Interview: Gareth Mutch – 'Sharing horrifically real stories can be positive'
Comedian offers his take on offensive comedy, why bed-wetting jokes are good, and who would be in his dream lineup
West Lothian stand-up Gareth Mutch takes on our q&a aimed at rising stars of the Scottish comedy scene. We find out which song he listens to before he goes onstage and when he would tear into an audience member …
Can you tell us about the moment when you thought: 'stand-up is for me'?
I'm an only child so I've always really been a bit of an attention seeker. Then when I found drama at a young age I used that as my main output. But I didn't like sharing the stage with the other kids so when I was 17 I did my first stand-up gig and remember loving the bareness of it all: no costume, nobody else, just me and a mic, and people laughed.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you can tell us about?
There's nothing right before I go onstage, but I do have one weird thing in that I'll listen to 'Ooh La La' by the Faces. I have no idea when it started; I just realised a few years ago that I often listened to that song before a gig so it stuck and became a weird thing.
How do you handle hecklers?
It depends on the heckle. All heckles are disruptive but some more than others. If the person is genuinely just trying to add to things because they are enjoying the show, I usually talk to them and find out why they thought what they shouted out was funny. Sometimes it leads to a really funny place. But the other type of shouting out just because they want to disrupt the show and bring nothing positive to it gives me a green light to tear that person apart.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to 'offensive comedy'?
I'm not an 'offensive comedian', far from it, but I see no need to draw the line at anything if it's funny. I have laughed at all types of jokes. I always remember a quote by Ricky Gervais about offensive comedy: 'offence is taken not given'. There are a lot of comedians being asked to apologise for jokes just now which I think is ridiculous. Often the person demanding the apology wasn't even there: they just heard about it. I have said things on stage out of context which could be taken wrongly.
What's the one thing (good or bad) you remember about your very first stand-up gig?
I remember talking about kayaks and canoes. Bad. I also spoke about wetting the bed until I was 14 or 15 which was good because that was when I realised that comedy for me should come from a real place and sharing those horrifically real stories could be a positive thing.
What's the best piece of advice you've received from another comedian so far?
It came last year when I did my first tour-support gig. I remember that comic telling me that I should want to go out there and make all those people who had paid to see him remember me. Which is a good attitude to adopt: not in a vicious 'I will stop at nothing and kill everyone' kinda way, but always to strive to be the best is a good attitude for success I think.
You're curating your own 'legends of comedy' lineup. Tell us the bill's top three acts
This is tough. Legends might be a stretch for a couple of these, but first on that bill would be Rhod Gilbert. He was the first live comedian I went to see and I didn't know I could laugh like that. It was just a different level: I'd never seen someone so good. He is a big reason I started comedy.
Second would be Bo Burnham. He makes me laugh and also makes me angry. He's a genius whose shows are just rammed full of different styles, ideas: you know what, I don't actually have the intelligence to fully articulate how smart and funny I think that guy is. I met him at the Fringe in 2013 and he's a really nice guy too. Makes me sick.
Third would be Amy Schumer as her stand-up is full of big dirty laughs. Although her charging over £100 at the Playhouse is a bit much. Louis CK is playing there as well and only charging £45 so I'm opting to see him. In fact, yeah, Schumer is out and CK is in! She needs to learn that paying £100 for any comic is just crazy.
So I'll pick Rhod Gilbert, Bo Burnham and Louis CK. But there are so many more comics I want to put on that list.
Which comedian's memoir would you recommend to someone?
Russell Brand writes loads of books, doesn't he? I'll say him or Peter Kay because his Sound of Laughter is really funny and it's interesting to know all the jobs he worked at before being a stand-up.
Gareth Mutch is at the Edinburgh Fringe performing Mutch Ado About Nothing at Woodland Creatures, Leith, until 28 Aug (not 11, 16), 7.20pm, free; Mutch is also part of Viva La Shambles, The Stand 3, 18, 20 Aug, 10.05pm, £10 (£9).
Outside of the Fringe, he will also be at The Stand, Glasgow, 1–3 Sep, 16 Oct and The Stand, Edinburgh, 11, 26 Sep, 4 Oct; Viva La Shambles performs on the first Wednesday of every month at The Stand, Edinburgh.