The Sanderson Tapes #4 (AUDIO)

A diverse young crowd laugh themselves silly at the Cumberland Arms, Byker, 1994.

By Ben Pensant

As anyone unlucky enough to have watched the recent special by transphobic US ‘funnyman’ Dave Chapel knows, stand-up comics are the most evil people on earth, especially self-hating black ones. From their fascistic belief that free speech means standing on a stage saying what the hell they like to their refusal to accept the scientific fact that jokes can kill, comedians have swiftly become one of the most toxic species on earth, alongside TERFS, white supremacists, and Jews.

But it wasn’t always this way. Indeed, there was once a time when the comedy scene was synonymous with social justice, dominated by decent left-wingers who attended CNN marches and adopted gay refugees instead of commentating on wrestling and demanding blow-jobs from teenagers. And it was during this halcyon period that legendary Tyneside-based socialist Bob Sanderson staged one of his most memorable nights ever: the Newcastle Branch of International Socialist’s 1994 open mic comedy night.

As with all of Bob’s ventures, the evening was beset with difficulties, faced with hostility from the same sinister forces that sabotaged earlier events such as the ill-fated 1987 garden party celebrating the Iranian Revolution’s ten-year anniversary, abandoned after it became apparent that right-wing agitators had infiltrated the festivities and kidnapped Bob’s special guest the Ayatollah Khomeany, replacing him with a crudely disguised waiter from the Star of Bengal. (Needless to say, rumours immediately circulated suggesting it was actually Bob who’d hired this ringer to impersonate the Leader Supreme, an idiotic allegation as everyone knows Bob refused to associate with the Indian community due to their enabling of the British Empire and insistence on stocking their myriad newsagents with multiple copies of The Scum and The Daily Heil.)

However, despite working overtime to combat such resistance, Bob stuck to his guns and pulled it off, a monumental feat considering his enemies had contrived to ensure none of the household names he’d booked to perform turned up. Not that that bothered those of us who witnessed the magical night, rewarded as we were for our patience and loyalty with stellar last-minute sets from Tufty off The Word and that Mac Fleetwood lookalike who used to chase crisp packets around Haymarket bus station.

Sadly, no recording of the show exists, denying us the chance to relive that dramatic moment when the audience learnt Mark Steele would not be appearing after being forced to exit his train at Doncaster to tend to an injured pigeon, only to see their disappointment evaporate as Bob gallantly jumped onstage to deliver an impromptu masterclass, wringing every last drop of comic potential from a thirty-minute lecture on the zany antics of the Canary Islands Independence Movement.

What we do have is the speech below which features his announcement of the line-up, a timeless relic made all the more poignant due to the fact that none of the comedians mentioned actually played. In many ways this spellbinding recording is almost as jaw-dropping as the night itself, not least because it shows Bob at his defiant best, taking no nonsense from the gaggle of self-hating, sozzled women in the audience who objected to the line-up’s perceived lack of female representation. Unfortunately, while he defeated these obnoxious harridans with his trademark wit, it was disputes such as this that led to the the oft-repeated accusation that Bob was a misogynist. Which, as those of us who knew the man will confirm, was utter nonsense. Bob didn’t hate women: he simply disliked women who thought they were cleverer than him. Which is perfectly understandable, considering his brain was roughly the size of Bolivia, and almost twice as beautiful.

Still, Bob had the last laugh, as you will too when you listen to this hilarious monologue, a dry run for his painfully hilarious, totally improvised set a week later. So press play, pour yourself a tofu smoothie, and transport yourself back to a rainswept summer night in 1994. A comedy assassin is about to load his fun gun and one of the bullets might just have your name on it…

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