|Q&A About my career|
Q&A About my career
WHEN AND WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST GIG?
I don't know the exact date but my first gig was at the Barley Mow pub in Gateshead (it's not there any more) in February 1993. The compere that night was Eric Scarboro (who is now a wrestling commentator), Stefan Peddie (who is now about 25 stone), Ross Noble (who is now famous) and the headliner was Tony Mendoza (who is now dead). It's fair to say we've all gone in different directions since that night!!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOKE YOU EVER UTTERED ON STAGE?
I honestly can't remember that sorry.
WERE YOU VERY GOOD AT FIRST?
No, I was pretty awful. If you go to the Chortle.co.uk then you'll find that there are those out there that think I'm still pretty awful. I was terrible for the first eighteen months and then I got ever so slowly better. I became at best mediocre in about 1997 when I went professional. Anyone who is quite good when they start either stays quite good or is actually stealing material from professional comics which used to happen all the time when I started.
DID YOU HAVE A PLACE IN NEWCASTLE OR NEARBY WHERE YOU USED TO PLAY A LOT?
At first we all used to play The Crack Club which was a comedy night in The Cumberland Arms in Byker. I'd say I did that from about 1993-1996. Hardly anyone used to turn up but when it was good it was terrific. In 1993 my mate Eric Scarboro (see above) used to run a gig in The Barley Mow in Gateshead called Reckless Eric's. It ran for about 6 months. I compered that a few times. After that nothing really happened for me locally until The Hyena Cafe opened in 1997. They needed comics three times a week and seeing as Ross Noble, John Fothergill and Dave Johns were spending most of their time in London, they needed a Geordie to do the compering. I used to compere the whole weekend every six weeks or so and that's where I started to build up a small following.
WHAT ABOUT COMPETITIONS, DID YOU TAKE PART IN THEM?
Oh yes and I had a pretty piss poor record in all of them. I went out in the heats of the Hackney Empire comedy competition in about 1995. I got to the final of The Ha Bloody Ha competition in Hanwell. I met Ian Moore (top circuit comic) for the first time that night and got on well with him from there on in. The winner that night was Marcus Brigstocke and apparently Rob Brydon was on as well but to be honest I can't remember him on the night. 'Comedy Genius' Harry Denford was also on the bill and I think came second, I wasn't placed. The competition I remember best though was 'So You Think You're Funny' in Edinburgh in 1995. I went out in the heat but the winner was an unkown act called Johnny Vegas who, when being told he'd won the heat ran round the audatorium screaming like he'd just won a six horse accumulator at William Hill's. He was mental in the dressing room, he never stopped talking, I thought 'What a prick, he'll never make it", you can't always be spot on can you!!
WHAT OTHER NOW FAMOUS PEOPLE DID YOU KNOW THEN?
Obviously Ross and Johnny, and also I did used to bump in to Jo Brand and Alan Davies at the comedy cafe every couple of weeks. To be fair, I didn't really know them but that's where everyone used to go for a drink after they'd done their gig in London that night. Everyone who was anyone (is that the right way round?) was there because there was no circuit as such outside of London in the mid ninetees. It soon changed though.
Two or three big things changed the course of everything. At the time the circuit (even though it was good, better than now I'd say) was dominated by smart arsed middle class people from the south of England doing material about the London underground, mini cabs, Kebab vans, the homeless and Australians always working behind the bar in pubs amongst other banal subjects. For every Harry Hill there was a prick doing rubbish one liners. There was loads of posh kids who thought they were Eddy Izzard and all the Northerners (who lived in London) would just come out with crap cliches about how the North is more friendly and less pretentious than London. Meanwhile cities like Newcastle, Glasgow and particularly Manchester were quietly building up an arsenal of comics who were knocking out their own style and quietly getting better in their own clubs.
WHICH COMIC DID EVERYONE LOOK UP TO IN THEM DAYS?
It was definitely Sean Lock. It still is actually, but back then he was largely unknown apart from other comics and a few anoraks who were way ahead of the pack. Nobody thought he would ever make it. People thought of him as too much of a comedian's comedian.
