Hey fat boy, give us an interview or we’ll stab you. Comedian Kevin Bridges has become one of Glasgow’s most successful exports. The 23-year-old tells Brian Boyd why the accent helps and why he’ll be recording his next DVD in Dublin
Kevin Bridges tells Brian Boyd that fame won’t stop him getting the bus in Glasgow, p6
YOU KNOW you’ve made it as a comic when people on the street shout the punchline to one of your jokes at you. “This happened me a few weeks ago, and it was a really strange experience,” says Glasgwegian comic Kevin Bridges.
“I have this routine, and a line in it has me standing at a bus stop and someone coming over to me and saying ‘Hey, fat boy, give us a quid or I’ll stab you’. I don’t drive, so I take buses everywhere, and I was actually standing at a bus stop a few weeks ago when a guy on the other side of the road shouted out ‘hey, fat boy, give us a quid or I’ll stab you’ to me. I started laughing, but all the other people at the bus stop had no idea what he was referring to. They were looking at me thinking how hard I must be to be able to laugh off such a threat.”
Bridges, still only 23, has had one of the fastest ascents of any comedian in the modern era. Whereas most big-name comics spend a good five years-plus making the progression from scuzzy clubs to arena shows, Bridges did it all in less than two years. And there’s been no smoke or mirrors, hype or management push behind his rise – he’s just quality through and through. And as is obligatory to point out – still so young.
“I get my age mentioned at every turn,” he says. “When I began it was all ‘and he’s just 17’, then that became ‘just 18’, ‘just 19’, and I still get it today – ‘and he’s just 24’ – but that really doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? People do go on about how seemingly quick it was for me, but I was at the centre of it, doing all the rubbishy gigs, so I’ve a different perspective on it.”
Now the third biggest-selling Scottish comic (behind Billy Connolly and Frankie Boyle), Bridges has just released his first DVD – recorded in front of 10,000 people at Glasgow’s SECC earlier this year. “The energy and the atmosphere the night we recorded it was amazing – but then it was a Friday night in Glasgow,” he says.
Bridges, who comes from a working-class background, says he was a nervous and timid child before he learnt the manifold benefits of becoming the class clown. “It was always the same with school reports: ‘Kevin just won’t knuckle down.’ I wasn’t really that interested in school, but a career in stand-up was the last thing I thought I’d end up doing. I didn’t even watch much comedy – I think my sum total was one Billy Connolly DVD and one Phil Kay DVD, but one night, out of nowhere, I sent off an email to a local comedy club (Glasgow’s famous The Stand venue) looking for an open spot.”
When the club replied a few weeks later, he was in a state of shock. “I just stared at the email for hours and hours and went into a state of panic. I didn’t want to do it, but at the same time I didn’t want to let them down, so I asked my dad if he would drive me up, and I think he was more nervous than I was. The only reason I had sent off the email in the first place was that my friends had told me I was funny – but that’s a lot different to actually standing up in a club and doing it.
“I remember when I got there, because I was under age, there was this letter pinned to the wall of the bar which said ‘Under no circumstances is anyone to serve any alcoholic drink to Kevin Bridges’, and I think that letter is still there behind the bar in The Stand.”
He had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to that first gig. “If it went well, then that was fine, but if it hadn’t gone well I would have chucked it entirely,” he says. He did well enough to be invited back, and gradually picked up a few more local gigs. “I never called myself a comedian, though – if I met a friend in the street and he asked me what I was doing, I’d say I was unemployed. Anything was better than saying you were a comedian.”
There’s nothing edgy or subversive about Bridges – this is not Mighty Boosh territory. He’s old-school in his manner and delivery, but it’s the sharpness of the material that impresses most. Like all inspired comics he can make connections that you never thought were there, but when he presents them seem blindingly obvious. He’s as far from being the urbane, slick panel-show comic as possible. There’s a robust earthiness to his material that isn’t very mainstream-TV friendly.
“The panel-show thing is huge now, but it can get very competitive, with everyone trying to outdo each other. They are a great way of raising your profile, but it’s not the sort of format I enjoy.”