📷 : Steve Ullathorne
Following a run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year, Richard Stott announced he was taking his debut show Right Hand Man on a UK Tour, with the next date being 4th March at Playhouse Leeds, and will be touring until 29th May at Royal Leamington Spa. The show is based on Richard’s own life growing up with Poland syndrome, and saw him as runner up for Dave’s Top Ten Jokes 2019 at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We spoke with Richard about his Right Hand Man debut tour, what audiences can expect from the evening and performing at comedy festivals.
What can audiences expect from your Right Hand Man tour?
It’s first and foremost comedy. I’m not here to do an inspirational speech or a hard hitting monologue. I talk about difficult subjects but the important thing is that I find a way for us to laugh about them. I have found a number of ways to do this within the piece in addition to straight stand up. It’s not soft play, often I see audience members finding it funny but something within them is telling them that they shouldn’t laugh, we’re told that some subjects cannot be joked about… well I’m here to say no, there isn’t.
You were voted second in Dave’s Top Ten Jokes of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, how did this feel?
So, this was a really weird feeling for a number of reasons. I was of course elated but me being me, instantly gripped with fear. There were hundreds of positive comments but like a lot of people all I could focus on were the negatives. People were accusing me of “Pill shaming”, being offensive to anyone with mental health issues… clearly these people had never seen any of my work which focuses a lot on mental health. I turned my phone off and didn’t feel better until I met up with a few other comics that were on the list and realised every single one of us was being subjected to some form of online abuse. The other thing is it boosted sales of the show but a lot of people assumed most of my show was going to be quick one liners… Hopefully they weren’t disappointed when they realised it was a little different.
What were the audience’s reaction to your show in Edinburgh?
Well I was on early for Edinburgh, 12:45pm which is like 8am Ed Fringe time. So I had to work hard, wake people up, keep their attention. It was widely enjoyed. A few people were moved to telling me about their own similar issues and letting me know that they intend to talk about them more after my show. That meant a lot, that’s the ultimate goal… I’m here to make people laugh but if that helps people start a conversation I’m happy to provide that.
How long have you wanted to do your own tour and how long has your show been in the making?
I only started stand up in May 2017 so I haven’t been going long. It all happened quite quickly last year that suddenly I had a show on my hands that was picking up good reviews. All I wanted to do was have a good Edinburgh, I don’t dare plan positive things like a tour in too much advance. Right Hand Man has been in the making a long time in my head with it being my own story, however I managed to get it written in about three months.
How have you prepared for your debut UK tour?
As well as I can be, I’m planning to give the show some fresh material to keep me from getting too comfortable with it. I also have a great little team looking after me.
How did your show at VAULT Festival go?
Ah the difficult second album. It went well, it was a work in progress of my next show Toe The Line which is going to be harder to write I reckon. It’s going to be much more in the present tense than Right Hand Man, I’m quite excited about it.
What do you enjoy most about performing at Comedy Festivals?
The enjoyable ones are the ones that have created a buzz and an atmosphere. It can be harder doing festivals when even the people who live in the town don’t really know it’s on. When you’re at one with a good buzz about it you get an audience ready for anything, they’ve already been warmed up by the atmosphere and you find they put a lot into enjoying the show. In some ways it’s less combative than the club circuit however it’s worth remembering they might have just seen something fantastic and you better match it.
Do you remember how you felt performing your comedy to an audience for the first time?
Confident, obviously nervous at the thought of it going wrong but I knew it couldn’t be terrible, I’d watched so much live comedy I think I’d just taken in what was funny and what wasn’t. I told some absurd story about my hometown in Yorkshire where a couple of swans had a fight and a large group of men gathered to watch because that’s how much was going on in my hometown. I knew after my set I was onto something that wasn’t terrible so it was worth exploring… most things in my life at that time were terrible.
Did you grow up watching comedians, if so, who?
Not really, I got into comedy in my early teens. I became a big fan of Stewart Lee (like everyone I guess), he really showed me how comedy is an art form and the idea of what’s funny is something to be played with. In my early twenties I took a job running a venue for the now departed Manchester Comedy Festival, I ran shows for Scott Agnew, Larry Dean, Marcel Lucont and saw the variety within the circuit. I kept enjoying live comedy for the next seven years before finally getting on stage myself.
You’re also an actor and voiceover artist, can you tell us about this side of your career?
I’ve been acting for over ten years, bit of a love/hate relationship with that side of my career. I’ve found it hard to break in due to my disability. I think for commercial acting roles they don’t want people with weird bits. It’s getting better but when was the last time you saw someone on TV with so much as a hearing aid? So I’ve been slightly defined as a disabled actor which is weird to me because my disability doesn’t define my everyday life. Saying that, there are some truly brilliant people helping change things from within and actually last year I worked at the Globe Theatre which was a big goal. I at this moment prefer the comedy world, I don’t have to rely on anyone, I’m a lot more creatively active and I hate to say this as an actor but other actors really irritate me… I know I’m not the only one.
What career plans do you have for when your tour has ended?
So, as I mentioned, I’m working on a new show while touring this one. It’s based off the questions that Right Hand Man raised for myself, so you’ll catch me at Edinburgh 2020 with that.
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