Interview: Andy Storey

Andy Storey has been one of my favourite comedians for a good while now, one who I’ve seen many times and who has never failed to make me laugh, and laugh a great deal at that. He’s an exceedingly charming comedian who has a fantastic selection of very funny stories and wry observations and if you’re able to go and see him you should do so at your very first opportunity. He’s appeared on on BBC Radio 2, BBC Scotland and Live on The One Show, and been described as a “thoroughly engaging comic” by Chortle, “Truly funny” by Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, and “Exquisite soul comedy” by the critically acclaimed comedian Phil Kay, whilst several publications have favourably compared him to Alan Bennett and there’s not much better praise than that. Here he talks about his latest show, Awkward, working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, dealing with hecklers and the highlights and low points of his career so far.

Comedy To Watch: You did your debut hour, Awkward, at Edinburgh this year, how was it for you, and how do you feel it compared to your previous Edinburgh shows? And what are your thoughts and feelings about the festival in general?

Andy: Firstly I absolutely adore the Festival. I always yearn to make a return. Of course, for myself I love the complete control over the work and all aspects of promotion and the organisation of the month as a whole. I feel I’m at my best and create my best work without any kind of outside influence. My director, PR, agent and partner may disagree on this point, but I just put my hands over my ears. ‘Awkward’ is a look at life having opened the curtains and made an effort to venture outside the house. I remember a friend once saying to me “Why don’t you just join in more?” It’s easier not to join in life. I did 25 shows. I love the discipline of turning up and doing it. Waiting to go on. The feeling. The adrenaline. I feel it now as I write this. It makes me feel safe somehow. Familiar. Was it a success? I’ve no idea. Lets not think about it in those terms. This year was the busiest so far. The material was sharp and lean. I was very happy in the spotlight. If you work with joy Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful experiences that a performer can have. Sue Pollard came to my show this year and said some wonderful things about it. Its these moments that are so much fun. It was my fourth Edinburgh Festival. It is so invaluable for me to be working at it everyday. I could happily do a 2 month Edinburgh.

CTW: You’ve been gigging now since 2010, how do you feel you’ve evolved over the years

Andy: The seemingly easy things are often the most difficult to capture. “Just relax.” “Be yourself more.” “Breathe.” When I was a teenager I use to wear a bomber jacket with an orange lining. Now I sit here today in a bomber jacket with an orange lining. For twenty years I moved away for the bomber and tried various different jacket styles. In 2003 I breathed deeply. One day I know I’ll breathe deeply again. You can often find yourself evolving back to where you started, realizing that you were actually OK in the first place. Repetition for me has always been the key. I started Stand-up almost 8 years ago. I feel I’m really good now. I just need to focus on breathing deeply again.

CTW: How do you go about writing your material, and structuring an hour long show?

Andy: I write all of the time. On the phone. In my mind. In a little book. Scratching. Jotting. Scribbling. Writing breeds writing. I’m an extremely practical person. Write a bit, perform a bit. Work on it or let it go. I know on a first speaking if the bit has legs. With experience I can now improvise around a couple of notes on a theme. Record it. Listen to it, and so on. You can always do more. You must do more. More is more in comedy. Structure is important in a full length show of course. You cant go to far wrong with letting the audience get to know you for a short while, reveal more as you go, say something honest, a bit of live ironing at the 40 min mark ( Awkward featured live ironing ) ruder stuff close to the end and tie up the lose ends, wave and run off.

CTW: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Andy: A highlight for me was the BBC Comedy Awards in 2015. The final was held at The London Comedy Store. Up to that point I’d been in 4 or 5 competition finals, and had always bombed. I just couldn’t relax enough. In the BBC final I was on first. When I watch the tape back, I can see the tension. I was very funny, but I was slightly forced and tight in the body. Things that probably only I can see. BUT I had done it. I had found a level of relaxation where I could be funny under pressure.

CTW: And conversely, what was the low point?

Andy: About three days in to the Edinburgh Festival, you will always find me packing my bags to come home again. Despair. Total despair. Sobbing. Then I unpack my bag and I’m ready to work. That’s just the way it is.

CTW: You spent two years with The Royal Shakespeare Company, what are your fondest memories of that time?

Andy: Working with the Royal Shakespeare Company was one of the great highlights of my life. When you are the weakest in the room, it makes you stronger. Two years I was there. Stratford-Upon-Avon, London and Newcastle. I shall go back one day I’m sure. Greg Doran, Tim Piggot-smith, Ed Hall, Greg Hicks, Sam West, The Swan, The other place, The Pit, The Barbican, Newcastle Theatre Royal. It doesn’t get any better. On the first night of King John at The Swan, Guy Henry saw that I was uptight and said to me “Shoulders down, breathe and we’re on.” Perfect.

CTW: How do you feel about hecklers? And how do you choose to deal with them?

Andy: A heckler of course is very rare. I don’t really think it is a thing. If somebody shouts out, that’s fine with me. It’s usually some old garbage anyway. Some nonsense. I don’t really think it is part of the comedy, just a nuisance. I don’t care if a heckler is destroyed or ignored or removed. I find it boring to be honest.

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

Andy: I want to be in a musical, a comedy part in a west end musical. Herod. Master of the house. Doctor Dillamond, or back with the RSC playing one of the many fools. I’m currently writing a comedy drama for TV called ‘Shed.’ Also some books for children called ‘Geoffrey and the happy man.’ You can’t heckle a book. I’m looking for a child illustrator. Contact me to make any of these things above into reality.

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

Andy: The current comedy scene is thriving. Some really brilliant and creative people doing some great work. If I could wave a magic wand I would bring back a bustling club circuit, and working mans club scene. You don’t get much better than a great atmospheric packed weekend gig. Everybody just wants to work. More work. I think comedy is in a very good place. A changing place. Change is good.

CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

Andy: A question for myself. Q. Why have your answers to these questions got shorter as it’s gone on. A. Because I’m using a Library computer and they allowed me 2 hours, even though it wasn’t very busy. Basically my time is running out, and there was a man talking loud on his phone about a van driving job, and I have found it difficult to concentrate due to anger building up in my chest.

Related Links:
Andy’s Official Site.
Andy’s Appearance on The One Show.

Alex Finch.

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