WHAT MEMORABLE ROUTINES DID YOU HAVE BACK THEN?
All I did in those days was rant a lot and get it over with as quick as I could but then in the late ninetees I learned to enjoy my time on stage and take my time. It helped as well because I had purchased a ukelele and decided to write a couple of comedy songs which went well. One was called 'Student Blues' and the other one was called 'I'm a Pervert' which I used to do at the end of my routine. It was suitably gross and shocking that at least it would get me noticed and I would tend to be booked back in places. The trouble was those songs coupled with drinking and shagging stories meant that although I was good, I tended to be more suitable towards the laddie end of the market and my more surreal stuff about Ice Cream Vans and Tom and Jerry would be forgotten. People used to book me and say "You must end with the pervert song" so it was self perpetuating. Later I wrote 'Buggered up the Arse When I Was in Prison', which made matters worse. People would sometimes walk out when they heard that one. It's weird it seems so tame now.
I WAS GOING TO ASK, WHY A UKELELE?
Simply because it was easier to carry than a guitar when I was flying all over the U.K. every day on the National Express coach service or on British Rail if I was getting more money.
WAS ANYONE ELSE PLAYING UKELELE ON THE COMEDY CIRCUIT?
The only one I know of was an act called Mary Unfaithfull (play on words, not mine, don't shoot the fuckin messenger) who was someone who did pastiches of other songs and a lot of NOT stolen material to boot. So no one as far as I'm aware was doing original ukelele songs at the time.
HOW BIG WAS YOUR FOLLOWING IN THE LATE NINETEES?
It's all very relative. People would mistake other acts who looked like me for me (does that make sense). The trouble with being a regular at the Hyena was that people were always quite pissed when they saw you so in one sense it was difficult for people to remember who you were but in the other sense it was great because you didn't have to change your material every five minutes.
DID YOU HAVE AN AGENT IN THE EARLY DAYS?
I was desperate to have an agent in the very early days as I thought it signified how well you were doing, oh how little I knew in those naive times! After a couple of offers and after I'd asked someone but they refused to take me on, I eventually went with an agent based in Hammersmith in London. I signed with her at the end of 1997 and stayed with her for just over two years. I did tend to get a lot of work myself and by this time was getting a lot of work from Off The Kerb (my current agents). They were ringing me directly which was hugely pissing off my agent at the time. It all seemed to come together in those two years between 1998 and 2000 in terms of bookings and in retrespect I don't think I needed an agent but I could be wrong, maybe it did open a few doors.
HOW DID TELEVISION PEOPLE GET INTERESTED?
Funnilly enough it was my first agent who got me my TV break because she asked me to do a gig in London for £30 on a Wednesday night. The place was called The Orangee Boom and it was right in the middle of the west end near Leicester Square. It was a crap gig, there was 11 people there and I walked away thoroughly pissed off with the world. Little did I know (about 3 years later to be exact) that in the audience was a bloke called Ian Morris who was a big mover and shaker at Channel 4 and he told me that he wanted to use me on stuff as soon as he could. I don't know what that tale tells you about life but I suppose it tells you something.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST TELLY YOU DID?
I did a sketch on The Eleven O Clock Show on Channel 4 but it was never shown (I still got paid for it though), but the first telly I ever did that was broadcast was The Stand Up Show on BBC1. It was the last ever stand up show and I was on with Kitty Flanagan and Sean Lock. If you ever dig out that particular episode do watch it if only for Sean Lock who starts pissing about at the end of his set and it somehow makes the final edit. It was on in January 2002 and I bought the christmas Radio Times just to see my name on it (the show broadcast on the 2nd of January or something). It was on at about ten to one in the morning and I just got back in time from a gig to see it on the telly. My Dad stayed up all night apparently so he could watch it and to set the video for my mam to see the next morning.
DID YOU GET STOPPED IN THE STREET?
No, not on that particular occasion
WAS THAT IT FOR A WHILE?
