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23rd Dec 2012 5:22pm | By Alasdair Morton
The Hebburn TV star and stand up comedian on how to read an audience, acting and working with Vic Reeves and Morgan Spurlock.
With TV stardom, sell-out shows around the UK and a Foster’s Award nom, has your year’s huge success surprised you?
It has come as a surprise. I talk about it in the new show, Feeling Lucky, I can’t believe people are coming out to listen to me chat shit. It’s hard getting used to being someone’s night out.
Where did the idea for this third solo show come from?
It’s about being lucky in doing this job, being lucky to be here, to exist. It is not as wet as it sounds, though! I take an idea Bill Bryson talks about in A Short History Of Nearly Everything,about how it’s a fluke we’re all here. I talk about that for four minutes and then my personal life.
You sold out your whole Edinburgh run...
Yeah, and I added four shows.
You didn’t suffer any ‘Olympics effect’?
No. All the comedians were going: “It’s a nightmare.” I had to go: “Yeah, real nightmare.”
What’s the luckiest thing in your life?
My best mate Jason Cook writing Hebburn – and me ending up landing the lead role. I heard about it the moment he decided to write a sitcom. A lot of his stand-up is personal stories, and he put them all into a sitcom years ago. Then he revised it and got some interest, then Baby Cow [production company] got involved, and then the BBC.
How were you cast?
It was nothing to do with being Jason’s friend, he said to Baby Cow he’d written his mate a part – I was supposed to be play the ‘best mate’. I went down to London to read for it and they said I should read for the lead so I did and I got it.
Yours is the non-comedy role, though...
My character, Jack, is the public’s view of [north east England town] Hebburn. In my stand up,I’m quite extravagant, always shouting and acting out stories, so it was nice to be able to sell things with a little look or a glance. The hardest thing was not laughing on set – Vic Reeves [who plays Jack’s father] is hilarious.
Kimberley Nixon plays your wife – what were her impressions of the north east?
I don’t know if she had any. She did wind me up a lot as I’d not acted before. I didn’t have a clue. People would say things and I’d go “What?” And she’d go, “God you’re an idiot!”
Would you like to do more acting?
I’d love to – stand-up is my main thing, but I would love to get into more of it. I would commit murder to be in Boardwalk Empire!
A very extreme audition...
Yeah, just go in and hold a knife to the director’s throat. I would commit terrible crimes just to wear those suits! I bought this tweed suit recently, it’s from Topman admittedly, but in my head, I look like Steve Buscemi.
How did you get involved with Morgan Spurlock’s New Britannia?
I am a fan of him from Supersize Me. It was me, Joe Calzaghe and Keith Allen talking about sport – Calzaghe being a boxer, Allen doing [football song] Vindaloo, and me as the intermediary as someone who’s not really a sports fan. It was about exploring the difference between the British and American attitudes toward sport.
You’re not a sports fan at all?
I used to love football when I was younger, but it’s so time consuming – a soapie and a sport. You have to revise so you know what’s going on.
You’ve been on Soccer AM before...
I got kicked off the last time. It was all very lighthearted: someone had sworn the week before, and I didn’t actually swear I just said something slightly rude. It will all be explained in my next solo show [it involved a horse, bumming and a dad].
How did you get started in stand-up?
Through my friend, Carl Hutchinson, who’s now my support act. We were friends from college, and he decided he was going to start doing stand-up, so I did too. Then it became a job before I knew it. I packed in university halfway through my third year and that was that.
What have you learned so far?
How to read an audience, how far to go with them, and when they’re getting restless. You need to structure it, like writing a short novel.
Who are your comedy idols?
Billy Connolly and Lee Evans. I was captivated by the idea that one man and a microphone can have a whole room hanging on their every word. My dream line-up would be Connolly, Evans, Jason Cook and Chris Rock – and I would get to be the host.
Chris Ramsey plays Bloomsbury Theatre.
Jan 11 & 12. £15 8pm WC1H 0AH thebloomsbury.com Tube: Euston Square