Patrick Monahan interview: how Kate Copstick is like an army general
Tim Clark14 October 2011
Patrick Monahan likes to talk. Fortunately, SSP likes to listen. We had a chat with the Show Me The Funny winner about getting back into touring after being watched by millions...
How is touring going after the TV show?
Yeah, good. Over the years you build up an audience and the safest audience you can get is a word-of-mouth audience. It takes years to build that up, but once you have that you can them anywhere and they will always support you. But doing the show I went from playing little venues where you might get 80 or 100 people to suddenly playing to three or four hundred. And within 24 hours we had audiences that would probably never come out to see comedy, a TV audience. What was lovely was they were more like an X Factor audience. Normally off-stage I'll do a little announcement saying 'ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show,' and they'll clap nicely, do a little cheer. But now it's been mental. As soon as people hear your voice they're screaming. It's just crazy, like being in America or something.
Those are big audiences, but nothing on the ones for the end of the show – there are virtually no TV shows with audiences like that for comedians.
Well, I don't think I've done any live TV. The last live stand-up was the Palladium back in the 60s or 70s and that was pub jokes. ITV have taken a real gamble with this. And while we had people checking scripts, at the end of the day it was up to us what five minutes we would do. Your head was so screwed in to getting the jokes out as opposed to anything else. You worry a bit about the judges and the audience – although even though they are 3,000 people, they're so nice – but you're just thinking about the people at home.
Were you nervous you were going to swear or riff? That's basically your job.
Well, yeah, exactly. The judges said we can give you advice and our opinions, but if you want to prove you're a comic then just get up there and do your material. Johnny Vegas [Monahan's mentor] said, at the end of the day you just do what you think is right. No-one can tell you and only you will know when you're up on your stage what you can do. If at any point you think you can get a bigger laugh, you just have to go with it. How many comics get play to the live audience of that size? Thinking of it like that it was just so massive. It's like being at the Olympics and you only have one chance.
And as she was a judge and you've won the show, Kate Copstick can't give you a bad review now.
She's actually not a bad person. I met her just before that but didn't really know her, I'd just heard loads of stories. But whenever we weren't filming she was very professional. She wouldn't blank us but she would say, look, I can't speak to you, which was fair enough, because of the show. She could just say hello and that's that. But after the final I had a chat with her and I thought yeah, she's okay. She's not one of those women you can go have a picnic with, but it was nice to chat with her. You get more out of the conversation than she gets. She's like an old headmistress where even though they live this whole prep school thing and they want to be a dictator, they do actually want to help you. Or like a general in the army – she wants to be in charge but she's just trying to make you a better soldier.
And the money from the show, have you banked it? [Patrick won £100,000 for the show.]
I've put my sensible head on and will get a little office or a flat. Also it's only when the DVD is out that I get the money. Officially the money is like an advance of the DVD. It's like regular gigs really: say with gigs you used to turn up and you'd be paying in cash. And every comic would say, could you pay me after. It's superstition to take the money before you've done it because it might be unlucky or something.
And what's the DVD like?
It's called Patrick Monahan Live, and it was filmed live at the Bloomsbury Theatre. It's got 500 seats, an old-school theatre. You think you should try and do somewhere mental like the Hammersmith Apollo but you actually realise that everyone's first DVD is filmed there – Ricky Gervais, Lee Mack, Frank Skinner. You realise when you do it because it's a beautiful little theatre. When you go in the Apollo but it feels a lot smaller when you're performing, so I was thinking it would be good to film in there for the atmosphere. But when you film in the Bloomsbury, actually, you understand why it's so easy. It's like the Apollo but it's nicer, less daunting. You can see the audience but it has a huge stage. And if it's good enough for Gervais...
This wasn't your first ITV win; you won a show called Take The Mic eight years ago...
Yeah. When I first started doing stand-up in 2000 there weren't many competitions. I got a few hundred quid and a trophy and the prestige of saying I was the winner to get booked for some gigs. They wouldn't book you on to a tourbus or anything; with Show Me The Funny, it was more like the Apprentice. With comedy it's one of those jobs that you just keep learning, trying to improve and testing yourself and that's the thing with it. With most other jobs you do your training early on, like doctors going to university, or you get an apprenticeship, but with comedy it's just neverending. As you go on you just always get tested – you're being reviewed, whether it's by a panel or not. I've done this competition now but to be honest there's probably more testing to come. Comedy is a double-edged sword: no-one tells you how to do it, but if you want to improve you do need to listen to other people.
So what comes next?
With comics it's the old Bill Cosby thing: you don't know the secret to success but you do known the secret to failing, and that's to try and please everyone. If you want to try and be a successful comic then you need to find your niche. I write new material every day and a new show every year and some comics think I'm crazy and ask, what are you doing this for? You can just tour and do the same show. But the thing is you'd then never develop any further than that. I think the thing with this now is giving me an opportunity now to write my own show without having to worry about finding that audience because of the TV show. I just want to build on that audience.
See Patrick at the 99 Club at Leicester Square on Tue 18th, Wed 19th and Wed 26th October, and at Basildon Jongleurs on Fri 21st - and get 2-for-1 tickets with Dave's Comedy Society.
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