Josh Howie interview

The British stand-up talks early beginnings, embarrassing moments
and unusual gigs

Interview

Why did you decide to become a comedian?
I think it was the desire to fill the endless black hole inside, the need to be centre of attention. I didn’t even know you could do it as a job until I was in my twenties and I left university. I was making music videos and I was working as a TV presenter. Then I started hanging out with a comedian and I liked his life, so I thought I’d give it a go. I got addicted, my first gig was amazing and I thought that it was easy, then the next two years were terrible. It takes a long time to get funny, but I’ve been doing it now for 14 years.

What’s been your most embarrassing comedic moment?
I’ve had fights and I’ve had very strange things happen to me on stage. There’s something about when I have the microphone in my hand – I just won’t back down. Somehow it makes me feel like I have superhuman powers.

Do you have a favourite gig or performance?
The strangest thing was probably having Joan Rivers in the audience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a few years ago. She was lovely and very friendly and complimentary. It wasn’t a big room, it was a typical fringe venue with about 50 people. She had this great laugh which made other people laugh too.

How do you approach writing material for shows?
I just procrastinate until the last possible moment and then panic and lose all my hair. That’s the usual rule. The great thing about events like the Edinburgh Festival is that it forces you to write a whole show. I probably have about two hours of material that’s funny and would work everywhere. You can only be so funny in a way. The incentive to write new material kind of diminishes over time. Doing Edinburgh kind of forces you out of your comfort zone.

Is it difficult to make various nationalities laugh when you perform in different countries – like Dubai?
I’ve done gigs all over the world and I’ve done lots of gigs in The Comedy Cellar in New York. I actually have quite an American sensibility – most of my favourite stand-ups are American, such as Chris Rock and Woody Allen. So if I perform in America I kind of feel at home. I’d say it’s more difficult for American acts to perform to UK audiences because they are more comedy savvy in some ways and a bit more worldly.

What topics do you cover in your act?
I talk about the frustrations of family life and I try to push the boundaries a little bit to see how far the audience will let me go. Sometimes, though, I just chat about boring stuff like tax. Comics can be boring, too.
Dhs140. September 10-17. Various times and venues, www.thelaughterfactory.com (04 355 1862).

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