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TV fuels boom in live gigs.

THE megabucks earned by comics who make it onto national TV is driving the huge growth of live comedy in the region.

Performers who started out on the fringe have made mainstream millions, with stars such as Graham Norton and Paul Merton household names.

Old school comedians such as Peter Kay and Michael McIntyre now sell out huge arenas after getting their television breaks.

"There's been a big surge in comedy on the TV," says Spiky Mike. "That's fed into the live comedy scene, and they feed each other. The bigger the scene, the more good acts will be produced.

"It has snowballed. People have started realising it's a great night out and good value. More and more people have latched on to that.

"Now we're in harsh economic times people need to cheer up, so having some comedians to make them happy is handy.

"Even if comics 'die' on stage, they make people feel that at least they've not got it so bad!" Mike's own career as a standup has taken a backseat as he runs his 30 venues by himself, as well as compering most of his shows.

And he says the secret of his success has been creating a friendly heckler-free enviroment for performers.

"You have to try to create a friendly atmosphere and encourage people not to be idiots," Mike explains.

"I like the idea of small, friendly clubs. I'm not a fan of theatre comedy. Small 100-seat rooms have the best atmosphere and a more personal feel.

"Bigger than about 150 and you lose that. I think theatre comedy is like watching it on the TV.

"I saw a gig advertised the other day called 'Hecklers'. Well, if you do that, you reap what you sow.

"But if you tell people that they're going to be seeing new acts who are scared enough as it is wihout being heckled, you generally get a friendly atmosphere with nice people. I've had my fair share of people joining in but never much genuine heckling." He thinks the days of acts constantly being berated by the audience is a thing of the past.

"It's one of those great myths of stand-up that people get heckled all the time. It can be funny but it disturbs the flow of somebody telling a story."
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 15, 2012
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