Russell Kane: 'I suffer terribly from nerves'

It’s up with the quiff and on with the tight trousers as Russell Kane returns to host a new run of the BBC3 comedy showcase Live at the Electric (Thursday, July 4). He talked to TV & Satellite Week about what’s in store…

You’re appearing in some sketches in the new Live at the Elecric, aren’t you?
“That’s the big change for this series. As a general rule, if you’re the host, you’re not also in the show. The one exception to that is Saturday Night Live.”

The sketches are called The Only Way Is Shakespeare. So is it Essex’s take on the Bard?
“We thought, what if we took everyday stories and applied verse to them? So Barry from Brentwood is caught downloading porn onto his computer when his girlfriend walks in, and they have to speak in iambic pentameter.”

Could that become a series in its own right?
“Apparently some of the luvvies have heard about it – Derek Jacobi’s ears have pricked up. So I’m hoping it’s an idea that’s got legs.”

Any chance of you doing some straight acting?
“I always get a bit nervous when I see these comedians who have barely finished at the comedy buffet and want to go and eat at the drama buffet. Hang on, finish what you’ve got on your plate first.”

What about a Shakespearean role?
“I’d be interested in playing Iago in Othello, or Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or a Romeo who’s comic all the way through. Any character that I can inflect comedically. I lean more towards comic characters as I’m paying my mortgage by wearing a jester’s hat.”

How did your fans react when you started sporting your now-trademark quiff?
“It’s a big deal for a stand-up to go on stage with a completely new hairstyle. You don’t want to look too groomed. There’s something not funny about someone who looks like they care too much about how they look.”

Your next stand-up tour is called Smallness. Why did you choose that title?
“My life has changed to the point where I can’t go back. Even if I stopped doing all comedy work, it would be at least 10 years before I could go to the pub and people wouldn’t say: ‘You’re that comedian.’ The tour is about what you can keep small and intimate about your life.”

You said Imodium got you through your first stand-up gig. Do you still get nervous?
“I suffer terribly from nerves. Not so much if it’s 5,000 people who have come specifically to see me. But if I’m going on at the Comedy Store or Latitude Festival, I’m glued to the toilet.”

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