A few weeks back we asked Zahra Barri to talk us through the podcast Domestic Disputes, in which she argues with partner Russell Hicks for the enjoyment of the general public. It's only fair then, that we give Russell the right to reply.
So, what's his take on how it came to be?
"Zahra has a knack for constantly challenging my egomaniacal blustering," the American comic admits. "After several heated dinner time debates on anything ranging from the quality of a film to whether or not our neighbours are lazy for getting an Uber to the grocery store, we decided it should be handed over to the public to decide."
Quite right too. Onstage, Hicks is renowned for riffing rather than set routines; he'll take a theme and run with it, so the pod has kept that quick-thinking muscle flexed. Is there a standout moment that springs to mind?
"My favourite debate so far was whether or not chicken on the bone versus chicken breast was the superior food choice, because it really captures the depths these squabbles are willing to sink to."
Finger lickin' good. Now let's head back across the pond.
My first gig was at a bar that, according to the organiser of the open mic, "Didn't take kindly to comedians."
Right before I went on stage I performed my act in the car to my brother who had come along with me, who when I finished described my act as "the worst piece of shit he'd ever heard". This sparked a rant about how I'd had a hell of a day dropping someone off at the airport, dealing with the incompetence of the TSA [Transportation Security Administration], not to mention the questionable quality of a McDonalds, to which he laughed hysterically, replying, "Do that."
This began a long tradition of audiences finding me infinitely funnier once I get angry.
Favourite show, ever?
Eddie Murphy once said that the best night of his career wasn't on any of those specials. It was some random night at a club, where everything just flowed. That night for me was early on, maybe three years in, when I was just finding my feet. It was at a bar surrounded by all the other comedians which populated the scene at that time.
I let loose extemporaneously, creating full bits in the moment, even a closer that I would return to when needed over the course of the next few years. The level of freedom I reached that night was sublime. I don't remember shows that happened last week let alone years ago, but I remember that one.
Oh, so you want blood, eh? The worst gigs aren't always the worst gigs, if that makes sense. A bad show, where the room is set up poorly, the club owner is a creep, can pass by without leaving a mark.
For a show to be burned in the psyche it has to come with it an equal measure of a sense of shame or failure. It has to hit you right where you live. The ones that rock your foundation, make you look in the mirror afterward asking, "should I be doing this?" Oh yeah, those are the ones where we find out who's gonna be around for the long haul, partner!
When I first moved here I took a gig at a university (can't believe you are making me think of this - I was having a nice day thank you!). The comedian in the green room (you know who you are, pal) began avuncular enough but then swiftly shifted into an antagonising cruelty.
I was nervous anyway, then I died. My references were all out of whack, I was the Ugly American, making every mistake there is. Add to that, I thought we got paid on the night which we didn't. So, I had to ask the promoter, who loathed me after having just witnessed my self-immolation, for twenty quid to get home. Cash. From his own pocket.
Then I got lost on the train ride home. Then I saw the other comic at the tube station (that's how lost I got, he still arrived same time as me, even though he was hosting - getting a hint as to who you are yet, buddy boy?) where he proceeded to give me a swift kick while I was down in the form of a brief appraisal of what was, in his opinion, my worth as a performer, before jumping off at the next stop before I had a second to digest what he'd said.
Happy ending: I went back to that university not too long ago and had one of the funnest shows I've ever done, to a group of wonderful little students, not to mention the act who accompanied me was a complimentary delight.
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
The ones who can affect you most are the ones that you come across along the journey. A comic no one's ever heard of - yet? - who went by the name of 'Joe King'. He watched my act, which was a bit stiff at the time, and said something to me I will never forget:
"You remember how much fun it looked when you watched stand-up as a kid? When you go up there, have THAT much fun."
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
See Worst Gig. What a d@*k.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
I used to pull my pants down and fire a rocket. Just kidding, that was actually someone else.
Nothing really comes to mind... the few amount of routines I possess have been met with the appropriate level of adulation.
I used to do a bit about 'Seven Words You Can't Say on Television', but I sold it to another comedian who had a little success with it I think.
How have your lockdowns been, creatively and generally?
In the beginning it was a personal dream, but a career pain in the ass since everything went digital, where, if you don't know, the intellectual highbrow doesn't exactly flourish (well-honed routine? 10 views. Old man dancing on his way to a kettle? Millions.)
But somewhere along the way, at the halfway point it transformed me creatively completely. I feel fully rejuvenated by the amount of agency we have as performers to put out anything we want, any time, which not only makes us develop new skills, but can have a potentially massive impact.
Geez, I sound like I'm writing copy for Tik Tok's annual shareholders address. I told you I've changed.
Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?
Believe it or not, I have yet to raise the ire of the pubic to the point that I've been chased out of the building - I must be doing something wrong!
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
The sun is shining bright on the horizon my friend... life is good (global pandemic aside, of course).
We've come a long way baby.