First Gig Worst Gig

Robin Morgan

Robin Morgan. Credit: Michelle Huggleston

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. And this time we welcome Robin Morgan, the Welsh secret ingredient behind a bunch of Britain's favourite TV shows. Have I Got News For You, The Great Pottery Throwdown, Bake Off: The Professionals - he's written for all sorts. Now Morgan is putting words in his own mouth, as he's off on tour, with The Spark.

"This show is a continuation of the previous four, really," the comic contends. "I feel like if I performed them all back to back (which I never will, I don't know how Richard Herring remembers all his), it would be a through-line for my life so far."

"So I talk about the usual stuff: kids, masculinity, gender roles, but also in writing it, it's become a bit more introspective - I've always talked about other people in my shows. This one's more about me."

Are there any gags he particularly loves getting to?

"Got a good one about XL Bullies," he says. "So if you want to bring your XL Bully to the show, you can absolutely do that, I'm sure it'll be fine."

Just to clarify: this is a joke and you'll be refused entry by an absolutely bricking-it front-of-house manager. But how does he keep things interesting on a lengthy tour? Is the busy gagsmith always tempted to add new bits?

"Keeping things fresh, you could say I'm trying to keep The Spark alive in the show. See what I did? What a clever boy. Yes, usually there'll be a few minutes of topical stuff thrown in, depending on what's happening. So expect some jokes about a Conservative landslide, I'd imagine."

Could happen. Robin Morgan, let's step back in time.

Robin Morgan. Copyright: Matt Stronge

First gig?

3rd July 2010. At The Drones Comedy Club, which is a bi-monthly gig at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. My good friend Clint Edwards (wonderful comedian, devilishly handsome) booked me for a five-minute-spot a few months previously - we'd both worked at the Glee Club in Cardiff.

The lovely Dan Mitchell very kindly offered me words of advice on my set in the run up, and I did jokes about editing Dave Benson Phillips' Wikipedia page, and being blocked from the site.

I didn't tell anyone I was going, apart from my girlfriend at the time (she's now my wife) as I didn't want anyone to turn up. She did, we had a bottle of Rosé, and it went well.

Favourite show, ever?

One of the first stand-ups I ever saw live was Russell Howard at the Glee in Cardiff. And on Sunday 25th October, 2020, I supported him at the Clapham Grand, as we were coming out of lockdown, when he was doing a work-in-progress show of what would become his special, Lubricant.

It was a wonderful full circle moment - really cool, and he was so kind and welcoming. If you watch the documentary about that show, Until The Wheels Come Off, I'm in it for 0.5 seconds. Thrilled.

Worst gig?

26th May 2014. My diary keeping is EXCELLENT, isn't it?

It was my first paid 20 minutes for Jongleurs (RIP) in their Sway venue, in Covent Garden. I'd got the Megabus down from Cardiff, thought I was on in the middle, I was NOT. I was down to open, went on. Sea of stag-dos. Front row, second row. As I went on, a third stag do came in. They weren't listening to me, I tried to be harsher than I normally would be, and this lost the room entirely.

The best man of one of the stags (sat front row) said to the stag "I'm sorry", about my performance, which clearly was the final nail in the coffin of a badly organised weekend. Another man got up, bought a beer, walked up to the stage to hand it to me, either to pay me off, or because it was clear I'd need it.

I got booed off after 12 minutes, used my two drinks tokens on a double whiskey, and got the Megabus home. I never invoiced for the gig. Not that I'd have got paid if I had.

Robin Morgan

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

Quite a few people spring to mind, but I'd say the comedian/actor/radio-man Tom Price. He gave me some of my first ever writing credits on radio, introduced me to my agent, and let me stay in his house when I first moved to London. I don't thank him enough. Oh and Roy Chubby Brown obvs.

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

I'm not naming names (come to a tour show and I'll 100% name names), but working behind the bar of a comedy club, you quickly realise the comics that are nice to the staff, and the ones who aren't. If you're a prick to someone who works in hospitality, I wish you the worst.

Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

In my last tour show Snip Snip, Bitch (which might be available to watch on my YouTube soon), I had a joke about Sir David Attenborough being a bit of a shagger. People weren't really sure what to make of it. I said it in every show and would do so again.

And what's your proudest gag as a TV/radio writer?

I'm going to be cheeky and say two. In Rachel Parris' brilliant Late Night Mash piece on Violence Against Women And Girls, we were ridiculing police advice for women to "wave down a bus". The joke was:

"Wave down a bus! They're the fourth emergency service. Why wouldn't you? Wave down a bus, whistle down a taxi, wink at a train. 'Wave down a bus' is the kind of advice you'd get if you asked Paddington Bear what to do."

A silly joke, in a piece I'm immensely proud to have contributed to.

And for radio, when Miles Jupp was hosting The News Quiz, I wrote a joke on a story about a racecourse potentially banning alcohol. The joke went something along the lines of:

"If I can't have my usual six pints of Fursty Ferret, how will I ever pluck up the courage to ask the man if I can pet one of the horses".

Miles delivered it so brilliantly - as a man who is so desperate to stroke a horse but lacks the confidence to do so. Heartbreaking, really.

Robin Morgan. Credit: Michelle Huggleston

Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?

I sometimes get people messaging me after gigs saying they enjoyed it, but wish I didn't swear so much. Each to their own I suppose. I like the idea they're really trying to like me, but wince with every bad word I say. True fans.

How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?

How dare you ask me that.

I feel happy with my life, right now. And I think that's more important than my career. I've got some things I want to do over the next few years, and it would be great if those happened, but if they don't - that's fine as well.

I think if I looked back on what I've achieved, and how hard I've worked, I would feel very proud of what I've done so far. I don't think we do that enough - it's good to look forward, but good to check how far you've come once in a while.

Robin Morgan: The Spark is touring from August. Tickets

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