Interview: Carl Hutchinson
If you’re a follower of Northern comedy, you’ll be fully aware of Jarrow comedian Carl Hutchinson. A maths teacher by day and comedian by night, Hutchinson has established a name for himself in the local scene over the past few years, and offers an entertaining performance everytime he takes to the stage with his list of things that can fuck off. Having watched him last week at Hilarity Bites’ Reds Bar venue alongside Chris Ramsey, Andrew Dipper recently had the pleasure of talking to Carl Hutchinson about his comedy career thus far, his plans for Edinburgh 2011, and what he’d like for Christmas. Enjoy.
AD: You started comedy almost four years ago now – are you pleased with your progression?
CH: Kind of. It’s really hard because when I started I didn’t really have a progression plan set out, you know. I just wanted to do it. Thinking about it as a career or anything wasn’t really an issue at the time, so in a way it’s hard to evaluate where I am because I never had any plans for any of this. To look at it I started in October 2006, but you don’t really start for a year after that when you get proper regular gigs and that sort of stuff. I’m not unhappy with where I am, but at the same time I don’t want to take my foot off the pedal. I know where I want to go now – I want to be doing all the big clubs and I want to be doing this full time. At the minute I’m doing three days a week secondary school maths teaching. Just getting up early is a bit of a bastard.
AD: Tough audience! So was it always in your mind to get into comedy?
CH: No, no, not at all. I danced about with loads of stuff before comedy. A few people in school said, ‘You should do it’ but I thought there was nothing more terrifying than the idea of getting up – I always enjoyed doing acting and public speaking, but going up there with your own stuff was terrifying. It was only when I started Newcastle Uni and when my friends moved away I started to get a lot more pissed off with things. It was always a case of ‘Let’s see how this goes’
AD: A lot of your stuff seems to be personal gripes – is it a case of your life providing more laughs than any fictional material?
CH: It just works for me. If it does come across as personal gripes I think I can see it a lot more and put a lot more personality into it. It’s just me with the volume turned all the way up. It’s good that people come up to you after the gig and say, ‘I like what you said about that and that.’ I mean, the stuff I talk about is fairly innocuous and inoffensive but I never set out to be offensive – I just talk about the things that are on my mind and if people can get on board and enjoy watching that then great.
AD: Your material’s always going to generate debate with the audience, isn’t it?
CH: Yeah, definitely, and that’s fine. I know I’m not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and I’m fine with that – I don’t think you can be, you know. I think the best thing you can do is just go for the thing that suits you and how to sell it in the best way.
AD: I’ve always drawn similarities with you and John Whale with your delivery and style – I found out the other day you two went to school together.
CH: Yeah, me and John when to school together and we’re still best friends now. I’ve known John since I was eleven and we both got into comedy together too. We’re actually working on a double act together for Edinburgh as well.
AD: I was going to ask you about that – is that your plan for next year’s Fringe then? Are you doing a package show?
CH: I just want to have me and John [Whale] doing this character double act of Jimmy and Jackie. Another plan individually is for me to get onto a high value showcase – for example a Big Value or a Comedy Zone. Something that will generate some Edinburgh momentum because at the moment I’m unknown in Edinburgh. I’m binding my time with Edinburgh – I want to make sure I go up for the right moment – but doing Jimmy and Jackie on the side as it were doesn’t really harm anything. Spending a month with my mate: living together, performing together writing together – what could possibly go wrong?
AD: I’m doing Edinburgh next year again so I’ll come along and see Jimmy And Jackie if yous end up doing it. You’ve won quite a few awards in your short time in comedy – does it affect your performance or is it a case of it just being something to stick on your CV?
CH: It’s something nice to put on my CV. For a while it did because I was arrogant enough to think, ‘I’ve won one shitty little award so I don’t have to worry about material or performance or anything,’ but that soon gets kicked out of you once you’ve had a bad gig. Hopefully I can say with some degree of experience having won and lost some competitions that all an award is is a record that you had what some people considered to be the best gig of the night. If there was a different judge on a different night with a different audience you might not have won it.
AD: You do a lot of gigs in the North East even though you live in Manchester now – is it a good excuse to come home or do you think your material is better received in the region?
CH: It’s always nice to come home, I’ll admit that, but with regards to material some of my stuff works better away from the area because then I can make reference to the fact I’m a Geordie. For example one of my lines is, ‘I can see yous all thinking, “A Geordie with elocution lessons.’ In the North East that’s a throwaway line but outside of Newcastle people love that. The main reason I gig in the North is because people ask me to – I’ve got no problem travelling to gigs. I’ll go where the demand is, but it’s always great to see the lads and my family in the North East.
AD: How does the Manchester scene differ from the North East one for you?
CH: The Manchester scene is definitely more established, but personally I think this is a great time if you want to get into comedy in the North East because there’s a lot more now than when they started. I’d say there’s a more established scene in Manchester, but I think if you give Newcastle the time then I don’t see any reason that can’t have just as big a scene.
