Stand-up Stephen Bailey is taking time out from doing his finances for his accountant to talk to The Guide – a task he finds less than thrilling.
‘I hate doing this,’ he cackles down the phone, ‘and then they just tell you to spend less!’
A self-described ‘working-class, ginger, gay, northern comic’ (now living in London), he’s currently mid-tour with his own show Nation’s Sweetheart, but he’s taking time out from that to appear in Horndean at the next Comedy All Stars show alongside Sean Collins and Mick Ferry.
Touring on his own is taking its toll as he admits: ‘I’m going a bit insane.
‘Sometimes when I’m in the car by myself I just want to stab myself in the face, there’s no-one to talk to so you find yourself talking to yourself.
‘I was so bored and tired the other day that I just checked out and I drove halfway home from Liverpool without my lights on. Everyone was flashing me, and I’m thinking: “I’m doing the speed limit, what’s your problem!” And then I realised.’
Given its title, is the show your bid for nation’s sweetheart status?
‘Listen, I’ve decided I’m Cheryl Cole’s maternity cover. I feel like a lot of comedy has got themes and they’re like Ted talks. I don’t do mine like a Ted talk, I do it old school – just funny.
‘It’s basically a little bit of everything, observational comedy, I go off on tangents, I like to think of myself as a drag queen without a budget. I still look amazing, I just don’t have wig money – they’re bloody expensive.
‘I just like it to be funny for an hour, I like us all to be in it together. Since the rise of social media, I don’t think we really engage properly with each other any more, so I like my show to be quite engaging and conversational, I want to talk about what happened to the pub with my friends – the things that we should be saying to each other’s faces, but we’re all too lazy to do these days.
‘And people are much braver online - people wouldn’t come up to you at a bar and say: “Hey, how are you? Aubergine!”’
Audience interaction is something Stephen loves – but it doesn’t always quite go to plan.‘In Swindon, the whole place was rammed except there was this one empty seat in the front row. I said to this man: “Who’s sat there?” He went, “Claire”. I went: “Who’s she?” and he said: “My wife”. So I went: “Is she with us, is she coming in spirit?” And they’d only just come from her wake that day. Fortunately they found it all really funny.
Then the next time I was there, I told this story, and Claire’s brother was only in, so I went through it all again.’
He’s looking forward to coming back this way though.
‘I’ve been to Portsmouth before – there are a lot of navy men aren’t there? That’s why I agreed to come back!
‘My first boyfriend, we broke up because he joined the navy, and get this, he came out straight, which is the wrong way round!
‘Last time I was there, I met this guy after the show, and he told me they have this thing in the navy where they say it’s not gay while you’re underway, and I thought this was the best thing I had ever heard.
‘Since he told me that and I’ve told everyone, everyone always says: “Never heard of it”. Is it the fact that I’ve been set up, or is it the fact that you’re all denying all knowledge...?’
COMEDY All STARS
Horndean Technology College
Friday, May 12