Following a successful run last year, host of Virgin Radio’s Drivetime show, comedian and TV presenter Matt Richardson will take to the stage once more with his live stand up show Slash. This much-anticipated extension will see Matt perform at Oxford’s Glee Club in March. This is also Matt’s home turf having grown up in Didcot. Having just moved to Didcot himself, Sam Bennett caught up with the comic to talk funny friends and willy jokes.
I’m interested in how places shape comedians. Do you think Didcot shaped your comedy in any way?
I don't think it did necessarily. A few years ago, it was called the ‘most normal town in England'. That would make me the most normal comedian in England, which hopefully I'm not. But I think growing up in a small town, a small community like that, is really good. There weren’t loads of things to do there, so you had to look to other things. That's why I got into comedy and watched lots of it – I was bored being in a small town.
Did you feel free to be funny in your immediate surroundings?
Yeah, but in my group of friends I'm probably not in the top five funniest. When I go home and see them, I am nowhere near the funniest one. But when they're being funny, I just write it all in my phone and steal it – so it's fine.
Do the earliest gigs you did ever come flooding back to you?
It happened the other day. I went to do a talk about how to get into television at Oxford Brookes where I went to uni; I did my first ever gig there, in the same room, so that was quite weird. I've been thinking about them more recently because I've been going back to the same locations. The Glee Club's at The Bullingdon now, and I used to gig at Baby Simple – which was pretty much opposite. I did all my first gigs in Oxford really. I used to run a gig at the Duke's Cut, which is no longer the Duke's Cut. And there's been this big [social media campaign] about the Cellar trying to stay open recently as well, which I shared because I used to host the Free Beer Show there. Oxford's been more in my life than it has been for a while, so I have been thinking about all those gigs.
Your first stand-up tour, Hometown Hero, was some years ago; you had a bit of a break from touring before taking Slash on the road in 2017. Was that because you were too busy with television?
I guess it's been a combination. I did a lot of TV, and got into radio which is consistently five days a week. I thought, ‘I'll just do this for a while, and I don't have to do so many gigs and travel so much.’ It was the first time in years that I had a social life; hanging with my girlfriend loads in the evenings. I didn't do as much comedy. But then as every comedian finds, you have to go and do it – it's not really something you choose to do, it's a part of you that you never really escape.
Are you a different kind of comic now than when you first toured?
I'm the same kind of comic, but with my first tour, I wrote some of those jokes when I was 18 or 19. Now I'm nearer to 30 which is depressing, and the kind of things I talk about are slightly different, but it is still mostly jokes about willies. I haven't grown older and gone political or decided I'm going to talk about huge issues. It's still just me having a really good laugh and hoping everyone else does as well.
Do you steer away from politics completely?
I don't talk about it at all, but it's not that I decided ‘I don't do politics’, it's just that I've never thought of anything that I think is funny enough about it. Also, the problem is the majority of comedians are left-wing and very liberal, which means that when you talk about politics onstage and involve your opinion in that (which you naturally do), you are going to alienate half the audience. A lot of comedians talk about Brexit and basically say anybody who voted for it is an idiot… you're calling half the people in the room an idiot then, statistically. I've never found a way around that so I've never tried to do it.
Did anything about the world of television surprise you?
I was expecting it to be really showbiz and glam but everything's held together with sticky tape and bits of glue. I remember doing Sweat the Small Stuff years ago, and I walked onto the set, and I was like, ‘Is this it? This is plywood, this is rubbish – it looks really good on telly.’ But obviously that's all it has to do so it doesn't matter how well built it is.
When you go back on the stand-up scene now, are you still very much integrated in it, going into the back rooms of clubs, keeping up with new acts?
It's quite nice because at the moment I'm writing a new show. I'm touring Slash and doing new material gigs every night in the week. It means I'm seeing loads of new acts; I'm in these tiny little gigs where there's brand new people trying really interesting things. You get six months where you see all this amazing new comedy, and then you go back on tour by yourself and don't see it for a while.
Tom Stade told me a few years ago that the mood changes in the country every ten years. Do you sense the same thing via the comedians you watch?
I haven't quite been doing it for ten years yet so wouldn't be able to comment on the cycle as well as Tom Stade. But the mood is definitely in a very different place to when I started. I think audiences are much more sensitive to things that can be offensive. There's acts you'd see ten years ago that you don't see around anymore because they just can't get away with lazy homophobia and lazy racism. Little Britain has aged horribly, but it was the biggest comedy in the country; you couldn't do that now on telly, so I think the times must be totally different.
Finally, what else have you got on?
I've got a new TV show on E4 called The Hangover Games, which is a gameshow with hungover people – people should watch that.