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Interview: Comedian Ryan Gleeson

Local Celebrity Ryan Gleeson

Ryan Gleeson is a force to be reckoned with in Blackpool’s local comedy scene.  He has been running nights in the area for much longer than he’d probably like to remember and he has been stretching his wings further afield over the past few years.  Lisa Bower caught up with him this week, mainly to give him grief and also to see how he’s been doing!

You’ve been a part of the local comedy scene now for a long time.  Like ages.  You’re getting on a bit, to be fair…. Sorry I got side tracked.  Where did your part in Blackpool’s scene start for you?

I actually started the Blackpool comedy scene in 2002, with Barkin’ Spider at West Coast Rock Cafe. It was the first comedy club ever in Blackpool.

I started it up with a mate who also performed stand-up, as there were no regular comedy nights around at the time, so we decided to give it a go and that’s where the Comedy Station started.

What was it like transitioning from a part-time comedian to a career comedian?  Did it feel like a risk at the time or was it a natural progression?

I was at a point where I had a very senior position at a multi-national company, which meant I was working in excess of 70 hours a week.  This was preventing me from performing as often as I’d liked, so I had to make the decision that one had to go.  As I’d been performing stand-up longer than I’d been working a proper job, we decided that stand-up was the way forward.  I was worried, as I was the main source of income for my family, but my wife, Jen decided that she was going to work full time to make sure we could still pay the bills.

Having seen your posts, it’s evident that your wife is a good sport about you verbally abusing her for comedic purposes – in fact she seems to enjoy it!  How important has your family been to your career, both in support and in allowing themselves to be material for your acts?

If it wasn’t for Jen, I’d not be working as a comedian at all by now, she’s been brilliant and definitely the driving force behind me, making sure everything’s organised with the kids so I can go and work across the country at night.

Having kids was the best thing that could have happened to my act too, as they are basically walking stand-up material! The more they do, the more material I get.  They seem to enjoy the fact that they get a mention when I’m on stage, as it makes them feel as though they’ve contributed, which, I suppose they have, albeit differently than they may think!

How important is the beard?

The beard is double-mega-well important!!!

I started to grow it when I first started presenting my chat show and despite the fact that I stopped doing those shows in March 2016, I still get people coming up to me recognising me from the show.

Also, it proves my mum wrong, when she says I can’t stick at anything!

I’ve seen you taking on stag and hen parties in the past- would you say this is a pro or a con of organising a night in a seaside town.

It’s a double edged sword really. Without the stag and hen parties, the nights would be quieter, although they bring a lot of money to the town.  I think a lot get unfairly tarred with the same brush, as most stag and hen parties we’ve had have been great.  There’s just the odd one in any group of people that has a few too many to drink and leaves their common sense at Blackpool North train station.

Bombing and heckling are two aspects of a stand up night that I imagine can be a nightmare.  In fairness I haven’t seen you bomb.  Honestly – I have enjoyed watching you suffer a little heckling though – but only because you handle it so well.  What do you do to try and cope when a show is going wrong?

Early in my career, I used to bomb quite a lot and I used to take it personally and think about quitting, but then I’d have a gig the next day and storm it, so I started to learn that I perhaps needed to tailor performances to the audience.  I’d still use the same material, but one gig would be delivered completely different to the next.

Now I’ve progressed, if a show is going wrong, have a quick think as to why.  I’ll then have a chat to some of the audience and get the table that was laughing the least on my side. Once they’re laughing, the rest of the gig usually goes as planned.

Comedy has led you in multiple directions, including radio and TV roles.  What has your favourite experience been?

Other than performing stand-up, the best thing it’s ever led to, was getting in the elephant house at Blackpool zoo and having my photos taken with them [as well as] getting back stage at the illuminations switch on, where I was able to have quite a candid chat with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen about beards and tweed.

Also, I absolutely love going on Steve Royle’s show on Radio Lancashire, as his producer, Rino is one of my favourite people and looks after me very well.

As a comedy pro, who do you think is a talent to keep an eye out for?  Who is your favourite established comedian?

There are a few comedians on the circuit, who haven’t done TV yet and are early into their career who are brilliant.  Some names to look out for in the future are definitely Josh Pugh, who seems to win every competition he ever enters, and Adam Rowe, who’s only in his early 20’s, but has comedic talent well beyond his years.

As far as established comedians go, Ross Noble is one of my favourites currently working. My all time comedy heroes are Morecambe & Wise and Bob Monkhouse.

What is going on now for you and what can we expect to see in the future?

There’s loads going on at the minute it seems that I packed in the day job at just the right time!  Most of the things going on, I can’t actually talk about, but you can expect another brilliant year at the Comedy Station, as I’m currently booking the 2017 line-up (this will be posted to www.comedystation.co.uk once confirmed) and I’ve a feeling people will see a bit more of me next year too!

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