Gavin Webster: Critics Royally Miss the Point, Again
Gavin Webster is one of the UK’s Top Professional Comedians, and he has steadily built his reputation on the professional comedy scene in the last two decades. Having worked with some of the best names in the business he’s making a big name for himself.
Gavin has appeared on The Eleven O’ Clock Show, Never mind the Buzzcocks, The Comedy Store amongst other TV and media work. He has his own weekly show in Newcastle, at a branch of one of the great comedy franchises ‘The Stand’. Not only that but he also wrote and starred in ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, the star studded BBC Comedy Sketch Show. A Writer, Actor, Comedian, and Voice-over artist: is there anything he can’t do?
Keen to find a bit more about the real Gavin Webster, and the man behind the mic, I, PPSF Associate Features Editor, Andy Chambers, persuaded Gavin to take five minutes out of his rather hectic schedule. Despite his many commitments, Gavin stopped for a drink and a chat in one of Newcastle’s real ale bars. Having gigged with him before, I know he can be a bit mischievous, and today is no exception.
Andy: Gavin, thanks for coming. You’ve been doing comedy for almost twenty years now. What prompted you, so long ago, to have a go at a pub in Gateshead? Did you have any comedy influences when you started taking it seriously?
Gavin: I was kind of forced into it by my mate who was really keen on us being a double act. The second comedy gig I went to, I was on. I know that’s become a cliche answer in interviews but it’s true in my case.
I kept going because I felt like I had something to say and I enjoyed it. I was influenced by all the local acts that were around at the time, most notably The Big Fun Club, Tony Mendoza, Vladimir McTavish and a very young Ross Noble.
Andy: I’ve gigged with Vlad. He’s quite special. It goes without saying you’ve worked with some of the finest in the business. Are there any acts you started out with that have made it to the same level?
Gavin: Well, in the case of Ross Noble, he went higher than everyone and is still a huge box office attraction and has been for over 10 years. Stefan Peddie is still on the local circuit and Vlad McTavish is a bit of a legend at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Andy: I do like Steffen. He’s a natural! You’ve been doing comedy professionally for a long time now. Can you remember what your worst jobs were before you finally caught a break?
Gavin: Building sites were hard. I worked in a brush factory which was particularly grim. That’s industrial brushes, not sweepy ones! I remember in one factory I worked in, I was lowering metal components into melting lead to give them a lead coating. I had to wear a mask, but the fumes were going right to my head. Apart from that, I did photocopier demonstrating, a call centre job that lasted a couple of years and delivering hire cars was my last employment.
One day, after designing a works rota without consultation, the new boss complained about me not turning in on a day when he’d scheduled me to. He was a bit of a prick and I thought ‘I’m sick of working for pricks’ so I quit and never returned to the world of work.
Andy: It must be nice! You’ve been described as a cross between Bill Hicks and Geoff off Byker Grove, yet you named your 2012 Fringe Show ‘Bill Hicks wasn’t very good’. For the readers that haven’t seen this live, tell us a bit about why you don’t like Bill Hicks.
Gavin: The show’s over now, so I can come clean. In my view, Bill Hicks wasn’t very good. I thought he was excellent. There’s still some fuckwit reviewers that didn’t get this twist.
Andy: Haha. I wish I had caught the show at the Fringe! Are there any live comics you actually can’t stand?
Gavin: Andrew Dice Clay is pish. I don’t like that Dane Cook bloke.
Andy: Agreed. Your preceding Fringe Show, in 2011, was called ‘All Young People are Cunts’. Can you give us a bit of insight into this?
Gavin: It was my disappointment with young people and their lazy culture. I went into detail about their language, their obsession with irony, with boxed sets, TV dinners and rubbishy music.
The fact that they were apolitical and decadent as well as arrogant, self righteous and generally dull. Tongue in cheek? Well, once again, one or two critics missed the point royally.
Andy: Aside from stand-up, you do have a lot of side projects. What are you busy with at the moment?
Gavin: Writing my blog, writing comedy projects, walking my dog, being a Dad, brewing beer, running my six-a-side football team and other projects that keep me sane.
Andy: Wow, you really are busy! I think I’ve probably been to most of your weekly shows at The Stand Newcastle on Sundays since you’ve started doing it. Tell the readers a little bit more about the setup for the show, and the reasons behind a show entitled ‘Northumbrian Assembly’.
Gavin: There was a campaign for a North East regional assembly a few years back, if you remember, and it was rejected. The no vote won hands down. Well, I have my own assembly every Sunday night. We keep it as Northumbrian as we possibly can: a meat draw, a comedy quiz with prizes of pease pudding, stotties and pictures of ex-Newcastle players from yesteryear. There are Northumbrian flags draped on the backdrop as well.
Andy: It certainly is a bit special Gav. I know, like me, you’re a huge Newcastle United fan. I’ve heard you run a strictly Comedians six-a-side football team every week. That might be a totally unique type of team! Who’s on the team? And are you guys any good?
Gavin: There’s myself, Andy Fury, John Whale, Kai Humphries and several others. We’re not a bad side. We’re in the second of three divisions.
I play on a Monday then walk like John Wayne for the next three days. I’m not getting any younger.
Andy: None of us unfortunately! Like a lot of pro comics, you do a lot of charity work. With so many worthy charities to support, are there any that you’re particular keen on supporting?
Gavin: Tiny Lives. They provide support for people coping with a premature birth and obviously some of the money goes to research to help keep new born prems alive. Our daughter was born prematurely. She’s fine now.
Andy: That is a really good cause. You obviously spend a lot of time on the road. What do you do in your downtime? In other words, what quietens and settles the busy mind of Gavin?
Gavin: Doing nothing is good! I watch Newcastle whenever I can as well. I do enjoy a drink. I’ve got a weakness for blended whisky and dark and red ales.
Andy: So the bar at the Stand is well funded? I hear you have a very keen interest in music in films. What in particular gets your creative juices flowing?
Gavin: I like Mike Leigh films, Ken Loach films, many more British films…the kitchen sink era…erm…screenplays written by Alan Clarke, Ken Rosenthal, Willy Russell, Alan Bleasdale and the like.
My music tastes are many and varied, but I’m a big fan of the punk/new wave era. Bands like The Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Stranglers, Stiff Little Fingers and many more.
The cynical attitude we comics have today all come from punk in my opinion.
Andy: Maybe your generation of comics. Many performers have little quirks, routines or particular items on their person before going on stage or whilst on stage. Do you have anything like that Gav?
Gavin: …I don’t like to have keys in my pocket when I’m on stage. Mo Farah wouldn’t have keys on him while running the 10,000 metres.
Andy: So no keys on stage, but a meat raffle is fine? Do you have any other big passions outside of comedy and media?
Gavin: …Many plans of wonderful dastardly acts but I couldn’t possibly share them. They’re top secret.
Andy: Ominous…and finally, what advice would you give to up and coming comedians who really want to make a go of it?
Gavin: Don’t listen to any advice. Generally, people who give you advice know nothing or they’re keen on giving you duff advice to try to stop you in your tracks. Make your own mistakes. Now was that genuine advice or am I trying to stop you in your tracks?!!! Who knows.
Andy: Thanks for clearing that up. Thanks for coming down Gavin.
Apart from his nationwide gigs, you can see Gavin every Sunday night at The Stand in Newcastle, Bigg Market.