Interview: Andy Fury
Local comic Andy Fury is a man with no comedy plan. But he has a diary – with dates and schedules and work in. Having been previously reviewed a fair few times for Giggle Beats over the past few months – including a gig where he followed John Bishop – we’re all too familiar with Fury’s work; but if you’re not he’s certainly someone to look out for. Andrew Dipper went for a chat with Andy Fury to find out how his material has progressed over the past few years, what he thinks about the rising number of comedians, and, ultimately, what makes the Northern comic tick.
AD: You’ve been doing comedy for a couple of years now – what made you want to do stand-up?
AF: Just boredom really. That sounds pretty lame, but I’d left uni and was doing some freelance journalism whilst working in a call centre. I got really, really sick and thought I’d challenge myself a bit and try writing something different. So I signed up to do a slot at Long Live Comedy, an open mic night in Newcastle. I just thought it was something I could say I’d tried. The first one went really well and I got asked to do a couple of other gigs off the back of that, and it sort of snowballed from there.
AD: Great stuff. So can you remember your first joke?
AF: No, not really. I can’t remember that much of the night other than it going well enough for me to want to do it again. I was pretty dark when I started though – I was looking through notebooks at some of my old jokes recently and couldn’t believe the sort of stuff I used to say.
AD: Do the ideas for your material come naturally or do you need to sit down and work at it?
AF: Mine just seem to snowball and evolve really. Most stuff will start from a little spark somewhere, either something I’ve seen or heard; I’ll jot it down and flesh out an idea from there. Sometimes I’ll sit down and work it out methodically, more often than not I’ll start with an idea on stage, it’ll go somewhere else entirely and then a few months later I’ve got a longer routine full of random twists and turns nothing like how I’d first imagined. I enjoy it more that way, it means the material always seems a little bit fresher and I probably enjoy doing it more as a result.
AD: How difficult is it for a comic to go professional and really ‘make it’ in the comedy industry?
AF: I’ll let you know when I’ve ‘made it’! I think if you’re good enough then you’ll get there, but I don’t see being on Mock The Week as a way to define success. The people I admire most in comedy aren’t plastered over people’s TV screens constantly and don’t seem to crave it, the likes of Gavin Webster, Steve Gribbins. They’ve done telly and are massively successful comedians, but they’re still making a living playing to live audiences and if I have half the success of guys like that I’ll be happy. Going down the Daniel Kitson route of no TV but massive respect amongst comedy fans and comedians would do me fine.
AD: A lot of your routines rely heavily on audience interaction, but what’s the best heckle you’ve ever heard?
AF: I’ve been fairly lucky that I’ve never really had a proper heckle, not like a “You’re shit” or “Get off” sort of thing. I tend to just get people wanting to join in, which is nice although it gets a bit frustrating sometimes. I don’t know what it is about me that, as soon as I walk on stage, makes people want to talk to me. I like it though, I feel comfortable chatting, it’s just difficult sometimes when you tread the line between a comedy routine that’s going somewhere and just having a conversation. It’s taught me to try and make sure I’m never too far from a punchline.
AD: There are so many comedians around at the moment that they seem to dilute the quality of the industry – do you think there are too many comics doing the circuit?
AF: It’s a tough one to answer – there’s no doubt that some new acts are improving the scene, so that’s undeniably a good thing. I’m not saying I’m one of those good acts, mind – I’m not that arrogant! There’s some great new comedians, but there’s also an amazing amount of crap. People who maybe see the likes of Ross Noble, Eddie Izzard, and see a bloke talking and an audience laughing, and they fail to recognise that there are punchlines and gags generating the laughs. So they just get up and talk, but don’t do the jokes or punchlines, and they don’t get the laughs, and it’s just horrible to watch. It’s frustrating, but it’s not like they’re ever going to progress and take work from good comedians, so I just try not to get too annoyed by it.
AD: Who are your influences? Do you have a favourite act at the moment?
AF: Loads of influences – I remember seeing Johnny Vegas doing stand up when I was about 16, 17 and just thinking “wow”. It was shambolic, chaotic, but one of the funniest nights of my life. It’s everything I’d love to be. I love the likes of Stewart Lee, Dave Gorman and Daniel Kitson as well – they’re all really methodical, and it’ll always bug me that I could never be as eloquent on stage as those three. I also think the North East acts, the likes of Sarah Millican, Gavin Webster, Jason Cook, Chris Ramsey – they’re an inspiration to a small town shmuck like me!
AD: You mentioned comics like Jason Cook and Chris Ramsey just then, who are very good acts – why do you think there have been so many good comics coming out of the region?
AF: I don’t know – I started at the same time as three or four other lads who’ve all done well, especially Kai Humphries – he’s going to be a star, the bastard. But none of us knew each other, and I don’t think any of us had the same thought process going into it. Kai did it for a laugh with his mates, I did it because I was bored. So there’s no real driving force behind any of us starting out, it’s just been coincidence really. It’s great that Sarah Millican’s become such a huge name, it’s inspiring. I think there’s just something endearing about Geordies that people warm to instantly. Having said that, John Scott’s just won the Take The Mike competition and he only lives in Newcastle, so maybe there’s just something about the city that breeds comedy success rather than having to be from there!
AD: What do you think the North East needs to do to improve its comedy scene to match the likes of Manchester or London and keep these top comics in the area?
AF: I like the North East how it is; I don’t think we need to be looking to copy anyone. Sure, we could improve the scene a bit, make it easier to double up on gigs so comics can do a few shows a night, making it worthwhile for acts further away to travel up, but I think getting regular big crowds is the first step. I’d rather there were fewer gigs with bigger crowds than the other way around. There are some awesome nights up here – I’ll offend people if I miss any off but Peter Vincent and Neil Jollie’s gigs are generally all brilliant to play, but there’s not many bad North East gigs really.
AD: You didn’t end up going to Edinburgh for The Fringe this year – why was that, and will you be going next year?
AF: I just didn’t fancy it, to be honest. If I feel I’ve got a show in me that would improve the Fringe next year, then fair enough, I’ll go, but I don’t really see the point in going just for the sake of it. I’m also incredibly boring – the idea of being out drinking every single night and socialising with people, it holds very little appeal. I’d rather stop at home and play Monopoly for a month. Rock and roll!
AD: I don’t blame you – Monopoly’s a great game. Ahem. Anyway, you recently won the Hilarity Bites New Act of the Year award – how has this affected your career?
AF: It’s helped, but it hasn’t suddenly changed everything, I think people get a bit too wrapped up in winning competitions. It’s maybe meant that some promoters who hadn’t heard of me suddenly had. They haven’t started banging on my door demanding I come and gig for them, but it’s probably made it a bit easier to get a ‘yes’ from them when I’ve rang and asked. Probably the best thing I’ve had off it was the chance to gig with John Bishop, which almost definitely wouldn’t have happened without it.
AD: Finally, where can we see Andy Fury next?
AF: I’ve no idea where I’ll be next. Well I do, I’ve got a diary, I know exactly where I’ll be and when, but I’m assuming you mean longer term than this week! I’ve no real long-term aims at the minute. I only started because I was bored, now I’ve got a diary – an actual hardback diary with pages in and plans and schedules. It’s been a meteoric rise! I just want to continue to work hard, keep gigging, keep improving and we’ll see where that takes me.
If you’re looking to see Andy Fury, he’ll be performing at Sunderland Empire on the 9th November alongside Danny Deegan and Seymour Mace. Tickets for that show, and this month’s Laughter Live night (12th October), are available from the Sunderland Empire box office or by calling 0191 566 1045.