“My biggest gig to date was at Wembley Arena,” Scots comedian Leo Kearse told me. “David Icke was doing an 11-hour conspiracy theory lecture. He was saying what we perceive as reality is a hologram controlled by electro-magnetic waves of information being beamed from Saturn…”
“And you were supporting him?” I asked.
“He just wanted dancers for his stage show,” explained Leo, “because he broke up his conspiracy theory lecture with dancing. I was the first one on stage. I ran on at 10.00am and everybody in Wembley Arena is sitting there wearing jackets and I am prancing around like Hey! Stay away from the brown acid! It was well weird.”
“Did you actually meet him?” I asked.
“Yeah. He’s a very nice bloke. I think it’s good to have someone out there prodding at things and making people look at things in different ways. But it was weird being backstage with other dancers who were total David Icke acolytes – Ickelites. (Leo likes a pun.) It was like I was the mad person in the room because I didn’t believe that people are shape-shifting lizards. I started to question my own sanity after a while.”
Leo had asked me if I wanted to have a chat with him because he will be the only act at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe “to have lost part of his body in a shark attack and one of the few to have been rimmed by a hungry farm animal.”
Leo and I met at Soho Theatre, but I never got round to asking about the the shark attack or the animal rimming.
His first solo Edinburgh Fringe show is called The Mangina Funalogs. He is also appearing in a second show – Atella The Pun – with UK Pun Champion Darren Walsh. Leo does like a pun. He is also appearing in a third Fringe show – Hate ’n’ Live – with Darius Davies: a show where comedians do improvised rants about topics suggested by the audience and drawn from a hat at random. He should, perhaps have called that one The Upset List.
His parents moved from London’s Notting Hill to Dumfries in the early 1970s.
“Why?” I asked.
“My dad’s a gunsmith,” explained Leo, “and they had a knitwear business. My mum used to do clothes for Lulu. So they moved to Dumfries for lower costs, but they couldn’t compete with China.”
“With a background like that,” I said, “it’s not surprising you ended up in comedy.”
“My dad can build a gun from scratch,” added Leo. “He knows all the different grades of steel and can make springs out of blocks of steel.”
“You performed at the Adelaide, Melbourne and Singapore festivals this year,” I said.
“Yes,” said Leo. “On the way back, around April time, I was in Patong and bumped into Chris Dangerfield.”
“Was he horizontal or vertical?“ I asked.
“Vertical,” said Leo. “He’s really interesting. You know his lock picking business? I used to work for the police. Chris Dangerfield’s biggest customers are MI5, MI6 and the police. It’s just so funny.”
“You worked for the police?” I asked.
“Yeah. For years,” said Leo. “I wasn’t a policeman. I was a criminal intelligence analyst and I managed the Criminal Intelligence Unit for a bit as well.”
“What is a criminal intelligence analyst?” I asked.
“Identifying emerging trends. Say there’s a new spate of burglaries and they’re using a particular method to break in… They could be using Chris Dangerfield’s lockpicks…”
“So you didn’t,” I said, “investigate murders.”
“No, that’s detective work. We had dashboards that followed reported crimes and 999 calls and looked at things like hospital admissions. If there’s gang violence and they stab each other, they don’t report it to the police but they will go to hospital. So we looked at A&E admissions, ambulance call-outs and I specialised in problem solving intelligence, which is bringing all partner agencies together, looking across a really wide spread of intelligence and using joined-up, co-ordinated resources to deal with it. Because the police tend to just treat crime problems as a crime issue and they deal with that by arresting people and chucking men in yellow jackets into the area.
“But night-time disorder can be tackled by arranging better transport links to get people out of an area quickly so they’re not milling around fighting. It’s looking at the core root of the problem.”
“That,” I said, “seems unusually intelligent of the police.”
“Oh, they don’t do it any more,” said Leo. “As soon as the Tories got in, we all got laid-off.”
“So what sort of mind,” I asked, “is interested in analysing crime trends AND making people laugh at puns in a room above a pub?”
“I don’t think there is a link,” said Leo. “I mean, Darren Walsh does Flash development and his comedy’s really different from computer programming.”
“Puns are about manipulating and moving existing things around laterally,” I suggested, “and your jobs…”
“Spotting patterns,” said Leo. “Maybe. I’ve been told that comedy is all about gags. But I don’t think it is. It’s about getting the momentum, the atmosphere going. It’s almost like music. You build it up and really nail it to a crescendo. It’s building up tension and releasing it like the Pixies or Nirvana or something like that.”
“Your Edinburgh show has a thread?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s about how hard it is being a man. Which is bullshit: it’s dead easy being a man. I’m so glad I’m a man. We’re built for all the horrible stuff. We’re bullies. We’re good at throwing stuff really far. Hunting. Fighting. We never get to do those things in everyday life. Now it’s all sitting at a computer and doing boring stuff like that. Male masculine skills are not appreciated any more. There’s so much bullshit around.
“I remember teachers at school saying Oh, bullies are like that because they were bullied themselves and they’re just sad and that’s why they’re doing it and they’re upset and… That’s bullshit… Most bullies do it because it’s really funny to sit on another kid and make it eat grass until it cries. I’m trying to debunk a lot of these myths.”
“Did you do that at school?” I asked.
“No,” said Leo. “But, for the purposes of my show I did. I’ve got a bit about me being bullied and how it turned me from English to Scottish. In Scotland, you can say anything as long as it’s funny. It can be as cruel as you like – as long as it’s funny. When I moved down eleven years ago, I had to adjust to England. People would say That’s horrible instead of saying That’s horrible, but it’s funny and laugh like they did in Scotland.”
“And the aim of all this is to get your own radio or television show?” I asked.
“Well, a company called Forefront Media has made a 27-minute documentary about me called Stand-Up London: the pilot for a series. It was going to be for the London Live TV channel, but no-one’s watching that, so they’re pitching it to Sky Arts.
“I’m also going to be on Dinner Date on ITV in September or October. I was one of the men cooking. I got picked by the girl.”
“A good calling card,” I said.
There is a video of Leo’s puns on YouTube.