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Culture, Comedy

Comedian Connor Burns at North Wall

Connor Burns

Stand-up Connor Burns, 29, is about to embark on his first ever UK tour. Mark Wareham talks to him at home in Edinburgh as he limbers up for the new tour and finds out what makes this fast-rising Scottish star tick.

Hi Connor. To a lot of people reading this, you’ll be a new name. Without wishing to make this sound like a job interview, can you tell us a bit about yourself.

Absolutely. I’m Edinburgh born and raised, so I grew up around the Edinburgh Festival. Stand-up was always what I wanted to do, but I had a lot of terrible jobs growing up that I was very bad at. I worked as a waiter in a hotel, I was a delivery driver… I fixed washing machines for two years and when I handed in my resignation my boss said he’d never been so happy to see one hit his desk. Basically, I need comedy to work! I’ve tried everything else and I’m useless at it. I started stand-up when I was 23 and never looked back. I’m just trying not to mess it up…

What about your family background?

We’re a typical British working-class family. There’s a real value put on your ability to laugh at each other and take the piss. I’m not even the funniest member of my family. But I’ve figured out how to put it across a bit better. My siblings are all much older than me. My dad’s quite honest about it. He says I wasn’t a mistake. Just a surprise.

How were your schooldays?

Well, I never knew I wasn’t at a particularly good school until I left. My girlfriend went to a private school and when she told me about it, I was like, ‘What? No one ever got stabbed at your school?’ It definitely galvanises you. It always surprises me when people get their feelings hurt by jokes. I feel like I went to a boot camp for being impervious to insults.

And at what age did you start thinking about comedy?

I loved music and I was always in bands but I realised pretty quickly I wasn’t going to be a professional musician. But I loved performing. Being Scottish, we all grew up watching Billy Connolly together, but it never really felt like something you could just do. Then I heard about open-mic nights where you just stand up and try. I’d done the best man’s speech at my brother’s wedding and people laughed so I thought maybe I can do it. Even though I waited two-and-a-half years to pluck up the courage…

Your material is personal and wide-ranging, from stories about your dad to oral sex with your girlfriend. Is nothing off limits?

It’s all risk vs reward. The riskier the topic, the more interesting my angle needs to be to justify the joke. I like the riskier stuff and my show tends to be slightly on the darker side. I always like to have a few lines where half the audience laughs and half go, ‘Oooh!’. But, generally, I’m an absolute idiot and there’s zero message. I’m just trying to say the silliest or worst thing I can to make people laugh.

You’ve had five years on the circuit working up to your first national tour. How were your early gigs?

I love the job now. I’ve been full-time for about a year and a half. But you couldn’t pay me any sum of money to go back and repeat the first two years. It was brutal. Doing gigs to the back of people’s heads sitting at a bar, interrupting the football. I once drove three hours for a gig in Inverness and there were nine people there. And six of them were the other comics on the bill!

What was your first comedy memory?

Probably my first ever gig. It was at the now defunct Yes Bar, which was an Independence-themed pub in Glasgow. The MC brought me on horribly. He said, ‘It’s this guy’s first gig. He’s probably super nervous. This could be an absolute car crash.’ But it was actually all right. Far better than my second gig…

Have you been confused with Connor Burns the Tory MP?

Yeah, I just need to get above him in the Google rankings. Unfortunately, after his scandal [he was sacked by Liz Truss for serious misconduct] I thought I had a chance, but annoyingly it seems to have improved his online profile.

Looking to the future, is stand-up the big thing for you, or have you got one eye on the telly?

I’d love to just be a stand-up, that’s the dream. The place I see myself is on stage telling jokes. I love the challenge of something new, but I’d definitely just like to be a touring comic.

I’ll remind you of that in 10 years’ time when you’re starring in a sitcom.

Exactly. I’ll be like, ‘Look, my priorities have changed!’ But seriously, looking at the little bit of acting I’ve had the chance to do, I don’t think I’ve unlocked a hidden natural talent.

So now you’re firmly on the road to success, how are you finding it? You’ve been called Scotland’s fastest-rising comedy star…

Yeah, I’ve had some nice reviews. It can sometimes be a poisoned chalice if you’re the next big thing, but I’m surrounded by people who are more than happy to tell me I ‘ain’t shit’ as the kids would say…

Connor will be performing at The North Wall in Oxford on 26th January 2024

Image credit: Melody Joy


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