Stand-up Bryan Lacey’s rolling with the punches in the ring and onstage

Bryan Lacey. Picture by David Craik
Bryan Lacey. Picture by David Craik
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Taking a beating in the ring, or delivering a withering put down to a heckle in a comedy club, it’s all the same to Bryan Lacey.

But while Lacey has been plying the stand-up trade for several years, it’s only recently that he turned from fan to participant in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights.

‘I had my first ever cage fight three weeks ago in Bethnal Green,’ he explains. ‘It’s all gone nuts. It’s gone from being a hobby, like watching football on a Sunday on the sofa, to getting in there and getting punched in the face.’

He lost on points.

‘I was only intending to do this once. I say intending because now I quite fancy doing this again. I thought rather than sharing that moment with someone I’ll never see again, I’ll share it with a good friend, someone I can talk about it with over a pint or coffee and cake for many years to come.

‘It was brilliant. It doesn’t seem like fun to everyone else, but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.’

Before this fight, Bryan’s only previous experience in the ring was on his own stag do. ‘I play it up for comedy purposes about how horrific it was and it was my brother stitching me up, but it was a dream – I’d been a fan for years.

‘What I didn’t need though was for them to keep me up to 6am drinking and then surprise me that day at 10.30am by making me jog to the gym and putting me in the gym with a couple of monsters.

‘There was the light heavyweight guy who ragdolls me for a bit, then they put me up against this little 16-year-old from Brighton who was a lot smaller than me, very timid, very quiet.

‘But they didn’t tell me he was a black belt in ju-jitsu. I thought, I’ve got him here, and before you know it you’re trying to save your arm or your leg or throat.

Getting punched in the face is surprisingly therapeutic, but that’s probably just for a psycho like me

Bryan Lacey

‘It was a bit different for a stag do.’

But it’s over the past few months, as he took part in a reality TV show called Wimp To Warrior, that he discovered the parallels between the fight world and stand-up.

‘Because I was doing all the media – the podcasts, the interviews, all that stuff – I was interested in finding out what it was like on the other side.

‘I talked about the sport, but to actually go through the training camp, I thought it was going to be completely alien.

‘First of all you spend a lot of time on your own. The audience at a fight or comedy night only see the 20 minutes you’re onstage or in the ring – they don’t see the preparation, the highs and the lows, the effort you put into tweaking the technique or jokes, that side of it was very familiar. Even down to waiting backstage for your music to walk out to.

‘It felt really comfortable actually, which might seem a strange thing to say, but I’m used to walking out in front of a crowd to music, I’ve done it so many times for comedy shows.’

But even the worst heckler won’t hit you, will they? ‘True, but what I learned from this is that getting punched in the face isn’t that bad either.

‘Getting punched in the face is surprisingly therapeutic, but that’s probably just for a psycho like me,’ he cackles.

Bryan returns to the Wedgewood Rooms Comedy Club tonight, also featuring Simon Clayton, compere Dinga and more.

The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Friday, July 29