“It is a beautiful venue,” said Sean Hughes who is returning to Kettering Arts Centre on October 3, as part of his Mumbo Jumbo Tour.
Sean’s previous visit was in March 2014 and he said he is looking forward to coming back again with his latest act. He describes it as being about the battles between the common sense side of the brain and that of the Mumbo Jumbo on the other side. Fortunately he said, he has been able to make a living out of this ‘other’ side of his being, with other projects being ‘added extras’ such as his television, stage and film roles. It is stand-up he enjoys the most and he returns to it following his short stint in the musical version of The Railway Children at the King’s Cross Theatre, where he played the Yorkshire station master, Mr Perks.
He said: “Although there was a lot of music in the show I didn’t have to sing much. I don’t really have a voice but I can get away with it.
“The part did give me the opportunity to speak with a Yorkshire accent, which I found relatively easy and it was nice to speak slowly, which is unusual for most Irish people.”
Unlike following a set script, Sean is a different character on the stand-up circuit. He has an idea of what material will be covered on the night, but he is always ready to deviate from the plan saying: “I’ll always talk to the audience and see where that leads me, anything can happen on the night, which makes every show different.
“Comedy is not just telling jokes, for me it is talking about yourself and being able to laugh at things in general and not taking life too seriously. It is being able to see the other side of a situation, comedy is for the head; music is for the heart.”
The latter he told me can be quite painful as, growing up in the 1970s, the first big group Sean listened to was the Bay City Rollers. He has always liked music, (he lists groups as diverse from Radiohead to The Pogues as favourites), but it was those fun-loving tartan-wearing lads – though they may not be aware of the fact – who were responsible for destroying the love of his life. This and other musical occurrences, such as his sadness at not remembering too much about being serenaded by The Cure’s lead singer, Robert Smith, due to an over indulgence in alcohol at the time, will be included somewhere within Sean’s set.
A former Catholic, he will also touch upon religion. He said: “I also do a lot of stuff about Christ and it is lovely to do that in a church setting but I am a non-believer. By the time I was 16 there were girls and other things I was interested in.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a comedian, it was all I wanted to do.”
That determination was rewarded and by 1987 he was appearing at the Comedy Store and his first Edinburgh show, A None Night Stand with Sean Hughes, saw him being presented with the prestigious Perrier Comedy Award, at that time he was the youngest winner of this award.
“It is pretty much who I am,” said Sean, “everything else is a cheat. I have to be asked to do television and the other things, I do stand-up because that is what I do.”
The ‘cheats’ as he puts it include a six year tenure as a team captain on the popular Never Mind the Buzzcocks music quiz. He left after getting a little annoyed at being called on a Monday to be told who his guest panellist would be who was “often someone I didn’t know from a boy band or some other person I didn’t know”. He continued: “It was also getting a bit stale for me doing the same format week in week out so I knew it was time to leave.”
Other shorter television appearances have included roles in Coronation Street, The Last Detective and Casualty, in which he was asked back to appear in the 2015 Christmas Special that has already been filmed.
“They must have liked me last time to be asked back again,” he said. “I play a man whose wife and kids have been killed by a drunken driver and who has given up on life. It was hard work but I enjoyed playing that part, it was a meaty role to get in to.”
Sean admits that this has been a good year for him, the current tour is going well – with the break in the middle to do The Railway Children also being well-received – and his podcasts have proved very popular. As for the future he said: “I am pretty laid back, I just get on with things as they come. I don’t think about what will be in five or ten years’ time, I’ll probably be dead by then. I never plan any more than six months in advance.”
Fortunately, it is only a matter of days before he gets to Kettering so, rest assured, October 3 is on Sean’s diary and you’d do well to book your tickets to catch whatever Mumbo Jumbo happens to come his – and your – way.
Tickets for this event are available from Waterstones, High Street, Kettering, by post from Becky at St Andrew’s Church (cheques made payable to “PCC of St Andrew’s Kettering”) to St Andrew’s Vicarage, Lindsay Street, Kettering NN16 8RG