- 10 Apr 20
No.1 in a series. Interview by Shamim Malekmian
Chris Kent is from Knocknaheeny, one of the most deprived areas in Cork. It is a place where deciding to chase your dreams is an unusual move. Having trained to be an electrician, Chris decided to be unusual. He decided to stand up – and be counted.
The decision has gained him international success as a comedian – from appearing in Russel Howard's Stand Up Central to touring the world with a number of solo shows. He’s had some extraordinary reviews. "Until the coronavirus fucked everything up,” he laughs.
This is not the first time that Kent's career has been hindered by an infectious disease. During his first run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012, Kent came down with a large lump on his face. The bump was shrugged off by his fellow comics as "just Edinburgh.” But the comedian had a nagging feeling that there was more to it. In a hospital designated for comics, which to his disappointment turned out to be a regular infirmary, Kent was diagnosed with the mumps. Later, the story became a fixture in the comic's sets: a joke that wrote itself.
Now with his Irish tour cancelled and his comedy special airing on RTÉ player, Kent tells Hot Press that he misses both Ireland – and telling jokes.
How did your life as a comic change after the lockdown?
As you know, my work involves people crowding together, and this makes it impossible. So, I’d say that it has changed an awful lot. After a period of adjusting, I am trying to make the most of it with my kids.
You weren’t in London when things started to get serious here.
This happened during my Irish tour and the tour just vanished. Well, it’s been postponed. Most of the dates have already been rescheduled. But yes, in London, they gigged right up to the bitter end. And I mean it wasn't just comedy gigs: there were massive concerts on here. They just ignored it and went for the herd immunity thing, and didn't really explain why they were going with it.
How are you finding life under lockdown now?
It’s frustrating. We're kept very busy having kids, but then it’s frustrating to explain to them why they can't go and see their friends or why we can't go to the playground. My son was looking forward to his fourth birthday for so long. But we are trying to have some routine where we go out for a walk or a run – to try to keep thing as normal as we can.
What do you miss most about the outside world?
Gigging and being able to go for a coffee with friends.
Was there something you took for granted?
Visiting family. My wife has a sister over here, and we were visiting them a lot, and the kids got along very well, they'd become best buddies. There’s only a few months between them. Meeting them is something that I always took for granted.
How badly you were affected financially?
Pretty badly. I'm hoping that people will hang on to their tickets and come to the gigs when they're rescheduled. For now, it’s pretty bad. Comedy was my only source of income. It was a bit of a shock, especially because this was my third or fourth tour and a lot of work goes into them. I've been writing it for a year, and I've been promoting it for a year. It wasn't just a couple of weeks’ work – and to have that so easily taken away is very frustrating.
Would you have preferred to spend this time in Ireland?
Yeah, yeah. I'm missing Ireland a lot right now. I see that (in Ireland) we're putting people's health and safety before other things, and that we’re looking at the bigger picture.
You experienced a health emergency yourself in Edinburgh, when you caught the mumps.
Yeah and that seemed like a big deal at the time (laughs)!
How do you think live comedy is going to be affected by the pandemic?
It depends. A lot of possibilities cross my mind, but I think things will go back to normal, and people's fears are going to be outweighed by the fact that they've been cooped at home for so long. They’ll all be rushing to see comedy, hopefully.