For those who enjoy chuckling uncontrollably, naturally excluding dangerous maniacs, Pembroke is an absolutely smashing place to be. A whole host of illustrious clowns used to call Pembroke home – Peter Cook; Eric Idle; two thirds of The Goodies; Clive James; not to mention Jonny Sweet, winner of 2009’s Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer. According to Tim Brooke-Taylor, even John Cleese “ate here most evenings”. For over half a century folk have flocked to the college to see funny people performing at our comedy nights (or “smokers”, as they tend be called, for reasons absolutely nobody is aware of).
For the last few years our calendar has kicked off with the Sticky Floor Smoker in the New Cellars, so-called because the floor of the Cellars is – as popular opinion apparently had it at some point – somewhat sticky. I don’t think it’s sticky at all. But putting that aside it’s always a rollicking fine evening, usually attended by goodly hordes of Freshers, where the University’s finest stand-ups and sketch acts share a bill with comedy debutants and home-grown Pembroke heroes. Meanwhile the infamous Pembroke Pantomime is getting underway, written, directed and produced entirely by first-years. It rounds off the term in traditional fashion with a fizz-banging festive hour of willy references, outrageous Peterhouse-baiting, and a mass-rendition of “I’m Loving Pembroke Instead”.
In Lent Term the big event is the Black Tie Smoker, a very swanky and rather well-dressed affair that takes place in the Old Library. Champagne and canapés on entrance; ambience courtesy of one of Pembroke’s resident harpists; all capped with a splendid evening of comedy, with a £50 prize for the audience’s favourite act. First come, first served! Easter Term is the time everybody is quailing in the looming shadow of their exams, but help is always at hand with the Golden Gods Smoker, where bleary-eyed students may drag their sorely aching brains away from revision for an hour or two to forget everything and drown their sorrows in a cracking night of stand-up comedy.
Many times throughout the year, Pembroke produces a vast variety of sketch shows in its inimitable New Cellars, written by talent from all across the university. Recent runaway successes such as Bafflesmash, Quinoa, Mavericks, Revelations, Babushka, Full Frontal Prudity and And Then There Were Nuns have established the Pembroke Players as the home of burgeoning sketch talent.