Having won the esteemed Chortle 2011 Student Comedy Award, UK funny-man Adam Hess’ star is rising. He’s in good company, too. The prize has also launched the careers of regular comedy-show panelist Lloyd Langford and Inbetweeners star Simon Bird. With his high-energy and unique observational delivery, Adam Hess has already made a significant dent in the comedy circuit across the water. Now he’s bringing it, for the first time (since he was six), to Dublin. Ahead of FOMO.’s inaugural “Pop-Up Stand-Up” event in South Studios, I got an insight into good-time and bad-time comedy experiences, Hess’ polite natured outlook, and economics (sort of).
So Adam, what led you to the weird and wonderful world of comedy? Has it been something you’ve been working on from a young age?
Oh definitely. I never really felt like I was good at very much other than being slightly funny, so from the age of about 10 I couldn’t imagine anything else that I wanted to do. I was often too embarrassed to admit I wanted to be a comedian though, and I spent most of my evenings as a teenager in my room writing comedy obsessively, while telling my parents I was up there doing homework.
How big a moment was winning the Chortle 2011 Student Comedy Award?
It was very flattering. I was very new to the comedy scene then and performing was such a nerve-racking thing for me at the time that it was all a bit of a blur, but having anyone tell you that you’re funny is always very nice.
For people who might not have had the chance to see you perform, what can the audience expect from your first show in Ireland?
I don’t know yet to be honest. It varies from gig to gig. It’s never particularly rude. I sometimes do 1-liners and the other times tell long meandering stories about something mental that happened to me as a child, which I think people may find funny. I went to Dublin when I was 6 and was so naughty in the hotel swimming pool that my mum said I wasn’t allowed to go swimming for a year, so I might talk about that.
You have a degree in economics. If you hadn’t been a comedian was the life of an economist or financial analyst ever on the cards?
Definitely not. I would never have been good at anything like that, or any other job really. Even when I used to be a barman I kept doing things like dropping money in people’s drinks and I once smashed 2 bottles of red wine together, so I don’t think the world’s finances would cope too well in my hands. I always wonder how many more potentially amazing comedians there might be out there but were such all-rounded talents that they’re now a doctor or tennis umpire. Thankfully my only other skill is remembering useless facts (not even trivia, but what socks I was wearing the last time I got dumped) and a skill like that isn’t very easy to monetise. Comedy was my only path.
You’ve been praised for your onstage jittery and energetic persona. Is it difficult to keep it fresh every time you gig or does it just come naturally with performing live?
Oh not at all. My ‘energy’ used to be mostly down to nerves and all the Red Bull I used to drink before going on stage. Now it’s pretty much all down to excitement. It’s such a nice feeling when people are laughing at you that I find it hard not to show it. Often my ‘energy’ isn’t so much ‘energy’ but just that I’ve got so many things that I want to talk about in a limited time that I speak at a dangerous speed. I’m always exhausted afterwards so I think I should just work out a way of being more concise with my choice of words.
Worst gig experience?
Very early on in my career a lady in Manchester on the front row called me a very rude word very quietly while I was half way through my first sentence. It threw me so much; most of the audience didn’t hear it so didn’t know why I’d suddenly looked all confused and weird. I didn’t get a single laugh. I left the club and got the coach back to London, tried to go for a wee but there was no light in the coach-toilet. We went around a roundabout and I fell over in the toilet and couldn’t believe that this was the life that I’d chosen.
Best gig experience?
It’s very hard to tell really. I often do gigs where I think it’s gone brilliantly but then I get off stage and someone looks at me sympathetically and tells me ‘Don’t worry, cudda been worse’. But once I did a gig and by chance a girl who I liked at uni (who never really seemed to like me) was in the audience and I did really well. All the while I was thinking to myself – “This is the best gig ever! I bet she really likes me now!” I was really happy, but I spoke to her afterwards and apparently she had absolutely no memory of me existing at university.
You’re quite prolific on Twitter: @adamhess1. As an observational comedian, is daily life one continuous source of material? Who or what is ripe for lampooning at the moment?
Oh yeah! Everything can be funny if you just look at it a bit differently than you normally would. Everyone is really funny in conversation with their friends, it’s just that I just spend time writing things down. I tend to think of most jokes about things I observe when I’m bored and have nothing better to do than look around, which is why I talk for a peculiar amount of time on stage about trains and bus stops. I definitely don’t like ‘lampooning’ anyone, though. I prefer to make myself the victim of jokes rather than somebody/something else. It makes me look like a massive loser most of the time but it’s a lot more polite.
What do you have planned for the coming months? I know that recently you have been doing some writing for the BBC and Channel 4.
At the moment I’m just writing for the shows that I’m doing at the Edinburgh festival. I’m up there for the entire month and want to make all the material completely fresh for the people who may have seen me before. I’m doing lots of late nights at my desk nowadays, going slowly with the amounts of caffeine I’m putting into my body.
Lastly, any tips for budding hecklers?
Oh yeah. Don’t do it! I still have yet to witness anyone heckle but it adds nothing to the room other than a lot of dislike towards the person shouting out. Just sit there and enjoy the funny.
To find out what craziness a 6-year old Adam Hess got up to on his last visit, and to witness his exhausting and exhaustive approach to humour, pop down to the BYOB event in South Studios on the 27th June @ 8pm. Also on the bill will be Conor O’Toole and Foil, as well as Arms and Hog. Tickets are available for the New Row South Street gig here.