Interview: Mick Ferry
Let me tell you something about Mick Ferry; he is quite possibly one of the nicest and interesting comics I have had the privilege to have spoken with. Oh, and he is very funny. After being a late starter to comedy he has quickly become one of the most sought after acts – and comperes – working the circuit. And when chatting to him you would be forgiven for thinking he is a comedian at the later stage of his career; his comedy knowledge is second to none.
LM: Hi Mick. So, when was the first time you started doing stand up?
MF: I used to go to a comedy club once a month on a Monday night. I got pissed one night then just got up and had a go.
LM: So how did that work out for you then?
MF: I can’t remember to be honest – I was that pissed. In fact, the first five times I just got arse-holed and went up [on stage].
LM: When did you start sitting down and writing? Do you still write?
MF: Yes, I do write. In fact, the first 18 months of doing stand up I thought you had to be different every time you went on stage. The first ten months I did about 200 shows; every time with different material, dying on my arse most of the time. But then someone took me to one side and said just keep the good stuff, it doesn’t always have to be different. I guess I just thought that comics where cheating by using the same material night after night.
LM: How do you get the ideas for your material then? Is a process of just sitting down writing ideas then trying them out?
MF: Most of my material comes from things I have said on stage. I just remember if it’s funny, ad lib it then turn it into a routine. For example my last Edinburgh show ‘The Missing Chippendale’ – I ended writing about two hours worth of material, but only 55 minutes of it made it in to the routine.
LM: You mentioned your previous Edinburgh show – how did the Fringe go this year, and how did the name of the show come about?
MF: It was my second solo show and it went a lot better than the first year. The problem with the first show – and this is how the name of the second show came about – was that my venue was in a room next to a Chippendale show. So every night I was performing in room that held 60 people and was competing with paper thin walls and a 200 seater venue sold out Chippendale performance every day. The laughs where just drowned out by screaming woman.
LM: So with the success of Edinburgh you are clearly a comedian of experience and quality. Is the circuit hard to get established on? Is it full of cliques?
MF: No, not at all. If you’re good enough you get the work. Some people do a couple of open slots then pack the day job in. it doesn’t work like that. It’s like an apprenticeship; you have to play all over for fuck all money, then after a while people will start saying, ‘Right, come back and we can give you some paid work’.
LM: So it’s safe to say comedy isn’t about being an overnight success?
MF: No, there are very few examples of that. People think McIntyre was an overnight success. He was on the circuit ten years ago; John Bishop he’s been doing this as long as I have. The bottom line is if you want to do it you find a way, and if you don’t you’re just clogging up the system.
LM: Speaking of John Bishop, you have just finished writing for his show ‘John Bishop’s Britain’, haven’t you?
MF: Yeah I did, it was a good laugh. The only problem though is in the credits of the show instead of being credited for additional material they call it program associate, which I don’t think is a very good title.
LM: Comedy is definitely something you’ve earned a living out of – and your appearance on McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow lends coherence to that. Do you think shows like the Comedy Roadshow are a good thing?
MF: It didn’t work for me, but road show and panel shows have worked for others. The problem was I did a 25 minute set and they only showed 7 minutes of it. They didn’t show what I wanted them to show, so a lot of the time the way the show is edited can go against you.
I also – and is still don’t know why I did – decided to grow a moustache. I looked like a Mexican porn star. Then I shaved it off so when the recording went out I didn’t have it anymore; so not many people seemed to recognize me.
LM: So with programs like McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and more and more comedians doing arena tours, do you think comedy has become a more mainstream entertainment outlet?
MF: Yeah, I totally agree with you – it has become a lot more popular. That’s the danger though, I feel; we call it alternate comedy but it’s becoming incredibly more mainstream.
LM: As a comedian you’re always touring and seeing new and upcoming acts; are there any you think are going to be really big? I’ve spoken to Chris Ramsey and he seems to be close to ‘making it.
MF: I think Chris is a good example, actually. He has two things going for him – he is likable and he’s a good looking lad which is ideal for telly. He is defiantly someone I can see presenting shows in a few years time.
LM: The Hyena, where we are tonight, is quite well known for hecklers – but what’s the worst heckle you have ever received?
MF: There’s none I can think off of the top of my head. The worst situation I can think of, though, is when the room was so quite I could hear someone counting out change. So I asked him what he was counting the change for. He said to see if he had enough for a taxi home; I went on to ask him how much the taxi would cost. He said about £10-15 quid so I gave him a twenty and fucked off. You know it’s not going well when you can hear change being counted.
Hecklers can be off-putting more than anything, especially the persistent ones. I just don’t understand why they do it. I mean they’re talking to full time comics. A lot of people often get offended when you give them some shit back. The way I see it, though, is that you wouldn’t take a swing at a bouncer and not expect to get punched back.
Also it’s sometimes best to get a person to repeat what they have said. Once I ripped somebody apart when I heard him say something and he had actually just been paying me a compliment!
LM: Crikey. So what does the future hold for Mick? Where can we expect to see you next?
MF: Currently working on a couple of writing projects and I also have a couple of plays that I am hoping are on Radio 4 in the near future. Then I also have a pretty big comedy line up as well. Then I’ll just take it from there – it’s definitely a busy couple of months coming up.