Kevin Precious - Fame For Fame’s Sake is a Bit of a Fool’s Errand
Comedian Kevin Precious wants to take us back to our school days, making use of the teaching skills amassed as an RE teacher. Having completed a successful run of packed out shows at the Brighton Fringe 2010 (first four outings) – and further tightening proceedings up at the Camden, Kevin is back with a fourth helping of his show “Not Appropriate” which will tickle anyone who has ever taught or – for that matter – been to school. Reluctant to reminisce on my “wonder years”, I hesitantly had a chat with Kevin as he prepares for tomorrow’s show.
How would you compare your comedy career with your previous experience as a teacher?
Comedy is easier, definitely, if you know what you’re doing. People have paid to see you and expect you to justify their faith in their investment. A group of kids – particularly with regard to my subject, RE – are there under duress; it’s more of a challenge to control the situation and offer something of interest.
Are a lot of your former students fans?
I’ve had a few turn up here and there, making approving noises. But I think it’s a matter of taste, and they would probably prefer someone nearer their own age talking about matters relevant to them.
You also have a fair bit of experience as a musician. How did that compare to the comedy circuit and which do you prefer?
You’ve done your research. Like most people, I probably engage more with music on a day-to-day basis than comedy, and it has a far deeper effect (on me). One of the attractions of comedy is the autonomous nature of the job. In bands, you can pretty much guarantee personality clashes and, usually, at least one almighty pain-in-the-backside to deal with; if there wasn’t such a person in any given situation, I’m sure I could fulfil the role.
How did you get involved in the NME pop quiz and how did this lead you into the world of comedy?
I used to run a pop quiz in Camden in the mid-90s just as everything was becoming Brit-Pop, and as a consequence, all manner of band/industry/journo types used to turn up; which in turn led to the NME job. The laughs I got by making spontaneous remarks in relation to the proceedings suggested there might be a route into comedy. However, comedy is a lot harder than hosting a pub quiz and as much as anyone can get laughs from the writing of humour, the real deal is in being able to perform.
You are also co-founder and regular MC for Barnstormers Comedy. Tell us a bit about that and what kind of nights we can expect there? There are some great acts lined up.
We promote shows in Arts Centres and Theatres and the customer can therefore expect quality in an environment conducive to that.
Comedians always have hilarious stories to tell but also horror stories. What is the worst heckle/occurrence you can remember at a gig?
The worst gig was undoubtedly a freebie media/awards event at the Dome in Brighton; with loads of free alcohol as well. A horrible death in front a huge crowd of beer-soaked individuals who had been corralled there on the basis of the freebie; the worst aspects of human behaviour akin to the ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’. My fault for not seeing right through it but it does put me in mind of the famous Bill Hicks line about people in marketing and advertising killing themselves.
Coming back to the present. What can you tell us about your solo show “Not Appropriate” without giving too much away of course? I hear it delves into your experience as a teacher?
It’s all about teaching, along with some of my own experiences as a schoolkid. Subject matter includes the Staff Room, Parents’ Evening, the School Trip, Teaching RE/PSE, Ofsted, Political Correctness and Assemblies.
What would you class as your greatest achievement so far as a comedian?
I’m not sure the term ‘greatest achievement’ would apply but I’m pleased with this show, and the fact that I’ve been able to get it out there, without having to spend a fortune in Edinburgh; but then it’s niche, darling. It was great doing it at the Hull Truck last year to a sell-out crowd in my hometown. There’s been a couple of real blinders at the Old Joint Stock Theatre (Birmingham) previously as well; that was a good feeling.
What about your own comedy kicks? Of all the up-and-coming comics on the circuit who do you think deserves to make it?
Favourite stand-ups include Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Chris Rock and Doug Stanhope. I don’t know about up-and-coming but my favourite circuit acts include people like Jeff Innocent, Hal Cruttenden and Liam Mullone. They all do social-related themes, politics with a small ‘p’, class-related stuff etc…
As a final note. You have said the following: “Fame is fleeting; obscurity lasts forever”. What made you say this?
Well, never having been famous I suppose that’s speculative. Either way, we’re a long time dead, and I think, if anything, it serves as a reminder to focus on those things that are important. As well as the obvious family and friends, that would have to include crafting good work and finding an audience for it; as opposed to getting caught up in the whole modern phenomena of ‘celebrity’ and mass acceptance. The pursuit of ‘fame, for fame’s sake’ is a bit of a fool’s errand, I believe. Still, a bit of recognition wouldn’t go amiss, especially if there were few more coffers involved.
You can catch Kevin tomorrow at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival. All ticket info can be found here.