Stand-up comic Chris McCausland is the Speaky Blinder in Fareham and Havant

Chris McAusland is bringing his show Speaky Blinder to Ashcroft Arts Centre on May 10 and The Spring on June 1, 2019. Picture by Steve Ullathorne
Chris McAusland is bringing his show Speaky Blinder to Ashcroft Arts Centre on May 10 and The Spring on June 1, 2019. Picture by Steve Ullathorne
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As the strap line for his tour puts it: ‘He's blind. He's a dad. He's a husband. He's third in command.’

With his new show, the punningly-titled Speaky Blinder, Chris McCausland tackles his condition head on.

Born with a hereditary eye disease, Chris gradually went blind as he grew up. In his early 20s it forced him to give up his job as a website designer. It was some years before he stumbled in to stand-up and found his true calling.

Previously an Edinburgh Festival regular, he gave it a break in 2013 when his daughter was born. He returned last year for the first time since, with the new show, to great acclaim and a sell-out run.

He tells The Guide, though, how he was apprehensive taking the show to Edinburgh.

‘The show is a little bit of a mix of a couple of things. I play all of the clubs in the country – I’ve done a lot of miles entertaining Saturday night audiences – so it’s got a lot of solid stand-up in the show. But what I did as well in the last third of the show is a little bit more personal, stuff I wouldn’t necessarily do when I’m in the clubs.

‘It’s still stand-up but something that I was a little bit more uncomfortable about doing – giving people an insight into being a dad and not being able to see.

‘Going up there, that’s the bit I was more worried about. But as I was in the run of it, that was the bit people were really responding to.

‘There’s a lot of stand-up in Edinburgh, so it’s the things that are a little bit different that stand out. I was really pleased how people responded to it as a package, but especially the bit that I thought might be rubbish – will people care? Is there any interest in this? But there was, which was really nice.

‘There’s loads of stuff in there about becoming a dad, and being married to a woman from Brazil – there’s no computer in the world that would match us together, so a lot of it is very relatable to people married and with kids, but I’ve got this extra perspective of doing it all in the dark.’

It was appearing on the BBC’s flagship comedy show Live at The Apollo in early 2018 that provided the catalyst for Chris’s return to the festival.

‘As soon as I did that, my agent was like: “Right, I really think you should go to Edingburgh now!” 

The Liverpudlian comic has battled depression in the past, but now seems to be in a much happier place – and acknowledges his lot could be far worse.

‘There must be people out there who are blind and have to raise kids on their own, or where both parents are visually impaired, and I don’t know how they do it. My wife can see, so I’m like in the background – I’m not responsible for the life and death situations, you know? If she’s got a rash and seeing what colour it is, that’s her job.

‘I’m just making a mess of things and getting poo up the walls.’

He tells how he recently tried to give his daughter and two friends pancakes on pancake day, which ended up with honey all over the children, the chairs and the floor.

‘It’s just a nightmare!’ he laughs.

‘The gunk never ends, it’s either coming out of them, or they’re squirting it all over themselves...’

He’s also turned his hand to acting. In those more innocent days of 2006 Chris starred as Rudi in 150 episodes of the Cbeebies show Me Too!

‘They were showing it quite recently –  it was on about three times a day. I know when my daughter was born it was on at 6.30 in the morning, and she wasn’t waking up at that time, so I’m grateful I didn’t have to sit through it.

‘My wife tried to show it to her once, and she was having none of it: “That’s not daddy, I don’t like, it I want Peppa Pig”. It’s the most brutal review I’ve ever had!

‘My wife was saying, don’t worry, she’ll be interested when she’s older and you can show her then. I said, “I don’t think so love, you go and Google “Me Too” and see what comes up now…”’

‘Imagine, when she’s nine, 10 or 11, and she goes to Google “Me Too” – and then tries not to have nightmares about all men forever.

And he made a cameo appearance in EastEnders last summer.

‘I’m not a soap opera fan, and I told them this myself, the last time I watched it was when Dirty Den was around in the late ’80s, and then with the Mitchell brothers. But it was loads of fun. 

‘I love doing things where you’re part of a team, and the good thing about it is you’re told what to do. With stand-up you’re very much responsible for every decision you make, what you say and what you do and pushing yourself and being creative. And this is the exact opposite – you’re told what to say, where to stand, they pick you up, they give you breakfast, it’s great!

‘The people I was working with – Rudolph Walker (Patrick), who’s got this really recognisable booming Caribbean voice and Christopher Timothy (Ted), who’s a proper ac-tor,’ he over-pronounces the two syllables, ‘who’s done Shakespeare and that, it was so welcoming and friendly and having a laugh.

‘When I did it, I said to them: “If you need a cheeky Scouser in Albert Square for a while, give me a call!” I’ll be the riff-raff on the square.’

Although he enjoys the acting, it’s not something he actively pursues

‘There’s not a lot I’m suitable for,’ he says. ‘If you’ve got a disability like myself, you’re only ever considered for parts where they’ve got that disability –  it has to be written in to it. So you have to be the right age, the right person for that character – and have that disability. It never seems to be the case, where they’ll go: “We’ve got 10 characters here, and yeah, one of them could be blind.” It’s never incidental, so there’s very limited opportunities.

‘I’ve got a lot of work with the stand-up at the moment but if something comes up I’m always happy to have a look.

‘The only performing skills I’ve got I learned from doing stand-up and the few bits of acting I’ve done, I’ve never been trained. I’m a computer programmer!

‘I’m blagging my way through the whole lot of it.

‘With the amount of things getting made these days, and the amount of attention being paid to diversity, I’m hoping there’ll be a big Netflix blockbuster with a role in it I’m suitable for and then that’s the next six years of my life sorted,’ he chuckles.

Ashcroft Arts Centre, Fareham

Friday, May 10

ashcroft.org.uk

The Spring Arts Centre, Havant

Saturday, June 1

thespring.co.uk