LONDON-BASED comedian, Chris Kent, originally from Knocknaheeny, has no regrets about giving up his trade as an electrician for the uncertain world of the touring stand-up comedian. Chris, 33, says there was nothing secure about his work.
“When I finished my apprenticeship as an electrician, I went to Australia for a year,” says Chris. “I had started doing a bit of comedy around 2005. When I came back from Australia in late 2008, the crash was either happening or it was imminent.
“I got about a month’s worth of electrical work. I was applying for jobs everywhere but couldn’t get them. At the time, I happened to be getting a few paid gigs here and there in comedy. If anything, my parents were grateful for that.”
He admits that people thought he “was mad to be going up to Dublin and Belfast to do seven minutes of unpaid stand-up, just to get my foot in the door. But it’s after paying off.”
As part of a nationwide tour, Chris will be bringing his new show to the Everyman on February 16.
“It’s a big date for me. I never thought I’d be playing the Everyman on my own.”
Chris says he is ambitious.
“I want to do a tour every year and I want the tours to get slightly bigger in Ireland and in England. There is loads of comedy all over the world with gigs in the Middle East, Europe and everywhere really. Live comedy is exciting when it’s done well. People will always come back to it.”
While the Comedy Store in London is an essential spot for up-and-coming comedians, Chris says there are more and more clubs opening up in Ireland.
“It’s really exploding,” he said.
His new show, his fifth, is called Moving On.
“The main theme of it is me becoming a dad for the first time. My son Jack is 18 months now,” he says.
“The show is my story about moving to the UK to pursue comedy as a career and finding out shortly afterwards that I was going to become a dad. It’s about juggling everything and breaking into a new scene.
“It’s a lot more expensive to live in London. Even though comedy is going very well, I still need to step back, take a moment and wonder if I can really justify doing this now that I have a young child. There’s a lot of travelling involved. I sometimes wonder if I can get enough work to support my family.”
Chris lives in London with his Tipperary-born wife, Niamh, who is a teacher.
“When Niamh is at work, I mind Jack. When he has a nap for two hours, I try to get stuff done, whether it’s emailing, phoning or writing.”
Being a comedian “is a brilliant job”, says Chris.
“But you really have to be willing to put in the hours and find your own work. As well as that, you’re booking hotels and flights. There’s a lot of administration involved. People think being a stand-up is a glorious way of walking on stage but there’s all the unfun bits such as the promotion of the gigs and doing poster design.
“I try to write a new show every year. It takes a good year of work to come up with a new show, writing a couple of hours every week, and also nipping out to the smaller comedy clubs, trying out the new material. Then I listen to recordings of it and try to put a shape on the new show while touring the current one.”
Chris performs at the Edinburgh Festival every year. He says it’s very expensive at the beginning. But now that there’s the free fringe as well, there’s a variety of avenues for a comedian to establish themselves.
“You might not get what you want at Edinburgh. For example, if I wanted to do the free fringe, I can put in all the applications but I might not get a venue. So I end up going back to the paid fringe and build from there.
“I try to keep the costs down. My first year in Edinburgh cost me a bit of money, it was less the second year and after that, I broke even. To keep costs down, I get stuck in as much as I can on the street, handing out flyers. I don’t pay for PR. PR really works for some people but I can kind of get exposure myself.”
Des Bishop inadvertently got Chris interested in comedy.
“I never knew stand-up comedy existed. I just knew of Des Bishop and Tommy Tiernan. Des did his show, Joy in the Hood and took on a few people I know. He put a guy I knocked around with in a comedy workshop and then they did a big gig in Knocknaheeny. I went to the gig and absolutely loved it.
“I started going to comedy nights in Jim Cashman’s pub. I was waiting for someone to ask me to give it a go there because I’m funny to be around. But I never got a bit of a push so I said I’d do it for myself. I got hooked.”
Along the way, Chris got help from PJ Gallagher and Neil Delamere.
“I’ve been lucky to open shows for people like Dylan Moran. A lot of promoters in the Irish comedy scene gave me a good go at festivals.”
But having achieved all he could in this country, Chris felt compelled to go to London.
“For me, there wasn’t enough work in Ireland. So I made the move,” he says.
The Everyman will be his biggest solo gig to date. Chris is proud to come back to his hometown. He may have moved on but he’s a northside Cork lad at heart.
Tickets €18. Show starts at 8pm. See www.everymancork.com/