No laughing matter

Pain for a laugh: The eight set for stand-up
Pain for a laugh: The eight set for stand-up
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RICHARD Wright says he’s doing it because “I’m bloody daft”. Ian Horton agreed after “a moment of madness”. And Siobhan Newton admits feeling “a little – what’s the word? – terrified” now the day is almost here.

But it’s all for a good cause right, guys?

This trio of Sheffield’s top business leaders – and five more besides – are swapping city board meetings for the City Hall stage on Thursday.

The group – including the boss of Meadowhall, the director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, a bank manager and an education chief – are to become stand-up comics for a one-off gig. They will perform a 10-minute, self-penned routine. It will be in front of a 400-strong crowd.

“How do I feel?” ponders Richard, leader of the chamber of commerce. “Like whoever said laughter is good for you was an idiot. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more out my comfort zone. It’s the ultimate fear.”

Less ho ho. More oh no. So it seems.

And yet while all eight profess to the same stage dread – “fright isn’t strong enough,” notes Siobhan, of Sheffield Hallam University’s business school – they’re all determined the show will go on. If the audience laugh, that’s a bonus.

“It’s for a good cause after all,” winces Siobhan again.

That it is.

The idea behind Funny Business (geddit?) came from fundraisers at the city’s Wes-ton Park Hospital Cancer Charity.

They wanted to work closer with Sheffield’s business community and approached leading figures to put some ideas together. Someone somewhere along the line jokingly suggested those figures try their hand at comedy. Someone less jokingly said it was a good idea. Then things, as they do, took a momentum of their own.

The eight agreed for a variety of reasons.

Most thought going outside their comfort zone would be good for them.

One, Andy Hanselman who runs his own consultancy firm, was “volunteered before I knew it”. And Siobhan wanted in because a close friend passed away after suffering with cancer last year.

Now, for the last two months they’ve been perfecting their material at weekly training sessions with professional Anthony J Brown.

“They’re nervous,” says Tina Harrison, business development officer with the charity. “But they’ve all been great sports. They all speak as part of their jobs but this has really pushed them.

“I think they’re secretly looking forward to it, though. They’re actually very good. There’s some Morecambe and Wise there, some Eddie Izzard, some Michael McIntyre. It will be great.”

Yuri Matischen, managing director with MLS sport and leisure consultants, agrees.

“I think if it goes well it should be something they do every year,” he says, then thinks for a second. “But, obviously, not with me next time.”

Tickets £15 from Sheffield City Hall.

Laughing stock

The eight are Andy Hans-elman, of Andy Hanselman Consulting; Darren Pearce, director of Meadowhall; Richard Wright MBE, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce; Sue Bullivant, events manager with MLS sport and Leisure consultancy; Faith Douglas, NatWest branch manager; Siobhan Newton, Sheffield Hallam University business school liasons officer; Yuri Matischen, managing director with MLS; and Ian Horton, personal tax manager with Barber Harrison and Platt.