1. Hi Lee. Tell me about your journey into stand up?
I feel a bit like a Fresh Prince here! Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute.. Just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became….a comedian.
I’ve been a stand up for about six years now, although it feels like a lot longer sometimes! I’ve always enjoyed watching stand up comedy ever since I was a teenager and I’ve always enjoyed making other people laugh. So, I guess it was my dream job really. I never expected to do it though, I just thought it wouldn’t be possible. Then a mate suggested that it might work and that I should try it. The rest is history really. I am influenced a lot by the likes of Ross Noble, Tony Law and Gary Delaney. I also adore The League Of Gentlemen, which could explain my twisted sense of humour.
2. Choosing comedy without being able to speak is ambitious, where did the idea stem from?
Let’s not sugar coat it, it’s an absolutely stupid idea and it shouldn’t work at all! But somehow it does. Like I say, my mate suggested that it could work. I thought they were crazy but the idea got stuck in my head. Eventually I decided to give it a try because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. It seems like he was right!
I’m really glad I decided to take a leap of faith though, because comedy has changed my whole life for the better. It’s still quite surreal to be honest. When I started doing stand up comedy, I just thought it would be a bit of a laugh and I’d see where it went. I certainly didn’t expect to be a professional comedian. It’s very weird when you’re on the same bill as other comedians who you have admired for ages. It’s a good feeling though, especially as most of them are quite complimentary about my act. It means a lot to me.
3. What’s been your biggest challenge as a comedian?
Getting into the comedy clubs I am performing at. Most of them are in basements or up three flights of stairs. So my biggest challenge is definitely making it to the stage without killing myself in the process!
4. Winning the BBC Comedy award must have been special, what doors opened after winning?
Winning the BBC New Comedy Award was such a great achievement. I think that was the moment when I knew that my decision to try stand up comedy had been justified. I just entered because I thought it was a good opportunity to help me develop as a comedian. I’m not really a big fan of stand up comedy competitions, but when you look at the people who have won it in the past, I thought it was worth entering. I especially like the fact that the comedians were judged by other people in the industry, as well as the general public in the final. I think it gives it a nice balance. I definitely never expected to win the whole thing. I just thought I would give it a go and see how far I got. I couldn’t really believe it when I won.
It’s opened a lot of doors for me (which is handy because I struggle to open them myself). I guess the main thing I’ve got out of the experience is the chance to write my own sitcom for Radio 4. I’m writing that now actually. It’s called Ability and it should be broadcast some time this year.
5. Did you get any negative reactions from people after winning the BBC award?
Not from winning the award, no. But it is interesting to see people’s reactions in general. Of course, there’s been times when audiences are not sure whether it’s OK to laugh or not, but they soon seem to come on side and just enjoy it after that. Normally, people enjoy it straight away though. I think it helps that most of the jokes are based on my own experiences and so I can get away with more. Maybe I use it to my advantage a little bit and play with it. I think it helps to deal with the elephant in the room early on. I would like to think it helps take some of the stigma away from disability as well.
There is one guy though. He didn’t like the fact that I did my comedy this way. He tweeted me and said “well done on finding the easiest way to do comedy. You can just write stuff on your laptop, and get that to remember it and say it for you. You know where you can stick your laptop.”
As you can tell, he is clearly a very pleasant human being. Of course, he is right. Can you imagine how hard my life would be if I could actually talk? It just doesn’t bear thinking about. I’d have to remember how to say words, remember how to form sentences, remember all my jokes. Clearly by choosing to be disabled, I have taken the easy way out.
6. What obstacles do people put in your way in regards to progressing?
Apart from all the stairs, you mean? I haven’t really had any obstacles put in my way. Of course, you have to prove yourself on the comedy circuit and that can be tough at times. Driving for hours just to do a ten minute set for no money isn’t the best way to spend a Saturday night. But it helps you develop as a comedian in the long run. Even my worst experiences on the circuit have been useful.
7. Does stand up get easier as you progress?
I’m not sure if it gets easier? From my own point of view, I certainly think that I’m better at stand up comedy now than when I started. Over time I’ve got more confident on stage and more willing to take risks with my material. If a joke doesn’t work now, I’m not as bothered as I used to be, because I’m more comfortable on stage and know I have other stuff that will work better coming up.
8.Tell me about the most inappropriate time that an idea came into your head for a joke?
All my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower, which is annoying because I can’t write any of them down without running through the flat naked looking for a pen!
9. Who is making waves on the circuit at the min, and why are they?
I’m a big fan of Lauren Pattison at the moment. She’s a fellow Geordie and we started doing comedy at about the same time, so it’s great to see her do so well now! She had a very successful Edinburgh Fringe last year and she’s just going to get bigger and bigger. I’m only saying this so that she lets me be the support act on her world tour one day….
10. What’s coming up next Lee ?
As I say, I’m currently writing a sitcom called Ability for Radio 4, and that’s due to be broadcast this year. I’m also taking another show up to the Edinburgh Fringe in August so I’m busy working on that too. And, of course, I’m gigging all over the place still. You can find out where on my website!