Interview: Sam Gore
Sam Gore is one of the rising stars of comedy, having made fair headway in the industry since his amateur debut 4 years ago. Pete Starr went to speak to the man himself prior to his gig at The Frog and Bucket in Manchester on 15th Jan.
PS: 2010 saw you turn professional having cleaned up the new act competitions of 2009. How was last year as a whole?
SG: It was an interesting one really; it included my first proper month up at Edinburgh. I’d been up the year before for about 10 days doing bits and bobs but this year I was doing a free festival show with Max Dickins and a package show every night at the Tron, which was a five pound fringe venue. It was great fun, it was a lot of work, I got through, I think, 72 gigs in the space of that month. To do that, I’ve come out of it such a better comic and with so much more material. It’s a kind of a creative process just to be up there writing and gigging all the time; you can fit a couple of month’s worth of work into the space of those four weeks. You develop so much, so to do that and come out and start gigging again straight away was really helpful, it boosted the money I was earning and the venues I was getting in with – it’s really helped. December was a bit of an odd one for me, it was quite quiet. Christmas gigs I guess they really need the real pro’s to do those gigs, so it was a little bit quiet for me. But I’m pleased as a whole how the year panned out.
PS: So do you have any particular hopes for 2011?
SG: To be honest, I’m looking at gigging as much as possible. For Edinburgh I’m looking to try and get on one of the showcases that other people have organised. As much fun as last year was, the only realistic progression to do, instead of doing a free fringe show, is to build up to doing the showcases and then that first solo hour, which I don’t personally think I’m ready for. I think a lot of people make the mistake of rushing into that, and I think it’s such an important thing to try and get that right. I’m writing at the moment and thinking of concepts for the hour show – I know now that it won’t be ready, so I think maybe next year or the year after that build up to a big hour. So for this year it’s essentially gigging, building on what I’ve got and getting in with a few more clubs: That’s the game plan for 2011.
PS: So now you’re a professional, do you like your job?
SG: Yeah, it’s great! It can get frustrating when you realise you have an empty week – it’s ups and downs and it’s about getting that diary booked up. But when it’s going well and you’ve got that month of shows lined up there’s no better feeling than knowing I can get up and do what I want for the day, do a bit of writing, get on with it later on, and then if I’ve got a gig later on, getting to it. It’s a lot better than how I used to do it which was work six days a week.
PS: It’s quite a strange idea that the average comedian works on average about 20-30 minutes a day.
SG: It was Daliso Chaponda who said we basically get paid to travel, and that’s very true. You spend a lot of your time on trains and things, that’s the dull bit. Once you’re on stage and providing you’re not have a terrible gig, you can’t call that work – it’s much too fun.
PS: Are you working to a career plan at the moment? Have you always planned to do this?
SG: I’ve always intended to do this. The weird thing about comedy is there’s no retirement plan, there’s no pension unless you sort it yourself. I’ve started writing now for Russell Howard’s Good News, which I get paid to do and it is a great thing to have. I think it will be nice to do, to build on and try and get into the writing work so there’s something to fall back on. It’s so nice to have a separate income that’s related to something you do, that you know will be coming in three times a year when a series goes out. Bearing in mind I wouldn’t want to be still gigging at sixty five because I haven’t saved enough money to retire, it’s so nice to have other projects on the go. I’ve done a sitcom pilot with a friend, I want to tweak that at some point. I’m probably going to write another one on my own, its things like that. It’s thinking about the writing as opposed to getting too insular with the gigs, because you need a long term plan in case the gigging all goes tits up. It, at times, isn’t the most secure job.
PS: Google says that you play left back for Dover FC, is there any truth to these accusations?
SG: Ha-ha, to be honest, I’m quite vain in that I’ve Googled my name a few times and I’ve overtaken him in the Google search now. I’ve also over taken a sculptor from Wisconsin that’s got my name. God, that’s such as narcissistic thing to say, but it used to be the case that the sculptor and the footballer were above me so I’m rather proud of myself!
