Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges on his path to stardom ahead of Hong Kong return
Following in the footsteps of fellow Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly, Bridges has won fans around the world with his infectious brand of no-nonsense stand-up comedy that he will soon bring to Kitec
When Scottish stand-up sensation Kevin Bridges takes the stage at the Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre in early October, it’s safe to say that his reception will be rather more rapturous than at his Hong Kong debut in 2008.
Back then, Bridges was an unknown 21-year-old making his name on the UK circuit and appeared as part of a Comedy Store showcase. This time around, however, Bridges is a bona fide superstar of British comedy, arriving as part of a mini Asia-Pacific tour that sees him play a string of solo shows in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Singapore and Dubai.
When we speak on the phone, Bridges is midway through the Australian leg of his tour. He’s in Sydney, where he will play two shows at the city’s Opera House. Surely a venue for any performer to tick off the list, I suggest.
“It was never on the list,” he says with a laugh. “I never thought I’d get to play the Sydney Opera House, so it was a good moment. It’s pretty surreal.”
Surreal or not, playing to big crowds has long since ceased to be a novelty for Bridges. After making his British national TV breakthrough on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow in 2009, he went on to perform his solo show the following year to a hometown audience of 10,000 in Glasgow’s SEC Centre at the age of just 23. Two years later, he sold-out a 10-night run at the same venue as part of his 136-date tour.
In 2015, he upped the ante, playing to more than 500,000 people across the UK and Europe in a 180-date tour that included 16 sold-out nights at Glasgow’s 13,000-capacity Hydro arena. He has also chalked up three bestselling stand-up DVDs and published his autobiography, We Need to Talk About … Kevin Bridges, in 2014.
Not bad for a guy from the working-class town of Clydebank, who left school at 16 and decided to try his hand at stand-up after reading comedian Frank Skinner’s autobiography.
“I like to watch a lot [of stand-up],” Bridges says, citing Richard Pryor, Louis CK, Bill Burr, Tom Stade, Tommy Tiernan and Micky Flanagan among his influences and current favourites. “You see where other guys are going … how far other people are taking it and what they’re talking about,” he says. “When you see people being honest on stage, I think that’s always the best sort of comedy. That makes you want to up your game.”
Aptly enough, however, it’s two fellow Glaswegian comedians who have arguably had the biggest impact on Bridges’ career. One is sharp-witted comedian and writer Frankie Boyle, now a close friend, who took the young Bridges under his wing when he was starting out on the British comedy circuit.
“I used to sleep on his couch a lot when I was starting out and he was in London,” Bridges recalls. “He used to always put me up when I was there doing shows. Frankie was really good to me, I learned a lot from him – seeing how hard he worked, writing and constantly doing new material. I’d go along [to his shows] and he’d let me try out some new stuff before him. He’s always been somebody I’ve went to for advice.”
The other is Billy Connolly, the high chieftain of Scottish stand-up, who gave Bridges his seal of approval early in his career, labelling him “brilliant”.
Did you hear the one about the former mathematician who told the funniest joke of the Edinburgh fringe?
Connolly’s endorsement seems particularly fitting, given that the two are comedic kindred spirits. Both are masters of observational comedy who bring a surreal edge to their canny, laugh-out-loud tales of Glaswegian working-class life; both have an infectiously cheeky charm that makes even their rudest stories strangely endearing; and both lace their routines with an undercurrent of social commentary that is as subtle as it is perspicacious.
While his routines – and accent – undoubtedly have a particular resonance with his fellow Scots, Bridges’ comic examinations of the absurd idiosyncrasies of modern life have been universal enough to strike a chord with audiences around the world, while – like all great comedians – he also tailors each show to suit (or rather ridicule) the local audience.
So what is he planning to set his comedic sights on when his show hits Hong Kong? “It’ll be funny – that’s all I can tell you,” he says with a laugh.
Kevin Bridges, Oct 5, 8pm, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$388-HK$888, HK Ticketing