I first performed at The Cookie in 2010 as part of the Leicester Comedy Festival. Andy Leitch, event manager for the festival (now a top agent with Off The Kerb who represent Michael McIntyre and Lee Evans) recommended The Cookie to me as the best place for me to do my story-telling stand-up show Schooldays. He told me Greg Davies had enjoyed a wonderful time there and that is recommendation enough for me. Sure enough, it was a joyous experience and, as such, I am returning to The Cookie this year with my new show How A Middle Class Feminist Fell In Love With Danny Dyer.
Exclusively For The Demon, I spoke with the unstoppable and inspirational Antony Hopkins, owner of the Cookie and the man behind Leicester’s finest comedy gem.
James Mullinger: When did The Cookie open and what was your main hope for the venue?
Antony Hopkins: The Cookie first opened its doors to the public in June 2005. We opened our doors as a coffee and sandwich bar, located on the first floor of what was Dominoes toy store. Their wasn’t an initial thought about being a venue, rather we were purely focused on meeting the needs of Dominoes’ customers, with tea coffee and sandwiches.
James Mullinger: When did you first get involved in comedy and how did it come about?
Antony Hopkins: We expanded The Cookie onto the ground floor in August 2008, and it was at this point that we started to entertain the idea of putting on a little comedy and music. In 2009, we approached Adnan of Bottle Rocket Comedy, who passed us onto Andy Leitch, who was the then Event Manager for Leicester Comedy Festival. Andy helped us initially set up an open mic night which was the foundation block for what we have today.
James Mullinger: Who was the first comedian to play The Cookie?
Antony Hopkins: The first comedians at the cookie were pretty much amateurs comedians, generally those looking for 5-10 mins slots. Our first real comedian of note I suppose would be Joe Lycett who came to us as part of The Leicester Comedy Festival in 2010. I’m not so sure he was a full time comedian then, but certainly in July of the same year we had Greg Davies who was already on the way to becoming a big star.
James Mullinger: What are your most memorable comedy gigs at The Cookie
Antony Hopkins: My most memorable gigs at the cookie were 3 consecutive shows by Paul Foot during the Leicester Comedy Festival in 2011. Each night was funnier than the last with the shows just going longer and longer as Paul kept adding stuff in. His final night lasted 1hour and 50 minutes, and was probably the funniest night of comedy I have ever seen. His ability to take 40 mins to walk 10 metres to get on stage whilst have everyone in stitches was, for me, pure brilliance and i think it was then that I fell in love with alternative comedy.
James Mullinger: Why do you think comedians love playing The Cookie so much?
Antony Hopkins: I think we have built up a very good reputation with comedians over the years for several reason really. Our integrity as a promoter and a venue has helped us to secure top quality acts through an honest and personable approach that makes everyone who play the cookie feel at home. We have always taken a down to earth approach and we have always looked after everyone who has walked through the door no matter their level.
James Mullinger: What is the secret to the success of The Cookie.
Antony Hopkins: I don’t really know why we are so successful, if indeed we are. We have always remained vehemently independent and we respect everyone that walks through the door, be they a paying customer or a performer. Without either, the cookie wouldn’t exist!
James Mullinger: Why do you think the Leicester Comedy Festival has become so popular with comedy fans and comedians alike?
Antony Hopkins: I personally think the success of Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival has come about for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s the first major festival of the season, secondly I see it as the launch of the Edinburgh run in and finally it is a festival that is very friendly and doesn’t take itself too seriously. You are more likely to see a Work in Progress than a fully fashioned tour show, although I have definitely seen a rise in enquiries to book tour shows for the festival. Ultimately the festival is a spring board for established, as well as emerging, acts to develop their material in a super-friendly environment.
James Mullinger: Which is your personal favourite act that has played The Cookie and why?
Antony Hopkins: It is hard to say what my personal favourite act has been at the cookie given that there has been so many fantastic artists and shows here. However i am a sucker for silly alternative slapstick humour so i would say my favourite act would be John Kearns’ and his Edinburgh winning show ‘Sight gags for Perverts’. I have been fortunate enough to watch John develop over the past three years and have nothing but admiration for his craft.
James Mullinger: If you could pick one comic to come and play who hasn’t yet, who would it be?
Antony Hopkins: Johnny Vegas
James Mullinger: What are your tips for the fest this year?
Antony Hopkins: As there are so many good comedians heading to the cookie during the festival, it would be unfair to single any individual act/show out. It’s fair to say though we have a brilliant line-up this year featuring Edinburgh Best Show nominee Carl Donnelly through to Best Newcomer nominees, Romesh Ranganathan & Aisling Bea as well as the winner John Kearns. With nutty shenanigans from the excellent Paul Currie to new and emerging acts such as Angela Barnes, one thing for sure is that our line-up this year will be as good as anything we’ve had to date.
Visit http://www.thecookieleicester.co.uk for more information
James Mullinger guest edits a special issue of The Demon for Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival. Pick up your 48 page copy from Thursday 6th February. For more information follow us on twitter @thedemonpaper or alternatively contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Mullinger’s gig see below: