“Blizzard comes around and I’m more determined with comedy than ever. ” | Jonny Collins reflects on Blizzard Comedy six months in

How do you feel Blizzard has gone over the past six months?

Honestly it’s gone far better than I could’ve hoped for. I was not expecting to be getting this level of community engagement this early on into the show’s life.

We’ve got a handful of dedicated regulars, and at the last two shows in particular loads of people who’ve been showing up last minute off the back of shout outs from Manchester Wire, Manchester Evening News, and Gullivers itself. Everyone from the acts, to the audience, to the people involved behind the scenes seems really enthusiastic about the existence and success of this night.

I’m so proud of myself and everyone else involved in the creation of Blizzard.

How was the most recent show?

Excellent. One of our lowest ticket pre-sales shows, yet one of our fullest and loveliest rooms! We had a superb line-up as always, that was only improved by the last minute special guest appearance of Kiri Pritchard-McLean, an act who’s been a mentor to me in a literal and metaphorical sense. Huge inspiration, and the fact that she approached me to do some new stuff at Blizzard is a huge indication at just how well this night’s reputation is spreading.

Has Blizzard gone the way you expected it to?

It feels so long ago, I can’t quite remember the way I expected it to go! I’d say no in the sense that it’s far more successful than I anticipated, but yes in that it is most of the things that I set it out to be.

My one goal that I feel I’m letting people down on is the diversity of line-ups. Even then people keep reminding me that even something as simple as having three women of different backgrounds on a line-up is far more than you see a lot of clubs making a conscious effort to do, and something we have done on multiple occasions. I’d like to push the POC and disabled representation more than we currently are, but I’m confident we’re at a good starting point and heading towards the right direction.

How has Blizzard changed since you first conceived of it?

Depends if you mean from the first actual night or from when I first formulated the idea for it. In case of the latter, the sticker system that I borrowed from Quantum Leopard was quite late in the development for it.

In terms of the structure of the night we’ve gone from six acts to five, with two short sets, two slightly longer and a headliner. I’m thinking of changing that again in the new year, but still in early days.

In terms of the core values though, they’ve been fairly constant throughout – safe space, anxiety friendly, free entry with optional donations, diverse mixture of acts and as accessible as possible. 

How have you changed as a performer since you started running Blizzard?

I’m a lot more confident riffing on stage. Having an audience like Blizzard who enable me to waffle about nonsense and politics helps me devise a lot. It lets me know that with the right crowd I can pull it off. It’s not something I always attempt at other gigs. But I used to be far more rigid in my sets and scripts, whereas now I’m less scared to go off script if the gig is going that way. 

What has been your favourite thing about running Blizzard?

The sheer number of acts I look up to who’ve expressed interest in doing my gig. I won’t spoil names here, but there’s been some really iconic names in the comedy circuit who’ve approached me asking to do Blizzard, despite its modest pay and small audience capacity.

Also seeing acts I already know and like smash Blizzard, and seeing how much their confidence soars. At the risk of sounding arrogant, we’ve had a number of acts who’ve been feeling disillusioned with comedy, but have a brilliant time at Blizzard and are visibly more motivated and excited about stand-up than ever before.

I won’t take full credit obviously, but it’s nice to play a part in that. I even get it with myself, I’ll be feeling low all week, then Blizzard comes around and I’m more determined with comedy than ever.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced running Blizzard?

I’m gonna be boring and say finances. We’re still not at the point we’re breaking even, and at times it is definitely a strain to keep putting the night on. However we do have several dedicated Patrons, as well as plenty of people who will chuck whatever they can afford at us on the way out of our gigs, so we’re not completely out of pocket.

It is true that we do have to make up the difference ourselves though, and if it wasn’t for the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve had from acts and audience alike, I probably would’ve given up by now.

Now? I’m gonna keep at it as long as people want to come. I’m more than happy to fund this night, I believe it’s a genuinely great addition to the comedy circuit, and I want it to exist. 

What has surprised you most about Blizzard?

I’m probably repeating myself here, but I’d say the thing that’s most surprised me is just how much the acts we book enjoy playing here and praise us. Obviously our main priority is to make sure the audience are safe and having a good time, but it’s nice when we can provide a space that comedians love to play as well.

It might sound silly, but comedy is emotionally draining work at times, especially the bigger clubs that actually help acts pay the bills. I’m really happy that we can both give acts a bit of cash for their time, and provide them a room they genuinely enjoy playing. 

What are your hopes for Blizzard in the future?

Increase venue size once we can afford to, and off the back of that increase our act budget. There’s so many great acts who’ve had to turn down Blizzard spots because they can’t justify the journey from wherever they’re based for the fee we can afford. So I’d like to be able to offer more to everyone.

Improving accessibility as well. We’ve been toying with ideas such as BSL interpreters at our shows, which is way out of our budget, but would be such an awesome thing to do to become even more inclusive.

Also I want to diversify the line-ups even more, which having a higher budget will make infinitely easier too.

Apart from that, I just want to carry on providing a great comedy night that makes everyone feel welcome and safe, and doesn’t punch down.

You can follow Jonny’s work by checking out their Facebook and Twitter.

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