Red Redmond brings an hour of hyperactive, interactive, wildcard observation to the Edinburgh Fringe, in the form of his debut show, Blue. His audience focused stand up won him the title of Chortle Student Comedian of the Year 2014 Finalist, and Red runs Dead Cat Comedy Club in Manchester, which will also be making an appearance at the Fringe. We chatted to him about being brain washed by Edinburgh, sticking to your principals, and why a talkative audience can be a blessing and a curse…
How would you describe your style?
I always like to be interactive and energetic. I try to be upbeat and address the audience. My material is never rigid; I think I react more than the average stand up, it’s always present.
Running Dead Cat Comedy means that you do a lot of compering. How does compering differ from performing a set?
As a compere you’re there to be people’s friend. You don’t really have to be funny. It’s a bonus and anything you say that’s funny is treated well, but you’re there to make sure people are having a good time and you’re bringing acts out into the right environment. It’s my favourite job, I prefer to compere than to perform sets. I like to go out and set the tone, make it supportive and do the team player role. When you’re doing a set the gag rate has to be so high. With my style being so loose, I think compering lends itself to that just a bit more and I’m much more interested in the audience than myself.
How did you get into comedy?
I always wanted to be in a punk band. Music seemed really impenetrable and aloof, plus you need other people that you 100% rely on and trust. Stand up is just you. If you’ve got the self confidence that can be really appealing.
Fresher’s Week at Manchester Uni, I signed up to a talent competition in the SU. I think I was the only stand up in the competition and I got through to the final. Looking back on it, it was really, really basic comedy. I was awful for a year and then started to get the hang of it, which I think is the way that most people should go – be terrible at something you love for a year and learn how to do it. So that was it, I just never stopped.
Who are your comedy influences?
When you actually start doing comedy there become two frames of inspiration. There’s TV celebrity names, who are sometimes the people you get in it for. When I was 10 I saw a Lee Evans VHS and that’s what got me into comedy. I met him once in the departure lounge of Heathrow and it blew my mind. I remember him having so much time to just sit down and talk to me.
I like Stewart Lee but he wouldn’t be the first person I’d go and see now because I don’t trust all of the ethics behind it. He’ll stand there and say “Why can’t alternative comedy flourish?” And it could if he came and did the independent nights that weren’t affiliated with TV groups. Those alternative left wing acts say they want it to be for the community, but I think in practise they are in it for the commercial things. I probably would be too if I were at that level, but I like to think that if I got to that level and I started to be not as principled, I wouldn’t go around spouting off about how unprincipled other people were.
As you work in the circuit, it’s the other people there that really inspire you. My favourites at the moment are the acts that I gig with. Jack Evans, Liam Pickford, Jayne Edwards, Phil Ellis, Will Setchell. People that are my peers. Those are the acts that I genuinely think I would rather see.
Is everything that you say on stage based on your real life?
Pretty much everything that I say on stage in this show has been true. I do call up a lot of people who are dead [in a call centre]. I have got the Green Party banner across my balcony. This year is the first year I’ve really tried to be autobiographical. It’s the first show in a series of shows, each a different colour. Next year I want to do Green. I’m joining the Green Party in September so it’ll be about that. Trying to be a bit better, a bit healthier, a bit more environmentally friendly.
What’s the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Today at work [in a call centre], I spoke to someone on the phone who said “I’m not interested in PPI, but do you just want to chat for a bit?” I just chatted for a good fifteen minutes about anything at all. It was really nice to talk to a human in a human way. He was saying “When I wake up in the morning, all I hear are birds tweeting, and all I want to do is shake the tree until they’re dead.” It changed the direction of my day, and I was happy for it. I suppose any random bit of non-consequential conversation. I hate that everything is motivated by money or need to get somewhere. I think we should have learnt a long time ago to sit in a field and be happy with our lot and not be mothered by Facebook and Netflix.
A bad gig is when there’s someone in the audience that’s been really disruptive. I’m happy to engage, we can find something funny there, but when it becomes a bad gig is when someone gets the better of you. When an audience member makes a heckle which is funnier than you, give them their moment, they’ve earned it. The problem is when you get angry, you lose your status on stage and you’ve lost the war. It’s happened twice, I’ve just lost my temper and shouted at someone. Last year I shouted right in someone’s face, and for two days I felt worthless as a human because I would never say that on stage to anyone ever, I wouldn’t even say it offstage. It was knowing that someone had got me to the level that I’d let down my guard and been the act that I hate.
Edinburgh can do horrible things to people. It can give you an inflated sense of self worth. This time last year halfway through the run I went to a sandwich shop and I’d been so doctored by the Fringe that I applauded with my hands. Someone in the queue joined in. And that’s when you know that the Fringe is too much. It doesn’t make you the best person.
It was Hot Water Comedy Club in Liverpool. Liverpool audiences, you don’t play to them, you play with them. You go on thinking I’m going to find out what they want me to do. I always try and play with them to the point where I try and annoy them a bit. I was everything they hated but they were enjoying it loads. And the energy in the room made it so that you could just riff off the audience and go off the cuff. It was one of the most improvised spur of the moment shows I’ve ever done.
Red will be performing his show Blue at The Southsider, 8.15pm, until 23rd August, completely free!
Not based in the North West? You can catch Dead Cat Comedy at the Fringe, Opium upstairs, 3.45pm, until 23rd August.