Having toured with Michael McIntyre, and opened for Rob Brydon and Russell Howard, comedian Andrew Bird didn’t think things could get much better.
“I thought ‘nothing can derail me now’ he laughs, “and then Covid hit and that was the end of that. It all stopped.”
Andy is talking to me from his home in Bicester, where he also runs the successful comedy club The Lone Wolf.
“I realised in lockdown that my one A Level in art wasn’t going to get my very far. I don’t know what else to do apart from making people laugh.”
But having spent the pandemic writing new material he’s now ready to hit the road again with his new show Invincible, starting with The Mill in Banbury, but back in time for Bicester’s Friday Lone Wolf night alongside the likes of Ivo Graham and Matt Bragg, and then onto Abingdon’s The Northcourt on Thursday October 14 with Jarred Christmas and Paul Tonkinson.
“I can’t wait. Zoom gigs are all well and good but nothing beats performing live where you can see your audiences faces. I wasn’t just that I couldn’t do any comedy, but it’s who I am, it’s not just a job.
“I was at home for seven months with a nine and a six year old. It was brutal and I’ve got some stuff to say”
“Besides it’s hard to be chipper when the end of the world is impending,” he says with the typical deadpan humour he’s now so well known for.
So what’s he going to be sharing with us on stage. “Being signed off with stress as a home schooler. No seriously my wife is a nursery school teacher so I was at home for seven months with a nine and a six year old. It was brutal and I’ve got some stuff to say!”
Andrew grew up in Towcester and moved to South London to get into comedy before settling in Bicester. “It’s perfect for my gigs – so central,” he says. As a boy he fell in love with comedy after watching The Young Ones and Rick Mayall on Comic Relief.
“I remember an early gig in a pub with an audience of 12 people and thinking “this isn’t what Lee Evans has to deal with”
“It made me want to be funny. And then I saw Lee Evans when I was 15 at Oxford’s New Theatre and it was the first standing ovation I’d ever seen and that was it. I started writing jokes down in a little notebook instead of going to art school.”
Working in a factory for two years while he figured out a plan to get to London, he remembers an early gig in a London pub with an audience of 12 people and thinking “this isn’t what Lee Evans has to deal with”.
So what changed? “I grew up I think and stopped talking about drinking and condoms, and stayed sober for my gigs. I started talking about the things you think and feel, not just see and hear, because anyone can do that. It’s a lot harder but much better when you get it right.
“Plus my wife stopped coming to my gigs so I could say things I wouldn’t say in front of her. Now I don’t care. I’m a bit more moany and that’s OK. People like it.”
So what was it like supporting Michael McIntyre? “Like getting a seal of approval. It was incredible stepping out onto the stage in these huge arenas every night. It’s more talk, hear, echo and then a laugh because they are so big, but you just have to look confident.”
“we had Stars like Shaun Walsh, Milton Jones, Hal Cruttenden, Rhod Gilbert, Zoe Lyons and Russell Kane, people couldn’t believe their eyes”
As for starting up The Lone Wolf in Bicester in 2017, Andrew says it was somewhere for the locals to see some great stand-up without having to go all the way into Oxford or London. “It sells out every month. We don’t even need to advertise it. It’s a guaranteed good night out,” he says proudly. “And people haven’t laughed for a year.”
And then he pauses, “but then we get some great comedians – some really big names, especially once we started the outdoor gigs in the gardens of The Littlebury Hotel last year. We couldn’t believe it, the best UK comedians just flocked down because they couldn’t perform anywhere else.
“I’m a bit more moany now and that’s OK. People like it”
Stars like Shaun Walsh, Milton Jones, Hal Cruttenden, Rhod Gilbert, Zoe Lyons and Russell Kane, people couldn’t believe their eyes because we didn’t tell them who was coming. We liked the element of surprise.”
Which is why Andrew’s also starting up a comedy club in Abingdon from this month at The Northcourt. “We’ve got some great comedians coming. Paul Tonkinson is brilliant – he won Comedians Comedian of the Year and is the best live stand-up out there. I just wanted to start up more gigs in the area in places that don’t have anywhere.”
So happy to be back on the road then? “Do you know what? I can’t wait and I realised in lockdown that my one A Level in art wasn’t going to get my very far. I don’t know what else to do apart from making people laugh.”
Andrew Bird’s Invincible tour opens at Banbury’s Mill on Thursday October 7. For tickets and more info: https://www.themillartscentre.co.uk/shows/andrew-bird-invincible/
For details on Lone Wolf in Bicester go to https://m.facebook.com/Lone-Wolf-Comedy-Club-1724302141209268/
For details at Lone Wolf in Abingdon go to https://pages.facebook.com/Lone-Wolf-Comedy-Club-1724302141209268/
Or go to http://www.andrewbirdcomedian.com