22nd January 2018 // Interview // Comedy
I think it’s fair to say Stuart Goldsmith is obsessed with comedy. The Bristol-born stand-up is a student of the form, and via his The Comedian’s Comedian podcasts, he examines every aspect drawing on experiences from interviews with literally hundreds of comedians including such comedic heavyweights as Stewart Lee, Russell Brand and Jimmy Carr. From these interviews, the fruits of his learning are put into practice in his own routines, which is anecdotal and personal, sometimes surreal humour which resonates universally with the Everyman; his stories are all situations we can relate to. His delivery is quite manic and accessible and he comes across as a thoroughly likeable chap you’d probably like to go out for a pint with. You can guarantee the conversation would be a quick-fire succession of hilarious observations, as his minute eye for detail and razor-sharp wit would make for great company.
I interviewed Stuart ahead of his forthcoming Like I Mean It show, which will take place at Früit on 21st February, to find out what makes him tick.
‘Like I Mean It.’ Your new stand-up show has been getting rave reviews, what can we expect from the show?
‘It's my favourite show from the last 7 I've written. Big, funny, personal stories about life and parenthood, but loads of silly jokes too about mythical creatures and David Attenborough. Also, it's got an incredibly good bit about a frog in the middle.’
That has me sold already. It sounds positively Izzard-esque. Stuart has recently become a dad and got married, and being a parent of a young child myself, I’m interested to hear his comedic take on the parental minefield, it’s sure to be something we can all identify with, and who doesn’t love David Attenborough and make-believe creatures?
Getting married and having a baby will have provided you with a lot of new material. I know from writing about my family, it can be a tricky thing to pull off. Is your wife ok with being the source of your comedy?
‘Well, we were once talking about a couple of friends of ours who were both comics and who split up. I said unthinkingly "god that'd be awful wouldn't it, imagine going out with someone who did material about you onstage!? Ohhhhhh god... Sorry!" It literally hadn't occurred to me to see it from her point of view! But having said that, I think she really enjoys my work and is my fiercest critic as well as my biggest champion.’
I used to write about my mother-in-law, but had to hide it from my wife. It was just observational stuff, as she was from a different culture. There was no malice intended, it was just culture-clash stuff, but I didn’t want her to think I was poking fun at her mum. I did feel bad, so I can understand the tightrope you have to walk along when the object of your material is family. He’s a brave man.
Your comedy is quite personal. Is it cathartic to bare your soul every evening?
‘Absolutely. I can't help but write shows about what I’m going through at the time - and looking back on each show they do generally seem to solve the problems they're secretly (or openly) about. I wrote an accidental trilogy about wanting a baby, and then having a baby, and then coping with having a baby. It's hardly "cosmic ordering" like Noel Edmonds does with biro and dark magic, but I just can't help my preoccupations seeping through into the material. This year's show has got a lot of resentment about the price of blueberries in it, and my wife's fixation with buying them for a child who just smooshes them in his fist while staring at me.’
Myself and a few friends are also convinced that Noel Edmonds is a demonic presence, so I’m drawn to his way of thinking here too. The more he says, the more it resonates with me, and I’d love to hear more of his take on the darkness of the existence of Edmonds; he’s ripe for a good old verbal kicking. I’d pay good money to see an hour’s worth of Edmonds character assassination. There’s just something off about the perma-youthful light entertainment staple, it’s like he’s done a Robert Johnson at the crossroads. My kid also smashes blueberries for fun.
I already know the answer to the next question, but I want to explore his reasons.
Would you say you’re obsessed with comedy? Why this art form and not, say music or theatre?
‘Yeah, I'm probably guilty of that. I do like music, although I'm picky. Theatre I love when it's brilliant, but that seems to be about 1% of the time. I just find comedy to be so thrilling; my happiest memories of being a kid are about making my brother laugh ‘til he snorted his Ribena, and him doing the same to me. Going onstage tonight and gigging is really just that experience writ large. Plus, the idea of minting a fresh joke from thin air is absolutely exhilarating. To take two concepts and smash them together to create something surprising yet satisfying is a pseudo-magical experience.’
We all like to make people laugh. We all like laughing ourselves. To spend time in a person’s company when the pair of you are just pissing yourselves with laughter is a biblical experience. It’s intoxicating. For his podcast, he must have been in a constant state of hysterics. It must be an amazing experience.
In your Comedian’s Comedian podcasts, you’ve interviewed a lot of comedians. Which would you say was the most fascinating?
