Since bursting onto the national comedy stage in 2004, winning the Laughing Horse New Act of The Year, Russell Kane has been thrilling audiences across the land with his trademark high-octane brand of stand-up.
In 2010, he became the first comedian to win both the Edinburgh Award and Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Barry Award in the same year.
And this year, he’s already completed a 50-date leg of his biggest tour so far, the aptly named The Fast and The Curious, a show which motors through love, family and life. On Sunday he resumes the tour at Mayflower Theatre in Southampton with another 36 shows between now and Christmas – also including The Kings Theatre in Southsea on October 2.
When we speak, Russell has just spent a busy bank holiday weekend performing at festivals.
‘Yes, I did Reading and Leeds and Lost Village (in Linclonshire) all in one weekend, it’s been pretty full-on, I was a total festival floozy.
‘They are the rock star versions of gigs – mostly, stand-up is fairly cerebral and gentle, even in an arena it’s waves of laughter, but when you’ve got a tent full of 5,000 revellers it’s something else, it’s really enjoyable.
‘I love them. It suits my maniacal, roaring, sweaty, tear-the-world-apart style. It suits that nicely.’
And he was also up in Ediburgh at the Fringe Festival to do some live recordings of his popular Evil Genius podcast. Along with a panel of guest comics, Russell reevaluates our so-called heroes and villains.
It returned for a 20-episode run, which kicked off on September 5.
‘We recorded the first four episodes up there. It’s full on in terms of research, that’s 20 lives I’ve got to learn. For example, tomorrow we’re doing Queen Victoria and Whitney Houston – what a mix! It’s not normally with live audiences, so it’s not usually so much pressure.
‘Sometimes we do a reverse episode where we start with someone everyone says is evil, and instead of flinging mud, I wipe them with foamy sponges to clean their reputation. I’m always trying to confuse and confound the panel by going against received wisdom with interesting and unbelievable facts. Like we've done Bernard Manning, and he was a mix of Russian, Jew and Irish, for example. He sounds like one of his own jokes: “a Russian, a Jew and an Irishman walk into a comedian…”
Now in his 40s and with a four-year-old daughter, Mina, has he calmed down at all?
‘There’s been no discernible change whatsoever – no slowing down, if anything, there’s been an increase of pace. The show’s longer, it’s more frenetic, there’s more improvisation, I’ve written a book this year, I’m developing two shows for television. When I’m off and I’m with my family, of course, I love it, I love being a dad and all that stuff. But the brutal hunger has not been slaked even one per cent, I can’t switch that off, I wish I could.’
Is he ever able to relax, then?
‘I’m one of those people always running around at 1,000mph – reading three books at once, learning a language – and yet I can happily sit in the Maldives for seven days like a vegetable, I can just do it.
‘When I say Maldives, I mean camping in the Peak District, which is what I did on my birthday this year, but never mind!
‘Once I get into the zone of anything, I focus on it, whether that’s holiday or taking Mina to the museum, I’m in that zone, I’m not on email or on my phone.
‘When it comes to the craft itself, the creativity, it’s definitely my oldest child, I don’t love it more than Mina, I love it equally.’
The book he’s written is a memoir of sorts, Son of a Silver Back, subtitled Growing Up In The Shadow Of An Alpha Male. Due out on October 31, in it Russell examines his relationship with his father.
‘There’s so many banal comedian memoirs out there where it’s just, “I was born and now I’m a stand-up”, there’s none of that in there. I don’t talk about stand-up at all in it unless I absolutely had to. I decided it would be more original to take an alpha, silverback, BNP-voting man like my dad, and tell his story from birth to end and use that as a clever way of telling my origin story as well.’
After that description, it’s no surprise that the English graduate who once won an episode of Celebrity Mastermind on the subject of the life and novels of Evelyn Waugh struggled to find common ground with his dad.
‘There was just nothing in common between us. It would be like a West Ham fan moving in with Germaine Greer. We’re that far apart – we had no common interests, no common strands to our personalities. He didn’t know how to relate to me, and I didn’t know how to relate to him. I wasn’t abused, my parents never divorced, but it was just a cultural warzone and very, very funny – luckily for me.’
‘Due to the handy biographical quirk that my old man died the same month that I started stand-up, it means I can stop without going into any of that rubbish that I can’t stand. No-one wants to read about how someone suddenly made money. Rags to riches isn’t that interesting, what we do is sort of rags to… cloth.’
Even though his father is dead, has he been worried about how the rest of his family will receive it?
‘My mum’s read it. She’s the main one I needed to check with that she was okay about it, and she seems to be.
‘I’ve got plenty of people around me checking, but if my mum signs it off, it’s okay, as most of the extreme stories are about my dad.
‘There is some stuff in there about my nan, which I’m a bit worried about my aunts and uncles reading, but mostly I think they’ll be okay.’
After the tour winds up, Russell will hardly be twiddling his thumbs. It’s no surprise to hear he’s got several things already lined up.
‘The podcasts have become so big, they used to be the little things you did on the side as a joke, but they dominate your life now.
‘The following that my other podcast Boys Don’t Cry, has now is ridiculous, so I’ve got to start working on another series of that.
‘And it’s no secret that Evil Genius is being developed for TV.
With all of these things, you develop maybe 30 things a year, and then one every five years actually gets commissioned. To get Evil Genius on TV is my primary focus – that’s what I’d love to be doing in the new year.
‘If I’m not doing that, then I’m definitely going to jump straight into another book, if I have success with this one.
‘The other thing I’m unashamedly going to move into is going all Dr Dre (renowned hip-hop artist and producer), I’m going to produce for other comedians.
‘I’m a very “ideas” person – I get hundreds a day. Maybe I can see something that a TV producer hasn’t seen and I can produce for others, so I would happily use all of this excess energy if I haven’t necessarily got anything on myself, I can do that.’
But don’t wish him luck...
‘Sadly, it’s what no-one wants to hear, but it’s mostly effort-based, everyone thinks it’s luck or the world owes them, if only that were true.
‘It’s that thermo-rocket energy of dedication against a goal, which you then might not achieve, and if you don’t then you have to laugh and try something else.
‘Not everyone can manage that.’