PS: Whereabouts are you from originally?
SG: I’m from Hemel Hempstead originally. I sort of made the conscious decision when I went to university to go somewhere where there was more than one shop. So I moved up to Leeds, and started gigging up there and I’ve just moved to Manchester in the last year or so, just following the work around, obviously being with Gag Reflex it makes sense to be in Manchester.
PS: Coming from that area, has that had any influence on your comedy?
SG: Yeah, I think the weird thing about comedy is that accents have such a big impact on the persona that you have onstage, I mean there are so many brilliant friendly Geordie comics. It helps them, everyone is so onside with that accent straight away and the kind of comedy that I do with this accent it’s not exactly a disadvantage, but people immediately think, ‘Oh, he’s going to be smug’, so I have a bit of fun and play up to that and play up to that rude, smug idea. I think if I had a cheeky charming accent it would be it would be a bit harder to say some of the things I like to say, because I’ve got a bit of a darker sense of humour than other people.
PS: Who are your comedy heroes? Who do you particularly look up to?
SG: The thing with me is I love writing; I love the structure of jokes and things like that, so for me the guy who has me in stitches the most is Gary Delaney. I love everything he does, I think his jokes are brilliant. But at the same time I sit and watch comedy DVD’s all the time and I love them, but the only one that I’ve sat and watched and laughed out long and loud to is Tim Vine’s. Just for the relentlessness of that kind of joke telling, his is the only one where I’ve sat on the sofa pissing myself at. I don’t really do surrealism at all, but people like Tony Law I really enjoy – I quite like odd flights of fancy, like Ross Noble, but there’s so many different styles and I love so much of it. It’s a bit weird to pin it down to a handful of people, but in terms of pure stand up icons that I look up to Kerry Marx is superb. For being thought provoking and also for being so intelligent in the way he writes jokes Gary Delany, of course, because of the way his jokes are crafted. I love a proper joke; that’s what I aim for in my set, that’s why there’s not much charm in my set – it’s the joke writing I rely on, not the persona.
PS: A couple of times you’ve been compared a couple of times to Jimmy Carr. How do feel about those comparisons? Do you mind them? How do you deal with them?
SG: It’s interesting – I tend to get Jimmy Carr and Marcus Brigstocke quite a lot. This tends to be the case. It’s like that I’m southern, I’ve got glasses; that’s seems to be the only comparisons to Marcus Brigstocke. I do rant a bit I guess. The Jimmy Carr thing is very flattering; I don’t think I’m quite so one-linery. I started out quite one-linery and I’ve tried to build on that, because the dark humour doesn’t quite carry itself over a 20minute so well. Its peaks and troughs – you’ve got to be a bit charming as well, so there’s a bit more anecdotal stuff in now than to when I first started. I think it’s developed a bit more since the first comparisons. That’s the idea, I’ve been in this four years now and you have to build your own voice. I’m starting to get there, so it’s interesting to see who I get compared to now that my act has changed. But it is extremely flattering to have any kind of comparisons at first.
PS: So you don’t feel pigeon holed or pre judged by lazy comparisons?
SG: No, not at all. People need to draw points of reference in order to compare you and say this is the sort of thing he does, so if you like that you might want to check him out. It’s certainly never been negative comparisons; it’s nice to be put in a bracket like that. Jimmy Carr in particular works so hard – I mean he does all that TV stuff and still manages to put out a brand new stand up DVD every year. He might not be my favourite comic, but he is good and very diligent. It’s nice to be put in a bracket like that, but I don’t feel pigeon holed. You can only do what you do and if people compare you, as long as you’re not ripping them off it’s always quite flattering.
PS: You are known for your, at times, slightly harsher material. Is that you using comedy to vent fury, or a manifestation of your anger?
SG: I think it’s a pretty extreme representation of the ends of my temper. I do like sick jokes, and I always have done. But you have to realise that people don’t always like them and you have to learn to temper that with stuff that’s a bit easier to get away with. Originally you think, ‘No I’ll just do stuff that I find funny’, but you soon realise that essentially I’m far more childish and irritating than I ever am on stage and that’s starting to creep in now as well – there’s a lot more of the childish stuff and a lot more of the silly voices that I do all the time.
