During lockdown and the pandemic, comedian Patrick Monahan has kept performing each Wednesday and Saturday on Zoom and Facebook Live respectively, and last year, when outdoor theatres could return, he performed at the Drive-In comedy shows. Early in his career, Patrick won Take the Mike and since went on to also win Show Me the Funny in 2011, and appeared as a celebrity contestant on Let’s Dance for Sport Relief and Splash!. In 2019, Patrick toured with Patrick Monahan – #Goals and is now looking ahead to when he can safely perform his postponed Started from the Bottom, Now I’m Here tour. We recently spoke to Patrick about his live shows on Facebook and Zoom, performing at Edinburgh Fringe and what he’s looking forward to for returning to live theatre.
Can you tell us about the shows you perform on Facebook Live and how have they been going?
My live shows on Facebook Live every Saturday at 7pm have been such a laugh for me and hopefully for the people watching. It’s been a chance to still perform and have fun during the worst pandemic of our lifetime. This is thanks to modern technology and the internet which before the pandemic people used to just watch cats falling off cupboards.
It started off as a one-off live show talk about my tour being postponed, which we thought would be a couple of months. Then when I started my Live video feed and more and more people joined in and messaged me while I was performing, I realised this is the next best thing to a live tour.
It got so busy, that I’ve ended up doing two live shows a week, one every Saturday on Facebook and one every Wednesday on Zoom at 7pm.
And it’s been so nice to see comments from people who normally couldn’t get to see some of my live shows on tour because they don’t live near the venues or they are restricted to getting out the house. So, lockdown has taught me how to perform in people’s front rooms who otherwise would be stuck at home watching ‘Strictly Come Ice Skating on Love Island’.
How has it been working on the material during the pandemic?
At first, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty worried because the news was dominated 110% by the coronavirus. When I say 110% I’m not exaggerating, even TV programmes that weren’t the news were reporting on the virus. And even the adverts were all coronavirus affected. But then, like everything, you learn how to adapt, sink or swim. And I realised very quickly that everyone was in the same boat, we were fed up of it and scared of it and the best way to overcome it was to laugh at it.
So, I started to write stand-up, not just on what’s happening now, but how our life was before and linking in stand-up routines from pre-corona and writing new stand-up about how I am and we as a nation and a planet are dealing with it.
It’s a bad cliché but it’s so true, laughter is the best medicine and the best thing is everyone can get comedy instantly without waiting for any pharmaceutical test trails.
During COVID, you were performing at Drive-In comedy shows, what were these like to take part in?
In any normal situation, outside of a global pandemic, performing in a massive car park to 450 cars full of people would be one of the worst things ever. This would normally be somewhere between performing on the Titanic and in a strip club. But, surprisingly, it was amazing fun, partly due to the fact that it was organised and run by people who knew how to run live comedy, and partly because the 450 cars full of people were up for seeing comedy no matter how far back they were in a giant car park.
When I first walked from the back of the car park to the stage, it took about a minute or so, just showing how big it was and how far away the cars at the back were from the stage. But as soon as you’re up on stage, it’s amazing to see all the cars flashing lights and beeping horns as you come on stage, that’s their equivalent to clapping.
And it’s the most surreal thing to hear rows of people outside of their cars laughing at your routines, whilst rows of cars at the back beep their horns. It was like the first Woodstock of comedy.
You returned to indoor live shows last year with a socially distanced audience, how different was the experience?
It was such a relief just to be out of the house and back into a theatre, for those few days in 2020. And it was brilliant, even though the theatres had to lose large pockets of seating to make sure that people were socially distanced enough, it was still great. They reduced the numbers by a third but the people laughed about ten times as much. I think they were happy to be out of the house too.
How was it touring in 2019 with Patrick Monahan – #Goals and the show is available to download on buymeacoffee.com/PatrickMonahan, what can viewers expect from it?
2019 seems like it was decades ago. To be fair, technically it is the last decade, but it feels like 2019 was in the 1990s.
I always film my tour shows near the end of the run and make it available as a DVD or download for people who couldn’t see it live. And doing this without hindsight actually proved to be so valuable, as the tour shows were filmed in front of theatres full of people pre-corona and pre-social distancing. Watching this show now from 2019 in a theatre full of people without masks is more surreal than performing in a car park.
The #Goals show is full of stand-up routines touching on my life growing up as an Iranian-Irish immigrant from Iran to the north of England, living in a caravan for years with my family, then up to today, living with a middle class British girlfriend in a house. You couldn’t make it up, most people think my life is bonkers, but to me it’s just normal.
How long does it take to prepare for new shows and work on fresh material?
Normally you can write a new show easily every ten to twelve months. But if your agent rings you and shouts at you regularly you can write quicker than that.
