Interview: Russell Kane on UK tour in 2014 with his show Smallness
Latest show spins around grand ideas and may be his biggest project to date
This article is from 2014.
Russell Kane may be a larger-than-life presence on stage and able to sell out large venues across the country, but he is currently intrigued by small things. On his new national tour, he’s shunned the sprawling arenas to book rooms which vary in capacity from 200 to 1200 seaters. All of this is in keeping with the theme and title of his show: Smallness.
Warming up for his tour at the Edinburgh Fringe last August, Kane even played the tiniest room he could find at the Pleasance Courtyard, performing to just 55 people each night. ‘I’m by no means the first person in the theatre to do this but I wanted the space to comment on the material, and you don’t often get that luxury,’ he states. ‘But if you were doing a show about the letter T and you could find a T-shaped theatre, you’d be insane not to do that. Maybe the next one will be called Largeness and I’ll put ten Hammersmith Apollo dates on sale.’
The idea of his new show has several layers, revolving around notions of smallness, whether it’s to do with the British psyche or the way that we all look back on our lives. ‘I’ve experienced this feeling of nostalgia a hundred times. I left university and landed the dream job doing copywriting, so why am I thinking about university? When I’m at university, why am I thinking about my nan’s flat? We’re addicted to the smaller. I think it was Schopenhauer’s theory that we’re cursed by longing for the thing in front, so we grab it and then long for where we were before.’
Kane is the ideas man of comedy. He crams stories, references and (yes) observations into his shows, but they remain fixed to a central idea. So, in his 2010 Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning set, Smokescreens and Castles, he explored Englishness and the relationship he had with his father; cultural snobbery is analysed in Theory of Pretension; and the transatlantic divide is picked apart in Gaping Flaws.
For Smallness, his theory is fleshed out with material about semi-celebrityhood (he makes much comedy hay out of being mistaken for Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw), his relationship with fiancée Lindsey (she’s from the north, he’s from the south) and a surreal encounter in a hot tub with former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger and her Formula One partner, Lewis Hamilton. And there are moments of ugly confrontation, with bullying schoolkids in an art gallery and drunken Geordies on holiday in the Far East.
‘I don’t write down my stand-up ever; you won’t find a document on my laptop that says “Smallness by Russell Kane”. At the top of the show just now, there’s a bit about Britishness and falling over, there’s the art gallery thing, a routine about Nicole Scherzinger, a bit about sleeping through the night and the Thailand story: that’s an hour as it is. If you’ve ever seen a show by me two nights in a row, I think you’ll be shocked at how different each night is.’
Kane’s curse, if it can be called such a thing, is that he claims not to know how to write jokes and punchlines. ‘When I’m on the road, the show will have bits growing off the end of other bits. I’m literally just telling the stories that would have made my friends laugh down the pub. I may add a dramatic element to a story, but everything is true, really true.’
Russell Kane: Smallness is at The Garage, Glasgow, Sun 16 Mar.