Monkey Barrel Comedy Celebrates 5th Birthday

Ben Verth reflects on Monkey Barrel Comedy's anniversary

Feature by Ben Venables | 25 Jan 2016
  • Ben Verth

If you've ever heard laughs across Grassmarket, it's more than likely come from the Beehive Inn. Up in the pub's attic is one of Edinburgh's finest comedy showcases which has a line-up of new and established comedians every weekend. And this weekend, Monkey Barrel Comedy celebrated its fifth birthday with two sell-out shows.

It was a proud moment for founder Ben Verth and the anniversary marks another milestone in his continuing contribution to Scottish comedy. Back in 2006, Verth was co-founder of the Edinburgh Revue – its second ever president – and since that time he's never looked back. He not only created Monkey Barrel but also the Scottish Comedy Festival, also at the Beehive and also celebrating its fifth birthday this year, which is something of an alternative to the Fringe.

Catching up with Verth, he considers those early days in the Revue were vital to him now: "I didn't fully appreciate it then, but looking back it was the best time of my life, writing, putting on shows, spending time with incredibly talented and funny people..."

"That schooling in the gig management which I had with the Revue was a pretty essential base for running Monkey Barrel and also for the Scottish Comedy Festival which we started in 2012. I started Monkey Barrel originally as a way to just get more stage time for myself, but it's become huge over the past five years."

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Although Verth is keen to stress it is very much a group effort: "As much work as I do, the club couldn't be the success it is without the Monkey Barrel team – namely venue captain Chris Griffin, co-producer John Millar and our resident host Rick Molland, who more than anyone provides the anarchic and spirited personality of the gig. They're all invaluable and the spoils are equally theirs."

And although running the gig means Verth sometimes finds himself "weeping over spreadsheets and emails," all the work pays off, especially as the anniversary seemed to mean as much to the audience as it did to the night's founder: "We had a lot of loyal and returning custom for the weekend, with lots of folk coming up to us after and telling us that they'd made a point of coming the birthday shows and how chuffed they were that we were going from strength to strength. That means a lot. We've created something that our audience as well as ourselves take a great pride and ownership in. Here's to five more years. And 10! And 20!"