Caro Meets Comedy Interview Festivals Interview

Bob Slayer: Grotto at The HoHo Theatre

By | Published on Monday 30 November 2015


Anyone who is a regular edfringe goer will have heard of Bob Slayer, who a few years back set up his Heroes strand, creating a pop up venue for the festival period and generating much anarchic comedy shenanigans as a result. He’s also taken the concept to other festivals, and last year, for the first time, staged a special Christmas version in London.
The Grotto at the HoHo Theatre is a 21 day feast of some of our favourite comedy acts – the likes of Boothby Graffoe, Tim FitzHigham, Nick Helm, Josie Long, and many many more – so I thought it was only morally correct to find out more.

CM: For those who don’t know yet, can you tell us what to expect from Grotto? And what have you got lined up this year?
BS: The cream of independent comedy coming together for 21-day pop-up festival in an empty city building. The Grotto at the HoHo Theatre is a subversive hole in the ground right under the Bank of England.

I have heard some people suggest that it’s a front, so we can dig a tunnel and steal the gold… maybe! Stewart Lee was once a miner after all…

Any gold that we liberate from banks will go to our chosen charities Shelter and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

CM: I know, obviously… but just in case anyone else doesn’t, what exactly is meant by ‘independent comedy’?
BS: Alternative has gone mainstream, observational comedy has a career plan. Too many young acts let themselves become little more than wage slaves to agents and producers in the desperate hope of touching fame… TV and clubs are full of interchangeable acts with interchangeable material… It’s all a long way away from the hopes and aspirations of late 80s comedy pioneers…

Independent Comedy is the acts bucking this trend with the belief that creativity is king. Independent of mind, Independent of spirit… Funny for no other reason than it is what they have to do…

CM: This is the second year, isn’t it? How did it all begin? Who came up with the idea? Who is involved in the organisation of it?
BS: The roots of the Grotto are in the Edinburgh Fringe, where, in order to find a freedom in what has increasingly descended into an industry trade fest, we set up our own pop-up bar and venue in an empty shop. It was quite the success, and then an old school friend of mine, Paul Davies, who works in property, found this amazing empty building next to the Bank of England… And now we do it together along with lots of help from Adam Larter of Weirdos, Tom and Jack from Laugh Out London and lots of other acts and helpers. Its a collective of collectives!

CM: Tell us about the space – what’s it like?
BS: It’s incredible. A warren of forgotten rooms under the fancy Drapers’ Hall. It was once the flagship Restaurant of J Lyons and co. Maggie Thatcher worked there as a food scientist, and invented Mr Whippy ice-cream… you might just see her on the SantaGeddon Ghost Tours of the building on Sun 13th…

CM: Is Grotto something you hope will become a regular institution?
BS: I think it already has! Try and stop us!

CM: Is there anything about this year’s line up that you are especially looking forward to?
BS: Weirdos’ Alternative Panto has been the absolute highlight of my year for the last three years. This is the core of the Grotto. If you haven’t seen it before then you must. If you have, well then, you already know this! The last night, on Friday 11 Dec, is already sold out. Make sure you make one of the other dates!

CM: Do you like Christmas? How do you celebrate it (other than by doing this)?
BS: I love every day…! How do I celebrate? As pagan as hell itself!

CM: Which would you prefer, a chocolate advent calendar, or an old fashioned picture one with glitter on?
BS: I’m not bothered, but either way I will open all the doors on day one.

CM: What’s coming up for you in the new year?
BS: It’s all about the BlundaBus… my mobile venue on a double decker bus…

Grotto @ The HoHo Theatre kicks off on 1 Dec and runs through until 21 Dec. You can find the line-up here and you can buy tickets here.

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