q&a The British stand-up comic Mike Gunn is currently on tour in the Middle East with The Laughter Factory. We caught up with him to find out how he deals with hecklers and what he thinks about other comedians on the circuit.
Standing up and being counted
I've done a few shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before, which seemed to go well so I was asked to come back for this tour. You are in the UAE with your fellow British comics Markus Birdman and Addy Borgh. Have you worked with them before? I've worked with Addy several times, not Markus. But we're all fairly different. I'm a miserable old man, Addy is quite animated and a bit theatrical and Markus is more surreal.
I wasn't really attracted by the prospect of becoming a bank manager, and being quite alternative I thought originally that I might be a juggler and run away to the circus. But then I realised that it involved many years of practice and though I'm not naturally funny, I can make people laugh. So I started doing stand-up in London in 1994. It was an odd choice really though, because I was terribly unsuited to it, and very awkward at first. I don't like standing up in front of people, I'm not one of life's natural show-offs.
No, not really. I did for years but what can go seriously wrong if you're a stand-up comedian? I suppose you can get booed off, but that's about it.
Yes, everybody goes through that, but it's good for the ego. I've been booed off, sung off, shouted off and just ignored off. My worst experience was during one of my first shows in London when a seven-year-old child walked past the stage and shouted at me: "You're rubbish, mate." I had no response back then.
Being a comedian isn't easy. Some people say it's the hardest job in the world but that's nonsense. Coal mining is much harder, and juggling is pretty tough too. I wouldn't want to be a bank manager either, especially at the moment. My job is great, but you do have to work at being a comedian. You can't just get up on stage and do it. I've seen some of the greatest comics around be absolutely terrible.
I've worked with Harry Hill before and he was awful. Mind you I expect he's equally complimentary about me. Your comedy has taken you to cities all over Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Are stand-up comics normally so well-travelled? I think it's usual for anyone that's talented. I was the first comic to perform in East Malaysia, which sounds very grand doesn't it? Actually I flew from bigger gigs in Kuala Lumpur to perform in front of about seven people in Kuantan who didn't know what I was talking about. It was a disaster. I think I might well have been the first and last British comedian to perform in East Malaysia.
Give up. We don't need any more comedians on the circuit, there are too many already.
Yes, I'd say stop bothering us and go and get a proper job. The Laughter Factory Show is on tonight from 9.00pm at the Crowne Plaza, Dubai and Thursday, Chi at The Lodge, Dubai, from 9.00pm (www. thelaughterfactory.com)