We’ve seen some good names in comedy recently, and this time it was rising star Seann Walsh, who performed for his first ever tour at the Ice House in Swansea. Roisin O’Connor went along to check it out and had an odd yet enjoyable chat with him after the show.
My first visit to the Ice House was an odd experience. It’s a great place- part gallery, part restaurant, with people wandering around waving cheeseboards and giant glasses of red wine, along with some flashy-looking cocktails. Instead of my usual comedy partner-in-crime Sammy Siddique, I’ve brought my housemate Luke who’s seen Seann Walsh twice before: one time at Reading and another when he was supporting Stephen K Amos.
There’s a warm-up act before the main man comes on: a guy who introduces himself as Seann Walsh’s uncle. He admits to being new to the comedy scene which is never a good idea since you’re automatically lowering the expectations and interest of your audience, but he’s funny enough to get the crowd going.
Kudos to Mr Seann Walsh for putting up with the toughest crowd I’ve ever seen at a comedy gig. The Welsh can certainly put a comedian through their paces after a few pints, and at one point they actually start heckling each other about their heckling skills; with Walsh caught up in the cross-fire.
“This is mad,” he says, shuffling around on the tiny stage. “I feel like I’m interrupting your meal. And you’re all so close!” He pretends to kick the nearest member of the audience.
“Shit, I didn’t just spit on you did I? You’ve got the worst seat in the house,” he says, addressing a man right at the front.
“That’s the worst thing,” he adds, “when you’re in a restaurant and you see a bit of food fly out of your mouth like woosh and BAM into the hair of the person sitting opposite you. And then you say sorry and they haven’t actually noticed so you’re like ‘nothing, you look great!”
Despite this being his first official tour, he’s already got a pretty good knack for audience interaction, especially when it comes to handling difficult customers. Some comedians ignore most hecklers and plough through the show, others, like Frankie Boyle, take obvious delight in humiliating any fool who dares to try and out-funny him. Walsh is fairly chilled out and I think it’s because of this that he handles a man’s drunken shouts of “gay”, “homo”, etc. after telling us he’s from Brighton.
“You’re just like a walking thesaurus for the word ‘gay’, aren’t you?” he says to the guy.
As a self-confessed people-watcher (“he looks like a prick” is people-watching now apparently), he makes some great observations about small parts of life that everyone can relate to.
“Fraping,” he announces. “You know when someone leaves their Facebook account on in the room and you can’t believe it’s happened?
“It’s best when you do it and the person’s still in the same room,” he tells us. “So you’ll be typing something in and they’ll go ‘what are you doing?’ and you say ‘nothing, just checking my emails!'”
“And you know what you’re going to write,” he adds. “Every time it’s the same thing. You could write anything in the world, whatever you want, and every single time, it’s ‘I love cock.'”
His style is simple, no stupid gimmicks, and his choice of topics comes naturally, as though he just plucks each subject out of thin air. He makes several comments about how unfit he is but he’s surprisingly energetic; breaking into a little parody of a man on an exercise machine, or dropping to the floor to demonstrate how he’d win a fight with his little brother. Overall, a fun, relaxed performance that should continue to build his reputation as a rising star in comedy.
After the show we hang around until most of the crowd is gone and I’m told I might be able to have a quick chat with him. He comes up to me after the last wave of people wanting photos has gone, tells me he just needs to change, rushes off then comes back out again, weighed down with shopping bags.
“You can only interview me if you say nice things about the show,” he tells me.
“Deal.” (I was planning on saying nice things about the show anyway.)
We go and sit down, Luke included, with Seann surrounded by shopping bags and a table in between us covered with half-finished dishes of food. For a second we all just sit there, staring at each other.
“Is it weird if I eat this?” Seann asks, and picks up a tapas dish containing some mushrooms in sauce. “I think it’s weird.”
“Well is it your food, or is it someone’s leftovers?” I say.
