When it comes to comedians, a lot of people think it's just a case of penning some jokes and telling them to people. Turns out there's a lot more to it than that.
Every year millions of people flock to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the Scottish capital. Here, they have the chance to see thousands of both budding and established comedians. Within the latter group sits Chris Henry.
While you may have seen Chris perform at many of the UK's best comedy shows (and perhaps even beyond) his show is still one of the free shows at The Fringe Festival. I spoke to Chris to not only find out why these shows at The Fringe are important but also to find out a little more about him. At this stage, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
When asking Chris about himself, I got an answer that started off how you would expect, but that escalated into something a little more.
I'm originally from Coatbridge, but I now live in Glasgow. I'm about six feet tall, blue eyes, single, like movies, cooking and long walks in the park.
Once Chris realised that this wasn't Tinder, we moved on from the distraction and spoke about what made him want to be a comedian. It turns out that comedy wasn't his first stop on the entertainment circuit.
I worked in the holiday industry for years, doing singing and dancing shows. I also played in various bands, so I had big dreams of being a rock star! Unfortunately, I had zero musical talent.
It was at this point where I reminded Chris how The X-Factor gives millions of people with zero musical talent a platform to perform every year. Turns out that this particular light bulb had already appeared some time ago.
When I did audition for The X-Factor, I only got through the first audition. There were another two audition stages before you even got to see the judges. My only saving grace was that I could make people laugh. So, I gave up one dream, started another, and decided to live or die by my own efforts. There have been a few deaths over the years, but it's still going a lot better than my music career.
I wanted to know what his favourite thing about being a comedian was, and like a true Scotsman he replied:
Now, the thing about interviewing a comedian is trying to figure out when they are being serious, and when they are just on the wind-up. However, despite being initially thrown by his answer, I could tell it was a genuine and honest one.
I can say or do whatever I want. If it's funny, people will let you away with anything. What other job in the world can you tell someone that they look like they aren't allowed within three miles of a primary school without the HR department kicking your balls?
An intriguing answer, to say the least. If having the freedom to do and say what you want is his favourite thing about being a comedian, I wanted to know what the most difficult part was.
Audiences who turn up for a comedy night are usually clued in on what to expect, but on occasion, there will be an individual or a group who hear a 'buzz' word that upsets them. They then end up reacting to the subject choice rather than listening to the joke. Either that or people expecting you to be both a manic depressive and funny at the same time. It's very difficult to be funny when some says, 'tell us a joke.'
I then hid my questions from Chris, as little did he know, my last question was 'tell me a joke', and I really didn't want him to sing to me, so we moved on to look at some of the more financial aspects of being a comedian. When I asked Chris if he had to pay for gigs out of his own pocket he said that he had in the past, but not for a long time.
When you get started, you pay out for everything! Travel, accommodation, buying drinks to kiss other comedians and promoters' asses. But once you've got solid material and you put the effort in to build your reputation on the circuit, you work your way up the remuneration ladder.
Turns out hard work pays off. Take notice, youths! Now the reason we were doing this interview was to learn about Chris' show at The Fringe Festival, why he was doing it for free, and perhaps a bit more about the festival itself, so now seemed like a good point to ask Chris what his favourite thing about The Fringe Festival is.
My favourite thing is that it's a month long festival where not only do I get to perform every day for nearly a month, but get to hang out with the comedy chums I've met on my travel, and have a good bitch about each other!
Chris then informed me that when comedians get together, it is the most verbally brutal conversations you could ever imagine.
Imagine all of the things you can't say to an audience member - that's how we talk to each other. If you want to see a glimpse of it, check out the comedian rap battles online.
Not wanting to be verbally abused, I then moved on to Chris' show, and asked him if he was happy performing material that he'd normally get paid for, for free at the festival.
I love performing for free at The Fringe! When audiences pay £10 for tickets at the big venues, statistically the performer isn't going to see much of that money The big venues and promoters railroad performers into contracts that can leave them in debt at the end of the run. The venues and promoters make huge amounts of money from the talent they bring to these festivals, but unless the act sells out for a month straight, they could leave with less than they came with.
Now, this seemed like it was turning into an old-fashioned scoop! I was on to something big! But then Chris told me that it was quite well known that this is how parts of the industry work. So, we continued talking about his free show.
I like the free festival because it means I get to perform and the audience donate whatever they think it's worth. It's a very honest transaction. If my show is bad, then I'll be licking the inside of bean tins. But, if I do the work and deliver a great show, audiences show their appreciation and show that in your bucket at the end. This way, the money goes to the people that have done the work, rather than the parasites making money from that work.
Strong words. I then asked Chris if he thought that the exposure you get from doing these free shows, is worth it, and it turns out it's all down to evaluation.
If you are a new act and you want exposure, do it. If you are an experienced act and you just want to try some new material in front of an audience, do it. If you have a show to promote and you doing this spot will get bums on seats, do it and do it well.
So, yes. However, Chris went on to give a bit of advice for those fledgling entertainers out there.
If someone runs a gig and makes money on it and wants you to perform because they know you are good, but isn't going to pay you and instead tries to sell it as "a great opportunity", tell them to do one.
Now, it wouldn't be a very good interview if I never asked Chris for his personal tips and picks for the festival.
My first recommendation would be to talk to the people handing out the flyers. If you do there will be certain names that you hear often, these will likely be shows worth checking out. My second recommendation - take a chance. Go and see some random shows, if they're good, out something in their bucket, if they're not, then don't. They need to learn! My third recommendation is don't go and see anything that as multiple A's in the title. If someone is using multiple A's just to get to the front of the brochure, then that's as creative as they'll ever be.
Some quality tips right there, and from a man in the know! Being a man in the know, Chris had a few names that he would personally recommend going to see.
If you're looking for some of my favourite people that make me laugh, then definitely check out these guys: Paul Currie, Colin Cloud, Gordon Southern, Eddy Brimson, Damian Clark, Scott Gibson, Mark Nelson, Brennan Reece, Paul McDaniel, Daisy Earl, Viva La Shambles, Stephen Bailey, Ashley Storrie, Tom Houghton, Susie McCabe, Darren Connell, Scott Agnew, John Robertson, Richard Gadd, plus all my other comedy pals that I'm going to pretend I forgot to write.
That's more than a few names, Chris! For that, I'm asking you the question that I had previously considered not asking.
Tell me a joke.
Chris Henry is phenomenally funny ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Chris Henry is phenomenally funny ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ who?
If you want a free punch line, then come to my show. But thanks for the quote for my poster!