The man who brought comedy to Bristol – the story of the legendary Jesters Comedy Club is now told in a book
Back then, and we’re talking about the last years of the 20th century, the world of standing comedy was a very different place.
The old music halls and workers’ clubs that had produced generations of comedians had closed their doors, and no one outside London had “go to a comedy show” on their “to do when you” list. get out “.
The alternative comedy scene had pretty much gone straight from London’s Comedy Store to cult TV and radio shows, and the next generation of Cool Britannia comedians like Rob Newman and David Baddiel, for a time, threatened to doing stand up comedy something as big as rock and roll, but never really did.
So it was into that void that a surrey photocopier salesman came, who had no experience running a comedy club, and had almost literally attended a comedy show in London and thought ‘ it would work in Bristol ”.
Dragging his then partner and brother into his clearly insane project, they opened what was then Bristol’s first comedy club, as we would recognize today – Jesters, at Stokes Croft.
The jesters are long gone – later – but this corporate salesman David Trew is still here in Bristol, longer in the tooth after the roller coaster of the past 20 years, but still involved in comedy and the arts.
Few of us think our life story is worthy of writing a book, and even fewer of us are actually this egotistical in doing it, and even fewer of us are going to get it published properly.
But David Trew is one of those people – and in fact, he succeeds.
Remarkably, its history is so long that it is estimated that it forms not one, not even two, but three books, and the first is one of the many books on Bristol that have been published in the past year and a bit of the pandemic.
It only tells the first third of David’s story – from his student days, to his days as a business salesman, to the crazy idea he had to start a comedy club. 100 miles from where he lived then.
The club, despite some types of challenges that could have broken less determined or mad people, actually opened its doors and for years and years in the late 90s and 2000s was a huge success.
Many of the stellar comedy names that now form the establishment of television comedy shows – from Jimmy Carr and Peter Kay to Bill Bailey and Dara O’Briain – have performed in Jesters, and generations of hip Bristol young people have come together. will remember nibbling on a burger before seeing someone funny that you would see a few years later on prime-time TV.
This first book leaves us with the club a hit, but David’s life away from the club in tatters – setting up such a business shattered his relationship, and he ended up essentially regressing to the kind of lifestyle. he had as a student in Bristol – which he admits wasn’t a great look for a 30-year-old.
What happened to the Jesters in the late 2000s will no doubt be the subject of a second book in the future, but anyone around Stokes Croft at this time will know that David Trew is sort of a divisive figure. – same Marmite.
For when – spoiler alert – the Jesters moved, the building ended up being left empty, squatted and then taken over by Tesco, and was at the center of the infamous Stokes Croft riots of 2011. As a result, David Trew was not a popular person among some at Stokes Croft.
So there may be some in Bristol for whom reading a David Trew book is the last thing they want to do.
But for the rest, this book is surprisingly good. Trew’s writing style is natural and engaging, with just the right level of self-mockery to overcome the fact that he’s a man who has written and published his life story and considers it important enough. to write it in three parts.
Intrigued, but fearing to hate him, I absolutely adored him. His depictions of life in corporate sales were often very funny, and while you don’t find yourself particularly rooted initially for someone who leads the materialistic ’90s boy lifestyle, it’s fascinating nonetheless.
The explanation for turning a decrepit social club into a comedy hall is an interesting one, and after picking up the book hoping to read a few pages and getting tired of reading someone else’s life, I have hooked up and went all the way.
It was a roller coaster ride through the ups and downs, the fights, the brawls, the drugs and the parties, the fragile comedians and the booming egos, most notably that of Trew, which he bares in a open and honest account of a fascinating chapter in Bristol history. night life.
I didn’t expect to finish the first one, but maybe I could read the second book.
Jesters is available for purchase online here and at Waterstones.