First Gig Worst Gig

Ray Bradshaw

Ray Bradshaw. Credit: Jiksaw

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. This time we welcome back king redbeard himself, Ray Bradshaw, who's about to embark on his biggest ever jaunt around the UK, with a BSL interpreter on board too. The title: Doppelginger. Intriguing, non?

"I just got constantly told about how many different people I looked like," he explains, "and decided to put an end to it and find the one person that is the closest. I went to a ginger pride rally in Melbourne a few years back on the hunt. The smell of factor 50 from that day will never leave me."

The very idea of sunburn does feel a bit dim and distant, right now - so did Bradshaw have a busy festive week? Turns out he "took 10 days off over Christmas so I could go to the pub with my friends I made when I was five and can't get rid of.

"Then headlined The Stand in Glasgow's New Year run. The five nights were brilliant and on Hogmanay I got offstage at 22:19 and was opening a beer in my living room at 22:37. Genuinely the dream."

But which dream gig became a travel nightmare? We'll get to that.

First headline set?

Do you know what, I don't even remember it, so I'd imagine it went terribly if that's the case as my ego wouldn't let me forget a good one. I'd imagine it would be some tiny village in Scotland that no-one else was willing to travel to for £16 so off I went instead.

What's the best advice you've ever received about doing comedy?

If you're compering, always make sure you fully charge your phone before you arrive. There is nothing worse than sitting at the side of the stage for two hours and having to watch the show rather than playing Score Hero on your phone trying to get your made-up character to sign for Palermo.

Sam Avery also told me never to do more than 20% or 30% new stuff in a set when I started, which I always remember and was helpful but he didn't mention the charged phone thing so it probably negates his advice over time.

Ray Bradshaw

Was there a breakthrough show for you, where everything suddenly came together?

I think the first time I did a show where I signed it all myself and spoke at the same time. It had never been done before in the world and I genuinely thought it was going to be a car crash.

I did it as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival in 2017 at The Stand and when it finished I couldn't believe that I'd gotten away with it but also that people seemed to really enjoy it. Then I spoke to a couple of deaf people who had travelled from Dundee to see it and I realised that I was onto something unique.

What's the worst stage you've ever played on?

I have done them all. Memorable ones include beside a pool table whilst a game of darts went on in Linwood or behind a chicken wire shield in Perth, Australia. It's so funny to think the kind of gigs you agree to at the start that you would never touch with a bargepole now.

Also Microsoft Teams during the pandemic was brutal. Zoom always seemed to work but Teams was almost certainly set up to break comedians.

The greatest set you ever saw?

I don't know if he'd even remember this, but I saw Carl Donnelly do three different 20 minute sets over three nights at Komedia in Brighton. One night in particular he did a story about oysters that made me laugh so much, that had a mental ending. Was like watching a master at work.

Also really enjoyed watching John Bishop in Bradford come onstage in the theatre where his granddad had performed years before as a minstrel. He just came out and spoke about it for 25 minutes off the top, about the Who Do You Think You Are? episode he'd done. Then realised he should probably do his tour show and seamlessly transitioned into it. Was brilliant to see.

The oddest audience member?

I think most of them are pretty weird. I can ask them any question about their life and 99% of the time they tell you the answer; I don't even like giving websites my postcode.

The most enjoyable chat I've had onstage in the last few years was a person who had seen her now husband be the best man on Don't Tell The Bride and had tracked him down and was now married to him. Every bit of the chat was bonkers and I loved it.

Ray Bradshaw

Is there one gag/routine that worked a lot better than you expected?

I'm currently trying to find the bald ginger person that looks most like me and I can't believe I'm getting away with that. I wake up every morning to pictures of bald gingers in my inbox to help with my show and just laugh. My inbox is so bald it looks like an EDL meeting.

Your worst gig-travel experience?

December 2021 I was supporting John Bishop at Manchester Apollo; a dream gig. I was on the train to Manchester from Glasgow and at Motherwell, 20 minutes in, the train just stopped as the train in front had been hit by a falling tree.

I got the train back to Glasgow and then to my house and got the car to drive down. On the way down there were two crashes on the M6 coz of high winds and mental weather so had huge diversions. What should've been a three and a half hour journey took just under 10.

I got to the venue at 7:51 and was onstage nine minutes later to 2000 people. Had a great gig, went back to the hotel, downed a beer and then crashed out in the bed.

Who would join you on your dream bill (dead or alive) and what slot would you take?

I'd probably go Victoria Wood as MC, Bernie Mac opening, Flight of the Conchords in the middle and Billy Connolly closing. I'll do the offstage announcements and make the teas.

Ray Bradshaw: Doppelginger is touring from February 25.

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