Leicester Comedy Festival: Russell Kane at De Montfort Hall, Leicester
He's one of the coolest comedians around, even if he insists he is not. Gemma Collins chats to Russell Kane ahead of his comedy festival gig at the De Montfort Hall.
They say you never forget your first. Comedian Russell Kane hasn’t. As a fledgling funny man, tentatively dipping his toe in the murky waters of stand-up, he made it all the way to the final of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year competition in 2004. He was pipped at the post.
“Yeah, Matt Hollins won,” he says, no prompting required. “I came second. You don’t forget not winning something like that.
“Matt’s uncle was on the panel, is a rumour I heard. When John Hollins announced the winner, it gave it away,” he laughs. “Only joking...
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“It’s always the same, when you look at the Perrier award-winning comedians who haven’t won your competition,” he explains. “I think Ross Noble was one and Jimmy Carr. They just weren’t good enough, not quite, at that time.
“I’d done a handful of amateur gigs – I was still working my day job – and this was my first competition. I actually went on to win the Laughing Horse New Act of the Year.
“You can’t tell what a comedian is going to become at that stage. It’s the equivalent of looking at a baby girl and saying she’s going to be a stunner.”
Russell considers himself to be in the middle stages of his comedy career now, and “quite successful”.
“I don’t want to be a washed up skaghead,” he says. “I could end up being a judge on the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year.”
And we’d be happy to have you. But we’re guessing you’re being derogatory.
“With comedy, it’s as much about experience as funniness. And experience led me here.”
It’s no secret Russell was raised on “the lovely council-ly streets’’ of Brimsdown, Enfield.
“I couldn’t get into comedy because of my modest background,” he explains. “I was the first one in my house, street, probably postcode, to go to university and I walked off with a first in English.
“I’m going to get me a pedigree cat and a flat in Clapton, I thought.”
And he did. Russell stormed his way through the ranks of an ad agency and, within a year, was the youngest head of copy they’d ever had.
“And then someone said to me, ‘You need a hobby – before you get too sucked in’.
“I considered doing an MA, learning pottery or French, then thought, ‘I know – let’s try stand-up’.
“I’d never seen a comedy show in my life, I’d never watched a DVD. I had no interest. I just googled stand-up, found the first club, called them and got myself five minutes on the open mic list.
“I went and did it. I found it easy. And that scared me. There was no way on earth I was giving up my Ferrari of a career for an ego trip.”
But he kept at the stand-up and his agent kept chipping away at Russell, until, “I did it, bang. Here we are,” he laughs.
“I guess because I didn’t watch or know comedy, it made me seem more original than I was,” he admits.
“Even now I don’t have jokes or punchlines. There’s no rule book. I just pile on the word play and do what I want. I’m the same person on and off the stage.
“What Stewart Lee says is rubbish. Mainstream observation is not over-exposed, there are no boundaries or continuums.
“The skill is finding the truest
representation of self, to speak as though speaking to friends. Comedy isn’t superior.
“It’s a basic human function. It’s. Just like we will move to a rhythm or know when music is out of tune, a tiny baby will laugh if someone falls over.
“Comedy precedes even language. But these are just my theories to be shot down and I’m not some bitter, twisted idiot.”
He is, however, rambunctious when it comes to the ramblings of his current stand-up tour, Posturing
“What if I’m one of the guys who never has a baby? Why is this not a male subject?” he says.
He’s not wrong. In our culture it’s very rare a man will talk about the
biological tick-tock and even rarer to hear a male comedian talk on the subject for an hour or more.
“I’ve put a frame round the subject, memories of my childhood, what my dad was like and the sort of father I imagine I’d be,” he explains.
“But now? You never feel ready, there’s never a right time, they say. I felt more grown up a few years ago. There is a fear of carrying on with this selfish lifestyle, one pretty girl after the next...
“I think I’d be a mad, nutty professor of a father. It would be fun.”
And that’s an example of the kind of posturing you can expect to hear next week in Leicester. “I plan to give birth, live on stage, then raise it – in front of you,” he jokes.
With his bouffant hair, trendy clobber and Radio 1 DJ buddies, you could be forgiven for calling Russell the young person’s comedian.
“They’re getting younger, comedy fans,” he says. “It’s the 15-year-olds buying my DVDs and downloads. And that’s good – they’ll still be with me in 20 years time, hopefully.
“But I do find it surprising, that people so young would connect with the things I’m talking about.”
The fact Russell is a regular fixture on our TV screens has surely helped elevate his celebrity status.
There was that series of Britain Unzipped with Radio 1 DJ Greg James, a hosting gig on Live At The Electric and a few seasons chatting his way through I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here NOW!
His debut novel, The Humorist, was published last year to rave reviews and you’ll often catch him behind the decks, DJing around the country at a club night called Propaganda.
He’s hosting the notoriously tricky NME awards later this month, too.
“I’m filling my pants about that,” he admits. “It’s musicians – cool musicians, and I’m not Russell Brand or Noel Fielding. But I’ll take my nerdy, outsider and I’ll bring it on. Even if the only people cheering are Antony and the Johnsons.”
Could it be then, that comedy is actually the new rock ‘n’ roll?
“That’s something I hope never happens,” he says, firmly. “Comedians are loners looking in from the outside. Never believe in yourself. Look at Woody Allen, he was a wreck, but his jokes, they were quality.
“I’m profoundly un-cool. I drink red wine and listen to classical music. I go to the Groucho Club or the Rita Ora after-party because I need to be seen, and, while I have a great time when I get there, I’d rather be dancing with a bunch of unknowns or watching movies at home in my dressing gown.
“I love all of the things I do. Stand-up is my heart; television the blood and oxygen, and writing – like my novel – has always been in my head. I want to continue to be passionate and learn.
“When you do a show hundreds of times, you need to stab your leg with a compass to feel awake sometimes and then you get this luminescent feeling: I am one of the people who has truly found my calling.”
Catch Russell Kane, Posturing Delivery at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall on February 20. Tickets on 0116 2333111 or visit: www.demontforthall.co.uk www.comedy-festival.co.uk