Having gone from playing at his local comedy club’s open mic night as a plucky 17-year-old to filling some of the most prestigious live performance venues in the world, 30-year-old Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges has earned the right to be counted among the country’s greatest comedy exports.
Exuding a universality and a grounded realism in his routines that fiercely hits home for any millennial from a working- or middle-class background, Bridges’ intense Scottishness helps accentuate the every-man charm that’s made him one of the most sought-after stand-up comedians in the world. When we speak to him, Bridges’ is gearing up for his second sold-out show at the Sydney Opera ‘Hoose’ before getting ready to hit Hong Kong next week...
You’re about to do your second night at the Sydney Opera House. How was last night and how’s the tour been going in general?
Aye, last night was brilliant. Never thought I’d ever play the Opera House in Sydney, so it was pretty special for me. And the show went well most importantly.
Your early stuff was very Scotland-centric, maybe even British focused, with material about [TV programme] Get Your Own Back and ‘having an empty’. Have you had to adjust your material for this tour a bit to make it more universal?
I’ve done stand-up for 13 years now and after a while you start to realise, if something’s funny, then it doesn’t matter what its origins are. I can make a joke about Scotland but as long as it’s not esoteric you won’t need to have lived in Scotland to understand it. My material evolves with my life. I’ve had different experiences now. I’ve travelled a lot more, which forces you to change your material because you’re living a different life. I’m still talking about Scotland and stuff when I come to Australia and New Zealand but only if it’s something that I know is acceptable. And there are jokes I would make in Australia that don’t make any sense in Scotland.
You’re considered part of a Scottish stand-up trifecta now, alongside greats like Billy Connolly and Frankie Boyle. How does that feel?
Aye, well it’s great. It’s only last year that I took a bit of time off and then you realise, like, fucking hell, it’s been a long time. When you’re doing it every single night you don’t really realise how much you’re progressing and how you’re turning over so much material and it’s great when people start quoting your routine. You’re like ‘wow, this was just a wee idea that I scribbled on bits of paper that I took to a comedy club and I’ve worked it up into these big shows’. When you’re turning over three, four big standup specials, then you start to realise you’re moving up into the realms of people that are your favourite comedians.
When people compare me to Connolly, I think that’s a lose-lose situation. I don’t think there’ll ever be another, I think he’s the godfather of standup and such comparisons are well off the mark. He’s in his 70. If I’m still performing stand-up in my 70s like Billy Connolly then maybe, but there’s a long way to go.
What’s your experience of Asia? Have you been around here much at all?
The Comedy Store in London used to – in fact, I think they still do – run club nights over here where they bring several comedians over. I did that in 2008. We visited the Phillipines and did three nights in Hong Kong. I remember we just flew straight to Hong Kong transferred to the Philippines, did the show there and then flew back to Hong Kong and did another three shows. I didn’t get to see much.
So are you going to take some time and do a bit of exploring?
Aye, it’s the last stop on the tour. I’m doing the show and then I’m gonna stay for two or three nights. My girlfriend’s coming over and she’s always wanted to visit Hong Kong, so I’ll get a bit of time to go and see it properly.
What sort of topics can we expect at the show?
Some stuff about world affairs like the, kind of, impending apocalypse. The usual sort of stuff you get from my shows – a bit of topical stuff, a couple of anecdotes about my life. But sometimes, like last night in Sydney, you walk on with a bit of a plan then something happens in the crowd and you just start riffing on that.
Do you feel you’re in a position now where you don’t have to just repeat that cycle of tour, DVD, tour, DVD, ad nauseam?
They asked me to do a third night at the Opera House – I pronounce it the Opera Hoose – and I said leave it. I’d rather keep it to two shows than do a third night that only half sells and feels like a chore. Let me just leave it there so I’ve got time rather than just chase the money. Your happiness is important. Like Hong Kong, I’d rather have an extra few nights off just to see the place, rather than race back to the UK for a TV thing or whatever. Life comes first. I think it makes the shows better and it makes your writing a lot fresher because you’re actually living and enjoying your experiences.