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Guinness, pot holes and the Titanic with comedian Alun Cochrane

Alun Cochrane is a man being funny about what he thinks about things
Alun Cochrane is a man being funny about what he thinks about things

There can't be many comedians about, if any, that can have Alun Cochrane's unusual claim to fame: "About 10 years ago in Norwich, I was so funny I made a man vomit Guinness all down his T-shirt!"

Below is a clip of Alun performing. WARNING: Contains some strong language

This was in response to a question about his favourite memory of performing.

He explained: "Every now and again I get asked what's the highlight of my career and I think people want me to say that I've done Have I Got News For You and I've done Just a Minute, or I've played the London Palladium or any of that stuff, and they're all true, I have done all of those things and I'm very excited to have done all of those things.

"But truthfully about 10 years ago in Norwich, I was so funny I made a man vomit Guinness all down his t-shirt!

"And I think that was the pinnacle to be absolutely honest with you. I mean I really was funny that night. He puked Guinness! I don't think that would have happened anyway if it wasn't for my contribution. Cos I'm assuming that he'd drank Guinness before.

Alun Cochrane is an award-winning comedian

Alun Cochrane is an award-winning comedian

"You may not know this, but the comedians of this world find it great if we make people spit a bit of their drink out but I made a guy vomit about a decade ago! That is proper funny innit!

"So that's the highlight for me thus far. Since then it's just been chasing rainbows."

But despite this high in his career, Alun is actually very down to earth and happily chuckles his way through the interview in his broad and warm Yorkshire accent.

He said: "I'm Alun Cochrane, I'm a comedian and with particular relevance I'm coming to Chorley this week."

Catch Alun Cochrane at Chorley Little Theatre

Catch Alun Cochrane at Chorley Little Theatre

And he is particularly widely travelled - at least in the home country.

"I'm from everywhere. I think I'm a bit of a hotchpotch. I was born in Glasgow, then I lived in Kilwinning in Ayreshire, then I lived in Somerset, and then I lived in Yorkshire and ended up ready to accept the accent when I moved there.

"And I now live in Manchester. And I studied in Cardiff and I lived in London. I schlepped about a bit. Mind you, that's not that many places, but yeah, my accent is sort of Yorkshire. But I often get mistaken for being from Hull, which I'm not."

To be good at stand-up is often considered an art form, but how does someone fall into a job like that? There are very different routes in, but Alun has his own take on it.

"I think the best stand-ups, and I'm putting myself in that bracket, get started by basically engineering a situation where they're spectacularly bad at everything else so stand-up has to work out for them," he chuckles.

"And so that's kind of my story. But I've been doing it for a living for nearly 20 years, so it's not been a meteoric rise to the top. I should really be better at it by now

"I love it, it's a great job and it fits, for me, very well, because I think I have enough creativity to write new stand-up and come up with it, and enjoy doing it, but not quite enough to be a novelist or an actual, proper serious artist.

"I mean I love writing, but I don't know, there is something so much more immediate about thinking of an idea this afternoon and then being able to try it that night. Not that it is always like that. The feedback loop of stand-up comedy is so much more rapid than almost any other art form that I can think of.

"I should have paid more attention. I should have got really good in the first few years and then coasted."

And like many more old-school comedians Alun raised himself through the ranks by starting in the small clubs.

"Oh yeah. Everybody does that really. You can tell how old I am - when I talk to young comics now they can't quite believe that I lived in London and you used to buy Time Out and phone comedy clubs, get their answer phone and then you'd beg on their answer phone 'Can I have five minute please?'.

"And they'd phone you back and offer you five minutes and then you'd just keep doing that until you were a comedian basically. You'd do five minutes well, then you get paid for 10, then 20 and then it all rolls from there.

"But nowadays all of that happens by email or social media or something different. So it's all changed. There's almost no telephoning involved any more.

"But that is essentially what happened - is that you go to loads of clubs. It's the same story for all the comics.

"Stand-up is sort of the foundation for everything and all the other bits and bobs that I've done, like I'm on Frank Skinner's radio show, I've done bits of telly and panel games and sitcom acting and all that stuff but really the basic foundations of it is I get into a car or on a train and I go to a dark room and tell jokes," he laughs.

"And they don't even always look like jokes, sometimes they are just sentences that I think of as jokes, and they think of as sentences."

So how does acting in a sitcom compare to getting up on stage in a one-man show?

"Oh man, it's so much easier!" he laughs.

"For somebody else to write it and you just turn up and read it and then have somebody tell you where to stand and say your lines. It's an absolute doddle!"

"Actors hate me when I say this! I've got good friends that are actors, but compared to being at the coal-face of live comedy, it's an absolute doddle!

"People bring you tea and sandwiches and put you in hotels and then if you say 'I'm going to get the train home cos I've got four days off filming they go, 'What you can do that? You can just get your own train?' And you go 'Yeah, I'm really self-sufficient.'. But the production staff are so used to dealing with useless actors that they think anybody who can get from A to B are some kind of modern marvel.

"But yeah, I really like the experience of filming things. There's something about me that really likes somebody telling me what to say and where to go. Maybe deep down I'm a fundamentally very lazy individual.

"You know they say that about some sports stars - that some footballers they want a manager who just tells them exactly what they want from them. This is the kind of player that doesn't like to think too much. I think maybe there's a bit of me in that!"

Alun is a master at observational comedy, an expert in storytelling and uniquely able to gather material from anywhere he wanders, in mind or body. And his latest show promises to follow this pattern.

"I have done a version of this show at the Edinburgh Festival last August and it's got a load of very me stand-up in it.

"If anybody has seen my stand-up before it often talks about strange stuff in quite microscopic detail and there's a lot of me in there. That's partly why it's called Alunish Cochraneish.

"I thought I should try and do a loads of stand-up that is very mine. There's not an enormous amount of hard-hitting topical comedy because I just figured that most people might like a break from comics telling them what they think they should think about Brexit. I kinda thought it would be better to talk about pot holes or the Titanic, just other weird things. There's only a fleeting mention to Trump and Brexit, not a huge amount. There's all sorts of stuff.

"It's a man being funny about what he thinks about things."

Alun is no stranger to the stage at Chorley Little Theatre, having performed there many times before. He said: "I have performed at this theatre several times. It's always very friendly.

"You know they talk about some companies, that they kind of echo the people that run them? I think they've got that at the Chorley theatre. They are such a friendly staff team that you can't help but go on in a good mood. So that will be exciting. It's a really good room and it's a nicely run space."

His biggest hope for this tour is quite simple: "Come and see the show and I will try my best to be as funny as I can. If we can reach the puking Guinness heights I will be so pleased."

Catch Alun Cochrane's Alunish Cochraneish at Chorley Little Theatre on Thursday, February 1. Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets are just £12.50. Get them online at http://www.chorleylittletheatre.com or by calling in at Malcolm's Musicland, Chapel Street, Chorley or by phone at 01257 264362.