Johnathan Zemlik

JOHNATHAN ZEMLIK tries out for the Virgin Smoker and realises that there’s a divide between northern and southern humour. The north is best of course.

Comedy Footlights greggs humour john bishop johnathan zemlik michael macintyre morcombe and wise north peter kay phoenix night's shameless Smoker south Stand Up steak bake virgin smoker

As I stood backstage at the Footlights Virgin Smoker, the main thing I thought was just how bloody nervous I was. But then looked around and realised that I’d be fine, I was surrounded by southern people. A wave of calm washed over me, not because I thought my comedy was necessarily better, but because I didn’t really have any competition.

Northern humour is a unique cultural treasure. Consider the greats, Morecombe and Wise, Peter Kay, John Bishop, Alan Bennett and the late great Sir Jimmy Saville. The south can’t compete.

Northern humour is more observational than its southern cousin, but what really makes it funny is how accurate the observations are. When I say: “Normanton is the kind of place where they have to put security tags on joints of meat,” it’s funny because it seems ridiculous, but it’s even funnier because it’s actually true.


When you watch things like Peter Kay’s Phoenix nights, what you see on screen isn’t that far off real life. Even the overstated Shameless works because its close to the bone. I can bet you most people from major northern cities will have been in the a situation that could be straight out of one of these shows, or at least know someone else who has.

The north is just a naturally funny place. I once walked down the high-street past a young woman and her daughter, probably about 6 or 7 and the mother yelled “Ey up our L’oreal, get back in your pushchair!”, to which the daughter replied “Bugger off mummy.”

Lets face it, if Allan Bennett can make Child-Molestation fairly humorous then we northerners must be doing something right. How can the south compete (you’ll probably natter on about the better quality of life and all that bollocks).

Those that do try to compete just take the northern outlook and use it down south. A great example is Michael McIntyre’s ‘man drawer’ joke.  This Middle England comic has taken the style to heart and created a successful hybrid universally humorous to the whole country. But when it comes down to it, it’s still northern comedy.


Southern humour, from what I’ve seen down here is very well planned and thought through. You can tell these people have put so much effort in, to their credit, and I would struggle in their shoes.

Does the fact I can just stand around and wait for something funny to happen mean I’m lazier than my southern counterparts? Probably, and I admit they are the more creative. But I still think the funniest material is that which is closest to every day life, the comedy of the ordinary.

So as advised last week, I’m off for a Steak Bake at Greggs Grafton to see if I can come across any comedy gold lurking right here in Cambridge.