com­edy

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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

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.”

irish­times.com/cul­ture

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