There’s a lot of new people starting gigs now – you’ve got Tony Jameson, Neil Jollie, John Smith and Dan Willis, Steffen Peddie, Kai Humphries has got a night in Cramlington, Al Dawes has got the Chillingham Arms and has put a lot of effort into that. Compare that to your XS Malarky or The Comedy Balloon which have been going for years, it’s just because these places in Manchester have more of a name for them, but there’s no reason that can’t happen with Newcastle.
AD: So you think it’s just a case of reputation?
CH: Yeah, that’s all it is. It’s word of mouth. Nothing’s going to happen overnight, but as long as these people are in it for the long run, which they appear to be, I’m excited to see where Newcastle will be in a couple of years.
When I started you had Chris Martin who booked Castle Leazes which was what me and Chris Ramsey ended up doing; you had Al Dawes with the Dog And Parrot, and I’m struggling to think of more. That’s why my third gig was in Manchester – if you wanted to do it often you had to travel.
AD: Why do you think so many good comedians come from South Tyneside?
CH: Oh, I don’t know – maybe it’s something in the water. I think it’s hard to explain to someone not from South Tyneside…to answer your fucking question! Coming from a place where people like Jason Cook, Seymour Mace, Chris Ramsey, Sarah Millican have all grew up – if I could get mentioned in the same bracket as them that would be pretty cool. As to why they’re so good I don’t think I can answer your question.
AD: What personally makes you laugh, and who influences you?
CH: Recently I’ve been getting into Armando Iannucci (The Thick Of It) and In The Loop the film, and anything by David Cross. I’ve watched Arrested Development – that’s always fun to watch – and to focus on more British stuff I’d say anything that has Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais in. I’m not too keen on Ricky Gervais’ films I must say, but Extras and The Office I’m all for. For stand-up comedians though in this country, one of my favourite comedians is Gav Webster. I never get bored of watching Gav. I don’t think I was influenced by him, but I’m definitely a fan of him. Influence is a big word, but I’m a fan of many people in comedy.
AD: We touched upon this earlier on, but what do you think the future holds for you?
CH: Oh, I don’t know. I wish I knew! I hope it gets to the point where, you know, I’m at least getting regular work and I’ve got a name for myself on the stand-up circuit. But I don’t just want to do that – I want to go to Brighton for TV and I want to do stand-up on TV. I think stand-up is just the first hurdle, you know, and once I can make a name for myself I’ll keep an open mind.
AD: This isn’t really part of the interview because I’ll not be putting it online, but what’s the craic with you and Chris Ramsey kissing on stage?
CH: Ah fuck, how’d you hear about that? You can put this in the interview, I don’t mind. Me and Ramsey both done tryout spots for a comedy club called Rawhide in Liverpool, and this was when we were still in Newcastle. Lee Martin from Gag Reflex, who was working at the Frog and Bucket at the time, asked us if we wanted to do a night called The Asylum, which is Jason Cook’s night where comedians try loads of stuff that they wouldn’t normally get away with. They had the idea that they’d have a Geordie off, so they asked me and Ramsey Geordie questions and see what they come up with. We thought we were just going from Liverpool, doing that in Manchester and that’s it. But Jason Cook, who’d had a bit to drink at the time, said to everyone, ‘Would you like to see Carl and Chris kiss each other?’ Nobody outright agreed to it, but when the prospect of £50 each was involved we said, ‘Okay, yeah.’ I was student at the time and fucking needed that £50 – I was thinking, ‘This has more than covered my night and it’s covered my petrol.’ Yeah, I’ll kiss Ramsey. I’ll kiss-I’ll not kiss anyone for fifty quid, I like to think I’ve got some dignity, but I’d kiss Wavey Davey for fifty quid. So yeah, it was just very tight-lipped, and our lips were just touching each other, and we kissed for a minute. And at the end Jason Cook said, ‘Yeah, none of yous are getting any money for it.’ That’s what you call paying your dues.
AD: Sorry for opening up those wounds. Finally, what would you like for Christmas?
CH: I don’t know because when you’re a kid you’ve got a big list – not a big list of things that can fuck off! When I’m this age if I want anything I’ll just go out and get it. What I’d ideally like for Christmas is probably a hard-drive to put all my porn on or something. At the minute I’m living with my parents so I keep having to delete the porn – can’t leave any evidence of the porn. That’s been embedded into me. But at the same time I don’t want to start hoarding the porn. I don’t want to be that guy, like.
If you’d like to see Carl Hutchinson perform live in the New Year, he will be at Cactus Blue alongside John Whale and Gavin Webster on January 6th, and The Boardwalk and Gosforth Civic Hall on January 7th. More information on Carl Hutchinson can be found on his website at http://www.carlhutchinson.net.