by James D. Irwin
Almost exactly two years ago I accidentally founded a comedy night at The Railway Inn in Winchester. It ran monthly, and usually on a Thursday, to varying degrees of success. After I graduated the future of the event was in jeapordy, but the The Late Train keeps rolling under the stewardship of Brendan Way and Daniel Luxton.
Brendan and Daniel both performed at The Late Train under my reign of terror, and have also collaborated on a number of comedic endeavours. This month marks both their second show, and the second anniversary of The Late Train itself. To mark this momentous event I had a brief chat with my successors, to see if they’d run it into the ground yet.
The following interview took place in the plush surroundings of The Dirty Martini Gentleman’s Club in Soho. It was a dingy basement establishment, and there were an awful lot of girls present for a gentleman’s club. Even stranger, the bar did not serve martinis, dirty or otherwise…
The next show— October 28th— marks the second anniversary of The Late Train Comedy Night. Do you have any special plans? Perhaps a musical tribute to the founder of the event? A moving tribute in poetry… Irwin, we Hardly Knew Ye… anything like that?
DAN: The short answer is no.
BRENDAN: The long answer is also no.
IRWIN: I’m shocked and appalled… why not?!
DAN: Do we want to elaborate on that?
BRENDAN: Both the long and short answer to that question are no. How could we possibly elaborate?
DAN: We could explain the many reasons why such a tribute would be inadvisable.
BRENDAN: But then this interview would run on for far too long… If it helps, we are making the event somewhat different, but only by making it a Halloween special.
DAN: Thus, for one night only, we will be rebranding as The Ghost Train Comedy Night, thus inadvertently removing even the name from Monsieur Irwin’s time as host.
IRWIN: I think I’ve changed the name before, for themes. In fact I’m pretty sure I did ‘Ghost Train’ last year. I don’t really remember, but I approve anyway.
BRENDAN: If you want, James, we could combine the two events (Halloween and the anniversary) by doing a bit about you conquering your inner demons?
DAN: But, then again, we do have a commitment to honesty with our audience. It’d be like doing a bit about how successful the Spanish Armada was.
IRWIN: I always had a few more sheets to the wind than the Spanish Armada…
Who’s on the bill for what I think we can legitimately call the biggest night in show business?
BRENDAN: Well, to avoid any accusations of nepotism, Dan’s doing a spot. We’ve also got on some of the “old favourites” – not that they’re ancient. I just mean they were on during Irwin’s tenure as MC.
IRWIN: I’m glad to see you’re not stretching yourselves…
DAN: The “old favourites” category includes the witticisms of Charlie Hardie and Ralph Lee. Then we come to those who can’t be described as such, either because they’d never done the Late Train before our September show, or because I don’t like them.
BRENDAN: Presumably I come under the latter category… Uh, yeah, those acts beloved, if not by Dan, but by me, are Dom Lister, John Pendal, Angus Ryan (he’s a local lad), Antosh Wojcik (That looks difficult to pronounce, but believe me, it’s easy. It’s AN-TOSH), and a very special “adult” treat for this particular show…
DAN: Yes, this month’s headline act is burlesque act Cha Cha Boom Boom (her parents were evidently adamant about what line of work she would go into), an act apparently so risqué, we’ll have to send Brendan home for an early bedtime to protect his innocence.
BRENDAN: Incidentally, my parents called me Comedy Short-Arse but I changed it to the less obviously showbiz name of Brendan Way…
IRWIN: Wait, burlesque? This is what you’ve had to resort to in my absence, Cheap smut?! I’m shocked, and disgusted. Can you send me a tape of the show?
Can you believe it has lasted so long— two whole years? Most of that time I was running it, and I’m inept, disorganized and was, at the time, descending into alcoholism. It was only meant to a one-off event. It happened by accident— much like an illegitimate child raised by a bad single parent trying to keep it alive…
BRENDAN: Is this meant to be a question?
DAN: It’s difficult to tell. Nevertheless, were the Late Train a child, rest assured, it is one that has been through the care system, and is now
fostered by a pair of responsible adults.
BRENDAN: Who are they then? Oh, right, us.
