Interviews

“I genuinely believe we need nights like ours more than ever.” | Jonny Collins reflects on eight months of Blizzard Comedy

How well do you feel Blizzard has achieved the goals you’ve set out for it so far?

50/50. Certain aspects of it have far exceeded what I could’ve hoped, yet there’s still areas that I feel we could do more with. I don’t think our line-ups are always as diverse as they could be – POC representation in particular is something we’re severely lacking in.

But in terms of the overall vibe and feel of the show it’s pretty much everything I wanted and more. As Blizzard favourite Tony Wright said to me “It’s more than a gig, it’s a community” And that is exactly what I wanted out of Blizzard. We’ve got things to improve on certainly, but for a gig that isn’t even a year old yet, I think we’re doing great.

Is there anything you want to focus on going forward to better meet the targets you set when the show first launched?

My priorities are to keep line-ups varied and improve our aims of diverse representation and visibility – both in terms of our acts and our audiences. I’m also constantly looking for ways to make our night more accessible both in terms of physical disabilities and mental health & anxiety friendly.

I think in particular I want to really push the content warning system, as there’s been a few instances recently where we’ve fallen short and neglected to pick up on certain jokes/routines that could really have done with a content warning.

How has Blizzard changed over the past 8 months?

I’ve certainly become significantly more politically charged since recent events – and I think that’s been reflected through Blizzard. Let’s be fair, things weren’t great politically in April 2019, but they’ve gotten so much worse over the last 8 months. I want Blizzard to not be an escape from that necessarily – but to be a hub for us to meet, exchange ideas, get political anguish off our collective chests, and I guess a place for us to regroup after all the shit that’s going on in the world.

I genuinely believe we need nights like ours more than ever.

In a world where the country cares more about “making Britain great again” than they do fighting poverty and injustice, having a night that shamelessly aims to help the community at large and platforms marginalised voices is a radical act, and invaluable to the fight against the rise of fascism. 

How has Blizzard changed you as a performer over the past 8 months?

Blizzard has given me a space to truly be myself on stage without feeling the need to play things up or pander towards an audience who isn’t as clued in on gender and sexuality as the Blizzard crowd is. So it’s given me far higher standards for my audiences!

When I’m gigging outside of Blizzard I now find myself not pandering to the straight men in the room like they’re clueless babies, and instead just continue being aggressively myself whether they like it or not. 

I don’t get booked for many other gigs these days.

How do you feel about the recent Best Comedy Club nomination from City Life Manchester?

Utterly gobsmacked, was not expecting this at all! I’m immensely grateful to everyone who’s nominated and voted for us so far. Awards are arbitrary overall, but knowing that we’ve had enough of an impact on people to go out of their way to nominate us for this really demonstrates how quickly we’ve achieved a base for what we want Blizzard to be.

The last thing I wanted Blizzard to be was just another comedy club – and the fact that less than a year in we got nominated alongside some of the most iconic and long-running clubs and nights in the city (including a couple of personal favourites of mine outside of Blizzard) really demonstrates the impact we have had in such a short space of time.

I don’t think we’re likely to win the award against some of those contenders, XS Malarkey has been around almost as long as I’ve been alive! But just the nomination alone illustrates that what we’re doing is being noticed and loved, and that’s keeping me motivated and inspired for the future of Blizzard.

You can check out all the nominees and vote for your favourite comedy club in Manchester here.

What are your hopes/plans for Blizzard in the future?

I want to really expand on the community and social sides of our night. So we will continue doing collections for Coffee4Craig, and also find some other worthwhile local charities to help out. Maybe set up a mutual aid network between fans and the team so we can help those financially struggling directly with money or services. Maybe organize more social events that aren’t just in the pub? I don’t know, I’m full of ideas and some of them might not be great – but I definitely know I want to continue putting stuff into the community. 

What’s the next big milestone you’re hoping the show will meet?

Breaking even? We got really close for the last couple of shows! And if we can get a more steady flow of finances coming in we can up the act fees even more and open up opportunities for non North-West based acts to perform for us without being tremendously out of pocket due to the joys of a privatised rail network. If we keep getting turnouts like we did in December and everyone is just as generous then this is a very plausible milestone.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get into comedy?
I’m barely in it myself at this point! If it wasn’t for Blizzard I probably would’ve done like 10 gigs this year if that. And that’s okay, I’m happy with where I am in comedy.

I guess my advice isn’t really related to what the best method is to get into comedy or how you should approach things – it’s just to not have unrealistic expectations and pressure on yourself as a comedian. Comedy should be fun, it is fun.

When I was travelling around to do open mics and gong shows, about 70-80% of the gigs I did made me miserable, and I wasn’t even really getting anything out of it. Sure, the 20% that were good were great, and made it worthwhile – but one day I just thought, what’s the point in doing the gigs that don’t make me happy? So I stopped.

From a career point of view that’s maybe not the best advice, ‘cause the best paying gigs are often the worst organized and worst crowds. But from a mental health and artistic point of view, I think it’s really important to remember that comedy should be fun. Don’t ruin that by putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. It’s fine to have goals and aspirations of course, but I’ve watched comedy ruin people I love from the inside – that’s ludicrous, that should not be a thing. 

Don’t let that put you off doing comedy. Comedy is one of the greatest pleasures I’ve ever known and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. But whether you go into comedy as a career, or just a hobby – remember that it’s supposed to be fun. Don’t let it get the better of you.


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

You can help to support Blizzard by coming to a show or inviting your friends. We also accept donations via PayPal and anyone who wants to offer ongoing support can visit our Patreon page.

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