Chris Ramsey: ‘You can’t be a full-time adult when you’re a comedian’

Comedian Chris Ramsey.
Comedian Chris Ramsey.
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Even Chris Ramsey seems rather bemused by his current ubiquity.

The comic from South Shields is a regular on panel shows – he’s done 8 Out of 10 Cats, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Celebrity Juice a whopping 20 times, among numerous others. He also took over as host of E4’s Virtually Famous quiz show late last year.

But you know you’ve really made it when you’ve got your own show with your name in it – The Chris Ramsey Show has just finished a first run on Comedy Central.

‘It’s crazy, man,’ he tells The Guide. ‘I like flicking through the Sky planner and seeing my name there. It really hit me the other day when I was sitting there watching Friends one afternoon and the advert came on for my show. It’s just really cool – but really surreal.’

The amiable stand-up had a whale of a time filming the show, which involves him getting celebs and other comics to take part in silly stunts and pranks. It looks like he’s having a lot of fun. Was he?

‘Without a doubt,’ he hoots. ‘It should have been longer – we had to cut so much out, so many ridiculous fun and stupid things, but it’s got to be cut down to 26 minutes. I just wanted to make a show that was daft and fun, and replicating what live comedy nights can be like.’

I still have dreams I’m back at uni and I haven’t done my homework, man, or I haven’t revised, and everyone’s like: ‘Comedy was just a hobby – you need to get a proper job now.’

Chris Ramsey

Chris is currently on his biggest ever stand-up tour, dubbed Is That... Chris Ramsey? His last show, All Growed Up, tackled attempting to get to grips with adulthood. Since that last tour he has become a father, and now has a 16-month-old son, and there was also the bizarre incident where, in a case of mistaken identity, he was arrested at a hotel.

So what’s this show about?

‘There’s a certain flow – it flows in one stream of thought, but it’s less of a rigid theme than the last one.

‘I talk briefly about my fears as a dad and my inadequacies as a father, daft things that have happened to me. I always talk to the crowd so there’s lots of interaction, and I finally tell the full story of what happened when I was arrested at the hotel. That was so bizarre.

‘It was terrifying, I talk about it in the show, so I don’t want to go into it in too much detail, but the finale of the show is that you learn a lot about yourself in moments like that. It’s that whole fight or flight moment and the whole show hinges on that.’

He pauses for effect. ‘Basically, I wish I’d handled it better.’

While being a father obviously looms large in his personal life, he appreciates not everyone would want to hear about every detail.

‘I had a load of dad stories but I cut a lot of that out – yeah, they were funny, but anyone could have said that.’

And does he feel more like an adult now, then? ‘You dip in and out of it, especially when you’re a comedian, you cannot be a full-time adult when you’re a comedian.

‘There’s moments where I’m definitely not an adult and moments where I am, and that was the point of the last show. There are moments in this show where it looks like I’ve matured and others where I blatantly haven’t. I don’t think will ever fully get there!’

Before the stand-up took off, Chris acted in two series of the sitcom Hebburn alongside Vic Reeves. It remains the only acting he’s done. ‘I was very lucky to get that role, my mate wrote it, it was a really amazing thing to do, really good fun, and I haven’t really pursued that side of things since, but I was obviously devastated when it wasn’t recommissioned.

‘People are always asking me about it, or asking when it’s coming back, which it isn’t.

‘I stared doing Hebburn whenI was doing my first-ever tour, doing really small shows, and then it’s got bigger and bigger each year. Each tour has just jumped up. Take Portsmouth, I was doing 200 seats and now I’m doing the Guildhall. I supported Al Murray there years ago and thought: “Wow, when will I get to this level on my own?”

‘The Guildhall is on my list of venues – not a real list, just one I keep in my head – it’s places I did with Al Murray, and whenever I get to do one on my own, it’s like another little rung on the ladder. It’s a special venue for me.’

The current tour stretches to 45 dates, culminating with a homecoming show at Newcastle’s vast 10,000-seat Metro Radio Arena

‘That’s mental. You can concertina it and make it smaller if you only want 8,000, but any sentence with “only 8,000” in is ridiculous, isn’t it?’

Will he have family and friends there for it?

‘Oh, probably about 6,000 or so. They wouldn’t dare heckle me though – at the next family party I’d absolutely eviscerate them, cut them off. They wouldn’t get to see their grandchild or nephew, or whatever. I take it really personal, me,’ he laughs.

Amazingly, Chris dropped out of university weeks before graduating to pursue his comedy.

‘I still have dreams I’m back at uni and I haven’t done my homework, man, or I haven’t revised, and everyone’s like: “Comedy was just a hobby - you need to get a proper job now.”

‘So yeah, it was always a gamble, but with a career like this, it just sort of took me, and I thought, I can’t do this on the side. Thankfully it’s paid off handsomely! As a great philosopher once said: “He who dares, Rodders, he who dares”.’

* Is That... Chris Ramsey is at Portsmouth Guildhall on Thursday, April 13, doors 7pm, tickets £22.50. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk