Young guns of stand-up take the mic

Julian Hall, The Independent May 27th, 2005


James Campbell, the world’s only publicly declared stand-up comedian for children, scores another “tweenie” first when he opens the doors of his comedy club for children next weekend. The club will feature regular performers on the adult comedy circuit, while spots of three to five minutes will be filled by children aged seven to 13, whom Campbell coaches at the club venue, the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark.

James Campbell, the world’s only publicly declared stand-up comedian for children, scores another “tweenie” first when he opens the doors of his comedy club for children next weekend. The club will feature regular performers on the adult comedy circuit, while spots of three to five minutes will be filled by children aged seven to 13, whom Campbell coaches at the club venue, the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark.

Campbell, 33, has been performing unpatronising but child-friendly stand-up for 10 years. During that time, he has invited other comedians to do five minutes in front of his family audiences. Among them was Boothby Graffoe, whose surreal flights of fancy and bittersweet songs sit well with the younger generation. Graffoe, the opening act at the new club, has visited the classes taken by Campbell. “They were very funny, the kids I saw – I’ve taken a couple of lines from them. There wasn’t a single playground joke; it was all personal experience and inbuilt surrealism. There was a joke about fish and how they seldom commit suicide because no one understands their notes.”

Campbell believes that children like the same things as adults in comedy, citing Little Britain. Of course, there is the need to keep things clean, and not just for reasons of taste. “I tend to avoid double entendre” Campbell says. “I hate it when kids look at their parents for an explanation and they get that ‘tell you when you’re older’ look.”

But there are no limits to the calibre or type of act Campbell wants to attract. The experienced stand-up Stewart Lee, co-creator of Jerry Springer – The Opera, is apparently keen to take on the challenge, despite admitting there was no prospect more terrifying, nor one he was less equipped for.

There could be even more surprising acts in store. “I’d like to ask Jerry Sadowitz,” says Campbell, in all seriousness. “Wouldn’t that be great?”

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