Steve Gribbin is nothing if not good value – the expat Liverpudlian musical comic regularly travels up from his London home to do the rounds and see the family, and makes plenty of opportunities for himself while he’s here.
This weekend, as well as doing his own solo show written especially for the Liverpool Comedy Festival tomorrow night (May 7), Gribbin is performing at Rawhide tonight and tomorrow (May 6 & 7), and rounding off with the Best of Liverpool closing show on Sunday (May 8).
It’s a labour of love for the guitar-wielding stand up, who still loves the thrill of the circuit even after 25 years in the game. And it really has taken him all over the place.
“I can’t drive so I haven’t got a car, I go everywhere by train. I’m in good company, Roger McGough’s never driven either. I like it because I can do a lot of reading and relaxing, writing and stuff. It’d not be safe to have me behind a wheel, the temper I’ve got,” he laughs.
“I travel a lot and get abroad, I’m going back to India later this year, I’ve been to Hong Kong, Japan, Dubai recently. In Mumbai, they’re not really targeting ex-pats out there, they’re going for that burgeoning Indian middle class really. And they are the politest audiences in the world. It’s ironic because the only trouble I got in eight gigs was one night when two Mancunians were in.”
This leads us nicely on to the current debate about Liverpool audiences – recently crowned the worst place to gig in a survey of professional stand ups. Gribbin isn’t having any of it.
“I can understand that in a sense,” he says, cautiously. “But I love playing here. I can do stuff I don’t do anywhere else. Liverpool people aren’t shy about telling you what they think, but it’s got an unfair reputation. And I know one or two people who did that survey and I know the experience they had was more about them just losing their temper [on stage]. You can’t blame Liverpool if you can’t handle being heckled. Mentioning no names,” he laughs again. Steve Gribbin definitely knows where a few bodies are buried…
And it was surprising to discover that Gribbin, a self-confessed “Beatles nut”, writes a new show every year just for the Liverpool Comedy Festival – then does a whole other new show of completely different material to take up to Edinburgh in August. Performing at the festival is seriously important to him, and he tailors his appearance accordingly. So to that end, his show this year is I Was the Fifth Beatle, a musical homage to the Fab Four taking in their many reinventions along the way.
He says: “This festival means a hell of a lot to me. It’s my home town and audience, and I want to play for them. There’s an awful lot of festivals now, and I think that’s a good thing for comedy as there seems to be a real period of resurgence. It’s the knock-on effect of someone like [Michael] McIntyre, it has this galvanising effect on the circuit itself. And festivals are important for that, it concentrates peoples’ minds on it and is a good way to take a chance on something different.”
Last year, Gribbin’s Edinburgh show , Laugh at First Sight, was a reflection on his 25 years in comedy. But there’s still always something going on to make it worth his while.
“Travelling can be a pain in the arse but nothing beats being on stage,” he says. “It’s a fantastic feeling when it’s going well – it’s been called the best drug in the world, and it is. Things happen in the moment on stage, and that’s why live comedy has never really been replicated on TV. That’s what keeps me going.”