Kieran Hodgson is having a slightly different August to usual, he won’t be joining the hundreds of other comedians heading to Edinburgh Fringe this week, and as he has done himself for the last few years. Instead, Kieran is spending two weeks at the Soho Theatre in London, before setting off for the Fringe later in the month.
Bringing back four of his most successful shows, Kieran will perform ’75 for a week before alternating French Exchange, Lance and Maestro in the second week. In Edinburgh he’ll perform all four shows in rotation.
Kieran says he had a happy but unremarkable childhood, but perhaps comedy was always on the cards having grown up in Holmfirth, home to Last of The Summer Wine for four decades. It was at University that Kieran started doing sketch comedy, “it’s something I always wanted to get in to,” says Kieran, “I started a sketch comedy group with three friends, we called ourselves Kieran and The Three Joes.” Despite some success, the group went their separate ways and Kieran set about creating sketch comedy of his own.
His love of sketch comedy developed in to a passion for creating characters, and he loves being able to create different voices and mannerisms in those characters. Kieran says he is often mistaken for a stand-up comedian, but his shows are more theatrical, “each of my shows is a story narrated by myself, and the story is populated by the characters I also play, it means I can put these characters, sketches and sometimes songs in to a broader narrative.”
I started creating my characters from a mix of people I knew
His first show in this format was French Exchange, “it was heavily based on people I knew, to the point where I didn’t even change their names,” says Kieran, “but as I developed new shows I didn’t want people to think I was ridiculing them, so I started creating my characters from a mix of people I knew.”
Kieran followed the same structure for his next two shows, Lance and Maestro, but when it came to ’75 he felt the need to do things differently. The characters in this show are politicians from the past, and for Kieran the real challenge came in creating characters that people could recognise, even if they didn’t remember who they were, or how they sounded.
Kieran thinks he got into character comedy as a kind of defence mechanism, “I think I thought as long as I made the characters funny, I didn’t have to worry about me being funny, I don’t really think of myself as a naturally funny person.”
And yet, it is Kieran’s own life that has come to play such a big role in all of his shows, “my friends told me that I needed to put more of myself in to these shows, and I started with French Exchange, ultimately they were right because that’s when people became more engaged and invested in the material.”
Kieran takes a big topic that he’s genuinely interested in, and then pairs it with a story from his own life. In Lance it is his love of cycling paired with the downfall of Lance Armstrong that creates the story and characters, while in Maestro his love of classical music develops in to the relationships he builds while trying to write his own symphony.
Researching these characters doesn’t feel like a chore for Kieran, “Because they are all things I’m genuinely interested in, I love spending time studying them. For ’75 I could spend hours watching YouTube Videos or the BBC archive to really study how these people spoke, we’re so lucky that this wealth of material exists.”
what if I discover I’ve accidentally used the same joke twice!
Kieran says he’s lost count of the number of reviews that begin with ‘you wouldn’t think this would be a funny subject’, and that’s part of the thrill for Kieran, creating a show that’s completely different to anything else out there. He’s also passionate about making sure each show he does is different from the last, “that’s my fear with doing all four shows, what if I discover I’ve accidentally used the same joke twice! I don’t want to short change my audience.”
The pressure of creating new material weighs heavy on Kieran’s mind, “The Edinburgh Fringe creates this terrifying ticking clock of a year for everybody, but I think that’s probably a good thing. I always want to be thinking about next year’s Fringe show on the train back home to London.”
Alongside his comedy shows, Kieran has been building up an acting career, recently appearing as a guest star on Upstart Crow, and has played ‘Gordon’ in the popular BBC Scotland sitcom Two Doors Down for two series, “it’s been a dream working with some phenomenal character comic actors,” says Kieran, “I’ve learned so much from them, I’ve been very fortunate with this job.”
Kieran is looking forward to revisiting his four most popular shows this year, ahead of writing something new, “this is a really great opportunity for me to look back at what’s worked best, that will definitely help me when it comes to writing my next one.”
The Tales of Kieran Hodgson, which comprises ’75, French Exchange, Lance and Maestro is at the Soho Theatre 29th July to 10th August.
All Four shows can be seen on alternating days at The Edinburgh Fringe from 14th August onwards.