Uncontested king of the Alasdair-Becketts, Alasdair Beckett-King is an enduringly excellent exponent of both the stand-up and sit-down comedic arts. Although not a lot of the latter recently, of course, so he's been doing sterling work with the former instead, which also involves some light standing.
Several national lockdowns have now been enlivened by innovative video nuggets from Studio Beckett-King, featuring Alasdair in a variety of roles - we're particularly keen on the enigmatic Emilio Punishment from his selection of highbrow detective shows:
But now, the ABK is risen! He's standing up again, at length, with a new work-in-progress show for the Leicester Comedy Festival, online this Sunday evening.
"Nevermore is the show I started working on pre-Covid and hope to keep working on post-Covid," Alasdair explains. "And that means it's decidedly not about lockdown, or any of the everyday grimness we're currently living with. It's a freewheeling ragbag of jokes and routines and weird ideas that might not work."
Hurray! After this is all over even going out to watch not-quite-working stuff will be an absolute joy. Speaking of which, here come the highs and less-highs of ABK's stand-up backstory.
My first gig was at The Cavendish Arms in Stockwell. It's a 'bringer' gig, which meant the room was actually full (unlike many open mics). My set was a homage to James Joyce's Ulysses, and it went a lot better than it sounds like it would have, based on that description. I got a trophy for being the audience's favourite.
The trophy turned out to be a small plastic Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.
Favourite show, ever?
I forget most good gigs almost immediately, so the one I remember best is the last gig before the first lockdown. It had a very weird vibe, was massively overrunning and I had a nagging guilt that none of us ought to be there at all. I was far from confident stepping on stage - but I did well.
The MC was very complimentary afterwards. Perhaps they were only being polite, but I was glad to go into the uncertainty of lockdown with a warm glow of confidence - a reminder that I'm actually quite decent at stand-up.
My worst gig (so far) was, naturally, a Christmas gig. I was too inexperienced to be opening, and I came on stage to a deafening and persistent roar of unintelligible heckling from a Sainsbury's management group booking. I could barely get a word out.
A very drunk man kept yelling that my taxi was outside. Which was depressing, because he thought I was earning enough to afford a taxi. About seven minutes in, I managed to tell my first joke. Some people laughed, and I got off the stage.
Another time, I was dying on stage and I thought I saw a ghost in the audience. But that, as they say, is another story.
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
Before doing comedy, I went to film school - where I made short films that everybody hated. I stuck at it for years, while the film industry found a hundred creative ways to say, "please sod off out of our medium". Eventually a film tutor suggested I quit and "become a pre-Raphaelite stand-up comedian". So, I did. Out of spite, mainly.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
Half-way through a three-hour drive to a gig, the comedian driving took a break from yelling at passers-by to speculate that maybe - not definitely, but maybe - Zionists were behind the holocaust. Their evidence for this was the popular Assassin's Creed game series. I think people should be allowed to smoke weed and to go on YouTube. But maybe not at the same time. The drive back wasn't great either.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
I've had entire shows that audiences inexplicably didn't like. There are so many examples it's hard to narrow it down. My least successful premise was:
"You know when you're painting a portrait of a 19th century landowner? Why's there always a massive cow there?"
As I occasionally have to remind audiences: I do do observational comedy, but I can't guarantee we've observed the same things.
How have your lockdowns been, generally and creatively?
A hundred years ago, during Lockdown 1, I created an interactive murder mystery 'Whodidit', people played along on Twitter over the course of a week. It was a fun Agatha Christie spoof, and stupidly hard work.
Since then, I've created quite a few little skits and animations. My sketch about Nordic Noir dramas ended up on the front page of Reddit. Which I thought was quite impressive until I tried to explain it to my dad.
Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?
Reviewers have accused me of "slinging puns". I don't know why - as far as I know, I don't do puns. Short of a national awareness campaign about what a pun is, I'm not sure anything can be done.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
Fuming. Absolutely livid, honestly.