North East Connected

Captain Comedy Sails Away With Award

A professional Master Mariner has turned into a Jolly Roger after winning a competition for budding comedy sketch writers.


Captain Michael Nicholson’s sketch about a wine vintner from Alnwick impressed the judges at the final of the Sketch for Sammy competition for new comedy writers.


Now, his winning sketch will be shown to 10,000 people in The Sunday for Sammy  shows on Februray 18th at Newcastle Metro Radio Arena.

Mike and the other short listed writers, Stephen Blakeney, Thomas McDonald and last year’s winner Kevin Wilkinson all benefited from mentoring sessions with comedy writer Ed Waugh to help them polish the scripts before seeing their sketches performed by a professional cast from the Laffalang Gang in front of an enthusiastic and supportive audience at The Stand Newcastle.    

A panel of celebrity judges composed of comedian Jason Cook,musicians Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell together with award winning director Geoff Wonfor were unanimous in choosing “The Alnwick Vintner” as the winner of the 2017 Phil Richardson Comedy Award.

Comedy writing is a far cry from Mike’s day job as a Marine Consultant. The former Port of Tyne Harbour Master who lives in Chester-Le- Street had done the occasional after dinner speech in the past but this was his first attempt at writing a sketch.

“My experiences at sea have widened my horizons and I can usually see the funny side of things in most situations. Writing comedy however was all new to me and I was grateful for the help I was given by Ed Waugh and the superb interpretation given by the Laffalang Gang.”

Fed up of school, Mike ran away to sea at 17, joining the Merchant Navy as an apprentice navigator. He rose through the ranks and was given his first command of the “Kingsnorth Fisher” in 1990 at the ripe old age of 29. Coming ashore after 15 years at sea he became a pilot on the river Humber and latterly Harbour Master at the Port of Tyne.

Two years ago Mike started up his own company “Shipmove”, as a freelance marine consultant. In this role, he Pilots ships at Blyth & Seaham, moves barges on the Tyne, drives the River Escapes Party Boats, and performs safety and quality audits. He is also a Younger Brethren of Newcastle Trinity House.

Sunday for Sammy Show producer Ray Laidlaw said, ‘A Sketch for Sammy is another innovative creative project supported by the Sunday for Sammy Trust.  This is only made possible by the fantastic support of the people of the North East who pack out our shows and buy our DVD’s. I’m sure Mike will be very proud when he sees his sketch being performed in front of 10,000 people in February.”’

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