“Shows vary from night to night. I would say that the main spine of the show is about and hour and ten [minutes] or an hour and twenty. On top of that, twenty minutes at least is improvised each night around that spine depending on where I am in the country, who’s in the audience and things like that.”
Not everyone has the right temperament for touring. Some musicians may be able to get away with a career based mostly on recording, but stand-up comedy is an interactive genre. Staying home is simply not an option.
“I love it. Some people really don’t like it but I enjoy my own company. I like books,
I like movies and I love hotels so, for me, it’s a bit of a gift. Plus, I love Lindsey [Russell’s fiancee at the time of interview, now his wife] and we love spending time together but it’s great to have a job where you’re forced to miss each other a bit. No one would choose it but when it happens it actually makes a relationship a lot healthier to be apart one or two nights. With Lindsey’s job as well, she’s been away two nights this week in Manchester doing a makeup job – she does hair and makeup – it just means you appreciate each other’s company more. It’s all too easy to stifle each other, I think.”
The story of how the couple met has been told many times, but it’s a good one.
“She was in the front row at one of my gigs, wearing a fur jacket. I wasn’t impressed with that because it looked like real fur, so I snatched it off her and threw it around the stage, making obscene and lewd speculations about where the fur might be from. Basically I did the classic thing of being horrible to a girl until she fancies you. Nothing happened initially because it took me a while to track her down on Twitter and stalk her, but I eventually did and got her out on a date. We went out on one date and I wasn’t really in the place for a relationship but she kept biding her time and then, about six months later we were like, come on let’s just go official and see what happens.”
So, in addition to his income, Russell owes his domestic happiness to touring, but which does he prefer, the immediacy of live stand-up or the wider exposure of television?
“Well, the two are interlinked really. It would be hard to have one without the other because if I just had the stand-up I’d only be playing clubs, no one would come to the theatre to see me. But I really don’t mind that kind of stand-up. In fact, that’s what I did last night and it’s what I’m doing tomorrow night. I do club stand-up to keep that side of me sharp but, on the other hand, you can’t beat the thrill of doing a TV programme and then thousands of people turning up at your gigs. Part of the buzz of doing TV is knowing you’re getting your stand-up out there to a larger audience, and seeing how it connects with the public. I like the creativity of creating a TV show and being in front of the cameras and being on set. Yeah, I do love that.”
With all that live work, Russell Kane must have encountered his fair share of hecklers. It’s a traditional part of the job, dealing with audience members who seem intent upon ruining your evening.
“The most effective heckle I ever got was around 2004 or 2005. I was at the back of a pub doing a gig to about 30 people and I was dying on my hole, as the expression goes. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, the pub dog, which was a great dane and a scary animal, walked onto the stage and sniffed… basically sniffed my balls while I was performing. There is no heckle I’ve ever had that was more effective than that. It was so humiliating. Everyone was laughing at that instead of at my act. The gig was just over.”
Even after a difficult gig, or even just when the workload is daunting, Russell isn’t one to relax too much.
“I try not to, because it’s not like riding a bike. I will still do at least three gigs a week, even if they’re club ones or little arts centre ones. You’ll see me doing those smaller gigs, trying out stuff and then I’ll start previewing round about June time. I never sit at home – how boring! But I do break from touring. I’m having a bit of a break from TV as well. It’s good just to appear and disappear, if you know what I mean. It takes willpower but it’s definitely about the long-term game.”
When he is not performing, which comedians does a comedian find funny?
“The problem with this question is it’s like asking a composer which music he likes: you’re not going to have heard of any of the people he says. But, to think of names you would have heard of who are doing really well at the moment, I suppose Sarah Millican… Jack Whitehall’s doing very well. Those two really stand out to me. Obviously the classics like Bill Hicks and Richard Prior, people like that. Chris Rock too. Stewart Lee, he’s good as well. The rest of the list would just be mates that you’ve not heard of. I could be making people up and you wouldn’t even know.”
Eventually, the conversation drifts around to the subject that brought us to Russell’s home. His new private registration, KAN 333E.
“I’ve always wanted my own number plate because there’s something nice about that personalised thing. It’s like having a tailored suit, I suppose. But I’ve always sort of stopped at the last minute. I never really treat myself to anything. My house is nice, but it’s not over the top. It’s not like, oh my god, did you see that place? It’s just a nice home. Well, it’s the same with my car: it’s a nice Mercedes, but there are posher ones. I don’t like things that are too show off. The only things I do like are watches, I’ve got a big thing about watches. I’ve always wanted a number plate as well so now I’ve got that. That’s it, I’m done with luxury!
“My friend, the comedian Stephen Grant, has got a personalised plate that says Joker or Jester, and I thought it looked really good. Yeah, it’s like a nice little luxury accessory that some people might notice and some might not. It could also look pretty cool pulling up outside a theatre when people are waiting by the stage door. The girls would see KAN 333E sweep up and they’d all go, Aaaah! Yeah, that’d be cool.”
Interview: Angela Banh
Story: Rick Cadger
Location photography: Stan Thompson
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