Stuart Goldsmith is setting off on a tour the country with his live show, Like I Mean It. He's been busy recently with a baby, marriage and some high profile podcast guests. We caught up with him to find out the latest...
Hi Stuart. How is 2018 going for you so far?
It's been great thanks. I've just been on honeymoon in New Zealand, culminating in a lovely festival there; and I'm just about to start developing a new project that I can't talk about, and we all know how exciting that is!
Most comedy fans will know you via your Comedians' Comedian podcast. In March, it'll be the show's 6th anniversary. When you started, did you have any inkling it'd grow like it has, and run and run?
None whatsoever! Every so often I reflect on how meaningful it's become to my life; and how the big life lesson there is something awful about 'following your dreams'.
I think I used to be so caught up in trying to please people, as a comic onstage (OK and as a man too), that I'd do anything and say anything to make that happen. And, yet, the biggest contribution I've made to the world has been this thing that was simply me following my own instinct and trying to please myself. Hideous really.
Loads of new comics have started (in part) because of the show, so much so that it's probably cooler for acts not to admit it these days, but I've still got their fan emails from years ago, so I win!
You've had some amazingly high-profile guests on. How much prep do you do before the 'big name' interviews?
Far too much. Even for the smaller profile people I have to have listened to two hours or more of their stuff and made copious notes... which I then don't refer to at all.
I have a genuine habitual anxiety about offending guests by not having done enough research, or about annoying the listener by revealing my absolute ignorance about the minutiae of a guest's career that is cripplingly self-destructive.
Before a really 'big name' interview I find it useful to embark on a series of anxiety dreams and near panic attacks. As soon as I'm sitting there and we start talking, it's always fine. But I'm not in a position to judge the conversations after I've had them. I know if they were great, but often I think they've gone terribly badly, and then discover they've become fan-favourites.
Ultimately I want to challenge my guests on their preconceptions about themselves, so it helps to know them inside out. But similarly I often spot a glance or a nuance or the sense that they're not keen to talk about a particular thing, and that's the lead I try to follow. I annoyed a listener recently who felt I'd unfairly tried to make Jess Robinson cry, and I hadn't at all, I just felt that she was holding back on being really honest. I prodded a little bit and she really let go of what had been bothering her; it's gone on to become a really loved episode. And she's fine with it too, I should stress!
Presumably you have a wishlist of people you'd still like to chat to?
What, before they're all outed as perverts? Yeah, it'd be great to hoover up the greats before their careers quite rightly come tumbling down...
In all seriousness, there are still masses of really huge acts I'd love to talk to. One of my absolute dream guests recently was declined by their management on the basis that if the agent let the act anywhere near me, they'd be so indiscreet that they'd torpedo their career! A real shame, coz they can really write a joke, but I was quite flattered to have my oyster-shucking abilities held in such esteem.
I always feel like I shouldn't name people who've declined, as it's private, but there are some real idols in there with whom I've had excellent email conversations, but which have ended in them declining the show, often through a desire to keep their process tightly guarded. I've got to respect that. Bastards.
What is your personal favourite ComComPod episode to date?
A recent favourite was with James Acaster - he's a close friend and really opened up. I always like the episodes where people are candid.
Reginald D Hunter got super deep super quickly; I'd recommend that ep to anyone, regardless of their feelings about the man or his comedy. I was sat unmoving, desperate not to interrupt, or stem the flow of this torrent of deeply personal stuff of which I'd just gently loosened the lid.
If you've never listened before, just pick your favourite comic! There's nearly 250 of them, so there'll be someone you love, and I think 99% of the shows are exactly what I wanted them to be.
Telling Stewart Lee I was scared to interview him in case I ended up being slagged off in a future live show was fun, and his response "yeah, I might do that" was very invigorating.
Your life has changed a lot in the last few years... presumably your current stand-up show touches on some of that?
The core of the new tour, Like I Mean It, is absolutely the fact that I suddenly in the space of 18 months got everything I ever wanted, and I was somehow finally healed and happy, AND YET still sometimes howling with rage and frustration alone in my car. But don't worry - the lens through which I discuss that element of the show still has space for some really hilarious gear on blueberries, bomb-disposal robots and escape puzzle rooms.
It must be harder for you emotionally to tour now that you've got a family you have to 'leave behind' whilst you hit the road?
It sucks! I'm living the dream life of my 25 year-old self! Way too late! And it's going to get worse - the boy will be at school before long and flying a desk, how's that going to fit in with the jaunts to Australian comedy festivals and the weeks away touring, and the evenings and weekends on the road? The saving grace is that he loves Edinburgh - and among the street-performing community he has about 100 hilarious uncles and aunts with whom I'd trust my life, so at least the festival is safe from his mundane machinations...
You really are going to pretty much every region of the UK with this tour. How much of a say do you have in that schedule?
I'm all over it! Lots of acts like to sit back and let their producers book everything, but I'm the total opposite. Put it this way - if the Edinburgh Festival lasted 12 months of the year I'd be a pig in... well, a pig in Edinburgh. In the absence of that coming true, and that slightly unnerving image, I'm making it my mission to tour forever, to everywhere that'll have me. That means taking risks on venues miles from my home, like the brilliant Fruit in Hull, or clubs like Hot Water in Liverpool and The Bread Shed in Manchester where I'm still cultivating a local audience.
The plan is absolutely to keep building and building slowly slowly, until such time as I suddenly get loads of TV profile (in which case I'll have a touring audience ready to explode) or I don't, in which case who cares, coz I've got my own audience!
In your blurb you call it your "best show ever". Er, you said that on your last tour too though Stuart?
Hahahaha! I always write those blurbs honestly, and just blurt out whatever's on my mind about the show at the time. And the honest answer is that they just keep getting better and better. As well they should; I'm obsessed with comedy, it's all I think about, and I'm constantly gleaning things from my podcast that help me refine my own process, and take more obstacles out from under my feet, creatively.
I work hard, I tour hard, I don't play especially hard coz I'm such a tedious git, so it all feeds into the machine. This year at Edinburgh I'm playing a room twice the size of last year, so it's always Day 1 as far as I'm concerned.