No, far from it. I had done a pilot in 2001 called 'Keith Knows That'. It was a try out panel show made by Talkback. I went down to Teddington Studios for the day and got well paid and put up in a hotel. I was on the show with Daisy Donovan (who I'd already met on The Eleven O Clock Show, Simon Evans (another great circuit comic) Rhys Thomas and Ricky Gervais. I'd met Ricky once before at the Brighton festival and so I felt quite comfortable because he did seem like a top bloke. Anyway the show went alright not brilliant and afterwards Ricky Gervais said to me that he would recommend me for this show because he didn't want to do it if it went to a series because he had a big sitcom coming up that he and his mate had written and that it was going to be great. So many morons come up to you in this business and tell you that what they're writing now is as revolutionary as the Marx brothers but typical of my coincidental life, it rang true. There is no bigger fan of The Office as me. This is ironic as well not only because of what Ricky said but the fact that I used to do gigs with Mackenzie Crook and I was not a fan of his character pieces to say the least and when Martin Freeman did the first show on 'Does Doug Know' he was easily the worst out of the lot of us and got black balled straight away.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THOSE FAMOUS PEOPLE YOU WORKED WITH, DO YOU THINK 'THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME'?
Yes I do, but when I look at all the people that I worked with who are now plasters or work in mobile phone shops or are signing on, I think 'Thank fuck that isn't me'!
DOES DOUG KNOW WAS ON CHANNEL 4 RIGHT?
It was on at 10:30 on a Friday night straight after Big Brother so it was a big audience puller at the time.
ARE YOU PROUD OF IT NOW?
I was proud of getting on mainstream telly after Nine years of hard graft. I was also proud of getting in to the pchyce of the top brass at Channel 4 while living in Newcastle and not in London. The whole London set involves constantly going to the right parties, associating with the right people, kissing arse and sucking cock and generally being Jimmy Carr. But I wasn't playing. Next morning after doing the show, I was on the train home or going off somewhere else to do a gig. Sometimes I would be off doing a gig the same night. I would often watch myself in the dressing room of the gig I was at that night.
I'm not proud of the show though, I thought Tony Law was brilliant but most people were just treading water, the most influential of which coming out ok in the edit.
WERE YOU STOPPED IN THE STREET FOR THAT ONE?
Oh yes! But it was always cocks or studenty people who looked and sounded like members of Mcfly. It got right on my tits.
WHAT TELLY HAVE YOU ENJOYED THE MOST?
That's easy, it's The Regionnairres which you would have only seen if you were living in the Tyne Tees area at the time.
WHAT WAS THE REGIONNAIRES?
It was a regional panel show presented by Simon Donald (from the Viz comic). I was one of the team captains. What we did was get asked questions about the region and there was a clips round, a round where there was a bit of a survey like eg. How many people in Bedlington would recognise a Bedlington Terrier, a special guest where we had to find out who someone was by just getting yes and no answers and a quick fire round at the end. The real bit of magic was persuading great guests to come up and do it. We had Sid Waddell (the darts commentator), Malcolm Macdonald the football legend, Marcus Bentley (the bloke who does the voice over on Big Brother) and Bob Johnson they Tyne Tees weatherman amongst others. It was great fun and the techies and ground staff at Tyne Tees were a great laugh as well.
WHAT WAS THE LAST TELLY YOU DID?
I did late night comedy blue on The Paramount channel recently but to be honest I didn't even see it. Before that I did The Comedy Store on Paramount. I'm becoming the Paramount king at the moment. I don't do just any telly. I'm more proud of the fact that I've never done any of those awful "Do you remember 1987" or "I Love Last Week" kind of shows. The dreadful Gina Yashere seems to be on every single one of those shows, as well as a host of other no marks that claim to distinctly remember what colour shoes the bloke from Eurasure was wearing on Top of the Pops that night 18 years ago, when in reality, they've just seen the clip a second ago. Doing a crappy show like that is just as much selling your soul as doing an advert despite what Bill Hicks said.