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Seann Walsh: “People only want to hear about other people’s pain…”

Seann Walsh is a naturally funny man who is rapidly developing into one of the most in-demand stand-ups in the country. He’s garnered a substantial following in the press with The Evening Standard describing him as ‘one of comedy’s hottest properties’. His latest tour ‘One For The Road’ marks his eagerly awaited return – and on 22 October he’s coming to the Key Theatre. James Rampton talked to him

‘One For the Road’, at the Key Theatre on 22 October, started off with an extended run at August’s Edinburgh Festival where it went down a storm. You clearly love what you do! As a comedian, what is it about performing standup that’s so thrilling?
When you think of a funny idea that previously didn’t exist, put it into the structure of your show, deliver it and get a room full people to laugh at it, that’s a fantastic feeling. That’s why I do this. Comedians spend a lot of time on their own and then finally they have an audience to share their ideas with. Maybe it’s all about alleviating the loneliness. I like that! I’m going to change my tour title to ‘Alleviating the Loneliness’!

You’re a supremely observational comedian Seann, with The Guardian describing you as ‘unquestionably the best observational comic’ and The Independent proclaiming you as ‘one of the most entertaining observational comics on the block’. What can your loyal fans expect from this tour?
I love coming off the script. I try to do the show for as long as possible without going into my own material. As long as the audience are up for it, I won’t start my routine. I’m very reactionary. If someone joins in, I just go with it. I’m absolutely open to anything. It’s great fun. There’s also a bit of a twist. At the beginning of the show I’ll ask the audience to write down what really annoys them. Then at the end, I’ll randomly read them out. They listen to me for an hour, and then I get to listen to them. After the scripted show, I’ll get to mess around. That will be a lot of fun.

Many observational comedians find plenty of material to moan about in everyday life! Why is complaining about the world such a rich source of comedy?
Moaning works really well in comedy. Stand-up is a true representation of life. So do you really want to listen to someone telling you what a wonderful time they’ve had? No, you have no interest in that. If someone is saying, ‘I’ve had a lovely day. I went jogging then went to the gym and I’ve only eaten vegetables and no carbs,’ you’re just bored. But if someone tells you they have broken their leg, lost their job and split with their partner, you put the kettle on! Moaning is so effective because people only want to hear about other people’s pain.

Your mastery of the observational style of standup has won you significant exposure on the small screen. You’ve appeared on the BBC’s Live At The Apollo, Tonight at The London Palladium, Channel 4’s 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Alan Carr: Chatty Man, getting masses of comic mileage out of moaning.  Why do you think this has worked so well for you?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been like that. I love finding absurdity in the normal. I love catching funny things that no one else has noticed. For example, I recently realised what it means to be in a relationship for a long time. Single people seem to have freedom – they can do what they want and not suffer the consequences. They can leave litter lying around and no one will have a go at them. But it’s just occurred to me that we are in relationships so someone else can pass us the water. That’s what love is. It’s all about passing!

Is your own relationship a big source of inspiration for ‘One For the Road’?
My last show was called ‘28’. It was about me moving in with my girlfriend and how that changed me. This is a continuation of that idea and shows how things have moved on. My girlfriend is very healthy, and I’ve noticed that since we’ve been living together, my fridge has gone. It used to be full of Pepperami and Cheese Strings. But now it may look like a fridge from the outside, but on the inside it’s like an allotment, full of cabbages and kale. That’s one of the ways in which my life has changed. Another aspect of getting older is that now I’m 30, I use the word ‘avocado’ and it doesn’t feel weird. I can look people in the eye and say that word. It’s very bizarre.

How do you feel about entering your 30s? Does it make you feel old?
You have to calm down when you’re 30. You can’t behave as you did in your 20s. You give up on nightly socialising and sign a contract that says, ‘For this part of my life, all I’m going to do is watch box sets’.

You’re a man in demand Seann. You’re currently starring in ITV1’s sports panel show, Play To The Whistle and as team captain on E4 and Channel 4’s comedy quiz show, Virtually Famous. What’s your first passion: TV or stand-up?
I adore being on shows like Live at the Apollo, but my real love is stand-up. It’s all about you. It’s what you think. It’s just you, and I love that.

Seann Walsh – One For the Road 22 October, 8pm Key Theatre, Peterborough

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