There’s a definite chill in the air as we head into Autumn but here’s a little something to warm your cockles. Here at Next-Up HQ we’re eager to put the ‘fun’ back into fund with our Comics’ bursary, an award of up to £3000 to designed to support and celebrate comics live work, be it in performing, writing, educating, touring, promoting, or producing live comedy. And we couldn’t be more chuffed that two of the recipients of our inaugural Comics’ Fund are comedians Ben Target and Pope Lonergan in aid of their Care Home Tour project and upcoming comedy benefit Forgetting But Not Forgotten. Taking place on Monday 2nd October at the Angel Comedy Club for the Alzheimer’s Society herald the launch of Ben and Pope’s wider project The Care Home Tour, aiming to bring comedy into the lives of people with dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society Benefit
Forgetting but not Forgotten, the Alzheimer’s Society Comedy Benefit, features award winners, cult favourites, and soon to be superstars including Nathan Cassidy, Robert Copland, Michael Wheeler, Kelly Convey, Lou Sanders, Robin Ince, Pope Lonergan, Pete Nash, Lauren Pattison, Michael Legge, Candy Gigi, Ben Target, Richard Gadd, Grainne Maguire, Lee Kern and Tom Ward. The benefit is on the 2nd October at the Bill Murray (39 Queens Head Street, London, N1 8NQ) – tickets are £10 and audiences can expect short sets of each of these acts’ greatest hits.
All proceeds from the night will go to the Alzheimer’s Society who are funding groundbreaking research into dementia care, cause, cure and prevention as well as campaigning for the rights of everyone affected by dementia.
The Care Home Tour
Ben Target and Pope Lonergan’s grand plan is to tour care homes with a troupe of clowns, absurdist comedians, prop comedians, and physical stand-up performers to entertain those afflicted with dementia. Confirmed acts for the tour include Phil Nichol and Adam Riches.
When asked about the project, Adam Riches said “Dementia has ravaged my family and continues to do so every day. With that in mind, I can’t think of anything I would rather do with my time or skill set than offer a little moment of humour and respite to those that truly need it the most. Eternal bravos for all involved.”
Ben and Pope also hope to immortalise the project in a documentary to alter people’s perspective on living with, or in proximity to, dementia. The documentary will explore the dark comedy of elderly care and the symbiosis of a) an illness that makes people live in a perpetual ‘now’ and b) the thrill-of-the-moment that makes stand-up a highly charged art form.
How did The Care Home Tour come about?
As well as being a freelance writer and stand-up comedian, Pope has spent five years as a care worker for people with dementia. He told us “There’s an inverse correlation between child development and the neurological deterioration of people with this diagnosis so, at a certain point, they respond to the kind of visual stimuli that children enjoy; conventional jokes become too complicated. There’s a deficit of comedy that’s suitable for this demographic so we wanted to change that.”
While Pope, as someone clued up about the science of dementia was very much the brainchild of the project, Ben Target also had a personal affiliation with the subject. He explains “I used to work in care homes as a teenager and it genuinely shocked me to witness so many people left in corners just to fall apart. Entertainment was just a television in a room.” So when, as one of the UK’s foremost physical comedians, Josie Long and Liam Williams recommended him to Pope as a perfect addition to the project, Ben was both “terrified and excited”.
Where Ben’s comedy style is expected to hit the right note, it’s Pope’s experience with this particular audience which will be invaluable. He tells us “I treat these people like extended family. I sense there’s a pervasive apathy towards the welfare of our elders, especially in Western society. They’re reduced to potted plants – make sure they’re watered; keep them out of direct sunlight. But they have rich interior lives and all the complexity of a young, vibrant person. Yes, dementia reduces the brain’s efficacy but it doesn’t inhibit feelings of pain or sorrow. It also doesn’t smother their ability to feel joy”.
The Care Home Tour will attempt to bring home a little bit of that joy, although Pope’s approach is somewhat pragmatic. “Look, I’m realistic; I’m not a sentimentalist. There’s not going to be uproarious laughter but that doesn’t mean they’re not stimulated; that they’re not enjoying the minor spectacle of Ben wearing a tiny hat”.
So while there’s certainly a niche element in the style comedy within the tour, what we can we expect from the benefit evening next month? Ben’s excitement is palpable: “Pope booked all these amazing acts… an epic 2 hours with all these legends doing their best stuff. It will be solid gold from a tonne of the best in Britain.” And what better way to honour those living with dementia than to embrace the present with the help of these fantastic comedians.
You can watch Discover Ben Target on NextUp for a flavour of his unique comedy.