Ben Van der Velde is a stand up and podcaster who has been working this year with Barry McStay to produce a brand new podcast entitled Worst Foot Forward, as well as being resident MC at The Good Ship comedy club. Van der Velde’s latest Edinburgh show, Sidekick, is an ode to the underdog. He is performing his free show at the Laughing Horse @ Espionage throughout August.
1) What excites you most about the Edinburgh Festival?
The consistent smell of hops in the air. Giving American tourists incorrect directions. Seeing which street performers are still alive after another year.
2) What was your first Edinburgh show about?
My first show was a damnfool idea that – once I’d had it – I had to follow through on. I got the idea into my head that people weren’t writing enough letters anymore, so turned myself into a human chain letter and senT myself to some long lost friends and got them to pass me on to someone they’d not seen in ages. I ended up travelling to Ireland, Luxembourg, Kent, plus a few other places and almost ended up in Belarus, before running out of money/bottle/sanity.
3) Does your comedy attract a certain type of audience?
So far I seem to be able to make everyone from teenagers to nanas laugh. I remember doing a gig in rural Yorkshire a few years ago and at the end a flat-capped old man came up to me and said “I didn’t understand much of what you said lad, but that that I did was very funny.” That’s always stuck with me – I’m pretty confident if you stick me in a room with a bunch of fellow humans I’ll get some laughs out of them.
4) What is the worst experience you’ve had with Edinburgh accommodation?
I’ve been pretty lucky generally. In 2006 I didn’t find any accommodation and ended up sort of squatting in a mate’s flat who was putting on a production of ‘Top Gun: The Musical’. Waking up in my tiny corner of the hallway most mornings to hear Maverick and Goose loudly practising singing The Danger Zone was quite a low point.
5) What is your most treasured memory of your comedy career so far?
It’s a little thing, but early on in my career I was resident host for the Free Beer Show at The Cellar in Oxford. They got huge names down there and would pack their basement venue out. I got to compère for Reg Hunter and absolutely everything I riffed worked – the crowd were playful, daft and I could have stayed on for hours. After I introduced Reg, as he came on stage he whispered some secret magic words of encouragement in my ear and thanks me for setting up the room for him. He won’t remember, but it was a real, eye-opening “holy shit I can do this!” moment. After the gig he thanked me again and said I was welcome to any of his material. So get ready for 10 minutes about why people often mistake me as Benjamin, King of the Blacks.
6) What show will you definitely be seeing at the festival this year?
I was blown away by Fin Taylor last year and his preview at my club, The Good Ship, was bang on the money in April, so that’s a must-see. John-Luke Roberts is always fantastic too, I think he’s the master of what the Fringe should be – super clever, super silly and often challenging and uncomfortable, all in the same joke.
7) What do you hope to gain from the Edinburgh Festival this year?
A cult following who will be willing to drink my Kool-Aid safe in the knowledge that they’ll wake up at an amazing gig I’m playing on the other side of a comet.
8) What do you imagine your last ever show will be about?
I think it’ll be a brave call-to-arms to the survivors of the 2024 Brexit Wars to band together and form a new alliance under the leadership of Victoria Derbyshire and a cockroach/Keith Richards/Sandi Toksvig mutant hybrid.