Kevin Bridges’ brilliant career trajectory is legendary. He thought he’d have a go at stand-up after leaving school before going off to work in a call centre or “some shite like that” in the real world. “Shite like that” never happened as Bridges went on to become one of the UK’s most successful comedians. “I don’t plan anything,” the Glaswegian says. “My first gig went well. I did another, and another. Once you get on TV you get a few breaks.” “A few breaks” included opportunities to write a screenplay, his own TV show, the offer of a book deal from Penguin for his memoirs, and led to fame as a stand-up supernova. Envious, much?
Bridges is adorably unspoilt by a decade of sold out shows in arenas, television, red carpets, winning awards, meeting celebrities and travel, which may be due to an early experience performing at a prison. “I did a gig in a prison when I was 18, which was quite difficult, and one guy stood up and went back to his cell. It was like, ‘this guy’s shite; I’ll go back and finish my life sentence!’” Bridges is well able to laugh at himself, which is pretty much his secret to success. “Looking back, it was so brutal,” he says of the prison gig. “But if you take that sort of thing seriously, you’ll just go insane. You develop a thick skin and use it as material, take the opportunity to find a joke in it. A lot of guys only one or two years into it are bitter and resentful, they say, ‘how does this guy get the breaks, how does he get on TV and that’, but you don’t take it too seriously.”
His is a natural talent, one which has been described as ‘frightening’ but Bridges says he doesn’t think about it too much. “You might tell the same joke but you try and tell it differently each night. I expand on ideas; if you come and see six shows in a row they won’t ever be the same. You speak to the crowd. Try to find the balance, be yourself. A live stand-up show is a bit of yourself, your own opinions. If I have a funny idea, I’ll make it a bit more for the audience, as soon as you see comedy in something you overact it, do an accent, and put on a voice.” Interestingly, Bridges says he’s not naturally extroverted. “I’m pretty confident in the things I feel I can do but if I’m standing in the pub, I won’t be the one going crazy. I’ll be taking a back seat, just observing. But I’m not a weirdo; I’m not taking a back seat ‘cos I’m going to take the whole pub out with a machine gun weirdo.” That’s good, then.
Keeping it real is the most important element of stand-up, Bridges reckons. He knows better than to pretend to audiences that he still gets around on public transport. “As long as it’s always you,” he explains, “you can talk about stuff. If I say ‘I’m just like you, I catch the bus’, no-one’s going to believe it, but you can always find a new angle, you can talk about stuff, your experiences; it’s how you handle it”. Taking some advice from his dad helped. “He said, ‘If you want to keep it going, pull back, take a break, go to America and have some fun’, It was great advice,” Bridges notes. “I feel fresh and sharp. I’ve just done some shows in London and the buzz is back.”
Grab a ticket to Kevin Bridges quickly – he will be at Enmore for two shows on Tuesday April 22 as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival, and is likely to sell out soon, tickets available through Ticketek.