Alun Cochrane: interview
Time Out London interviews stand-up comic and former Comedy Store host Alun Cochrane ahead of his solo show at the Soho Theatre
Take a good look at the picture. Okay, now who is he? If you’re a regular at the Comedy Store or at any of the bigger comedy clubs you’ll probably have a good idea. If not, you’ll more than likely recognise his face, even if you can’t put a name to it, from numerous appearances on panel shows like ‘Mock the Week’, ‘Have I Got News for You’ and ‘Never Mind the Buzzcocks’. Sometimes he has a beard, sometimes he hasn’t. He’s the dour and yet whimsically laidback Yorkshireman who does a nice line in pleasantly twisted observational comedy. Yes, that’s right, it’s Alun Cochrane.
Despite a fair amount of television and radio exposure he’d be the first to admit that he’s not quite a household name, yet. Even his Wikipedia biography amounts to no more than a concise, short-and-sweet six lines.
‘What that is, you see, is proof that nobody cares, ’cos if I had any fans at all, there’d be at least one dorky one somewhere that would put every single tiny detail of my life up there, even if they’d made it all up. But clearly I have no recognisable stalker.’ A smile cracks across his, until now, fairly emotionless face.
It’s not true of course, he does have a growing fanbase, but unlike many comedians, who massage their internet presence for the purpose of self-aggrandisement, Cochrane has a distinctly nonchalant approach to publicity.
‘I would really like to be honest in the media. It would be good to be the guy who put: “Hasn’t quite sold out at the Edinburgh festival but nearly did” on his poster, instead of having those bullshit quotes that everyone has that say: “Fastest-selling show ever. The only show to have every single ticket sold.” Those things are always bollocks. I’d love just to have: “He’s done all right at four out of the last five festivals and took one year off to have a baby”.’ He looks genuinely uncomfortable with the concept of selling, or rather over-selling, himself.
‘Occasionally I walk on at one of my solo gigs, see all of these people there waiting for me, and I think: Why? What could I have possibly done to warrant this? It’s not that I’m saying I’m a bad comedian or anything, it’s just that I don’t think I’ve done that well. I’m not being falsely modest here or anything, I do think I’m one of the better comics around at the moment, but I don’t know where a following for me would come from. It’s not like people can go: “Oh he’s in such and such.” ’
Well then perhaps we could help him find his perfect audience. What characteristics would you like your ideal fans to have?
‘Well, ideally, they’ll need disposable income. Well, at least enough so they’re not going to begrudge paying about £12 in exchange for an hour’s top-draw comedy. Also, they should be okay with a man thinking aloud rather than delivering fully polished routines, that would be good. Age-wise it doesn’t really matter, as long as they’re old enough to cope with some adult concepts. And for my part of the bargain, I will promise not to try to flog them any useless merchandise they don’t need.’ That sounds like a fair deal.
It’s possible that his somewhat charming but slightly apathetic days may be behind him. In his new show ‘Owner of a Shed. And a Son. Thinks the World is Wonky’ he examines the process of growing up, albeit from his own skewed viewpoint.
‘Although the shed in the title doesn’t actually appear at all in the show now for some reason, I think of it as a metaphor for becoming a man. For years I had pictured myself, when I grew up, owning a shed and making stock.’
Eh? Making stock?
‘Yes, a really good stock. I have quite simple ambitions. I can’t see the point in bungee jumping or doing something extreme like that when I haven’t learned to make stock yet. It’d be awful to die in a bungee-related accident thinking: Should have done stock before this – should have gone up in stages.’
Although sheds may not feature heavily, he does talk about the impact having a child has had on him.
‘It definitely made me more ambitious. Suddenly, when we had our baby, I found myself looking at my career and taking it more seriously. I just want to keep getting better and to be the best comedian I can possibly be. Largely because I realised I’ve got absolutely no other saleable skills. I’ve got nothing to fall back on. I couldn’t even get a job driving because I’ve already got six points on my license.’
And what other effects has being a father had on him?
‘I’m possibly not the most motivated human on earth, so it’s just good to have a series of small, highly achievable tasks to do when I’m at home – rather than just wasting the whole day somehow. I really like the fact that there’s always something to do like: get the nappies, play with baby, put a bottle in. I can’t do any DIY. I can’t do anything actually useful, but I can look after him and the best thing is, it’s a laugh.’
Family is obviously a big part of his life. Is that where his sense of humour comes from? ‘I think so. My brothers and my mum are funny. My dad died when I was four which, probably, is a huge factor in why I do what I do. I grew up in this huge family, and throughout my developing years all my relatives would tell me how funny my Dad had been and how much they loved him. You don’t have to be an expert to work out that I grew up thinking that being funny was a hugely prized asset to a personality.’
It’s only a matter of time before this self-deprecating, sharp-witted and hugely likeable master-comedian takes his well-deserved turn in the spotlight – and let’s face it, there’s a few tired old faces on ‘Mock the Week’, ‘8 Out of 10 Cats’ and the like, so come on guys, give our Alun a break.
Alun Cochrane is performing at the Soho Theatre, Jan 23-25.
- Add your comment to this feature