THE month-long Sheffield comedy festival gets underway next week with some old school talent in the shape of Mick Miller and Jimmy Cricket.
But in recent years the pair who both honed their craft as Bluecoats at Pontins back in the day have found themselves rubbing shoulders with the new breed of stand-ups.
Mick Miller, who will be seen alongside Johnny Vegas and Josh Widdicombe on Channel 4’s Comedy World Cup on Saturday says: “The modern comics have taken to me and others like Roy Walker and Jimmy and the fact that we’ve been accepted is a great honour.”
There is more lot stand-up comedy on TV now compared with the old days. “People are a lot more open minded nowadays so you can get away with a lot more and with all of the shows on telly you get greater exposure,” he says.
“You have to be ready to change it for whatever audience you are playing to,” he agrees. “I’m doing a weekly summer season at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool and the other afternoon I stood in for Duggie Brown in a little show in New Brighton. When I got there I discovered it was an old time music hall which was a bit of a surprise with a chairman in the corner and all that. But in the end it was absolutely fabulous, it was going back to the old days for me.”
So what sort of an audience are they getting on the current tour? “It’s a mixture – some of the Ideal crowd, others who saw me at the Royal Command Performance last year (where he did his famous drunk Noddy storyteller routine) and some from the old days.”
The Liverpool-born comic with the bald pate and long side hair was a regular on The Comedians in the Seventies until he signed up for the Kings of Comedy show made by Big Brother producers Endemol which put old and new-style comedians together in a house.
”That’s what got me started again, working with Andrew Maxwell,” he says.
That gave him the confidence to enter the world of the young comedians. Another landmark was getting the part of Johnny Vegas’s dad in the BBC3 sitcom Ideal.
Mick Miller has performed in Sheffield many times. He remembers supporting Tony Christie at the Fiesta nightclub and before that was a regular on the working men’s circuit.
“I was paid off a couple of times, I can tell you. ‘We won’t be needing you for the second slot,’ they told me,” he laughs.
But the biggest crowd he played to was at Bramall Lane – in Tony Currie’s testimonial in 1986. “ Before being a comic I was a professional footballer, a goalkeeper on Port Vale’s books and I was in the England youth squad for a time,” he explains.
“Even so it was something to find myself lining up alongside people like George Best and Billy Bremner. And Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott. I didn’t know who he was and I was getting changed next to him and I asked who he played for. He said he was in a band. ‘Oh, a local band?’, I said.’ Yes you could say that,’ he said. I asked if he was getting much work and he said they were doing OK, playing in Europe. I said, ‘what, American army bases?’ When they told me later who he was, I was mortified.”
He has just produced an autobiography called From Goals to Gags recounting all the ups and downs.
Mick Miller and Jimmy Cricket are at the Memorial Hall on Tuesday.
•The Last Laugh Sheffield Comedy Festival hits its stride the following weekend with twice nightly shows at the Lescar and the Greystones in addition to the regular comedy club in the Memorial Hall.
Some star names will be appearing over October at the bigger venues, the Motorpoint Arena, the City Hall and the Lyceum. They include Dara O Briain, Jack Dee, Mark Thomas, Michael McIntyre, John Bishop, Alan Davies, Julian Clary, Kevin Bridges and Russell Kane.
New this year will be the First Laugh children’s comedy section which includes a Kid’s Comedy Course over half-term with James Cook and shows geared towards youngsters by Howard Read of Little Howard fame, Danny Pensive, Martin Mor and Steve Royle.
l The full programme is on www.lastlaughcomedyfestival.com