I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this interview will be aware of Konstantin Kisin as he made international headlines after he refused to sign a safe space contract for a university gig and appeared on television both here in the UK and the US, and as a social commentator he has written for Quillette, Spiked, The Daily Mail and The Spectator. But he’s also really well known for being one of the best new comedians around, being the reigning Jewish Comedian of the Year and having also won Jeff Innocent’s Roaring With Laughter competition, the Beat the Frog World Series Panel Prize and was the Runner-Up in South Coast Comedian of the Year 2017. His debut hour long show is packed full of strong gags and razor-sharp observations about the state of the world as it carefully walks the line between offence and humour as it tears into the sacred myths of modern society, and here he talks about the highs and lows of becoming suddenly known across the world, his new show Orwell That Ends Well, being called a Nazi and the time another comedian tried to headbutt him.
Comedy To Watch: How would you sell your stand up to someone somehow unaware of your good self?
Konstantin: Intelligent political comedy – you won’t like it. 🙂
CTW: And what can you tell us about your debut show, Orwell That Ends Well?
Konstantin: It’s a show about the evaporating freedom of speech in this country where I contrast my experiences in the Soviet Union with the increasingly censorious society we live in today.
CTW: You’ve become very well known since you refused to sign “a behavioural agreement” before a gig at the School of African and Oriental Studies, what have been the upsides of that? And has there been a downside?
Konstantin: The downside was being called a “Nazi” on national radio for turning down the contract. The upside is I’ve now got a niche – I’m the only Jewish Nazi comedian in the world: I’ve got all those skinhead synagogue gigs to myself. 🙂
CTW: Due to the controversy you appeared on many tv shows, but what I’d most like to know is, what was it like meeting Piers Morgan?
Konstantin: You don’t get to meet him, unfortunately. The closest I have to a claim to fame is the make-up lady gave me a piece of his chewing gum. I’ve chewed Piers Morgan’s gum, check me out.
CTW: Do you feel your Russian heritage influences your comedy?
Konstantin: Growing up in Russia means I am passionate about freedom of expression: something I didn’t have, something my relatives were persecuted for. It also gives me an outside-in look at Britain: I don’t take this amazing country for granted and I want it to stay great.
CTW: You’re also the host of the youtube show TRIGGERnometry, can you tell us about that, and what are your fondest memories of working on the show?
Konstantin: The show offers an alternative to the clickbait, interrogatory interview style of the mainstream media. We invite respected experts and give them a chance to say their piece over the course of an hour. We don’t badger them, interrupt them endlessly or try to misrepresent them – we just let them express their views.
We’ve recently had Peter Hitchens, Douglas Murray, Peter Tatchell and many others on the show. We lightened the mood with playful banter but the main point is it’s a serious conversation with a fascinating person. The fondest memory has to be my co-host, Francis, trying to banter with Peter Tatchell, who is the most reserved man you’ll ever meet. Any time Francis fails is great, really.
CTW: What’s the most unusual gig you’ve done, and what happened that night?
Konstantin: My second ever gig one of the other acts got upset that I didn’t like one of his jokes and tried to headbutt me!
CTW: What’s the best thing to happen to you since you started comedy?
Konstantin: Before I started comedy, I used to get “winter blues” every year. I don’t anymore. There’s nothing like the buzz of performing to hundreds of people.
CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?
Konstantin: TRIGGERnometry with a better-looking co-host.
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Konstantin: Q: “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?”. A: “Plan to fail”.
Whenever you set out to do anything, you must expect setbacks, otherwise they’ll take you by surprise. Expect them, and you can overcome them.
Konstatin is at the Edinburgh Festival with Orwell That Ends Well at The Wee Room, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House, 13 Bristo Square, Edinburgh EH8 9AJ, and tickets can be found here: https://gildedballoon.co.uk/programme/konstantin-kisin/
A trailer for the show is here.
Konstain’s Official Site.
A Video of him performing and providing punditry.
The TRIGGERnometry Youtube Channel.
You can find Konstain on twitter at: @konstantinkisin
And he’s on Facebook here.
And this is his Instagram page.