“It’s mine, I just think it’s weird that we’re sitting here talking and I’m eating cold mushrooms,” he says, picking some up with a fork and analysing them closely before putting them in his mouth.
Since I wasn’t expecting to get an interview, I don’t have any questions prepared (rookie mistake), so the first one I come up with is the horribly generic “how is the tour going?”
“Great so far,” he replies. “It’s my first one so we’re just doing all these places I don’t think I would have visited otherwise.”
“Like Swansea,” he agrees. “But I’ve actually been here before.”
“Do you like it?”
He looks embarrassed. “Last time I went to TGI Fridays, and this time all I saw was the back of the cab-driver’s head.”
“Was it strange performing in a restaurant?”
“Definitely, with the windows on each side and everything. People were pulling their trousers down outside.”
I genuinely didn’t see this happening, which probably says something about how good he is at keeping the attention of his audience.
“I was trying to stay professional,” he shrugs.
He picks up a slice of ham and just holds it. “Isn’t this weird?” he says again, waving it around and looking at me expectantly. “This is the weirdest I’ve ever done.”
“Weirdest interview?” I ask.
“Well yeah, I mean you’re both just watching me stuff my face. Look-”
He rubs the ham over his face to demonstrate. If it wasn’t weird before, now it is.
I try and pull a question out of thin air, and for God-knows what reason, I ask him, of all things, what he thinks about the state of university education.
He’s stumped. So am I. I’m still cringing for about ten minutes after the interview for even asking it.
“You don’t have to answer that,” I say. “Sorry, that’s a shit question.”
He laughs and looks relieved. “Yeah… I wouldn’t really know what to say about that, sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him as he starts eating a chunk of garlic bread. “Is there anything you want to chat about?”
“Erm… do you want some food by the way? You can have some if you want. I don’t know about questions, is there anything you want to say?”
“You’ve got food on your face,” I say helpfully.
“Do I really? Shit, where is it?”
I point, and he brushes at the corner of his mouth, missing it completely.
“It’s because I’m single,” he says. “I don’t have a girlfriend to tell me I have food on my face.”
“At least you didn’t spit on me,” I say.
“God yeah that’d be the last straw wouldn’t it? Like this isn’t weird enough…”
We move on from the food-on-face incident and I ask him about his comedy heroes.
He says Jim Carrey straight away and I can’t stop myself from pulling a face.
“You don’t like him?” he asks, looking a bit miffed.
“I just think he has the same face,” I say by way of explanation.
“What does that mean? I have the same face right now; you have the same face-”
“He plays the same character,” I say, trying to explain properly. “I liked him in a couple of things though.”
“Stephen K Amos,” he says suddenly. “The guy I toured with. He’s one of the most rock n’ roll people I’ve ever met.”
“Does he get wasted before every show or something?”
Seann shakes his head and grins. “Not saying anything else.”
“Ah, that’s not fair…”
I give up. “Have you met a lot of other comedians?”
“Yeah, I’ve met a lot on tour and stuff.”
“Have you met Dylan Moran?” Seann mentioned before that Moran is his favourite.
He shakes his head again, looking serious this time. “I never want to meet him.”
“It’d be like meeting God, and who wants to do that?”
“Jim Carrey,” Luke chips in, and Seann nods in agreement. “He’s God as well.”
“You probably want to sleep now right?”
He looks hopeful.
“Do you mind? I’ve finished eating now.”
He picks up all his bags and we walk back out of the gallery, this having being without a doubt one of the most surreal but brilliant conversations I’ve ever had with another human being.
Seann Walsh hails from Brighton, and has appeared on shows such as Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats, and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. He won the Leicester Mercury prize for Comedian of the Year, and is currently touring with his own show: Ying and Young.
If you missed Seann Walsh, other great comedians are performing at the Ice House over the next few weeks, with £2 knocked off the price for students if you use “Mad Dog” as the promotional code. Tickets must be booked in advance: 01792 649060