“You’re not going to ask me how I got into comedy are you?” asks Chris Ramsey before we begin our interview at the BBC’s Edinburgh Fringe base. “No, no.” I reply. “Anyway, I already know!” Because Ramsey and I not only grew up in the same town [South Shields] but also attended the same secondary school, I have – often accidently – followed his career closely, from his early days compéring an open-mic night in Newcastle to where he is now, just four years later.
In such a short space of time Ramsey has been taken on by giant comedy agents Avalon; made TV appearances on Russell Howard’s Good News, Jason Manford’s Comedy Rocks and, most recently, 8 Out Of 10 Cats; and acted as tour support for the likes of Russell Kane, Lee Mack and Al Murray. It is already an impressive resume and that is without really discussing his live work. Speaking of which, Ramsey is back in Edinburgh for a second year to showcase Offermation, his newest hour of material. So what is it all about?
“Offermation is about a series of round-robin letters I get from family members who I don’t actually know”, he tells me. “I’ve been getting them for the past three years now and they basically punctuate the show. I’ve got a little prop to go with them and everything…a letter box built by my dad!”
We are a couple of weeks into his run now at the Fringe, and walking around Edinburgh it is difficult not to spot the stars and promotional quotes attached to his posters. Both punters and reviewers seem pleased with this year’s run, but is Ramsey?
“It’s going better than I expected. Presales for the show were great and every night so far has sold out in advance, which means we haven’t had any pissheads going, ‘It’s raining. What’s left? Let’s walk into this guy’s show and ruin it.’ I’ve had a bit of made audience this year, which has been great. I’m really happy with the show and I love performing it.”
That kind of modesty comes into the fore again when I ask him whether he should have been nominated for Best Newcomer at the Fringe last year. I say yes.
“You know what I’m like; I never think I’m due anything like that! I wouldn’t have said no – course I wouldn’t – but I wasn’t upset when I wasn’t nominated because I didn’t expect anything. I think I’ve come on so much since then, though. In terms of my writing and structuring and delivering a show I feel like it’s light years ahead of last year, which is how you should feel. When I wrote Offermation I said to myself, ‘I wished this was my first one’; but if you’re thinking, My first show was better than this, then there’s obviously something wrong.”
It is no surprise Ramsey has sharpened up in the past twelve months, especially given his extensive tour alongside Al Murray and his recent heavy TV schedule. “Doing 8 Out Of 10 Cats and then three episodes of Show and Tell with Chris Addison [which debuts on Thursday 15th September on E4] was pretty intense. I got them all sprung on me in a fortnight, which meant I spent two weeks alongside Jason Cook writing loads of new material. When you’re under pressure like that – while trying to preview this year’s show too – it really makes you go. It was fucking mayhem, and when I arrived in Edinburgh it felt like a bit of a holiday at first…but now I’m getting fed up!”
For those who don’t know him, it is often easy to forgot this comedian is just four years and two Edinburgh shows into his career, having already achieved so much. But is Ramsey’s rising status in the stand-up world coherent with his ambitions?
“I’m much further than where I thought I would be, to be honest. I’m even further than I thought I’d be when I re-assessed my plans last year when I was on tour with Al [Murray]. Every year surpasses the next. The year I did The Comedy Zone and a gig in Dubai with Al I thought, This is the best year of my life, then last year I had my first Edinburgh show and was on Russell Howard’s Good News, and now it’s come on again this year. God knows what I’ll be thinking in 2012.”
And there you have it. I guess the main question posed to Ramsey is never really going to be how he started life as a stand-up comedian, more where he and his talents can possibly end up. The sky, as they say, is the limit.
Chris Ramsey is appearing at The Grinning Idiot Comedy Club in November. For tickets, visit www.thegrinningidiot.com. The Grinning Idiot are part of Dave’s Comedy Society, which offers 2 for 1 tickets to live comedy nights from now until the end of the year.