When I went out for dinner in Belgrade, Serbia, a couple of months ago I had no idea that it would inspire a comedy night at the Hammersmith Apollo with some of the biggest names in comedy. I was just hoping to find somewhere that did a good steak.
As it happens I did find somewhere (lovely little place in a hipster ridden area by the riverbank) and on the way back to my delightful hotel I passed the biggest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen since the Second World War. Camped out on a dusty square outside a bus terminal were hundreds of Syrian refugees – just a tiny fraction of the thousands upon thousands of people who have been running for their lives since their country began to fall apart a few years ago.
I’ve been used to seeing these scenes of desperate families and their young children on the news ever since Bob Geldof pulled together a load of his famous mates in the 1980s and ruined every Christmas disco since with his ’Band Aid’ single. But, predictably, seeing something like this up close – all these people in their jeans, T shirts and trainers JUST LIKE ME, but living my worst nightmare – meant that once I got home I was bending the ear of anyone who would listen.
As a way of no doubt shutting me up and actually getting me to do something constructive about it all, my brother and Holly Walsh (who run the fantastic Happy Mondays comedy club in London together) suggested I ring up Greg Davies and get him to do a charity benefit there in December. Greg and I started out in comedy at the same time and did our first Edinburgh show together way back in… well, I’m not going to tell you, cos it makes me feel old.
Greg’s answer was “Sod that, let’s do the Hammersmith Apollo”. This is why he’s more rich and famous than me.
Within a week or two, like a 21st Century Bob Geldof but with better personal grooming skills, he’d rung round all his comedy mates and put together the best comedy bill I think I’ve ever seen, stuffed full of the most famous names on telly. We’ve decided that all the money raised should go to the UNHCR, who I saw doing great work providing tents, food and water to people in Belgrade, and Action Aid, who are helping to look after people in the refugee camps in the Middle East and the Greek Islands. If we sell all the tickets, we raise just over £50,000. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.
If you want to feel warm and fuzzy too, you can buy tickets here: