Russell Kane: ‘I’ve never woken up and thought: “I’m too cool”’

Russell Kane
Russell Kane
Jason Donovan

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Russell Kane’s career is at an intriguing crossroads.

BBC3, the channel he’s been closely associated with, is facing closure and the comic feels it’s time for his career to enter a new phase.

Gone is the quiff with the distinctive white streak and the wardrobe full of scoop-neck T-shirts, and it’s in with nice sensible hair and sharp suits.

And Kane – who has typically appealed to a younger audience – is making a conscious tilt at an older market.

As he explains: ‘BBC3‘s closing down. Initially I was gutted and I’ve campaigned about it for non-selfish reasons and selfish reasons, but then I thought: “This is a really good opportunity for me to do something new.”

‘I don’t believe in standing still when you’re still growing, and I’m still growing.

‘When I get to where I’m going, whether it’s Jimmy Carr-hood or Chris Rock-hood, then I can say that’s me.

‘I’m taking this as an opportunity to step forward into the suit-wearing, comb-your-hair and appeal to people in their 30s and 40s and I’m ready to go there.’

In the decade since he came to the public’s attention – he won the Laughing Horse New Act of The Year in 2004 and in 2005 he came second in So You Think You’re Funny – Kane has built a large following.

But it has mostly been through shows on BBC3, ITV2 (three years presenting the I’m A Celebrity companion show) and on Channel 5 – and he clearly wants a tilt at the Big Time.

When speaking to The Guide a few weeks back, he says: ‘I’ve changed my whole look, I’ve changed my whole attitude. I’m shaking everything up really. I’m doing the Royal Variety in a couple of weeks, I’ve done Live at the Apollo about two weeks ago.’

There appears to be a subtext about growing older in Kane’s desire to branch out, as he says: ‘The problem with people thinking you’re younger than your age, it’s cool, but this is one of the businesses where it can work against you.

‘If I was a musician, great, but I think comedians, the sweetspot for comedians – and of course there are exceptions, your Russell Howards, your Jack Whitehalls – is when people look at you, and whatever your numerical age, you come across as 35 to 45. It seems to be the right sort of mix of authority without being decrepit.’

However if you try to pin Kane down to giving his age, he dodges the question. ‘I’m about 80 years old, I’ve got a portrait in my loft. In my mid-30s but I’m staring at my 40s. My 40s are starting to look really close.’

Russell has also started to dabble in acting – earlier this year, he wrote and starred in a one-man play, The Closure of Craig Solly. As a result he’s landed a part in his first movie, which he is clearly buzzing about.

‘It’s with Noel Clarke who did Kidulthood. He came to see me in this play I did about a gangster nutter in a cell – I purposefully wrote a play that was as far from me as possible to show people I had a bit of range in my acting.

‘Even The Guardian liked it, which doesn’t happen. Noel and Jason Maza came to see me at a little preview in London and they said: “We didn’t realise you could act like that,” and they said they had a part they wanted me to look at.

‘I was like: “Yes! It’ll be some rough gangster”.’

He pauses for effect: ‘It’s the part of a gay Glaswegian jeweller.

‘It’s only a cameo, which suits me, so I can start small, and then hopefully I can read for something else. I’m not asking for parts, I want to have the chance to audition.’

He also had his first novel, the well-received The Humorist, published in 2012.

‘I sat down to write the type of novel I wanted to read,’ explains the English graduate, ‘One of the types of novel I like is a JG Ballard-type novel, where there’s a really great concept at the top, then a really strong character. So I thought I’d write it for my own amusement and if it doesn’t get published, it doesn’t get published.

‘I thought about this idea of a guy who was a perfect academic scholar of humour who had no emotions, literally like a disability, and off I went to its logical conclusion over 80,000 words.’

Earlier this year Russell finished touring Smallness, his eighth show in as many years, and this coming year he’s decided to skip the touring cycle.

While he claims to be enjoying the escape from the touring life, he also admits he’s ‘itching to go again’, putting on several one-off shows of his own, as well as appearing at the All-Stars Comedy Club in Horndean on December 5 and working on plays and sitcom ideas.

As to how he sees his future panning out: ‘My dream career would be – and I don’t imagine this’ll happen – a Chris Rock-type shape, a really respected stand-up playing decent-sized gigs and acting as well.

‘Russell Brand’s done it, I can’t see why another Russell can’t do it. But I don’t want to be a revolutionary, he can keep that one.

‘I don’t want to be a rockstar comedian, I want to be a successful comedian. I don’t think comedians make very cool people. It’s dangerous when comedians try to be cool.

‘You look at one of the funniest people on British TV, it’s probably Keith Lemon, and he’s one of uncoolest and silliest people. It’s not possible to be credible, cool and funny at the same time.

‘Maybe that’s some of the mistakes some of our revolutionaries are making. You need to be remain a bit silly.

‘I’ve never woken up and thought: “I’m too cool, sort it out.” There’s no chance. I’m a book-addict, pug-owner.’

Russell Kane headlines The Allstars Comedy Club at Horndean Technology College on Saturday, December 5 from 7pm. Tickets are £11. Check for availability. Tickets for the club’s March 6 show are also on sale.