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"Keep the Cat Free"
22/08/14

Offermation for the nation

Tim Arbabzadah catches up with comedian Chris Ramsey about his latest tour, while giving you a master class in how to ask long, rambling and non-concise questions...
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Chris Ramsey Picture for Feature.jpg
That’s right, it’s a totally unnecessary, time consuming, Photoshop. MSci project? What’s that?

Tim: We’re a student newspaper and you went to university as I infer from the fact that you were in the Chortle Student Comedian of the Year Awards 2008?
Chris: Yes, very well done, fucking Sherlock lives on. Yeah I was at Sunderland Uni, which is not really anything to brag about, but I was only doing Film and Media.  But yeah I packed in half way through my final year and ended up doing stand up. I’d done the first paragraph of my dissertation and I went ah fuck this and just stopped.

T: Now that your friends know that you’re a stand-up comedian, do you feel pressured to be funny in normal conversations?
C: I’ll tell you what, this is genuinely true, beware right, because if you end up doing a bit of stand up, once you are a stand up comic, you are no longer the funniest one in your group of mates. It’s fucking weird. It’s really bizarre. If you start being really funny with them, everyone just goes: “alright mate you’re not on stage now”. It’s just really strange, I can’t explain it.

With my friends when they’re all taking the mick out of each other and having a laugh; I always come in far too strong and ruin it, like I come in with an awful, horrible insult. It’s just really weird – your barometer totally changes.

T: Do you think that now that you’re known, when people see you on stage they actively try to heckle as they think: “Right, I’m getting one over on him”?
C: They can try. I did Manchester Comedy Store on Saturday Night, I did the late show and it was just 20 minutes of heckles and 20 minutes of me just slamming into everyone who opened their fucking mouth, was good fun.

T: I’m guessing you’re very calm and aren’t going to be fazed.
C: Yeah essentially, I mean there are still heckles that can throw you off, but you get to a point man where everything they can shout out is the same. There are only a few different angles you can go with a heckle. No matter what the words are it can either be an insult, a funny comment, a comment on something you’ve done, or it can be sarcastic, or it can sometimes be complimentary, which is always weird.

T: I wouldn’t know how to reply to that. I guess just thank you, okay, I’m going to get back to my material now.
C: Yeah a few times a girl’s shouted “you’re fit” and I’ve been like “that is not relevant at all, shut up, do you know what I mean? First of all, don’t heckle compliments cause it just throws us off. I’d rather you called me a cunt, if you can believe that. It has got no relevance to the performance, just shut up.

T: (laughs) I don’t know, to be honest, maybe you should have tried to get her number after that?
C: (laughs) Nah: they’re normally nutters. If you’re shouting out “you’re fit” to a boy on stage at a comedy club you’re not normal are you?

T: I think that’s probably the female equivalent of beeping your horn when you see someone attractive walking across the road.
C: Exactly, or hanging out of a white van going “get your tits out love”.

T: Do you have sort of set responses to them? As in, if someone says this about my hair I’m going to say this?
C: Yeah well first of all it will depend on what they look like. A lovely little trick I like to do, if I’m doing my own show and someone heckles from the back, I go: “Alright you’re just heckling there from the back in the darkness and I want to see you… house lights up” and then the sound man will put all the fucking lights on and they just sit there shitting their pants. They just didn’t even think I had the power to do that. I love getting house lights on, it really levels the playing field – it’s great.

T: Have you ever had a joke or routine that you’ve said that someone’s either stolen, or someone’s just thought of it independently, and you’ve thought: “ah no I can’t use that now”?
C: Yeah, I thought of something when I was first starting out. I thought of like 3 heckle putdowns in a row that were about someone’s mum that were this full little routine thing. I did it on stage and this guy came up and he went ‘oh erm that’s on Jimmy Carr’s DVD”. I was like ah shit. He said go on YouTube and it was fucking word for word what I’d written – I was devastated.

I’ve never stolen material and I never would steal material. I think it’s just the worst crime in comedy. There are some people who keep doing it as well. I know a comic who did a routine and you go “such and such has been doing that for years” and they go “yeah, well, I thought of it, I didn’t copy off them, so I’ll keep doing it” and it’s like well you can’t do that.

If you started writing a book and someone said: “oh by the way mate, Charles Dickens wrote that years ago about Christmas. It’s exactly the same as the one you’ve written” and you go “well I thought of it, I’m going to keep writing it”. No-one’s going to fucking buy it are they. David Johnston’s A Christmas Carol.

 

 

T: Have you got a writing process? Do you sit down at a laptop, or just randomly think of stuff?
C: No I haven’t got one at all. Some comics can sit down and click away but I can’t do it. If something tickles my fancy, I do it in sort of really short, sharp, bursts and then work most of it out while I’m on stage. So I just do it on the fly really. I can’t sit and write a full routine; if I do I just end up not being able to remember it.

T: A lot of comedians nowadays go into acting. Are you thinking of doing that? Any TV shows you’d like to do?
C: Yeah, there’s one on the horizon actually, but it hasn’t been officially announced yet so I can’t say anything.

T: Have you ever done any acting or is it just you’re a comedian so you thought “meh, might as well give it a go”?
C: The particular thing in question, there was a thing in Manchester called the sitcom trial. We had to do a big live run through of the sitcom – like a play. We did it all in one go in front of a live audience and it was mad to do. That was my first proper foray into acting, unless you count playing Santa in a school nativity when I was 5.

T: (laughs) I don’t know, you could have had a starring role then.
C: Actually, don’t think it was 5, think I was 7. It’s not a very big point, but that’s two years of serious maturity of my acting career from 5 to 7.

T: Those were your Brando years when you were getting your method acting on. Is acting weird compared to comedy because you’re saying someone else’s words?
C: Yeah, it’s really weird. I’d never done it and I felt like I couldn’t do it. Then people are going “no you’re good at this” and I just thought they were lying. Every time they were saying you’re good at this, I was holding eye contact for a bit too long to see if they looked away.

T: Do you think the state of comedy nowadays is healthy?
C: For someone at my level and upwards it’s healthy. I think it’s going to start getting harder for new people to start breaking through. I’m lucky that I broke through when I did. I hope the smaller clubs don’t suffer, because you’ve just got to look in your local culture guide and there’ll be about four fucking comedians there this month doing shows, which is brilliant, but, what’s that doing to the smaller clubs? A lot of people are saying that it happened in America: apparently the smaller clubs just died out and all the touring comics took over. I’ve got to say I’m glad I’m on tour, but really hope that doesn’t happen.

T: When was your first show? Do you remember it?
C: Yeah it was mad actually. There was a ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. I was on it with my mates and there was an entertainer, like a comedian, on the stage and he was doing alright. It was a little bit sort of juggly and kind of stuff like that bit more family friendly. He had what was either some kind of stroke, or a heart attack, and he sort of keeled over. My mate was a medical student and looked after him for a bit. I picked up the mic to put it back in the stand and I ended up saying something to someone, and just started messing about, and before I knew it I’d done 40 minutes of this routine, just impromptu on this boat. The guy died and I got his job.

Chris Ramsey’s Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated show Offermation has now finished

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