Interview: Alasdair Beckett-King

Winner of the Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year and the New Act Of The Year Show, and described by comedy legend Arthur Smith as “A suave stand up with some killer lines”, Alasdair has featured on BBC radio as a comedian and sketch writer and has been performing stand up across the UK for several years now, I’ve seen him a good few times and he’s never failed to make me laugh often and hard. He’s also responsible for the critically acclaimed Nelly Cootalot games, which if you loved the old Lucasart adventure games (which you definitely should) are essential purchases. Here he talks to us about his latest show, his best and worst gigs, working with Tom Baker and much more besides.

CTW: What inspired you to get in to comedy?

Alasdair: I had secretly wanted to be a comedian since I was 11. But I told my dad, and he didn’t think I was very funny. To be fair, I didn’t have any material, because I was 11. So I put it on the back burner until I had failed in or been kicked out of other art forms.

CTW: How was your first ever gig?

Alasdair: It went very well. To date, no gig I’ve done has had a better effort/reward ratio.

CTW: And how do you feel you’ve evolved since that night?

Alasdair: I have, honestly, got better. I wouldn’t say I’ve transformed beyond recognition, but I have got better. Perhaps my moment of self-discovery / apotheosis is still to come? Or maybe I’m stuck being me, but getting slightly better at it over time.

CTW: You’ve now moved on from the Open Mic scene, but what were the highlights of your time there? And conversely, what were the low points?

Alasdair: At one gig in Leytonstone no one laughed for the entire show. A woman heckled a (female) act for doing a pro-choice abortion joke and an old man trod on a dog. Of course, there were also low-points.

CTW: How do you put together a show, and decide which order to do the material in?

Alasdair: I wish I had any idea, sorry!

CTW: You’ve just performed a Work In Progress of your latest show, Full Velvet Jacket, can you tell us more about it? How would you say it’s different to your previous shows?

Alasdair: Full Velvet Jacket is a WIP for my second show. And the difference I’m most acutely aware of is that I haven’t had 4 years to work on the material. But extremely weirdly, that didn’t seem to matter too much. Audiences consistently* laughed and responded positively. So maybe I’m getting better at tricking audiences into liking my bad jokes?

*With the standard exception of that one show where the audience is made up of bereaved Italian families.

CTW: You’re also behind some of the best adventure games of recent times, can you tell us a little about the process of creating the games, and the scripts for them?

Alasdair: That’s kind of you to say. I’ve worked on a few and I’d like to work on more. The writing is obviously very different from stand up, but it is very enjoyable to see people tweet screenshots of jokes or reference obscure lines you weren’t sure anyone would find. In adventure games, a lot of the writing involves fleshing out the environment, and it’s a good writing exercise to look at a space and try to think of something interesting or funny or character-based about everything in it.

CTW: Tom Baker provided one of the voices for the game, how did that come about, and what was it like working with him?

Alasdair: Very simply, we asked and he made a terrible error of judgement and said yes. He was very friendly, extremely professional, and still managed to pepper the recording with obscene ad-libs to make us laugh.

CTW: Do you have further games planned?

Alasdair: I’m remastering a freeware game I released years ago, but I don’t have any big game ambitions at the moment.

CTW: What was the best gig you ever did, and why?

Alasdair: The nicest gig was probably recording my debut show for NextUp at the Bill Murray in Islington. It’s a small room and they pack it out with people who laugh way too much. (Except for one guy on the front row who never laughed. This is clearly visible in some shots.)

CTW: And conversely, what was the worst gig you did, and why?

Alasdair: The worst gig I did didn’t even happen. It was a new material night with 4 people in the audience. The compere did 20 minutes at the top of both sections, and 10 between each act. I left an hour after I was supposed to have been on stage, having still not been brought on. I was so annoyed I started being sarcastic, which I should never do because I’m terrible at it.

CTW: What’s your opinion of hecklers, and how do you choose to deal with them?

Alasdair: As a straight white man, life is hard. Never more so than when it comes to hecklers. “Check your privilege!” they cry. “Thanks for the mansplaination!” they sneer. “You’re white!” they sometimes shout. I stamp and yell, “you kids just don’t understand funny!” as I’m pulled from the stage by the PC gestapo.

CTW: Apart from stand up and creating games is there anything else you’d like to do in the comedy world?

Alasdair: The whole reason I got into comedy was because I wanted to be a film director, but it wasn’t working. I quickly realised that comedy was a much cheaper medium to be unsuccessful in. But I still hope to put my film school training to use in the comedysphere.

CTW: What would you like to see change about the current comedy scene?

Alasdair: We’re in a period of cultural contraction. It’s cautious and conservative, and that’s bad for all of the arts. Audiences don’t want to risk paying £10-20 for a gig that doesn’t have a TV name attached. And who can blame them for being cautious them when they have The Netflix at home?

CTW: This site is all about celebrating the best comedy around – So what other comics would you recommend?

Alasdair: I hate this question, because it’s just an opportunity for me to offend 99% of the comics I know by naming someone else. So let’s just all agree that there are no good comedians.

CTW: And what tv or film comedy are you passionate about?

Alasdair: In terms of comedy films, I really like Jared Hess and Taika Waititi. I thought Flowers was a really good indie film, disguised as a sitcom. And, I think I’m the first person to notice this, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a rather good writer isn’t she? I am a Bojack Horseman man, not a Rickandmortyman. Just mumbling your lines isn’t a joke, how can people not see that?

CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?

Alasdair: Probably the replicators from Star Trek.

CTW: And finally, can you tell us what your plans are for the future?

Alasdair: Earl Grey, hot.

Related Links:
Alasdair’s Official Site
Nelly Cootalot Official Site
Alasdair’s appearance at Chortle’s Fast Fringe

Alex Finch.

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