Bury St Edmunds bound stand-up Patrick Kielty interviewed
- Credit: Archant
Stand-up comedian Patrick Kielty talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage about impending fatherhood, the impact growing up in Northern Ireland had on him and new tour Help.
Kielty’s totally prepared for his latest tour Help, his first for nearly 10 years. Impending fatherhood however...
“I’m completely unprepared, I’m totally bluffing and whenever this baby arrives I will continue (bluffing) until that child one day looks me in the eye and says ‘Kielty what’s the point of you being here’,” he laughs.
The comedian met TV presenter Cat Deeley when they co-hosted Fame Academy in 2002. Good friends at first, he’s admitted there was always a spark there but one or both of them were always with somebody else. By the time both were single Deeley was hosting American talent show So You Think You Can Dance. Things changed in 2012 and, later that year, they secretly married.
Kielty jokes if air-miles were pounds he’d be able to buy everybody a drink at the end of every trans-Atlantic flight.
“One of the brilliant luxuries we have is we do jobs that we organise and can say ‘actually let’s do this’ or ‘no we’ll cancel that, we’ll go there’. The longest we’ve been apart is two weeks during that time. So it’s not so much a long distance relationship, it’s a close distance relationship with a lot of flight.”
Help - his attempt to write a modern rulebook for love, life and happiness - is the most honest, most personal show he’s written.
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“If you’re going to get up on stage with quarter-of-an-inch of microphone cable between you (and the audience and say) ‘this is what I think, what do you think’; you have to start from a position of honesty.”
With the number of live comedy shows to choose from nowadays, Kielty believes audiences want more than just a laugh.
“They want to hear about you. So this is probably the most personal show I’ve written. It’s based on the fact you get to a certain point in your life, you don’t know how you’ve got here, you didn’t really plan it and you’ve no idea how things are gonna go from here - but at the moment you’re happy.
“It’s the idea of have you reached a point where your life is changed and it’s just going to continue like this or have you reached the top of the vine and things are going to go t**s up. It’s a weird sort of celebration of being happy and fear that things could go wrong.”
Kielty made a conscious decision to return to stand-up seven or eight years ago, with a tour followed by A Night at the Apollo. While he’s continued gigging, Help - which enjoyed a sold-out debut at the Edinburgh Festival - is his first big tour since.
“I got my appetite for it (back) but in terms of writing a new show, I wanted to write something a bit more personal. Most of the stuff I’d done before was talking about ‘hey this is going on in the world what do you think’. I’d got to the point where I wanted to write something a bit more about me. I think those shows are always a little bit difficult...”
Kielty, who’s recounted how he was threatened with being dropped from the school football team if he didn’t do impressions, confesses he was a very reluctant performer.
“Comedy was something I never wanted (to do). There was a keg of beer for freshers week at university that the lads in my house decided they wanted me to win for them. I won the beer and off the back of that I continued to do it.”
I wonder, did growing up Northern Ireland during the troubles have an impact on his choice of career. He’s often been lauded as an edgy political comedian, a tag he finds amusing.
“When you look back on stuff, sometimes you can put more importance on things. I’m always amazed when people write about ‘he started doing really edgy material in Ireland’. I’d say 90% of people who write that story never saw me do stand-up in Ireland,” he laughs. “It’s part myth, part true.”
At the time in Belfast, nobody felt what they were doing was anything special, he recalls. There was no comedy, but bands always said it was a brilliant place to play because whenever anybody turned up the audience was really up for it.
“We found the same when we started the comedy club... In the early days we had people like Lee Evans, big names now, over. There was such an appetite just for laughter. I think what happened, the material I was doing about politics in Northern Ireland at the time.... We assumed we were just discussing what was in the news, we didn’t really know any different.
“One of the weirdest things for me, I was comparing the club every week and you’d open the tabloids and you’d have stories about Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams, stuff on the front page and then I came to London about five or 10 years later and realised ‘ah, there are different print editions of this newspaper,” he laughs. “The stories I thought everybody was talking about, nobody cared.”
What people care about is at the root of Help. Requiring some audience interaction, Kielty doesn’t want people to think they’re coming to a show that basically hasn’t been written and are going to find themselves picked on.
“What I wanted to do is at the end say ‘that’s what I think I know, what do you think’ - to me that’s important. Sometimes you go to shows and people say ‘oh this is what I know’. Nobody really knows anything in my opinion.”
It’s a refreshingly honest confession by somebody who studied psychology at university. He tells interviewers he uses the skills he learnt on his audience. The truth is very different.
“The degree was 25 years ago, there were 125 people in the class and a lot of them were women. I very foolishly thought if I did that course I might be able to chat more to the opposite sex. I did the course; it didn’t help me at all,” he laughs.
“At the end of the show I turn it over to the audience and they write down bits of advice based on what they heard and then we decide on one piece of advice that we put in a book and that’s my advice book. They decide by applause so it’s all very democratic. A Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leadership (style) election. Even if the result may not be what you want, that’s how it works.
“The fact the audience gets involved every night means no two shows will be the same. Though what help they actually give me remains to be seen.”
Patrick Kielty Help comes to the Cambridge Junction November 5, Colchester Arts Centre November 7 and Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal November 8.