Because I tour every year and do the Edinburgh Festival every year, I have to write a brand new show for each tour. And it’s so refreshing for me to work on fresh material every week. Nothing makes me happier than doing a comedy routine about something that happened to me last week and doing it live on stage days later to an audience who can relate and laugh to it. Especially if the thing that happened to me last week was horrific, at least talking and laughing about it on stage helps us all get through life in a more positive way.
What do you enjoy most about performing at Edinburgh Fringe?
There are so many things about doing the Edinburgh Fringe that I love, from the audiences who are comedy mad, the beautiful city, and the people from all around the world who visit to watch the shows. And one of the most important things I love is being in the same city for one solid month, because the rest of the eleven months I’m on tour each night in a different part of the UK or the world, so it’s good not to be running for a plane, train or sitting in traffic for a day.
Had you always known you wanted to be involved with comedy and when did you get started?
If you told me when I was a kid that when I was older my job would be performing to hundreds and hundreds of strangers each night in different towns and cities, I’d have called the police on you.
There is no logical progression from my childhood to being in comedy today. My dad worked as a welder and pipefitter all his life and with scrap metal, there is no show business or comedy in our family roots. The only similarity is that we have travelled so much as a kid, that it’s set me up for travelling so much in comedy.
What do you enjoy most about being a comedian and do you remember your first ever show in front of an audience?
Being a comedian is one of the only jobs where you get to see your product from scratch to finish. You see the whole production line process, from creation to the customer using your product, there are very other few jobs like that.
I’ve worked in many jobs as a teenager, one of them for a few years was in a frozen food packaging factory, where you would see the way they made the burgers and sausages from complicated ingredients and then packaged but you never saw the products being sold or being cooked and eaten and enjoyed, you just saw all the sweat and hard graft going into the making and packaging.
With comedy I get to create the routines, the product, and then deliver them live and fresh on stage and see the firsthand experience of the audience consuming it, and then I get to see the pay off, the laughter, the confusion, the shocked reactions, but mostly laughter (I promise)!
You’ll never forget your first gig, it’s like your first girlfriend. Except it doesn’t have an Instagram or Twitter account you can look at for nostalgia.
Who were some of your favourite comedians to watch when growing up?
I loved watching people like Dave Allen because my dad watched him on the telly, I never understood all of it, but loved the way he would just talk to the TV camera as if he was talking to us sat at home.
I also loved Richard Pryor and Robin Williams. I never knew people could be so explosive with their words, movements and actions, and so deadly with just a microphone.
You’ve won both Take the Mike and Show Me the Funny, how was this?
They were both great fun. Doing competitions can be nerve-racking, especially when you’re a new comic because you’re constantly on a showcase trying to prove yourself, being judged. But luckily, by the time I came to do Show Me the Funny, I had done a few years of gigs and was more focused on just enjoying doing the gigs in the show than worrying about taking part in the competition.
Can you tell us what shows like Splash! and Let’s Dance for Sport Relief are like to take part in?
They are the greatest fun you can have in public without getting arrested.
Both were terrifying in different ways. Splash! I had to jump off a 10-metre diving board and rotate one-and-a-half times. Previous to this, I hadn’t even jumped off a 1-metre board into a swimming pool rotating zero times. And Let’s Dance for Sport Relief was the same but opposite, I had to perform 10,000 steps of dance movement all from zero ground level.
Both involved intense training, exercise and learning how to turn and move, the simplest step or turn out of place could twist an ankle or break a bone hitting the water.
It made me appreciate and realise how lucky and lazy I was doing comedy, where I can do all my comedy exercise sitting on a sofa eating biscuits while writing jokes and routines, and nobody gets hurt, except if you spill a cup of tea.
What are you looking forward to most for being able to tour your new show Started from the Bottom, Now I’m Here when theatres can reopen safely?
I love doing comedy on Zoom and Facebook Live, seeing laughing faces and emojis flash up. But i just can’t wait to be live in a theatre, seeing, hearing, smelling the atmosphere of a live audience. That hubbub of sound coming from behind the curtain on stage as you’re about to go on, realising they’re all sat in their seats ready for the show. It’s like an electricity of joy and excitement that even Elon Musk couldn’t create an AI robot to recreate that feeling.
Do you have any comedy plans for the rest of lockdown that you can tell us about?
Lockdown has given me the chance to start and finish a lot of projects that I kept putting off because of my constant travelling, whereas now I’ve got so much further with it. I’m working on some sketches, a documentary, some kids books and a comedy news format. A lot of this I have been doing bits and pieces of while in lockdown, but once lockdown is over, I’ll be working with a team of professionals to help do most of the filming.
If you sign up to my mailing list on my website www.patrickmonahan.co.uk, I’ll make sure you’re the first to know about it.
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