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The Comedy of Errors

Interview: Scott Bennett

16 February 13 interview: Joe Sharratt
photos: Dominic Henry

Scott Bennett left Yorkshire for Notts back in 2007, had a go at stand-up, and is now one of the biggest names on the Notts circuit, gaining a reputation nationally as a warm, engaging and talented observational comic...

How did you first get into comedy?
I did my first gig on Halloween night in 2009 - a gong show put on by Funhouse Comedy. I’d been writing stuff for a while and just enquired, did my first five minutes and ended up winning it, which was amazing. It was something I’d always wanted to do.

What made you take the plunge?
It was probably that I hit thirty and - like a lot of people - I had a bit of a crisis and thought if I don’t do this now I never will. But I think it was also that I had a lot more to talk about in terms of my life experiences.

So where do you get the inspiration for your material?
A lot of it is family, so Christmas has been amazing. My Dad is a constant source of material. For example, I do a bit about him at a carvery because he’s so scientific about how he loads his plate; it’s a real art form, he’s so proud of it, and now people send me photos of their Sunday dinners through Twitter like I’m some kind of consultant. It’s these little things I see, conversations I have. Anything natural I find is funnier, but it means I can be quite anti-social at parties, I’ll just nip away and type things into my phone if I have an idea.

Do your family support you with your comedy?
My wife Jemma is brilliant. We’ve got a little girl called Olivia, and Jemma’s left with a lot of the parenting routine as I’m often gigging in the evenings. She’s amazing - if she wasn’t supporting me I wouldn’t be able to do it. My Dad always thinks he’s funny, so with him it’s support and a bit of jealousy; thinking he can do it. I’m sure he could. But they all come and see me.

How demanding is it balancing a full-time job, family life and your comedy career?
I think all comics will tell you that this is the difficult stage; the comedy doesn’t bring in enough money to commit to it, but equally there are no half measures. You’ve just got to keep gigging. I’ve got a really understanding family and a lot of support. I’m getting on a lot of pro bills now so the quality of the gigs is really good, but it’s a long game. You’ve got to realise that it’s not going to be like the X Factor, where someone is just going to pluck you out of a sea of a million acts.

What are your ambitions with your comedy?
If I could get to the point where I could do it full-time it would be brilliant, because I’ve got loads I want to do. I want to write, I’d like to do radio – I’ve done bits but not like my own show or anything – and then I’d like to write sitcoms and sketches.

What’s it been like trying to break through as a comic in Nottingham?
I actually think it’s one of the best places to be based. A lot of people when they start comedy think they have to be in Manchester, but Nottingham is smack bang in the middle of the country, two hours from a gig anywhere. And the other thing is that actually Nottingham has got a really thriving comedy scene. I can’t understand why more acts don’t base themselves here.

Can you think of any reason why there aren’t more Nottingham comedians getting to the top?
It’s strange, I really don’t know. Nottingham is such a brilliant place to be based, but I think it’s just tradition. A lot of the bigger clubs are in Manchester, and are famous for producing comics, but there hasn’t been much of a funnel to the top clubs from here.

How helpful are the local clubs in supporting local talent?
They’re brilliant. Funhouse Comedy is how I got started. You’re learning all the time in good rooms, and they’re always well promoted, tickets are always sold, you’re always getting that quality, and it’s a real good grounding for the bigger clubs.

The actual gigging, especially around the country, sounds like a total grind.
There’s a lot of driving. Seriously, all you see at motorway service stations at 3am are comedians and truck drivers, with Ginsters and Red Bull. It’s weird too, because you come off stage on such a high that driving home listening to Radio 4 is a bit of a paradox. But you need to play to different audiences, that’s the key.

So who else in town should we should keep an eye out for?
Phil Knoxville - he’s a comedy magician and he’s very good. If you go further towards Derby there’s a guy called Carl Jones, he’s a newer act, but also very good. Martin Hastie and Patrick Draper are two other new guys, and they’ve both got a real sparkle about them. But it’s just as important to mention Funhouse Comedy promoters and the Nottingham Comedy festival guys, because they’re really supporting comedy in Nottingham.

So what advice would you give to someone who was just getting into comedy?
I would say make sure you’ve got a supportive wife, though don’t just get married for that reason, you’ll never sell it to her. Then just keep gigging and keep writing.

Scott Bennett and Phil Pagett perform their True Bromance show at the Leicester Comedy Festival on Sunday February 17, 2pm, at the Leicester Kayal.

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