Take yourselves back a year. It’s the final night of the comedy festival and we’re all feeling jaded from the nights that have gone before. Your best mate (let’s call him Dave) recommends a chap doing character comedy about Lance Armstrong upstairs at Firebug. Dave’s a cycling fan and knows all about yellow jerseys and synthetic brakes. He even has a picture of Eddy Merckx on his bedroom wall. You reluctantly agree to go along and, despite being surrounded by a few too many earnest types on Brompton’s for your own personal comfort, concede that you have an absolute blast. That is due, in the large part, to the incredible talents of the man on the stage, Kieran Hodgson.
Again, on the final night of this year’s comedy festival, Kieran returns to Leicester to entertain us, this time with his new show, Maestro. Great Central finds time within Kieran’s hectic calendar to fire some questions his way.
“I can’t wait to be back!” announces Kieran. “My friend Chris is definitely coming along and he’s said he’s bringing one of his mates so that gets ticket sales off the ground, at least. If the gig’s a disaster we can always go for a curry.”
When asked what we might expect from Maestro, Kieran informs us that “any potential audience members out there can expect an hour of very sincere character comedy with lots of silly voices, a love story and some approx. Grade 5- level violin playing from time to time.” It sounds right up my street.
We ask what it is about playing the final night of the festival. “Well the boring answer to that question is that it’s my tour manager Tom’s decision and he seems to enjoy setting me a challenge.” jokes Kieran. “But the more exciting answer is that I love having the honour of closing the festival with a show that’s very positive and family-friendly, perfect for Sunday night. It’s a show that says ‘you’ve had your fun and your edgy thrills with all the proper comedians, but it’s Monday tomorrow so just calm down a bit and we’ll all get through it together’. As I say, mostly it’s Tom’s decision.”
You might expect a man who has been nominated for top of the tree Edinburgh festival awards for both Lance and Maestro to have an air of arrogance about him. But that’s not humble Hodgson. He ponders that, he’s “very prepared for the next show to be, let’s call it an educational failure,” and acknowledges that there’s tons of accents he tries that are far from faultless.
“With a lot of countries I find myself wandering around from region to region in the middle of a sentence. We had some people over for Burns night last week and I launched into my famous recitation of ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ which elicited some very raised eyebrows from a Scottish friend as I started in Edinburgh with the opening line and got to the rougher end of Paisley by the end. Still, knowing you’ve made a mistake is the first step to correcting it. And David Cameron isn’t Prime Minister any more which is a relief as I could not do an impression of him. Who could?”
The same self-deprecating manner permeates throughout our interview. It’s when we ask Kieran about his writing process that we really get a glimpse into how thorough and determined this man is.
“I never know that it’s good but it certainly has to make at least me chuckle before I put it in front of anyone, otherwise why bother? My writing process is always evolving, if you’ll pardon the hideous cliché, but these days it tends to start with a lengthy period of plotting out and planning, getting a sense of the overall structure of the show, before diving in with 20-minute chunks. If a chunk works I’ll give it a quick once-over then go on to the next chunk. Then, once there’s an hour, or even more, I’ll begin the heavy-duty redrafting. By the time the show gets to Edinburgh it’s usually at about draft 6 or 7. A lot of my friends and colleagues start with what’s funny and follow their instincts, but I tend to start with an overall idea and then wrestle it into being funny somehow. Everyone comes at it differently and, time for another cliché, there’s no right way of doing it.” There’s lessons there for some of Leicester’s wannabe comedians, I suspect.
Knowing that Kieran was responsible for a fine portrayal of Ian Lavender/Private Pike in ‘We’re Doomed – The Dad’s Army Story’, we chat about television and who would be the dream sit-com roles. “I got all of Frasier on DVD for Christmas and am currently 3 seasons in – what I wouldn’t give to play Niles!” imagines Kieran. “You know they just wrote the part for David Hyde Pierce because he looked like Kelsey Grammer and they liked him? What a dream.”
As an alternative, Kieran would be the outboard motors salesman from the ‘Hotel Inspectors’ episode of Fawlty Towers. “I love how that guy says ‘The wine is corked’. No-one speaks like that any more.”
But, surely it won’t be long before Kieran Hodgson gets his very own TV series, we ask. ” I am indeed working on a TV project that will mean I’ll never have to take to the stage ever again and can buy a big house at the top of a mountain by the sea. Which is how TV works, right?” Kieran jests.
Despite being a busy man, he’s clearly found time to have a scout through the programme to see what else is on during the comedy festival. “I would strongly recommend two very educational acts, the first being Mark Cooper-Jones, whose ‘Map Men’ YouTube videos are an absolute delight, and the second being @Deadmonarchs, on at the King Richard III Visitor Centre.” plugs Kieran. “During my brief visit to Leicester last year I was deeply impressed with how shamelessly the city was prepared to flog the whole Richard III thing, and so what comedy show could better reflect the spirit of Leicester than an exhibition of ‘tweets from beyond the grave’ from various monarchs? None, that’s what.” I know of at least three people who will be buoyed by this recommendation.
Just before our time draws to a close, we can’t help but ask Kieran about Donald Trump and how much money he would have had to be offered to perform at the inauguration. “Gosh, I’ve not much expertise in political comedy, so I’ll go with ‘As much money as would be required to bribe the companies in charge of constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline not to build the Dakota Access Pipeline.’ Zing?”
Kieran Hodgson plays The Cookie at 8PM on Sunday February 26th.