PS: There has been a lot of controversy in comedy recently, with Frankie Boyle for example. Do you think controversy is essential in comedy?
SG: That was interesting. I’m a big fan of Frankie Boyle, and I always really liked him, but the whole Tramadol Nights thing was like he sat down and thought I can get away with this so I’m going to do it, which I do kind of admire – but I do worry. It was always a case of when he was on the BBC, he was tempered by what he could say and he always made a point of saying ‘I have to go after the lazy targets, because I’m not allowed to go after the bigger stuff that I’d always wanted to’ and I thought Tramadol Nights was going to do that, but it just felt like a bit of a waste to me, it feels like a big fuck you. I don’t know, I’m sure he thinks it’s hilarious and I do quite enjoy it but sometimes I just think, ‘You’re just doing that for the sake of it because you can’, which again I do kind of respect – it’s a brave thing to do.
PS: What sort of reaction do you get when you say to people, ‘I’m a comedian’?
SG: To be honest I try and avoid saying that, because you get all the typical responses, you know they will always try and tell you something. I know it’s a really prima donna thing to say, but you get told such redundant stuff a lot of the time and you get a bit bored of telling people about it. It’s something that a lot of people are really fascinated by – it’s quite a weird life to have, people are always going to be interested in it. But it’s always, ‘tell us a joke’ or ‘use that one!’ Every time you walk into a club and say to the bouncers that you’re here to do a show it’s immediately ‘tell us a joke’, but then I find myself thinking, ‘We aren’t likely to share the same sense of humour somehow.’
PS: Do you ever get tired of being funny? Is there truth in the rumours that a lot of comedians are miserable shits offstage?
SG: It’s not that much of an issue; I’m not that funny away from the stage. I can be at times to certain people. I live with Phil Ellis who regularly compères here, and he’s the most naturally funny person I know, so I’m never the funniest person in the room. Growing up I wasn’t as funny as either of my brothers – it’s weird, I’ve got middle child syndrome. I think it’s just that I’ve got the confidence to do stuff on stage that they wouldn’t do. There is a massive difference between pub funny and stage funny, it’s a totally different thing. It’s quite interesting to see people who are very pub funny try and go and do it on stage and they just can’t do it and vice versa as well. I don’t want to give specific examples but some of my favourite comedians are quite awkward people offstage. It’s weird I’m quite miserable on stage and the polar opposite of it, off stage I’m one of the happiest people I know. I get annoyed and pissed off but I never get black spots like some people tend to. I’m far chirpier than I ever am on stage, which is why it’s so nice to have that release because the most extreme part of me is what’s going on on-stage.
PS: What is it that drives you to make people laugh?
SG: I suppose I’ve always tried making people laugh, and I thought I’d give it a go at some point. I never thought it would ever go anywhere, and then I started to enter competitions just as stage time initially. But then I did some gigs and started to win a few competitions, it was a massive surprise to me. I only had 5/7 minutes and it was a bit of a weird environment to be in, because everyone was suddenly saying, ‘ You should be trying a lot harder at this’. So yeah, I realised they were right and it was a bit of a kick up the arse.
PS: And finally who do you think is going to make a big splash in 2011?
SG: Obviously I’ve got to say this, but I think it’s going to be The Boy With Tape On His Face. He’s a stable mate at Gag Reflex, he had such a brilliant Edinburgh this year, he did Comedy Rocks last night with Jason Manford. His show was so good and he works so hard for it – there’s no way he won’t succeed. Other people who have come out of Edinburgh looking really good include Nick Helm – he is phenomenal, he’s going to be doing really well; Chris Ramsey too. It’s really interesting to see who will go far though because they all deserve it, due to how hard they work.
If you’d like to see Sam Gore live, he can be found at the Preston Frog and Bucket on the 21st and 22nd of January.