Dave Woodhall talks to Stuart Goldsmith; comedian, broadcaster, writer and father-to-be.
Stuart Goldsmith does stand-up. He’s about to tour his show An Hour and you can also see him regularly hosting his Comedian’s Comedian podcast. When we spoke to him, though, he was more preoccupied with a new role, that of expectant father with a first baby due imminently.
Are you at the stage where everything has to change and the world has to revolve around your family yet?
“That’s very perceptive of you. Yes, I think I am, and I’m having to get my head around the fact that my very selfish, self-centred job is having to change, the way I get offered gigs means I can’t just run forward in quite the same way now.”
Will your material be changing with the new arrival?
“There’s a couple of things about that. Certainly, it’s a huge thing that’s happening to my life, but you have to be careful as a comic not to alienate the audience and really, the only people who care about your baby are people who’ve either just had one of their own or are about to have one. The challenge is being able to find a wider issue in it. I can talk about selfishness, or love, or exhaustion.”
What’s the theme of the show? Will I, who doesn’t particularly like comedians but finds humour in the absurdity of everyday situations, like it?
“I do like the idea of getting to people individually and attracting getting them in to watching it. I like form in a joke but I do like absurdity. My favourite type of joke has to be surprising but satisfying at the same time. The Tommy Cooper sketch where he’s throwing cards into a hat; he can’t do it and he keeps saying ‘Missed.’ Then he says he’s going to shoot himself. He walks offstage and you hear a bang, then he says ‘Missed’.”
He had the ability to make the audience laugh at things that just weren’t funny.
“That’s the skill of an observational comedian. To take something ordinary and make the audience laugh at it. I’ve got stuff about JackRreacher novels, Wagamama, Costa coffee. Little details of life that you wouldn’t know you’ve noticed, to build a big scaffold where I can run about being funny.
“Have you noticed that Costa coffee have started tunnelling into other shops and opening tiny branches? Go into a hospital and there’s a little Costa, you’re in a library and it’s there behind the books. I was in a Café Nero the other day an there was a tiny Costa under a table. It’s about daft little things that fit the template rather than being clever.”
Your podcast is called The Comedian’s Comedian. Who do you think deserves the title?
“I’ve done 155 of these and even though I’ve done comedy for twenty years I wouldn’t know. The obvious answer is Daniel Kitson. He works very hard to extract himself from the day to day industry of comedy. People usually mean someone the other comics go to see, and that can be for a variety of reasons. I’d say someone like John Gordillo, he doesn’t have a big profile but he’s like the power behind the throne. Or a new guy named Matt Ewings, who’s an absurdist a bit like John Cleese. Funny falls out of him. He won’t do a straight interview; ask him a question and he’d go off on some surreal bullshit. He won’t kowtow to the system; he’s too busy being funny.”
Unlike many of your contemporaries you don’t have a massive social media presence. Is that a conscious decision?
“The podcast has four million downloads, that’s my presence. I’m not a comedian who can write one lines on Twitter all day. What I’m doing is booking interviewees, doing research, finding out what the audience wants and how it can work. Hopefully that will get people to the gigs – at Edinburgh it was incredible how many saw the show out of the podcast. I think I’ve ended up in an intimate relationship with a lot of people who are onside and I think that suits me in a different situation to the next hundred comedians who are getting the funny tweets.
“I wish I could do it – I know one guy whose idea of a corporate gig is being paid thousands to host a Twitter party. I have to drive to some God-forsaken place and entertain pissed people. There are some people out there who can operate on social media, whether they can get out and fill a venue I don’t know, but there are certainly some who can have a career and make a lot of money seemingly just out of YouTube videos and I’m jealous.”
You don’t sound jealous of much. You come over as focused and knowing your direction.
“The last four years of the podcast, there’s the fringe benefits of a wider audience but the big thing is when people say it’s given them the idea to go out and do themselves. Yesterday a lad in New Zealand sent me twenty quid which was the money he made from his first gig. The podcast inspired him; that’s not the first time it’s happened. To know that there are people whose lives have improved in some small way because of the quest I’m on. You can’t be negative because I get off on the glory of doing stand up but I also get satisfaction from knowing that in some tiny way I’ve made a difference to some people.”
Stuart Goldsmith in An Hour will be playing the Glee Club, Birmingham on 4th March and the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton on 20th April. For ticket details and to view The Comedian’s Comedian podcast, visit www.stuartgoldsmith.co.uk or www.comedianscomedian.com