IRWIN: The first bit is the question. The rest is just rambling. I don’t
get to talk to people much now university is over…
BRENDAN: I’m not sure if I’m surprised if the show has been going this
The show is in your hands now. How is the set up different to my era of gross negligence and mismanagement?
DAN: Well, it’s… erm… organised now? I think it helps that there’s two of us. Brendan makes sure we’re always doing something to prepare for the next show, and I make sure that the things we do will actually work.
BRENDAN: Hence he throws out half the stuff I come up with, but that’s probably for the best.
IRWIN: Organization is really what is needed. It’s no coincidence that the best shows in my era were the early ones were I wasn’t jaded, cynical, or alcohol dependent…
BRENDAN: We don’t get drunk beforehand. Not because we don’t want to, it’s just that we already know our in-between acts banter is going to be awkward, so at the very least, we shouldn’t make it slurred as well.
You’ve been involved really, since the beginning. How does hosting compare to performing? Which do you prefer?
DAN: I think this is aimed at you.
BRENDAN: Yeah. I first performed in the third show with a string of puns and a song about Christmas carol clichés. It wasn’t much but it sufficiently interested you, Irwin, to let me come do a gig with you in London. I prefer hosting to performing – I learnt stand up too much like a script for a play; I memorised it but would be thrown off if someone interrupted. Writers don’t tend to put in heckles into their piece!
DAN: I have observed that Brendan frequently seems bewildered and disorientated when an audience member does something unexpected such as, for instance, laugh. Of course, I have had a smattering of past experience with the Late Train: last November, I was aptly cast as Scrooge in Brendan’s comedy audio adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The majority of the cast were comprised of Late Train alumni, most of whom we haven’t seen hide nor hair of since. I now have the dual role of host and opening act since the relaunch. I think, overall, I prefer solo stand-up: there’s less of the element of panic that comes with making sure both Brendan and I get equal mic time as a double act.
BRENDAN: You worry about that? I worry more about whether we’re being funny. Screw us sharing the stage time – are we doing something intentionally hilarious?
DAN: I stopped worrying about that when I realised the answer was probably no.
IRWIN: In many ways there is less pressure hosting. You can spend as long or as little as you like talking. You can do short bits without having to have a seamless set. On the other hand if someone bombs it’s up to you to pick the audience up again…
BRENDAN: That’s why this time we’re actually going to plan some stuff to do. I’m not sure that will make it anymore comical, but it will mean we’ll know in advance what material we’re going to bomb with.
What has been your favourite moment, or highlight, in the last two years of The Late Train?
BRENDAN: The end of Irwin’s last show. NO, not like that- it finished with a storming musical tribute to the music of film composer, John Williams, courtesy of the university Barbershop group. It’s always good togo out on a musical finale. That’s why I finished all my stand up sets with a tune and also why I’ve been humming loudly whilst typing the answer to this last question.
IRWIN:I know what you mean… that was a really good show, a nice one to end on. And I was genuinely touched by you two doing a little tribute…
DAN: Did we? I think that was more Brendan giving you a little trophy. Anyway, I, too, would love musical finales- were it not for the fact that they cause Brendan to hum loudly while he’s typing. The highlight for me would have to be Brendan’s aforementioned Christmas Carol recording- it’s almost certainly the most complex thing that’s ever been attempted at the Late Train, and a dare from our past selves to do better.
BRENDAN: Really? Can’t we just double dare our past selves to top themselves? Not in the sense that they kill themselves thus making us fade out of existence like Marty McFly, but so that we, present us, don’t have to do anything and they, past us, do.
DAN: Remind me never to travel in a TARDIS with you. But really, every time we make an audience laugh, every time we bring a bit of joy into their lives, is a highlight in itself. And none of that would be possible without James D Irwin. There. Is that what you wanted us to say? Are you happy now? Will
you stop asking us all these questions?
IRWIN: Yes, and… (at this point the friendliness of the female staff became overwhelming, halting the interview for good and starting a frantic search for loose change…)
Dan and Brendan co-host The Late Train Comedy Night every last Sunday from 8 at the Railway in Winchester, except in December when, due to a Christmas miracle, the show will be on the 16th. Their latest show, The Ghost Train Comedy Night (AKA the Halloween/2nd anniversary special) is on this week on Sunday 28th. It has, and always will be, free to get in.