Craig Campbell: ‘I’ve become the go-to-guy for jokes and snow’

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell

Bo Ningen

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Days before speaking to The Guide, Craig Campbell was out in Afghanistan trying to make hardened soldiers laugh in sweltering heat.

Later this year the affable Canadian will be heading off with a group of other comics into the Himalaya to perform the world’s highest altitude comedy gig – at Everest’s base camp.

Craig is one of comedy’s rising stars – he’s had slots on BBC’s Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Russell Howard’s Good News, as well as supporting Frankie Boyle on his 120-date nationwide tour.

And in one, now infamous show, which was recorded for Dave’s One Night Stand on Dave, an expectant mother in the audience laughed so hard at his story about an encounter with a badger that her waters broke.

With an attitude of always saying ‘yes’, his career has , as a result, taken him in some unusual directions.

The Afghanistan trip wasn’t his first visit to the -stans. In 2008 he okayed some shows in Kazakhstan, describing it afterwards as ‘insane.’

But this time, he was there to entertain the troops, alongside the young troubadour Ed Sheeran.

‘He’s just a monster name’, says Craig, ‘and it’s the first time I’ve worked alongside someone who’s such a superstar.

‘When somebody asks me: “Do you want to go out to Afghanistan with Ed at the end of this engagement process?” It was, “sure!”

‘After the first day we’d been to about 55 different units – doing the grip and grins, and every time he would get out the guitar and it would be like a little mini concert.

‘He has a phenomenal capability.

‘Opening for him wasn’t as bad as opening for The Who, but it was daunting.

‘There was this sense out there that they were happy you came, and they’re doing a really difficult job in really difficult conditions.

‘We ended up doing some crowd surfing which I’ve never had the chance to do before, it was wicked.

‘That’s the kind of stuff I can get up to when I’m not touring. It’s kind of exciting.

‘I’m constantly flattered that they chose me. They weren’t caught up by nationality, they need to be entertained and they picked this Canadian guy.’

For now though, it’s back to the day job, and he’ll be at the Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham next week.

He’s been living in the UK now for eight years, after a brief stint in Holland.

He explains: ‘I was living in Holland and doing shows out there for a year and a bit. At that point, I had wanted to come and investigate the British.

‘We are very British influenced, in entertainment and comedy – people like Benny Hill or Harry Enfield are very popular.

‘I’m from west Alberta, and comedically, if you’ve been wrestling with the Canadian comedy scene, you’re flying four hours to do a weekend that will introduce you to nearly 40 new audience members, y’know?

‘You start to realise that if you set it up right here in the UK, you can do three shows in one night.

‘You’ve got 65m people living on the head of a pin here who are all interested in comedy.

‘It’s one of those perspective moments. I’m not trying to emphasise how big Canada is and how small England is, but you can be in Amsterdam meeting up with a friend and going for a drink in less time than I’d travel to go do a gig back in Canada.’

Now Craig prefers to hit the road on tour from his Devon home on his motorbike whenever he can.

‘Any of this part of the world puts a smile on my face before I leave for work – going down the A35. I’m pretty familiar with that part of the world around Hampshire.’

When he’s not touring the UK, Craig is trying to work out how to combine his comedy with his other passion – snowboarding.

And he’s become a regular on the snow ’n’ laughs circuit that has grown up in recent years.

From the Taking the Piste shows and the Altitude festival, which now regularly take place in different resorts, mostly around the Alps, Craig is always ready for the call.

He recalls sitting around with some of his fellow comedians for some apres ski: ‘We were doing the Taking the Piste shows, we were laughing and we’re here in the Alps – why haven’t we done a show in the Canadian Rockies? The worst thing is that we will end up having to pay for the best holiday of our lives.

‘These things multiply, so if it involves mountains and jokes, I’ve become the go-to-guy.’

And from there he has become involved in Stand Up on Everest.

This October, Craig and five other comics, including Stewart Francis, Rhys Darby (pictured left), Simon Evans, Glenn Wool and one more to be confirmed, will be trekking for nine days to the base camp of the world’s highest mountain before doing a gig 17,601ft above sea level to up to 50 fans.

It is all being filmed for a documentary and will raise money for Save the Children.

He’s hazy on exactly how he got involved, but says: ‘It’s like you’re at a restaurant or a gig and someone sidles up to you and says: “If we do a show on Everest are you in?” And you’re like: “I’m in!”

‘It’s become a massive thing.

‘I’ve been up Mont Blanc, and that’s 15,748ft, and I can say that at no point did I feel like doing a comedy gig.

But recalling Canadian winters, he adds with a chuckle: ‘It’s more enticing than sitting in the house and trying not to freeze to death.’

Craig Campbell performs at the Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham, on Thursday. Tickets: £15, adults only. Show starts at 7.30pm. For tickets go to hants.gov.uk/ashcroft or call 01329 223100.

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