Interview with comedian Kieran Hodgson

17 September 2016

 Kieran Hodgson

Leeds Green Party's Events and Fundraising team interviewed the wonderful Kieran Hodgson ahead of our comedy gig with him next month.

Kieran will be performing "Lance" at Trinity Church, Boar Lane on 29th October. 

Tickets and more details are available from: http://bit.ly/Kieran-Lance

How was Edinburgh and what are you up to this Autumn?

Edinburgh was fantastic, if a little tiring this time round! I was doing two shows a day, my own and also a musical with Leeds-born renaissance man Nick Mohammed, which was very satisfying professionally but which did mean I had about two nights out in the whole month. It was lucky that both shows went well, so I'll be spending the Autumn trotting them out and trying to make my up rent from ticket sales at London theatres.

How do you think being born and bred in West Yorkshire has influenced your comedy, if at all? Do you get to spend much time in "God's Own Country"? 

It has been a huge influence on me, especially as the last three shows I've done have all drawn on memories of growing up in the Holme Valley and have been populated by Yorkshire characters. It's less that I think that there's a particularly 'Yorkshire' sense of humour, and more that I just find the place and its people fascinating. Holmfirth is where they filmed Last of the Summer Wine, famously, but it's not a million miles from Hadfield and Marsden, locations for the League of Gentlemen, and I think that my comedy probably lies somewhere between those two visions of what Yorkshire's like, though I have to say I have watched a fair bit more of the latter. In terms of spending time up here, my parents still live in Holmfirth, so I come up a few times a year and it's great – the Nook (the town's premier drinking establishment) never changes and nor do the moors.

What influenced you to become a comedian/comic actor?

Comedy shows like Fawlty Towers and Blackadder were always on in our house as a kid and I loved getting parental approval by learning scenes off by heart and then acting them out over breakfast. This skill of parroting the previous evening's comedy was then very useful at school where I was able to find a place in the playground pecking order by doing whatever it was Harry Enfield had done the night before. No-one ever stopped me doing silly voices and here I am today.

As a writer, do you mainly recall funny incidents and then embellish them or do you have other creative sources? 

Because what I do tends to be character-based, I tend to start with funny things people have said rather than done, make characters from them, and then build longer stories around those characters. Getting a voice and fragments of what people have said is my main source of inspiration, and I'm lucky in that I have quite a good memory for conversations that took place 10 or 15 years ago, something that really annoys my friends who would rather forget what they were like as teenagers.

Who is or was your greatest comedic inspiration or role model?

I find it very hard to point to one person especially as it has changed as I've grown up, and often you find yourself inspired by different people depending on what it is you're working on, or even how you feel. However, that's quite an irritating answer so I'll give a few names. All character comedians owe the most enormous debt to Steve Coogan and Peter Sellers for inspiration, and I nearly fainted when Steve came to see my show in Edinburgh this year. I referred to him there as Steve because when I met him after the show I said 'Thank you for coming, Mr. Coogan' and he wasn't keen. Also on the dream list are the League of Gentlemen and then, the mastermind of British Comedy, Armando Iannucci.

In your experience are most comedians essentially serious people?

Na, they tend to be very silly people who just love laughing at things. Often they get quite serious when they've had a reviewer in, and when thinking about the subject matter for their new show or filling in their tax return, but other than that comedians I find are in it because they like to spend their lives being daft. All these BBC4 'Tears of a clown'-type dramas about comedy greats tend to depict them using humour as a flimsy mask for all their unresolvable existential problems, and while there may be a great deal of truth in that, it's easy to forget that comedians do also just love comedy.

Which do you enjoy more: writing or performing?

I think performing, though performing something you've written and it going well, that's just the best.

What are the characteristics of a good comedy audience?

Ooh, tricky one. I'd say maybe: chatty as they come in, diverse (so some people laugh at some things, others laugh at others, and no-one ever feels excluded for the whole show) and respectful (of other audience members, of you, of the venue). The main thing is that it takes two to tango, ie the audience and the comedian are working together to create a fun time for everyone, so even if you're not mad keen on a joke, give a bit of a laugh anyway and it helps generate a positive atmosphere that will pay off later. We're all in this together, etc.

Do you think comedy has the power to change minds or perspectives?

I would like to think so but in general I might have to say, probably not. No end of lazy jokes about UKIP and Nigel Farage did anything at all to reduce his or their influence, and there's a tendency more for comedy to confirm people's beliefs and validate their perspectives rather than challenge them. It takes really brilliant and brave comedians to do that, and there are some, but I'm nowhere near that level. I try to use my shows to educate people about my hobbies, like cycling and classical music, but I'm not sure a single extra bike or concert ticket has been sold because of them.

Which is your favourite comedy series?

Frasier or The Simpsons.

Of the venues where you've performed, which is your favourite and why?

I really enjoyed performing 'Lance' in the Holmfirth Civic Hall, doing a show about my home town back in my home town in front of a packed crowd of teachers, Scout leaders and friends of my parents. However, it was also quite terrifying to do it, and so I've perhaps got 'the big homecoming gig' out of my system now. Give me The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh, where I've performed for 7 years, and I'll be happy, it's where I've built my career and is a wonderful venue – plus it's free, guys! 

Lance Armstrong is the main feature of the show you are putting on for Leeds Green Party, do you cycle yourself? How easy do you find cycling in London? 

I have tried cycling in London and it was better than I thought it would be, traffic and general peril-wise. However, I think I was spoiled by growing up cycling in West Yorkshire and so my enthusiasm for London cycling has waned somewhat, recently. To be brutally honest I haven't ridden a bike in a couple of years now, though I do still watch the Tour de France every July and keep up my Green credentials by using public transport with great fervour. That counts, right?

Having played an iconic character in the Dads Army remake are there any dream roles you would like to take on from the history of comedy?

I think that, in general, the great comedians knew what they were about and I'm happy to leave their stuff alone. I would quite like to do something with these Medieval French comic tales called 'Fabliaux', which are just the rudest things you've ever read and which I don't think have ever been put on BBC2, but I may have to wait a while until there's an appetite for that kind of thing. It could be a long wait.

Arts@Trinity is an unusual venue being in a converted church, can you recall any other particularly memorable places you have performed and do you think the size and style of a venues has an impact on the atmosphere and performance?

I'm still something of a newbie when it comes to touring and trying out different venues for size. I've done a converted church in Colchester and an old cinema in Bristol, which was fantastic. The 'space' as we call it, like idiots, is absolutely crucial to how well the show goes. The worst gigs I've ever done were in marquees, which kill comedy like nothing else – no-one can hear you, and the energy just flies out of the tent flaps. I'll take a nice old church any day. 

 

Kieran will be performing "Lance" at Trinity Church, Boar Lane on 29th October. 

Tickets and more details are available from: http://bit.ly/Kieran-Lance