Comedy : 10 Questions with Comedian Scott Bennett

1. So Scott I first saw you perform in Sheffield at the Grapes for a gig called Grapes of wrath, I’m going back a bit, can you remember it?

I do remember it! I think it was run by an act called Laurence Landau. There was myself, Kiri Pritchard Mclean, Dan Smith and the compere was a guy called CK Goldiing. I can’t recall much about the gig itself, other than he had proper tickets produced that looked like something from a festival, which I thought was quite ambitious for an open mic in a loft above a pub in Sheffield, but you had to admire his entrepreneurial spirit!

2, Tell me about your journey as a stand up?

I started stand up in 2009. My first gig was a gong show for Funhouse comedy (again above a pub) in the middle of Nottingham. The gong show is the closest comedy gets to the roman tradition of throwing Christians to the lions. Although in this case the Christians are comedians and the lions are audience members called Nigel who work in accounts. Nigel and his party were handed glow sticks, red and green and could dismiss an act they didn’t like after two minutes by holding up the red one, it was brutal, but it’s one of the only ways you can get stage time in the early days. I did my first five minutes of material. I can’t remember much about the set, other than there was a joke about Tricolore French Text books and a Yorkshire version of Back to the Future; I wasn’t going for the easy laughs. There was about twenty people in, including my wife Jemma. I somehow managed to win the competition and that was the start of the journey. I often think if I’d have died horrendously (which I often did following that gig) I may not have had the confidence to continue.

The next few years consisted of hauling my arse up and down the motorways doing my comedy apprenticeship until I was deemed good enough to earn a couple of quid along the way. There is no secret to carving a career as a comedian, it’s just writing, performing, driving; that’s it. There are many acts out there who I am sure are funnier than I am, who have stopped performing as a result of the pressures of life; be it financially or emotional. I’m lucky that my wife Jemma is incredibly supportive and has never given me an ultimatum.

I juggled comedy and a full-time job as a Product Designer for eight years, until I felt like I had reached a crossroads where I had to decide if I was going to take the leap and go full time as a comedian. This decision was helped by being offered tour support for a comedy hero of mine, Rob Brydon. I left my day job in September 2017 and haven’t looked back since

3. How has coming from Barnsley helped you in your career?

I’m not from Barnsley! I just use that as a good reference town in my set! I am actually from the legendary metropolis they call Pontefract, or Pontecarlo to the locals!

I think a Yorkshire upbringing is a fertile ground for a career in comedy. The dry acerbic wit and an ability to laugh at ourselves is a great asset to have. I also had a close-knit family, which has helped with material and a working-class ethos which has helped make me driven. I’m constantly pushing to get better and I can’t relax as I feel that at any moment I might have to stop and go and get a proper job again.

4. What advice would you give to someone looking to start out in comedy?

My advice is to live and breath comedy, if you don’t have to do it, then it isn’t for you. Its not a job it’s part of your personality. Practically you need to immerse yourself in comedy, watch it, both live and on television. The science of comedy is fascinating and you learn so many tips from the sitcoms, stand up and sketch comedy that’s already out there.Write every day, book yourself into a new material night every week and try the bits until they work. Record each set and listen back to it on those long car journeys, they can be very useful!

Above all the best way to get good is to gig, in every part of the country and in every situation. That way there is nothing you wouldn’t expect and you can deal with any eventuality. Although turning up at a gig to find your dad sat in the front row does tend to throw you! when I told him to sit anywhere I didn’t mean at the foot of the mic-stand!

5. What gets on your nerves at the moment?

People who waste time online getting into arguments on social media. It’s a free world and I understand that debate is healthy, but in the end it’s just a colossal waste of time, get off Facebook and write some jokes!……….Twitter is fine though.

I also have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the phrase “club comic”. It tends to get banded around a lot in reviews of comics, particularly northern ones, who have had the Gaul (how dare they!) to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe. “Club Comic” is often used in a derogatory way by certain pompous reviewers to pigeon hole an entire section of the circuit as being either derivative or unintelligent. Some of the best stand-up comedians, Seinfeld, Harry Hill, Ross Noble, Daniel Kitson and many others all cut their teeth in Jongleursand the Comedy Store. I hate the way being able to make hundreds of people laugh every weekend is dismissed by certain sections of the comedy press. Stand up comedy in its purist form is one of the most beautiful and powerful artforms and “Club comics” as they would describe them, when in full flow, destroying a weekend room with a killer set, is one of the best things you’ll ever see.

6, What’s been your biggest challenge as a comedian?

The biggest challenge has been balancing stand up comedy and being a husband and father. I’d love to tell you more but you’ll have to see my Edinburgh show this year which is about precisely this dilemma!

People say its brave to do stand-up comedy, that’s not true, it’s braver to let someone you love do comedy.

7, What’s the worst experience you have encountered on stage?

