A COMEDY club which started as an excuse to see friends is still going strong 20 years on.

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Paul B Edwards organised his first Lastminutecomedy Club in Hitchin in March 1993 under a rather selfish premise.

“I wanted to hang about with my mates in Hitchin as I was on the road all the time – that’s how it started,” said Paul, who has hosted all but four shows in two decades.

After starting out at The Sun Hotel, the club moved to Woodside Hall 18 months later – where it has remained ever since.

Some top stars of the comedy world have performed at the monthly gig, including Graham Norton, Jimmy Carr and Simon Pegg, as well as current comedy darling Stewart Lee.

On the back of its success, the club now holds shows in Letchworth GC and Baldock, held on consecutive nights after the Hitchin gig.

About its longevity, Paul said: “The club is unique in the country in that everyone feels like they’ve got a part ownership in it.

“To me the Hitchin audiences are the best in the UK. There’s always an amazing crowd and with the show itself I always have the best two acts I can get. We had Graham Norton and Al Murray at the same time, Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran. All the big TV names have been here at some point.”

Paul said the club has become famous for the Breachwood Green song, which he sings at the start of the second half of every show.

“It’s been up and down, from 25 people to 200, but we’re still here,” he added.

“It’s been an honour to perform in Comet country for the last two decades.”

The anniversary gig at Woodside Hall next Friday, March 8, sees Simon Munnery headlining.

He has performed in the guise of a number of different characters through the years, from the act that brought him into the public eye – Alan Parker, The Urban Warrior – to the cult hit The League Against Tedium, but straight stand-up is on the cards this time.

The opening act on the night will be carrying on a Lastminutecomedy tradition of giving up-and-coming acts a chance.

Pete Beckley will be performing after winning the club’s 2012 New Comedian Of The Year competition. Both acts will be joined by compere Paul.

The trio will then do it all over again the following night at Letchworth Arts Centre in The Arcade.

The gig on Saturday, March 9, also marks another milestone as the Letchworth GC show celebrates its fifth anniversary.

Rounding the weekend off will be the latest comedy club fixture in Baldock on Sunday, March 10.

This time Paul will be joined by Carey Marx and Ria Lina, as well as two as yet unnamed new comedians, at The Orange Tree pub in Norton Road.

Doors open for all three gigs at 7.30pm ahead of an 8.30pm start.

Tickets for the Hitchin and Letchworth GC shows are £10 or £8 for members, with advanced booking available for the latter at Letchworth Arts Centre by calling 01462 670788 between 10am and 3pm Monday-Friday or online via www.letchwortharts.org

Tickets for the Baldock show cost £8 or £6 for members on the door.

For more information about the club visit www.lastminutecomedy.com

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