Ben Norris has been on the stand up comedy circuit since the early 1990’s and has compiled an impressive back-catalogue of writing and television credits over the years. With a somewhat more light-hearted style of comedy than his stern demeanour may suggest this comedian is effortlessly able to incorporate sinister elements into more topical and accessible material.
To learn more about Ben, I asked him these seven questions…
1) What is the weirdest thing about your life?
It might be that I have three children who were all born on the same day 10 years ago.
2) Do you like to plan ahead?
Planning ahead is part and parcel of being a comedian. We are booking gigs into our diaries 8, 9, 10 months ahead of time. I’m always booking cheaper train tickets in the same manner. Having said that I often don’t think beyond the next few days or even look at the following weekend in my diary until it comes up.
3) What is your least favourite kind of audience?
Judgemental, entitled, drunk and stupid… that was a tough night.
4) Is everyone a conformist?
I think most people are. Sadly conformity is hugely popular. I, on the other hand, am a free thinking radical… with a wife, three kids and a mortgage.
5) Do you have many unpopular opinions?
I think animals have rights and ought not to be factory farmed and eaten. It appears that’s an opinion not shared by the majority. (Of people that is, I reckon animals would be in total agreement.)
6) Is the comedy industry over-populated?
It’s a meritocracy so it’s hugely over-populated at the bottom end but that only serves to keep the quality up further up the pecking order I guess.
Last week saw the fourth instalment of the University of Birmingham’s ever-growing comedy night with a stellar line up consisting of Andrew Ryan, Ben Norris and Romesh Ranganathan. This month undoubtedly saw the biggest crowd so far which was very nice to see.
Irish comic Andrew Ryan compèred the evening and he was one of the best I’d ever seen fill this difficult role, with unwavering energy and and effortless charm. In a way that reminded me of Jason Byrne (no, not just because he’s Irish), Andrew is very skilled at developing a unique set based on the audience on the night, from what I saw. A fifteen year old on the front row received most of the comedian’s conversation as he was so young, which was a near miss for me, being seventeen and on the front row myself!
Ben Norris was next, walking on with a stern face and surprising us all with his lighthearted style of comedy; I don’t think many people were expecting him to be so lovely, but he really was. With hilarious personal anecdotes broken up by a few fantastic one-liners, Norris presented a perfect blend of the topical and silly, with the dark and twisted. I laughed all the way through his set, particularly because his observations of aspects of politics and religion were spot on, and would definitely pay to see him again soon.
The last act of the night was one of my favourite stand up comedians, Romesh Ranganathan, and I was delighted to finally be able to see him live. Talking about his kids, one of whom is an “unacceptable human being”, Romesh’s comedy has something for people of all ages (he’d probably be horrified to hear that I am one of five girls, when he thinks three boys is ridiculous). His material is very specific to him, covering the things he has experience of such as parenthood, teaching, veganism and dealing with racism, all tied together with his trademark passive aggression and sarcasm.
It was a pleasure to finally see Rom in person and I will definitely be following what Andrew and Ben are up to from now on (and of course attending next month’s comedy night at the Bramall).
What? Joz Norris is Dead. Long Live Mr Fruit Salad
Where? Heroes @ The Hive – The Bunka (Venue 313)
What are your
feelings as you enter into this year’s Edinburgh Fringe season?
Ooooohhhh boy, feeling great. Very proud of my solo
show, hope people really like it. Very
much having fun with my double-act show, it’s a hot mess but I think it’s gonna
be ridiculous. Learned a bunch of good self-care Fringe things last year and
gonna be using them again to make sure I don’t get stressed or go crazy. Gonna
see all my good pals, gonna eat scampi in the City Restaurant. Yes please yes
What is the premise
of your Edinburgh show this year?
A man called Mr Fruit Salad has written a one-man comedy
show and wants to perform it. This is odd, because he doesn’t exist. He knows
he doesn’t exist, and doesn’t know how to write a comedy show, so spends
most of the show just trying to get out of his head and convince himself to do
the show. It’s a sort of nonsense musing on connections and anxiety and hiding,
performed from behind a disguise.
What is the biggest
obstacle you face(d) while putting this show together?
