The Made in Kent comedy competition celebrates the best of talent from across the county, and on Tuesday, a winner was crowned. We chat to Dave Bailey to find out more about his inspirations, his most embarrassing moments onstage…and sofa cushions.
How does it feel to have won the Made in Kent comedy competition?
It feels like validation for all those gigs where I say ‘why do I do this?’ and there are three people and a dog looking at me going ‘why is this man talking?’. I’m still a bit stunned, but good stunned.
Have you been gigging for a while?
On and off for a while, but I still have a day job. But that might change now…
When did you get into comedy and when did you do your first stand-up gig?
Since I was a teenager I’ve always loved comedy and I did the first gig a number of years ago. It was a competition and I got knocked out in the first round. I left it for a bit and then I dipped in and out every now and then. As I got older, I thought, actually, there’s unfinished business here. As fun as 9-5 work is, the last 2 or 3 years I’ve been properly going at it.
What is your 9-5?
I work for a complaints department.
That must give you a lot of material!
Yes, um, just today I’ve been arguing with someone over a sofa cushion.
Did you win?
I’m going to win, yeah.I work underwriting lots of insurance policies. When you write to an insurance company they get first dibs and if the customer is still not happy, we review the process.
You have to go back to the sofa cushion bit. I’m intrigued by the sofa cushion now…
Her kids drew on the sofa cushion and they sent someone out but that couldn’t repair it. They replaced the cushion cover but she’s saying that it doesn’t fit. But there’s a clause in the policy that says it doesn’t have to match. The new cushion won’t look the same as the old cushion that’s been there for five years and to be honest I’ll probably just give her £50 and hope that she goes away.
Hope for the best. When you started out in comedy, who was your principal inspiration?
The earliest one is Victoria Wood – my big sister was a big fan. I remember being a little boy, lying on the floor and watching ‘An Audience with Victoria Wood’. Not really understanding what she was saying, but my parents and my sister crying with laughter and thinking ‘that looks like the best job in the world!’ Just being silly and making the people I love laugh so much that they’re crying.
That was obviously the first bit, but your tastes change. Eddie Izzard was the first one I saw where I thought ‘he looks like a rockstar’. He’s the one where as a teenager I thought ‘that looks like something I want to do’.
So far what has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
I once fell off the stage. It was a dark gig in Folkestone perhaps. I was lost in the moment and walked towards someone in the audience and stepped off stage. I didn’t break my leg or anything like Dave Grohl but it was a bit like ‘ooup!’.
Could you pull it off as having done it deliberately?
Oh no, I think they could tell. I probably went ‘oops’ or something like a proper middle-class person. But I think I was so busy trying to work out what the person was saying that I forgot I was on the stage. So yeah, there were 100 people looking at me make an idiot of myself while I was on stage, but that’s kind of the job I suppose.
That’s when you needed a sofa cushion there, waiting for you.
Yeah, I should make a claim, shouldn’t I!? Say there wasn’t proper lighting.
Have you ever done a properly weird gig? Where you just think ‘What am I doing here?’
Yes, I did one in a Mexican restaurant. I assumed there would be a bar beneath or below…and I got talking to the promoter and he said ‘Are you ready? We’ll start’. Then he got a microphone from behind the bar and literally screamed into it, ‘OKAY EVERYONE! Time to start!’ and there was a restaurant full of people eating their dinner and looking at me and I had to wander around the restaurant. I tried to talk to people but no one was really giving me any eye contact. I asked the promoter to turn the Mexican music down as it was very loud and he jumped over the bar to turn it down but managed to turn it up, and then he couldn’t turn it off. Now everyone was annoyed as it was exceedingly loud. So I thought ‘what am I doing…how did I end up here?’.
Then I walked over to him and he was still fiddling with the music. I handed him the mic and the music was still blaring as I walked down the road. I thought, ‘There you go. A normal Tuesday’.
The only solution at that point would have been to break into loud and horrible dancing, but if it didn’t get a laugh it would’ve been even worse.
Yeah, some gigs you do think that.
What advice if any would you give to a comedian that was just starting out?
Play the room, not the gig. If there are 10 people in the room, don’t perform like you’re performing at the o2. Make them aware that you know that there’s only 10 people and that it is a bit awkward. Make a connection with the audience – you cant just go straight in. Build a relationship. Be aware of where you are. If you can reference something that’s happened that night, that helps – it proves that you’re there and you’re not just going through the same material. The audience will think ‘this person is quite funny then, because that can only have come out of tonight’. I think it’s just little things like that that help early on to connect with the audience.
I’m angry at everything. I think that’s the role of the comedian – to step back and think ‘why do we do this? why do we do that?’ – like a toddler. Why? Why??
So yeah, I do feel out of step with my generation. We complain about all this stuff but my parent’s generation who had actual issues like the Second World War and the Miner’s Strike and the Three Day Week – they just got on with it. I get the feeling that we’re not better than they were – they had certain standard’s that we’ve not inherited.
What do your parents think?
There are mixes – they had free education and could afford a house. But they’re sometimes flabbergasted by how people – like the person with the cushion – complain about things. If you flick through Twitter people act like they’re having an incredibly amazing life and everyone should know about it or be told about it.
There’s a sense of entitlement in all aspects of life.
Yes, the first instance is ‘I’m going to write a letter. I’m going to complain’. You are just an individual. Really in the grand scheme of things in the world…
I mean, okay – comedy is all about me shouting in the dark – and the joke is on me because I get frustrated by it.
But yeah, everyone else feels it as well. We’re together in our bitterness.
That’s what I love about comedy. That human connection of ‘ah yes, you’re saying what I think! There’s nothing we can do about it, but laughing for a moment will help’
Any upcoming gigs?
I’ve got one at the Glee club (5 min slot) on the 28th of December up in Birmingham.
Follow Dave Bailey on Twitter @DaveBaileyComic