped honed the skills of Johnny Vegas, Peter Kay and Sarah Millican. Caroline Aherne was a regular visitor back in the day and Steve Coogan played the club to warm up to his tour.
A full Spring programme of online solo shows is also being planned thanks to the new equipment.