The character of Mr Fruit Salad first emerged as a way of
engaging with live performance at a time when I wasn’t enjoying it because of
some personal stuff I was having to deal with. As such, when it came time to
build a show around Mr Fruit Salad, the show inevitably became about
that stuff, it became a reflection on why I’d invented him and what he meant
and where he’d sprung from, but I really didn’t want it to become a
confessional show along the lines of “Hey, here’s some bad stuff I went
through, isn’t it sad?” I knew it had to be a show that was informed by all
those things, but I gradually learned they needed to be hidden in the background,
and not shown, or it completely undermined what I was trying to do, which was
to build something silly and hopeful out of old hurt. So realising that and
sort of surgically removing the foundations the show was built on and seeing if
it could still stand up without them was the hardest bit.
Has your attitude
towards the Fringe changed at all in recent years?
I dunno, really. I know which bits of the Fringe I like and
which bits I don’t these days. I love it as a creative playground and a place
to share your ideas. And I really like that it’s an opportunity to build new
audiences and build connections and find opportunities to work with new people
over the subsequent year, and make new exciting things. I do like that side of
it, and it’s important. But out of that side of things grows all the other
things, all the ego nonsense and the industry stuff. I find that side of things
hard, the careerism and so on. It’s all got to exist, at the end of the day, so
I just try to let it exist and stick to the bits of it I know I’m good at, and
the bits I know I like. So my attitude hasn’t changed, necessarily, but it has
Do you have any other
Edinburgh show recommendations?
Oh boy, so many. I’ve been recommending a show every day for
the last 70 days or so on Twitter, so if you find me @JozNorris you can read a
whole bunch of recommendations there. For this Q&A, I’ll specifically flag
up Ben Target and Ed Aczel, both of whom I’m working with this year and are two
of the funniest, most wonderful people in the world, so check out their solo
shows. I’d also highly recommend Ali Brice’s show – he always makes some of the
funniest shows every year, and this year’s is much more personal and reaches
some incredible heights as a result. And Laura Lexx has become one of my
absolute favourite comedians, she is so much fun to watch and so incredibly
accomplished at what she does. I missed her show last year but am very keen to
see this year’s.
Where would you like
to be in a year’s time?
I try not to plan too much. I think it’s good to be
ambitious, because then it means you’re open to any and all of the good things
that might come your way, but not necessarily to have loads of specific
ambitions, because then it’s easy for them to not work out for reasons outside of
your control and then to look back on them as failures. I’m working on a bunch
of TV, online and radio ideas at the moment, and I’d love it if one of those
took off, and if it did I guess that would become my big project over the next
year. And if not, then in a year’s time I’ll probably be making another new
Fringe show and keeping myself busy that way. I’d like to have been on a nice
holiday by this time next year as well, and I’d like my houseplants and all the
things in my herb garden to be absolutely enormous.
Each Comedian of the Month on MoodyComedy is a comic who has never previously featured on the website. Reasons for selection can include various current projects the comedian is involved with, or perhaps recent appearances on television programmes or podcasts. There is no strict criteria however, as Comedian of the Month simply stands as a collection of recommendations, highlighting interesting and original aspects of certain comedians and their work.
October’s Comedian of the Month is actor, writer and stand up comedian Eddy Brimson, who appeared on a bill alongside Andre Vincent, Funmbi Omotayo and Ben Norris (the latter, being a recognisable face on MoodyComedy) at Glee Club Cardiff last month.
Gliding on to stage, Eddy Brimson has a stern but surprisingly warm and genuine demeanour. He acknowledges the fact that he is an intimidating presence at first impression with the assertive recognition, “I’m very aware of my face”. He also controls a rowdy Saturday night comedy audience with efficiency, beginning with ruder material but later evolving his set into something much more personal. While Brimson is clearly able to please a crowd, he can also focus in on much smaller details of scenarios and conversations, providing unexpectedly idiosyncratic observations as he does so.
Eddy certainly has a soft side, and this comes to light in his slightly more whimsical material, such as that about his concern for the panda species. He is also unafraid of opening himself up emotionally in front of an audience, speaking briefly about his recent divorce, for instance, and this counteracts any disconnection allowed to form through the use of crowd work and informalities.
Eddy Brimson’s comedy is well-crafted and uncomplicated; his voice confident and cutting. He is certainly a performer to watch out for on the weekend comedy circuit.
For more information, visit Eddy Brimson’s website.