Before Brexit: Kieran Hodgson Takes Us Back to ‘75

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Kieran Hodgson

Nominated three times for "Best Show" at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, character comedian Kieran Hodgson returns with the epic and surprising tale of how Britain joined Europe in the first place.

Culture Calling: Tell us about the show, what’s it like?

Keiran Hodgson: I play characters in an hour-long story that’s a mixture of stand up, character comedy, it’s a bit theatrical too. My previous shows have been about experiences from my own life, but I wanted to try something a bit different this time so I decided to tell the story of how the UK joined Europe back in the ‘70s. I’m a bit of a History nerd, and it seemed like an interesting story to tell as a means of understanding what’s happening now with us coming out of Europe. It seemed like a good moment to go back and see how it all began, and find unexpected characters and an unexpected side to that story we are all familiar with.

CC: How well do you think people understand the origins of Europe?

KH: It’s funny because people, especially my age, tend to have very strong opinions about our current predicament, one way or the other, but when I started researching this and trying to talk to my friends about it they often looked at me as if I were talking another language. So it’s nice to find something “new” and have a unique angle on it.

CC: Were you nervous about taking on a subject as passionate and divisive as Brexit / Europe?

KH: Yeah, I’m not a particularly controversial person and I often find it really hard to express a strong view about something because I always assume that I don’t know enough. So it takes me a long time and a lot of homework before I can arrive at a decision on something. On this show, I did way too much research, until I had an avalanche of facts to tell people and then made that into something more like comedy than a lecture. I felt I didn’t want to say anything on this issue until I was on a sure footing, so that even if people disagreed with me, they couldn’t accuse me of ignorance.

CC: Are you sick of Brexit, or has this given you a real passion for it?

KH: It’s made me very tedious at parties. Whenever Brexit inevitably comes up, I’m always boring everyone to tears - “well this all happened before, you see, because in 1971 the whips were doing X, Y, Z…” I guess I’m not bored of Brexit because I’m not bored of the story - the drama continues, with a new episode every day. In terms of my political convictions, I’m sure a lot of people across the country, from Danny Dyer onwards, would be keen for politicians to be working on something else; Brexit seems to eat up all the time and oxygen, and I’m not sure how helpful that is. On a purely dramatic level I’m still hooked, though.

CC: As a self-confessed history nerd who’s written about music and sports history in previous shows, why do you think comedy is a good way of examining the past?

KH: The past is no longer with us; all we have are the stories that we tell about it, and I think comedy is one of the most fundamental forms of storytelling that we have. When you tell a story to your friends you’ll often tell it in a comedic way or you’d find a punch line to it and sculpt the complexities of real life into a little story that you could tell your friends at a party, which is kind of what I’m trying to do, on a bigger scale. And the reason I think we anecdotalise life and history is to make it more readily comprehensible, because what I’ve found is the more you know, the less you understand. And the harder it is to have a clear take on something, or at least that’s the case for me. So making it humorous was part of that understanding process - comedy and history work well together, with one as a means of processing and understanding the other.

CC: Where do you get your ideas, what inspires you?

KH: I tend to just go for things I care about and am interested in. It all comes back to being asked to give a talk in Year 7, where the teacher just goes “right, you have to give a talk about something that interests you” and that’s basically been my performance model ever since. I also relish the challenge of subjects that no one would want to do a comedy show about. Like cycling. Or obscure politics. It’s fun to do something different - and to try and make my weird interests and hobbies understandable. It’s a sort of extended exercise in self-explanation and justification.

CC: What might you want to explain and justify next?

KH: Um… I’m running out of things that I’m interested in! I guess whales, the animals. But how that’d work on stage without an enormous budget, I don’t know… so don’t take that as gospel.