I’ve not had so many horrible experiences onstage. I have had bad gigs though, which is to be expected.

There are too many to mention really.

Once at an after dinner speaking event where I had to go on after a charity appeal and a raffle, using a microphone that constantly kept cutting out on punchlines and to an audience made up entirely of men who all hated me. It was for a sheet metal company and after trying and failing to endear myself to them with bespoke jokes such as, “I love sheet metal, especially the way its put together…..its just riveting” I was running out of ideas. The best analogy for this is jumping out of a plane, finding out you haven’t got a parachute then falling through lots of trees and trying to clutch at the branches. The branch in this case was a friendly looking man who reminded me of my dad, mainly because he’s bitterly disappointed in me too. I said to him, “So sir, what’s your role in the company” “I’m not helping you” was his reply……”so not customer relations then?” was my retort. The proceeding 45 mins of silence were so heavy you could feel it.

I suppose the writing was on the wall before I’d even started. I saw the poster on the way out, it said (from top to bottom) “Guest speaker the incredible footballing legend Lee Sharpe” then, “Charity Raffle” then “delicious three course meal” and finally “a comedian”

I was doing warm up for a roast. Which ironically turned out to be my own.

8, How easy is it to juggle your family and life on the road?

It’s not a simple answer. I can only make it work because of the incredible support of my wife and immediate family. Any success I will be fortunate to have, has to be shared with them, because they are the ones holding the fort. I’m very lucky, some comics have to make a choice between comedy and family and often comedy wins, which is symptomatic of the way it can dominate your life. To be successful you do have to devote a lot of yourself to it, there is no other way. However, having a family is an essential distraction, comedy and show business isn’t real, it can only give you a small part of what you need to be balanced and happy.

I’m guilty of letting it dominate my life, I haven’t got a large friendship circle outside of comedy, but that’s what happens when you spend most of your weekends on the M6. On the flip side I do spend most of the week in the day with my wife and kids, do the school run everyday and I’m the only daddy at playgroup, which is pretty rock and roll!

9. Recently got your first tv writing credit on the Chris Ramsey show talk me through how that came about? 

Yeah, that’s been an incredible experience, I feel very fortunate with that. Like most things in comedy it came about by chance. I was in Newcastle supporting Rob Brydon at the City Hall. I came offstage and had a text from Jason Cook, an amazing act and writer who runs wonderful gigs in the North East. He asked if I could get over to his gig nearby to cover for a dropout in the middle. Of course, I said and when I arrived, Chris Ramsey was there as he was closing the gig. We all got chatting and after Chris had done his work in progress extended set, I suggested a few little toppers and bits he could add on. He was very receptive and a week later we met again at the Newcastle Stand and he told me how well the new suggestions I’d made had gone. A couple of months later I received a message from Chris asking if I’d like write with him, Jason and the team on the new series of the show, and of course I said yes!

The other connection with Jason Cook came from our work together on the Panelbeaters podcast and live shows. The podcast created by Gary Delaney and Ciamh Mcdonnell was a regular show featuring comedians competing for survival with their punchline slinging abilities! We eventually got to the point where we filmed for a pilot with Jason Manford as a presenter.

It was my first regular writing work. I did around six episodes including the pilot and it really helped build my confidence as a joke writer. I think without this apprenticeship the Chris Ramsey job probably wouldn’t have happened.

10. What’s next for Scott Bennet?

I’ve got a few projects on the go at the moment:

Firstly, there is my new Edinburgh show, Scott Bennett: Leap Year.

Which is my new stand up show, all about the transition from the 9-5 to my life as a professional comedian. It talks about following dreams when you are dragging a young family along with you, the way our personalities affect our ability to cope with the big changes and risks in our lives. The show also tells the story of how I met Rob Brydon and the strange coincidences that meeting revealed.

Secondly, I am continuing to produce short comedy films and pilot episodes under my Scott Bennett Comedian Productions, company. My wife Jemma, who is an amazing actress stars in many of these with me and we film them with the help of Engaging Education, my younger brother’s business. They are a small media company and we make the films on a shoestring budget, often just with the one camera and edit them at his offices.

I then put them out online.

The first two projects were “Caravan of Love” a spoof mockumentary about a couple on a caravanning holiday, which was selected for the Beeston Film Festival and Nominated for an award for best new comedy.

The latest project is “Pillow Talk” a series of short episodes about what couple’s chat about before lights out, the episodes can be seen here:

In addition to this I am working on a new sitcom “Roy” based on my 2015 Edinburgh show all about my father, which we are in the development phase with the script and I’m hoping to get that to a point where we can approach commissioners and producers later in the year.

Finally, I am featuring on BBC4extra in the Arthur Smith Comedy Club series and the Knock Knock comedy podcast with actress Helen Lederer, to talk about my short career so far and my experiences in stand up. These will be online in the next few months.