First Gig Worst Gig

Si Beckwith

Si Beckwith. Credit: Jay Dawson

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. This week: Tyneside, as we're off to Newcastle with Si Beckwith, who's taking an unconventional approach to the usual live show/filmed special routine. You know how comics usually write a new one, take it to Edinburgh, then - if all goes well - record it? Si has a different timeline in mind - but we'll come back to that. First, let's find out what he's filmed.

"Bricks is a new show about my experiences as a step-parent," says the comic. "It's been nice that the more I talked about being a step-parent on stage, the more people came up to me after to say they were step-kids or step-parents themselves.

"It just felt like a story worth telling, as I adore my kid, but step-parents are rarely represented outside of evil Disney ones (or Joseph off The Bible if you want a nice one) and we've got this uniquely brilliant relationship I like talking about, and the dynamic is really interesting for comedy.

"There's some surprises in the show, silly drawings, it was wonderfully recorded by VonFox Promotions at The Stand in Newcastle and it's something I'm really proud of. Just daft fun. There's a really outlandish but absolutely true story about my grandad in there too, that is absolutely a show in itself."

Now, about that novel schedule.

"It's also the show I'm taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe this year," he says. "I'm releasing it as a mailing list exclusive from 1st May so anyone who really wants to see it before the Fringe, can, for nowt. I'm working on 2025's Edinburgh Fringe show now, which will be a stand-up show all about debt, but, you know, a funny one."

Meanwhile Beckwith and fellow comic Gavin Webster are set for "a three-week run at Laurels Theatre in Whitley Bay from 19th November to 7th December," he says, "with a play also about debt, but you know, a funny one (can you sense a running theme?), called Round The Houses."

Now let's get right to the point, and that stand-up debut.

Si Beckwith. Credit: Jay Dawson

First gig?

Upstairs at The Dog and Parrot in Newcastle, February 2012 for a night called Long Live Comedy. I brought one audience member and a lad called Brian Harrison brought the other three. He gave up comedy after about a year and got massively hench instead. Good on him.

George Zach was running it at the time and it was hosted by Howard Lee, who was a funny bloke who has since become a successful artist. Jonny Pelham was on, George did a spot, Brian, and a couple of others. A lad called Joe McLachlan was in the audience, who was someone who later did a full set made up entirely of jokes about the film Grease, and it's still one of the best things I've ever seen.

My set went by in a flash, but it was enough that I wanted to do it again.

I'd faked a toothache at my call centre job too so I could go home early to rehearse. Long Live was great, and somewhere LOADS of North East comedians started. It could be a phenomenal night, a crackers night or it could just get pulled because there was no audience. Happy to say, this one happened. Just. Thanks Brian's mates!

Got the best bit of advice I've ever had in comedy then too, 'hold the mic higher, speak slower and ALWAYS bring your own cans'. I have never looked back!

Favourite show, ever?

It's hard to pick just one.

My first solo shows of Get Lush at Alphabetti Theatre then at The Stand in Newcastle are two massive favourites. Both are venues that have given me a regular home to be daft, so both hold a special place in my heart.

Every single weekend I've done at The Stand in Glasgow. It's a magic room that, and I really love Glasgow as a city and audience.

Si Beckwith. Credit: Jay Dawson

To pick just one though, I used to run a tiny, bring-your-own-booze gig on a Sunday night at a tiny cafe on the outskirts of Newcastle, and honestly, a bunch of mates being silly to a tiny, packed cafe (that was also an art gallery) and getting some of my favourite acts to do it, was just lush fun.

It was also five minutes from my house and did incredible pizza.

Worst gig?

Middlesbrough. That week between Christmas and New Year. 2013.

I followed a meat raffle and Britain's SECOND BEST Roy Chubby Brown impersonator. Didn't even win the meat raffle.

Most gigs are alright though, and it's wonderful when something looks completely unplayable and ends up being perfectly fine.

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

Josie Long. I came from a background of playing in bands and wanting things to be DIY and punk, and Josie Long most embodied that. I saw her live twice before I'd started doing comedy, and I adored that she made proper shows and really embraced silliness. She makes things happen on her terms, and there's a joy to what she makes.

I also used to watch a bunch of stand-up with my sister growing up, and we used to find anything we could across the cable channels. It was such an important part of comedy grabbing me early.

Si Beckwith. Credit: Jay Dawson

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

Newcastle's had some absolute whoppers, but they're the ones other comics like talking about.
Honestly, find me for a pint, and I've got some mint stories and a bizarre newspaper article to show you!

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

Oh, anything where I went way too niche with a reference.

So not really inexplicable, and absolutely understandable, but I had a joke about Mötley Crüe really early on that wasn't the common reference point I hoped it was.

The weirdest audience job, when compering?

You get all sorts and that's part of the fun.

I had a cobbler in recently, and my brain decided to have a little moment, so it took me a good couple of minutes of chat to realise he meant shoes not streets. Still disappointed 'street cobbler' isn't a proper job title.

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

After The Stand in Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, a bloke on a stag do (an impeccably well behaved stag do up to this point, I must add) asked me where he could find a 'CLASSY titty bar'. He really wanted me to know it had to be classy.

It was important I knew the classiness was more important than the titty bar element. But it still needed both.

He then invited me along to said classy titty bar, invited me along to the classy titty bar for the next night, invited me paintballing, and after me turning all that down, and saying 'classy titty bar' a lot, he asked if I just wanted to come and sit with them and call the groom a c*nt for a bit.

I just went to the late night Greggs instead, and I've never, ever been more certain I made the right decision.

Si Beckwith. Credit: Jay Dawson

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

I'm gonna try and not sound too wanky, but I'm in a good place right now.

I enjoy what I do, feel the most at home on stage, I'm working with people I really like being around and respect massively, and people are nice about what I do. I just really like working hard at this. I'm enjoying hammering the hours to make stuff happen, and I just want to keep gigging and making stuff. Whatever comes from that is good with me.

Still never won a meat raffle mind, so there's so much still to achieve...

Si Beckwith: Bricks - the special - is available via his mailing list.

And the live version is at Just the Tonic at the Caves, from 1-25 August, at this year's Edinburgh Fringe. Info & tickets

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