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Comics come together for a cause

REMEMBERED: Felix Dexter

LET’S be honest: Curtis Walker and Jack Dee isn’t a comedy pairing you’d expect to see on the same bill. But – for want of a less cliché expression – black and white will indeed unite on February 9, in honour of the late, great comedian Felix Dexter.

Following his death last October, it soon became apparent that the Real McCoy comic, who was so loved and revered within the black comedy circuit, was equally respected within the British mainstream comedy scene.

With tributes pouring in from fellow entertainers including Paul Whitehouse, Simon Pegg, Judith Jacob and Eddie Nestor – and with a BBC tribute documentary featuring contributions from equally varied comics – it was clear that the St. Kitts-born performer had found favour amongst comics and audiences of all races.

As Leo Muhammad told The Voice following Dexter’s passing: “There’s no question that Felix managed to bridge the gap between the black and white comedy circuits. He was accepted on both sides.”

Now, his wide appeal will be celebrated as comics including John Simmit, Alan Carr, Felicity Ethnic, Jo Brand, Eddie Kadi, Dara O Briain and many more come together for Stand Up For The Felix Dexter Foundation; an exciting comedy event that will raise funds for Dexter’s newly formed charitable organisation.

“Felix's will provided for the setting up of a fund to help educate children in the UK and St Kitts who come from underprivileged backgrounds,” says Keith Palmer, who organised Stand Up For The Felix Dexter Foundation in conjunction with celebrated UK theatre director Paulette Randall.

“Being born and raised in St Kitts in the West Indies, coming to Britain when he was seven years old, this was particularly important to him as his mother sacrificed her own education to ensure he had the best she could give him.


TAKING THE STAGE: Curtis Walker

“The newly formed Felix Dexter Foundation has these educational aims at the forefront, as well as supporting other causes in the UK and worldwide, which support cancer and sickle cell research, organ donation and the personal development and social welfare of individuals including the legal and entertainment professions, which were so close to his heart.”

The foundation has big aims. But so did Dexter. Before his career in entertainment, he studied law. His legal background would prove invaluable when he embarked upon his comedy career, enabling him to create Real McCoy characters like Douglas, the posh lawyer who sought to remain connected with the black community.

His other standout characters included Nathaniel the Nigerian cab driver who was “studying to be an accountant”; Samuel, the miserable London Underground ticket collector; and angry pastor Brother Jeffers, who urged his flock to “mash up Lucifer”, whilst struggling with his own sexual desires!

Outside the black comedy circuit, Dexter found fame in TV shows including Absolutely Fabulous, Bellamy’s People and Citizen Khan, and also showed off his theatrical prowess performing a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company and starring alongside Christian Slater in the West End production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in 2006.


ON THE BILL: Jocelyn Jee Esien will perform at Stand Up For The Felix Dexter Foundation

But while Dexter was successful in performing to all audiences, were there any reservations about Stand Up For The Felix Dexter Foundation, which brings together hugely varied comics and, as such, hugely varied audiences?

“This show echoes the breadth of Felix Dexter's comedy appeal,” says Palmer, founder of The Comedy School, of which Dexter was an associate and patron.

“He made people laugh regardless of their background. He was fearless and he really understood the power of comedy and how it can be a unifying force.

“Like Felix, I'm absolutely certain the audience will appreciate this unique evening of diverse comedy from such a high calibre of comedians.”

Dexter died aged 52 following a battle with multiple myeloma, a form of bone marrow cancer. Considering his own memories of the comic, who he knew for over 25 years, Palmer says: “He was a wonderful, much loved, talented and articulate comedian who died tragically young. I have so many happy memories of working with Felix over the years; it was his ability to make people stop and think that brought him so many fans, and this show is our chance to show him just how universally admired he was.

“Additionally, through his Foundation he will continue to reach out to so many people. He has left an extraordinary legacy.”

Stand Up For The Felix Dexter Foundation takes place at the Eventim Apollo (formerly Hammersmith Apollo), Queen Caroline Street, London W6 on February 9. For more information visit www.eventimapollo.com

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