Russell Kane Interview: 'With My Kind Of Self-Doubt, You're Better Off Arrogant'
"What people perceived was originality, it was actually just someone who didn’t give a s***," explains Russell Kane about his first forays into stand-up.
Kane, velvet-quiffed, beady-eyed and horribly energetic for a late afternoon, is remarkably forthright about his motivation for making a career out of making people laugh.
"I had problems with my confidence in public speaking, so I thought if I did the hardest version of it, I wouldn't have a panic attack when I had to do it for work," he recalls, hand on chin.
"Of course, the second I stepped on stage, this narcissistic attention-seeking gremlin that had obviously been lurking within for years, burst out and shouted 'what was that?' It was pure adrenalin, level 1 acceptance from everyone in the room... and I was addicted in the most shallow, base way possible."
Kane had a dream, as he describes it, of giving up work at 26, and spending a lifetime walking downstairs in time to make a cup of tea and turn on the midday movie. So how's that Mr Rigsby-esque vision of freedom panning out?
"I've inconveniently become successful, so I'm busy. And my act is high-energy, so working all day and night for more than a week, I can't do. The quality starts to disappear from the end product, and that's when it stops being fun. Now and again, I throw my toys out of the pram, because I don’t want the end product to suffer, just so I can whorishly earn money. Occasionally gigs get cancelled, because I've just run out of steam, and I'd rather give people their money back than turn up half-assed."
Kane muses further on his place in the comedic food chain where, it seems, he's in a middle no-man's land:
"It's part of the problem of being up and coming. Some of the larger guys can decide how busy they're going to be in bigger arenas, whereas I'm still at the reactive stage, being asked to do stuff and not saying no. Up and coming is the hardest bit, because you're both new, there are 80 gigs instead of 20 on tour, and you've still got to do all the telly and stuff. But I'm about to break away from the up and coming league, I can feel it."
Such number-crunching is testament to the marketing office Kane left behind in 2006, and also, as he puts it, a hardened work ethic:
"Comedy isn't anything glamorous. It's about putting the time in. Some people want to put it in a slightly ethereal category, but I'm with Anthony Trollope, my favourite novelist, who said writing a novel is no different from making a shoe. It's the same doing stand-up comedy."
A hardened work ethic or just, despite the numerous awards Kane can claim, for example winning both Edinburgh and Melbourne International Comedy Festivals' top honours in the last comedy year, a never-ending need for approval and security?
Kane willingly concedes this. "I'd love to have a project that is mine, me hosting, having a laugh, my own TV stuff, so I can schedule it and feel a bit more secure," he explains. "It does feel weird, giving up all your job and prospects of stability. I'm unmarried, I wonder when it's going to end, so it would be nice to have a profession for life, even if I don't turn into one of the great comedians."
Fulfilling such a dream means being endlessly creative, which must become increasingly laborious, surely, especially with the weight of audience expectation. Kane agrees but is optimistic he can cope:
"I'm biographical and confessional, so as long as stuff keeps happening to me, I'll be all right. Of course, the danger is the more you become successful, all you're doing is sitting around on couches talking to journalists.
"The thing is with this year's show, it's the first time I've turned the camera on myself. My marriage fell apart, the year before that my dad died, what's next year? What am I going to talk about?"
Talking of which, is anything off limits?
"I don't talk about my brother, because my mum asked me not to. Everything else is fair game, as long as it's funny. I don't check with people first, because I trust my own instinct for not offending people, I make mistakes now and again on TV, but generally I just know where the line is. Divorce, personal relationships, one night stands that expose all my worst, misogynistic leanings, stuff people could hardly bear to write in a diary for fear it'd be seen - it’s all there."
Kane chuckles that certain journalists have complained he even reviews his own show as he's going along.
"I just get in there worse, bigger, than anyone else can before, slagging myself off like a deconstruction machine," is how he puts it.
Despite, or perhaps because of having all the angles, Kane is just as ready to admit to crippling self-doubt on occasion as well as its root cause:
"I don’t have any confidence, only my lack thereof, sickness, diarrhoea, self-doubt, not speaking when nerves get me into complete melt-down. I'm inoculated from arrogance by my doubting father, that’s all I've known. Confidence-sapping... negation... the drip-drip effect. With that kind of meltdown from self-doubt, you're better off being arrogant.
"In the meantime, If I can do stand-up that everyone likes, then write a sitcom, then write a book that everyone likes... I've got a novel coming out in April so we'll see what happens..."
Doesn't sound like Russell Kane is going to be walking downstairs, boiling the kettle and switching on the TV any time soon.
Russell Kane's Smokescreens & Castles DVD is now available on DVD