‘I could have spoken to American comic (and one of my heroes) Patton Oswalt all day and all night, but to be honest it's the humanity I find fascinating - asking some of the most socially powerful people in the world to make themselves vulnerable for me and my listeners, it's really addictive! Barry Cryer is a personal hero and an elder statesman of comedy, and Reginald D Hunter is a flawed genius who turned it up to 11 in about 5 seconds!’
I like the musical analogy of ‘turning it up to 11,’ and when applied to comedy, it makes perfect sense. There are those who are fascinating, but who has him pissing himself with laughter?
Who’s the absolute funniest comedian in your opinion?
‘Mat Ewins. He's a little-known and completely self-sabotaging UK comic who works with video and special effects. I sit down to watch him, start crying with laughter, and keep crying with laughter.’
I check him out on YouTube, and he is indeed extremely funny, a standout line was ‘Who’s that guy out of X-Men? Wolverine. Imagine being fisted by him,’ which has me almost crying with laughter. Also, the fact that the Queen hates children because the NSPCC is not endorsed by the royal family has me in stitches.
They say you should never meet your heroes, but Stuart does this on a regular basis, but he’s diplomatically not naming names, and answers in a typically self-deprecating manner.
Were there any who were huge disappointments, or just didn’t live up to expectation?
‘Whenever any guest "disappoints" me, it's always my fault. You can't blame someone else for not opening up in the way you wanted. But there have been one or two heroes who ended up being quite different to how I’d imagined them. But if you're going to meet your heroes, that's the risk!’
He’s interviewed a lot of comedians in his quest, I ask if there are any left he’d relish meeting.
Are there any comedians you’ve not met yet who are on your Bucket List?
‘Absolutely, my all-time comedy hero is Jackie Chan. You might not think of him as a comic, but his creativity and timing are incredible. I also love Chris Rock, that'd be a fascinating interview. But there are hundreds.’
Having lived in China for ten years, I totally get the Jackie Chan adulation. As well as his Hollywood career, he’s done hundreds of Chinese-language films which are massively celebrated over there. He’s a versatile actor, but his comedic brilliance is indisputable. He’s probably the most famous celebrity in China still, and rightly so, and he’s much-loved for exporting the culture around the globe. Chris Rock, also, is absolutely manic and hilarious, but the two are at entirely opposite ends of the comedy spectrum, I’d say.
Stuart’s performed the length and breadth of Britain, as well as around the world. I wonder where he loves playing the most.
Where’s the best place to perform your shows in terms of reception?
‘I love the Edinburgh Festival - I've been going there since I was a teenager so it's always got a special place in my heart. Estonia is an awesome place to gig, they're so switched on. And I bloody love New Zealand audiences; I'd move there if 30 friends and family agreed to come with me.’
I have to ask him about Hull, where he’s played before.
Are you looking forward to playing in Hull? Do you have any preconceptions?
‘I loved playing in Fruit last year, it's such an atmospheric venue. I think all my preconceptions about Hull were smashed last year when I realised how cool the city is! It's a really neatly kept secret...’
Hull has certainly been on the receiving end of some positive reappraisals since its status as City of Culture, so it’s nice to have another convert. One by one, we’re winning everyone over it seems. It’s good to hear. People are going to respond in the positive to this question, but there seems to be a sincerity to replies to this question throughout 2017, as if Hull did repel people due to its reputation and statistics that scream ‘crap town’ as it was once dubbed. But everyone who’s been has been pleasantly and perhaps unexpectedly surprised at how ace we are. No one who comes is going to say it’s crap, but the manner in which they respond is real, like they thought we were shit, but have been blown away by the place.
The likeable comedian who’s a first-class honours student of comedy, is going to be a hit when he plays Früit. He’s studied from the best, and adapted bits and made his act unique and fresh. It’s a studious approach, but one where the finished article is organic, it’s his own style that stands out; you don’t get a sense that he’s nicking bits off other comedians. And his final answer is redolent of his idiosyncratic outlook. To be honest it’s a banal question, but he handles it with aplomb.
What can we expect from you in the future?
‘A glorious death saving a busload of schoolchildren from a super villain. And just before I die I say something witty about how great Hull is.’
I’m glad he answered like this because I was almost ashamed of the generic nature of the question, and the reply showed me how preposterously lazy the question was. It’s a good answer and ticks all the right boxes without being too savage about the rubbish question. It’s funny, knowingly but charmingly dismissive and bigs Hull up. For a man who studies comedy, almost obsessively, you could do far worse than get along to Früit and learn from one of the masters of modern British comedy.
Tickets available for Stuart Goldsmith at Fruit 21/02/18 HERE.
Find Stuart HERE and on www.comedianscomedian.com