The Oxfordshire Mind Comedy Gala is a partnership event run by Jericho Comedy to raise money for the local mental health charity. This year’s instalment is certainly not one to be missed and we got in touch with Alex Farrow, Director of Jericho Comedy, to find out more.
What have you got planned for the upcoming Comedy Gala?
The gala is jam-packed with our favourite acts. Hundreds perform with us over a year. So far, we have Rachel Parris, Chelsea Birkby, Daman Bamarah and many more to come. Well-known faces and the stars of tomorrow in two, fast-paced halves – I absolutely love it. It’s an electric atmosphere of people gathered for a good time and a good cause. Some acts will go deep into their own experiences of mental health, while others won’t. Either way, it's always thoughtful and always hilarious. I never know exactly what to expect.
Tell us about your partnership with Mind, where did it come from and why did you choose to fundraise for them?
Oxfordshire Mind does truly excellent work, whether that's providing somewhere for people in crisis, peer support, primary care and more. It's also just a lovely team, if there’s a cause you love I can’t encourage you enough to use your talent or knowledge to support it – you won't regret it.
How much have you guys raised to date?
Including the weekly shows and galas, it’s £100,000! We made 1000s of charity crackers one year with a Jericho Comedy joke in them, but my word, that took a long time.
Jericho Comedy has been taken to various venues over the years – some more bizarre than others in the wake of Covid – do you have a favourite?
The courtyard at Oxford Castle was perhaps the most beautiful, but teenagers kept climbing the mound and heckling. It meant that in between the acts I had to run up there and chase them away. It's exceptionally hard to remove people from the top of a medieval fortification; they see you coming and you’re very out of breath at the top – don’t let Normans plan your comedy venue.
What is the biggest obstacle you face when planning the Mind x Jericho Comedy Gala?
In the first year of the gala, the biggest challenge was finding a big enough venue as we quickly outsold our regular cafe space. We ran across five venues in one day to try and get a few hundred in. Comedy is all about timing, and that’s very hard to maintain when one of the acts has gone the wrong way down the canal. These days I stress most about what material to choose for my own set. I always hope to write the perfect set, packed with jokes but also saying something about mental health. This year I think I might do a set about yoghurt and depression.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from your work with Mind?
That there are people who care deeply about others who are suffering. When something doesn’t feel right, there are things we can do about it and there is somewhere and someone to help.
What is “Bifidus Digestivum?” You can't just take made-up words from the scientific community and apply them to the bacteria yoghurt. It’s live cultural appropriation.
Dream guest at the Comedy Gala?
Chelsea Birkby. She is thoughtful and hilarious and a real expert on therapy, philosophy, and Kim Kardashian. My favourite comedian. There is no one better for it.
What are you optimistic about for 2023?
If the pound can crash and keep on going, then there’s hope for us all.