Ian Smith is a comedian, writer, actor, and podcaster who was nominated this year for Best Comedy Show for his Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Crushing’. We last spoke to Ian before the Fringe, so ahead of his tour we caught up with him for an August post-mortem, his hopes for the tour which includes dates in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and gigging at the very much unlamented former iteration of Jongleurs.
Can you tell us about ‘Crushing’?
It’s a show about stress, about love, and of going to Slovakia with my hairdresser to smash up a car in a tank. Those are the three main themes.
It’s safe to say you are the successful fringe culminating in the nomination for the Best Comedy Show. How was the experience for you?
Really nice. I think the first few days you’re just still making sure the show is right and doing finishing touches. But as soon as I kind of felt like the show was ready, it’s just lot of fun when you feel like you’ve got it together and you’re proud of it. Then when you start being aware that there’s a bit of buzz. It’s nice, but it’s also been nerve wracking, thinking that stuff like that might happen.
What point during the month did you realise ‘Crushing’ was starting to get a bit of traction?
Maybe halfway through, because I always think you’re wondering what people are going to think of it. And you get a few nice reviews and it’s maybe after four or five nice reviews and you can look at the spreadsheet of your ticket sales and you can see if you’re close to selling out. So it was when I was looking at the spreadsheet aware that it was going better than previous years had in terms of sales.
‘Crushing’ is, I believe, your seventh show. What keeps you coming back?
I don’t know. I think maybe bloody mindedness. Yeah, I mean, I really love doing our shows. I think it’s the best thing in comedy really to get to do your own show and to try and hold someone’s attention for an hour. So yeah, As much as the fringe is increasingly expensive and stressful I just really enjoy doing it. And I think a little bit of me as well… it’s always been a dream to get nominated. So I think I would have maybe carried on until that happened. So it’s good that has happened otherwise I could have been like 75 and still doing shows.
I believe they brought the awards starting time forward because it clashed with your show.
I don’t know. I know that me and Phil Ellis were on pretty early. And I knew that when when they announcing who’s been nominated. I had a feeling that was going happen just before, during, or just after I was on stage. So it was quite nerve wracking. When you know that you’re in with a chance, and you have to perform your show thinking, ‘The judges are deciding now!’ it’s quite hard not to be distracted. I kind of had one eye on the back of my room to see if my producer was coming in with a smile on his face.
How’s the preparation for the tour going, and is it different to prepare for compared to the fringe? Is it a bit more relaxed?
It’s definitely more relaxed. I think the main thing becomes just remembering the show. And it’s quite nice because you can you go through it again and then you find jokes that you kind of kick yourself that you didn’t do during the fringe. I’m trying to extend it a little bit so I’ll maybe do an hour and 15, and be a bit looser, allowing some improv to happen. But it’s definitely more relaxed than Edinburgh.
What’s your favourite venue and to play in, and what’s your worst?
I was in Edinburgh this year in the Tron and I think that’s maybe the most important venue to me because of how it went this year. But also the last time I played there was when I was just starting out in comedy and I did a month of a compilation show, and there was a BBC producer who then saw me for a sitcom. So I got my first work really in in that room, getting a little part in a sitcom and, and then the nomination. So I think that’s the most special room.
The worst… So there’s a chain of comedy clubs called Jongleurs, which were famous for stags and hens, and for not paying the acts they’d booked. And they had a room in Portsmouth, and there’s something about it, like it was devoid of life or happiness. It’s so hard to describe, bit it’s like trying to describe a colour that doesn’t exist. Something in the atmosphere of the room seemed to take a bit of your soul away. It was like the walls had been painted with depression or something. It was just a weird, weird feeling in the room. And that seemed to be replicated by how the audience would react to any attempt to do jokes. I would say Jongleurs, Portsmouth.
If you’re doing a compilation show, do you tend to choose bits from your show or do you tend to choose different material for your shorter segments?
At the minute, I’m trying to avoid doing stuff from the tour in shorter sets, just because I find if you do the same material over and over again, you kind of don’t perform as well as you used to. So I want to stay excited for the tour. I think while I’m touring, any other short sets I do I’ll be trying to use the old classics. Yeah, just try and keep myself on my toes.
You say the show when you’re touring is a little bit longer to allow for some improvisation, but does the actual show remain the same? Ae you somebody that constantly updates or revises or are you do you lock it in once you’re happy with it?
I think for the tour it will be locked in as what the fringe show was but just expanded upon. Because there’s a structure and a bit of a story, and lots of callbacks and stuff that I can’t play around with too much. So it’ll be like the Edinburgh show with DVD extras.
Who’s the the best comedian you’ve ever toured or or word worked with or and, and is there any of the new newer acts that that you really rate?
I think the only comedian I love who I haven’t got to meet yet is Johnny Vegas. I was always obsessed with him and I’m kind of still desperate to do something in some form with him. But I mean, I guess at the minute James Acaster’s stand-up shows; how much he puts out and how prolific he is. And Daniel Kitson and Tim Key, I really admire those comics who put out a lot of shows that are creative and a bit different. I’d say John Kearns and Sam Campbell make me laugh more than anyone else. And I guess Sam feels new because hasn’t been over here as much but he’s already league leagues above everyone else.
Are you working on a new hour at all? Or are you focusing on the tour before you launch into committing yourself to the full writing process?
Well, I’ve got a Radio 4 series coming up, I think around July, so I’ve got four half an hour episodes to write for that. So that’s going to be my kind of main writing thing, plus some scripted stuff that I’m working on. But I’m also hoping that some of the stuff for the Radio 4 series will start what will be a new show. So I’m hoping to be up in Edinburgh doing a short run, which will be the very beginnings of a new show and then do a full one again in 2025, which feels very organised to be thinking about.
Besides the tour where else can be seen next?
The Northern News podcast is big thing for me. Me and Amy Gledhill do that and have weekly episodes. So that’s available wherever anyone gets their podcasts. Other than that, just bits of radio coming up. I just recorded an episode of a new panel show on Radio 4 that Frank Skinner is hosting. And a Steph McGovern-hosted Radio 4 show [The Ultimate Choice]. I’ll just be gigging around and be back on the News Quiz and that kind of stuff. And then, yeah, hopefully, I’d love to do a bit more acting and I’m working on some scripts. I think it’s a case of seeing happens. I could be doing a lot of stuff. I could be doing absolutely nothing.
‘Crushing’ is on tour from Fri 19 Jan 2024 and comes to Blackfriars, Glasgow Thu 22 Feb 2024 and Monkey Barrel, Edinburgh Sat 24 Feb 2024