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Ask A Comedian: Ian Smith

Ask A Comedian: Ian Smith

Ian Chaddock

BY Ian Chaddock

20th Dec 2023 Humour

3 min read

Known for BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz, The Now Show and co-hosting the Northern News podcast, Ian Smith is taking his stand-up show Crushing on tour. Ian Chaddock asks him about his funniest experiences…    

What stand-up special or comedy film made you fall in love with comedy?

I think the first stand-up special I watched would have been Peter Kay’s Live at the Top of the Tower and I was just blown away by someone making a room laugh that much by themselves.
"I was blown away by how Peter Kay made a room laugh that much by himself"
The first stand-up show I saw live was Lee Mack (the show he released as his first DVD)—it remains the most I’ve laughed, or seen an audience laugh, over the course of a full show. I don’t think I’ve wanted to do anything else since.

What do you remember about your first time doing stand-up?

I remember not remembering half of it. I was booked to do ten minutes and I thought I’d prepared that much material, clearly I hadn’t. I did everything I planned to say and looked down at my watch to see that I still had five minutes to go. I improvised the rest and have no idea what I said but remember it going down better than the material I’d actually put some effort into.

What’s the weirdest heckle you’ve ever heard and how did you reply?

Ian Smith holding a drink and staring out from behind a sparkly curtain at a live show
One time at the Edinburgh Fringe a woman shouted out, unprompted, “You’ve got a very rigid posture”. It wasn’t said with any real malice, just a genuine observation she couldn’t keep to herself. My reply was to make my posture even more rigid, performing a lot of my show like a robot, but in all honesty my response was to become heavily self-conscious about the way I stand on stage—that I’ve been bullied into being less rigid. This is a rare positive story about bullying.

What has been your funniest live show experience?

I once blew a candle out on stage, but I blew it out with such ferocity that all the wax blew back up into my face going on my face, in my hair, in my eyebrows and eyelashes and some of it into my actual eyeballs.
"I once blew a candle out on stage with such ferocity that all the wax blew back up into my face"
I did that within the first five minutes of the gig and had to perform 15 more minutes in one of the most humiliating situations of my career. Not funny for me, but funny for the audience.

As well as stand-up, you’ve worked on TV panel shows, radio shows and podcasts. Which format do you find works best for comedy?

Ian Smith with a crushed live can between his teeth
I think stand-up will always be my favourite part of being a comedian—you have more creative control and you’re holding the audience’s attention yourself, so it can feel incredibly rewarding. I really love the podcast I do with Amy Gledhill though—Northern News. I think it helps when you get along with your co-host as well as I do with Amy, it’s so much more fun like that and I think that comes across to the listener. Getting to sit in a room and read about weird stories from the North and laugh at them is such a joyous way to try and make a living.

What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you in your life?

It might be the time I went husky sledding when I went on holiday to Tromso in Norway, by myself. I had to be paired up with a family of three and me and the dad of the family took it in turns to drive the sled we shared. I had a lovely time sat in the sled as he drove and when we swapped over, after about five minutes, I went too fast and flipped the sled over crashing him into the snow. Not sure how funny he found it, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Your new stand-up comedy show is about your stress and how you’ve tried to deal with it. Do any of the methods work?

A lot of the things I talk about in the show have not helped me de-stress at all—I had a terrible time in a sensory deprivation floatation tank and someone defecated on the bed I was supposed to be sleeping in when I went to Blackpool so I was downgraded to a single-bed room.
"I smashed up a car with hammers then drove over it with a tank in Slovakia with my hairdresser"
I did, however, have a very fun time smashing up a car with some hammers and then driving over it with a tank in Slovakia with my hairdresser. Quite a lot to take in with that sentence, maybe best to come and see the show to find out what went on there.
Ian Smith tours the UK with his show Crushing from January
Banner credit: Ian Smith (by Matt Stronge)

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