The UK circuit’s only blind professional comic, Chris McCausland’s dry, incisive humour and unaffected stage presence make him a joy to watch. Ahead of his gig at the Comedy Box later this month (alongside rising star Fern Brady and the excellent Stuart Goldsmith as compere), here’s Chris on fatherhood, blindness and comedy… and prancing around the stage with a teapot on his head.
What’s on your mind, and in your set, at the moment?
I became a father two years ago, and a lot of this experience has been leaking through in to my comedy. My initial aim was to not be just another comic going on about their kids, but my comedy has always drawn partly on my life – and, once you have a kid, not a lot of other stuff seems to happen to be honest. I’ve come to realise that I either need to talk about parenthood on stage, or just talk about stuff that happened three years ago when I was happy. Ha ha. Plus, although I do talk about stuff that all parents can relate to I also have a bit of a different angle on the whole thing as I am pretty much doing it with my eyes shut.
How does your blindness impact on your comedy? Do you feel it has radically altered your worldview?
My blindness has, obviously, significantly contributed to the person I am today: however, in my comedy it was always my intention to not make it the crux of everything. I think a lot of people would assume that a blind guy doing stand-up would just go on and on about being blind all the time and that would pretty much be the point of every joke. My approach has been to try to challenge this (understandable) preconception, and to make my blindness only a part of my comedy. I think people are genuinely interested in the experiences of others so long as they are either interesting or funny – but that it’s best not to abuse this interest, as people also get bored very quickly.
Your eyesight prompted a career change from web developer to stand-up. Had stand-up always been in your veins?
As a teenager I was always a massive fan of stand-up and various comedy videos were always on my Christmas list. Actually doing it myself, though, was never even a thought. I had no previous performance experience whatsoever – except for the odd Nativity play, but I was always a tree or something.
I’ve always been a geek: my degree was in Software Engineering, and if it wasn’t for losing my sight I would likely have a job in IT. As I lost my sight, however I was unemployed for a little and decided that working in IT was probably more hassle than it was worth. The stand-up thing came purely as a harebrained dare to myself to try and write five minutes and go and say it at a new act comedy night. I think it was more of a bucket list thing, but I caught the bug very quickly.
You’ve also got a very fruitful career on CBeebies. How do the worlds of stand-up and children’s TV compare?
Ha ha, fruitful – very good [thanks. Chris plays a fruit seller on CBeebies’ Me Too, see]. This was one of those things that came out of doing stand-up. If you’d have told me that I would be playing a character on a kids’ TV show at some point, I would have thought you were mad. I really did have to dig in deep to those early experiences as a Biblical tree to make it work.
We actually filmed Me Too back in 2006 and it’s still being shown around the world. I was so nervous about the whole thing, but I still look back at the whole experience very fondly. There’s not a great deal of common ground between children’s telly and stand-up – but wearing a pantomime frock and a teapot on your head on national TV does your embarrassment threshold the world of good.
Chris McCausland plays the Comedy Box at the Hen & Chicken on Saturday, Feb 6. For more info and to book tickets, visit www.thecomedybox.co.uk/site/301.asp?catID=1387&ct=date