What Do Johnny Vegas, Ricky Gervais, Ross Nobel and Stewart Lee Really Think of Just The Tonic Owner Darrel Martin?

Interview: LeftLion
Thursday 03 October 2019
reading time: min, words

Nottingham’s longest-running comedy club Just the Tonic is back with a brand new residency at Metronome. To celebrate, we’ve delved deep into the LeftLion archives to let owner Darrell Martin know what some of Britain’s most famous comedians really think of him and his club...


Johnny Vegas
“Lots of my favourite stories are from gigs that’ve happened in Nottingham. Once I arrived really late and they had to close the venue, so we all went into the car park at the back instead and I ended up auctioning off everything from my bag – toiletries and all that. Then there was a night where I was singing in a wheelie bin, being passed around the tables like pass the parcel. When I’d stop, the table would win a round of drinks. I think it’s a sign of a really good comedy club when you don’t have to do your greatest hits, but can go and play about instead.” - Issue #26, December 2009

Darrell: There were lots of drunken nights with Johnny when he was on. He’s probably one of the funniest comedians I’ve ever booked. We had some incredibly stupid nights; he just created so much mayhem. There must be hundreds of people in Nottingham who have amazing memories of those nights, and probably remember a lot more than I do.

Ross Noble
“I used to come up and play Just the Tonic for years, and I still come up whenever I can. It’s a really well run club. I do the odd secret, unannounced gig if I’m about to go on tour or whatever. I used to perform and compère there quite a bit – it’s partly to do with the Nottingham audiences and partly the club itself, but I always have a really good time. There’s a real die-hard comedy scene in Nottingham and a lot of top comedy fans who just appreciate something a bit different. Plus there’s a Nando’s within walking distance.” - Issue #60, August 2014 (LeftLion Issue #60)

Darrell: Ross did ten minutes for us when he was really new – he was only about sixteen, and dressed in a shiny silver suit. I didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest, so I just let him do what he wanted. I didn’t know that an opening act was only meant to do five minutes, but Ross would open with forty minutes of amazing, off-the-cuff improvisation. One night he cut an audience member’s hair on stage because he had a mullet. I think we gave them £100. You couldn’t get away with that now.

Stewart Lee
“This is the kind of man he is: my dad used to be obsessed with boiled sweets – he died recently and I picked up some of his stuff from his brothers. There were loads and loads of packets of sweets – I put them in the glove compartment of the car and thought ‘As I eat those, I’ll think of my dad’.
I gave Darrell a lift up to Nottingham from London. In the glove compartment of my Mini were a load of boiled sweets. At one point I got out to get petrol. A few days later, I noticed that all the packets of sweets had gone except for one. I asked Darrell about it and he said it wasn’t anything to do with him. Then that guy he works with said that Darrell had stolen them all and they were all in his office and that he used to sit and laugh about how he’d got all these sweets off me.” - Issue #37, October 2010

Darrell: Yeah, that didn’t happen. It made me laugh though.

Ricky Gervais
“Darrell Martin is a cheeky cunt. The first time I met him, he invited me to play his club in Nottingham. The second time I met him I didn't recognise him. I thought he was a homeless drunk who'd just started talking to me at the bar. The third time I met him he asked me to do a 1700-seater venue in the West End and let him keep the box office money to start a new club. I said, ‘Yes, of course.’ Why wouldn't I? He's a man I'd met twice. The tickets sold out in a few hours and he immediately called me to say we could put the next night on sale too. I said, ‘Yeah. Sure.’
The first night, the car he'd said he'd sent for me didn't turn up. I just jumped in a black cab. Only eight quid. The two nights were a huge success and I think he made about eighty grand. I hear the club is doing well. He occasionally texts me to invite me to play there. I usually say I'm busy but the truth is I'm worried it will cost me too much money.
The last text I got he asked me to do some press or write a little article about him. I said no. Yes, he gave me my first gig. Yes, he's got a nice, friendly hobo face. And, yes, he's a funny guy and a great promoter. But enough is enough. Cheeky cunt.” September 2010, never published.

Darrell: That’s pretty much all true.

Darrel on: JTT’s new venue
Metronome is perfect for a comedy club; it’s a good location, it’s got great equipment, and I think it will really take us up a level. I feel like we’ve found a decent home that will help us grow. I love the fact that it’s unique to Nottingham and not a chain, and everyone seems to like it.

Just the Tonic, Metronome, Marco Island, Huntingdon Street, NG1 1AP

Just The Tonic website

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