INTERVIEW: Lee Kyle | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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What happens if you do a tour while not actually being famous? Well, Lee Kyle is about to find out. It’s not often that North East audiences have been offered the chance to see a former professional wrestler turned radio host, writer and comedian, (a decision made “as a result of worries about death bed regret” apparently…) but this is where we find ourselves.

Lee’s North East dates include visits to thirteen local venues between mid-February and late June, culminating in a show at The Customs House in South Shields on Thursday 21st June. “I live in South Shields,” Lee says, “five minutes from the sea and most crucially 15 minutes’ walk away from eight different supermarkets. You can’t put a price on that sort of convenience.”

First things first though, how on earth does a professional wrestler end up turning to comedy? “I never really wanted to be a wrestler. I just didn’t have the guts to be a comedian, I assumed I’d be really bad at it and, anyway, I didn’t know how to go about it. What happened is, I hit 30 and decided I needed to start doing comedy.  I hesitate to call it ‘following my dream’ because that’s a bit X Factor Montage but I think I made the decision so I didn’t regret not doing it.”

I never really wanted to be a wrestler. I just didn’t have the guts to be a comedian

Lee is also a successful author, his book Spandex Ballet – How I Wasted My Twenties Wrestling, having made the top ten comedians’ books on Amazon in 2017. “I think the book is better than that show was, I’m quite proud of it really.” Lee says. “People who know me say that it’s very much written in my voice, which I was going for.  I read bits of it a few weeks ago and there were some bits I’d forgotten that were actually pretty funny, which is surprising as I never laugh at my stuff.”

With regards to the charges of ‘delightfulness’ and ‘silliness’ that have been laid at his door, Lee seems pretty satisfied: “When I’m at my best onstage I’m silly, or, as I would prefer, daft.  I had someone heckle me once with ‘You’re just being stupid!’ which, as far as I can see, is my job.”

Lee’s impressive 32 date tour is called Folly and, I suggest, rather than it shining any doubt on Lee’s abilities it instead serves to highlight the enormity of the venture. “This absolutely could go either way.” He agrees. “I’m hoping people who have seen me and enjoyed me before will come out and have a nice time but also that people who haven’t will think ‘good on you’ and take a chance.  I’m a huge believer in that DIY punk ethos, if you keep waiting until someone tells you you can, you might wait forever.”

Perhaps Lee is a little modest. As a hugely respected act with the trappings of TV, radio and literature on his side, he has added a charm and richness to the North East comedy scene. Folly promises to be a memorable and unique tour and, in the immortal words of the man himself: “Come on, get on board, take a chance. Be cool.”

In February, Lee Kyle performs at Bilton Hall, Jarrow (Sunday 18th); Alun Armstrong Theatre, Stanley (Saturday 24th) and The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle (Sunday 25th), with many more dates across the region until June. See his website for full listings.

Check out Ben’s full interview with Lee below:

How on earth does a former professional Wrestler turn to comedy?

I never really wanted to be a wrestler I don’t think. I just didn’t have the guts to be a comedian, I assumed I’d be really bad at it and, anyway, I didn’t know how to go about it. I also, I’d be really bad at wrestling by the way, which I was, but I was less bothered about that.

What happened is, I hit 30 and decided I needed to start doing comedy.  I hesitate to call it ‘following my dream’ because that’s a bit X Factor Montage but I think I made the decision so I didn’t regret not doing it.  Now, I sometimes regret doing it.

You’re also a successful author, will your book ‘Spandex Ballet – How I Wasted My Twenties Wrestling’, reflect at all in the show?

Erm, it won’t really! I wrote the book at the same time I was writing a show about stand-up a couple of years ago, as some idea where more suitable for one than the other.  So, with that show out of the way, I’m kind of finished with wrestling as a topic really.  I found that the comedy I wrote about wrestling wasn’t really as strong as the other bits I wrote for some reason. I think because, having spent years in that environment, I wasn’t sure I found it as ludicrous as it probably is.

I think the book is better than that show was, I’m quite proud of it really.  People who know me say that it’s very much written in my voice which I was going for.  I read bits of it a few weeks ago and there were some bits I’d forgotten that were actually pretty funny, which is surprising as I never laugh at my stuff.

Your style has often been described with adjectives such as ‘delightful’ and ‘silly’, is this an accurate reflection? Are you indeed a delightful, silly man?

Sometimes I guess.  Not sure, I’m stuck in my head so I find myself pretty tedious, just having the same thoughts over and over again.  I try to be quite helpful and don’t think I’m horrible or anything.  I think, when I’m at my best onstage, I’m silly, or, as I would prefer, daft.  I had someone heckle me once with “You’re just being stupid!” which, as far as I can see, is my job.

I like to let mood effect stand up otherwise it’s just a character act.  So, if I’m a bit sad or if I’m deliriously happy, I think it is important for what is happening on stage to reflect that.  I think it can make your material mean different things on different nights.

I definitely want people to like me though, I’m not sure if that’s a strength to be honest!  I’ll take delightful, even though I don’t see it myself.

Now I have to ask about the all-male Spice Girls tribute act, please enlighten us! 

It feels like a different lifetime.  It was in the late 90s, myself and some friends put together an act for a charity show in The Customs House.  It went well and sort of snowballed for a small period of time and we got offered a few gigs.  We stopped because we got recognised a few times and a couple of the lads found it a bit embarrassing I think.

I put half-hearted feelers out a couple of years ago about a reunion gig (I was, of course, struggling to think of a show at the time!) but none of them were at all keen.  Looking back at the video of the night, it’s almost embarrassing how much more I was throwing myself into it than them.

I was Mel B by the way.  I didn’t black up.

What inspired you to make the career change you made?

Almost all of my decisions are as a result of worries about death bed regret.

With TV, BBC Radio 4, your book, your podcasting, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you’re a man who moves around a lot, so where is home for you?

I’ll level with you, the TV and radio work is so rare as to not be worth mentioning!  I live in South Shields, I’m 5 minutes from the sea which I’m well into.  Most crucially though, I worked out the other day that I’m 15 minutes walk away from 8 different supermarkets (Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury, Lidl, Aldi, Iceland and Tesco) and you can’t put a price on that sort of convenience.

Work wise, I guess London, Manchester or Edinburgh would be way more convenient for me, especially as a non-driver, but I like it here so I’m stuck with the Megabus for now.

So what is the thinking behind the name “Folly”?

It’s because this could be a bad idea.  I’m doing a 32 date tour while not being famous, which culminates in a hometown theatre gig.  This absolutely could go either way.  I’m hoping people who have seen me and enjoyed me before will come out and have a nice time but also that people who haven’t will think “Good on you” and take a chance.  I’m a huge believer in that DIY punk ethos, if you keep waiting until someone tells you you can, you might wait for ever.  So, I’m going to be going to some places I’ve never been before and trying my hardest.

The word “genius” keeps springing up in relation to you! What do you have to say in response?

It’s an overused word these days isn’t it?

 

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