Interview: Stuart Goldsmith
When it comes to DIY Comedy, Stuart Goldsmith is showing others just how to build an empire. With a hugely popular podcast ‘The Comedian’s Comedian’ (seven million downloads worldwide) already to his name, the comic is currently on a second UK tour with his critically-acclaimed stand-up show ‘Compared to What’ and taking on the big issues in life, such as ‘How much should one spend on an ear-thermometer?’. Ahead of his arrival in the Steel City later this month, Exposed spoke to Stuart about his journey so far and what we can expect from his latest show.
So, tell us a bit about your background in comedy.
I basically started as a street performer eating crisps on a tightrope at Covent Garden, but eventually I wanted to be more original. Now I travel all over the world doing stand-up comedy, although Walker’s Salt and Vinegar still tastes like youth, freedom and cash to me.
What first made you want to become a comedian?
I loved Lenny Henry as a kid and used to recite the sketches from his show the next day at school to all my friend.
Friend or Friends?
Friend. That was intentional.
I see. Can you tell us what inspired the name for your second UK tour, ‘Compared to What?’
I was thinking about the personal and social risks involved in committing to spending my entire life as a comedian, especially now that I’m a father. I thought ‘but what if I’m not successful?’, and I then laughed and thought ‘yeah – compared to what?’.
Your podcast, ‘Comedian’s Comedian’, has been hugely popular amongst comedy fans and comedians alike. Where did you get the inspiration for this? And why do you think it has been so successful?
About six years ago I suddenly realised I’d never trained professionally for the thing that was now paying my rent. I wanted to find out how the best comics in the world wrote and developed their material, so that I could learn from them. I also thought that I might as well record the conversations and then once I did I couldn’t keep them to myself. 7.5 million downloads later and I’ve helped start the careers of about 50 new comics. I should totally have kept them to myself!
What are the pros and cons of recording comedy podcasts as opposed to stand-up performances? Which do you prefer?
Well, the show is a documentary about comedy rather than a funny podcast, but there are parts of it where I talk directly to the listener about what’s going on in my life. They’re really useful for reminding me that that informal voice is the one I should be using onstage. The podcast is listened to by tens of thousands of people all over the world, but nothing can replace the joy of doing well at a gig in front of actual humans in a room.
Being known by many for ‘The Comedian’s Comedian’, is it difficult to take the step away from the podcasts and get back into a stand-up frame of mind?
Only in interviews! When I talk about the podcast I become very serious about the art of comedy and my responsibilities to honour the hard work of my guests. Though that’s sometimes incompatible with being a comedian, where your job is to answer the questions in a funny way. I often keep answering them for real and forgetting to be funny.
To flip the usual question on its head a tad, what’s the worst bit of advice you’ve ever received?
Nice! Basically any advice where the giver is trying to make the recipient more like the giver. It’s amazingly hard to give useful advice to people, stuff that makes them become more like what they themselves want to become. I’m a terrible one for approaching other acts and giving them a load of unsolicited bullshit about a joke I think they should tweak, so I try to be friendly when people do the same to me.
What have you learnt or developed since your first live tour?
I’m getting way better at trusting myself. When something goes wrong or a joke doesn’t get the reaction I arrogantly think it deserves, I used to wobble and start tanking the gig. Now I have proper faith in the stuff and in my own work, so 99 percent of the time it comes good. So much of comedy is confidence, they can smell a wobble.
Who’s one comedian you’d most like to get on the podcast and why?
Noel Fielding. I love surrealists because I’m terrible at surrealism, and I love finding out the way they select something apparently random but with a huge amount of conscious thought behind the decision. There was a great bit on Buzzcocks where Amstell tried to do a bit of “surrealism” to make fun of Fielding, who immediately trumped it by doing something that demonstrated an incredible talent for the genuinely weird. He also directed an entire 20 minute set at me about 15 years ago and I want to ask him about it.
Stuart Goldsmith brings his ‘Compared to What’ show to The Lescar on May 11. Tickets are available at www.wegottickets.com