If you’ve been choppered into play a gig in a palace once owned by Saddam Hussein when it’s still on the front line of conflict, you’d think you’d be pretty much ready for whatever a regular comedy club can throw at you.
Andy Askins performed numerous shows for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of a decade.
But his most memorable ‘show’ was at a palace outside Basra, which had been commandeered by the allied forces.
‘It was all pretty shot up and a dangerous place at the time,’ Andy recalls. ‘It was very sneaky-beaky getting in and out – dash to the helicopter in the darkness with the glowstick, that kind of thing. It was a fantastic experience.
‘Fortunately or unfortunately, what they tried to do in the beginning was to get entertainments to guys at the sharp end, and as it went on it got sharper and sharper. At that time it was under sniper fire, so you had to be careful walking past windows and that sort of thing.
‘It was an honour, but it did get a bit hairy at times, having to lie on the floor as rockets went past.’
I’m a grey man really, people are surprised when they find what I do, I’m the man stood behind you in Tesco, I’m nobodyAndy Askins
So has it helped him deal with heckler?
‘I rarely have a problem with hecklers, to be honest, and when it happens it’s not great. They think they’re helping the show, but they’re not. The heckles I do get tend to be well meaning.
‘But doing gigs in Iraq and for the troops, it puts things in perspective, anyway.’
The Middlesbrough native actually now lives on the slightly quieter Isle of Wight. Looking to get as far as he could from the economically depressed north of the early 1980s, he picked up a map of the UK to see how far he could go.
A former professional musician (among other things), Andy only became a full-time comic in 2005. But he only did his first Edinburgh show this summer.
‘People don’t realise but it’s very expensive to do Edinburgh – you can lose upwards of £10,000, and even if you “win”, you’re still probably going to lose a few thousand.
‘When it’s come up in the past, I thought I’d rather take me my kids to America for a month, but the kids have got older now, so have I, and everyone keeps saying you should do Edinburgh at least once in your career, so I did, and it was lot of fun.’
His show was called Andy Askins: The Man With No Name, ‘I know it makes no sense, but it was from those Clint Eastwood films.
‘It’s my kind of title,’ he says with no little self-deprecation, ‘I’m a grey man really, people are surprised when they find what I do, I’m the man stood behind you in Tesco, I’m nobody.’
But for ‘nobody’ he’s doing okay. In the past year he’s appeared twice on John Bishop’s TV show and at the Royal Albert Hall in the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy gala.
‘John Bishop has been a lovely patron out of nowhere,’ Andy adds. ‘I wasn’t expecting any TV exposure, and I’ve loved every minute of it.’
Also on the bill at the Spinnaker is headliner Zoe Lyons along with Ian Lane, winner of Spinnaker’s Comedy Gong Show and Sam Lake, winner of South Coast Comedian of the Year. The night is hosted by WOW247’s reigning comedy award winner, James Alderson.
Spinnaker Tower Cafe, Gunwharf Quays
Friday, November 4