Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Stuart Goldsmith: An Hour, on tour

By | Published on Thursday 14 April 2016


Stuart Goldsmith – comedian, podcaster, former street performer – first came to our attention, as many comedy acts do, with his Edinburgh Festival shows. He’s impressed our reviewers, and everyone else’s, too, with his clever, well constructed comedy sets, and built a devoted following for his podcast interviews.
Next week, he heads to the Soho Theatre for two dates of his first ever UK tour. I put some questions to Stuart, to find out more about this show, and his career in general.

CM: Tell us about ‘An Hour’ – is it simply sixty minutes of comedy, or does it have a theme?
SG: On the surface it’s a load of unconnected jokes about Wagamama, dementia, marathon-runners and Jack Reacher. It’s an attempt to write a show without a theme for once, just sixty mins of pure stand-up. That’s not easy for me, because as much as I enjoy writing jokes, I’m obsessed with meaning and themes and metaphor. Do I succeed? If you’re guessing “no” you’re in the right ballpark.

CM: You’re well known for your appearances in Edinburgh, and this is your fifth hour long show, but you’ve only just embarked on a first UK tour – why haven’t you done it before?
SG: If you want to cultivate your own audience you normally have to have some TV appearances behind you. The fickle finger of fate has only just started tickling that particular lobe, so I’ve been managing instead to get in touch with the thousands of people that listen to my podcast, and wrangle them into a tour-able national audience.

CM: How are you enjoying the touring? Does the time away from home take its toll?
SG: It’s effing marvellous, thanks! Though yes, it’s tough being away from home, especially with a tiny baby there, but even when I get home after four nights away, it’s not like the little turncoat seems to care or even notice. It’ll change I’m sure, as he gradually comes to understand who’s paying his bills and consequently might deserve the luxury of some eye contact (to be fair he’s only ten weeks old).

CM: Can you tell us about your podcast? What do you aim to achieve with it?
SG: I have some really intense conversations with fellow comedians about their creative process. I record it and release one a week online; it’s called ‘The Comedian’s Comedian Podcast’, and it’s been downloaded nearly five million times. People like Jimmy Carr and Matt Lucas and Sarah Millican all share the secrets of exactly how they take an idea to bits and find the funny, and how they supercharge their creativity. I’ve released about 165 episodes. I get some real vulnerability out of my guests, and discover a lot of stuff they never share in more promotional interviews, like when we spent twenty minutes on Jimmy’s specific approach to dealing with hecklers…

CM: Shall we go back to the beginning for a moment, now? Can you tell us what inspired you to become a comedian? Did you always want to be a performer?
SG: I always wanted to be a performer of some sort, ever since at about eleven it seemed to offer me a way out of the uniform lifestyle imposed by my school. I felt like I had something to offer that couldn’t be added up on paper. I was always too scared to be a proper comedian, and instead fell into street-performing, at first with a juggling double-act and later with a solo tightrope routine, which were both just excuses to be funny. I was inspired by Lenny Henry and Eddie Izzard, and loads of obscure or international acts that I used to watch on Channel Four’s ‘Just For Laughs’ coverage. Looking back now, I wish I’d started comedy ten years earlier, so I could now grumble on Facebook about how there’s no money left in it.

CM: Who were your influences to begin with? Who or what influences you now?
SG: When I started comedy I was obsessed with Simon Munnery and can still quote vast swathes of his act. It took me a long time to realise mine was nothing like his style nor would it ever be. Nowadays I really enjoy watching comics like Maria Bamford, Patton Oswalt and Bill Burr, who focus less on jokes but more on the detailed reality of their lives and emotions. Bamford’s stuff on mental health is extraordinary.

CM: As you have said, you were a street performer at one time, weren’t you? Can you tell us more about what you did? Which is better, performing inside, or out there?
SG: I used to get ten guys from the crowd to do a tug-o-war with a rope, and then walk on it and balance in the middle and eat a bag of crisps. I was pretty funny. Came third in the world championships in fact, largely coz it was a public vote and I convinced the crowds it would be funny to annoy the high-skill acts by having me beat them. I was right on both counts!

I miss street-performing; there’s something really magical about creating a show from thin air using only your will and your wits, plus the community I was part of was really strong. But although it has a much gentler rebellious frisson, and you have to work at making it sociable, stand-up gives me the opportunity to be constantly creating, to be minting new jokes where none existed before, and that is enormously addictive. Even when I’m miserably banging my head against a blank page, which I’m doing about 90% of my writing time…

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
SG: In a creative life you always have to be calling it ‘day one’. When I first became professional it was Day One, when I started writing solo hours it was Day One. Now that I’m touring for the first time it’s a big fat Day One all over again. I’d like the circuit to become something I can drop into if and when I want, but I really want to spend the next ten years touring and writing and building my audience. Knowing a crowd of a hundred are all there to see specifically me; it’s like coming full-circle with the street-shows. Will and wits, guile and courage, gig, gig, gig, gig, gig.

Stuart Goldsmith performs ‘An Hour’ at Soho Theatre from 21-23 Apr. See the venue website here to book your tickets.

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Photo: Nick Gast