DISILLUSIONED with further education and fuelled by the desire to pursue a career in “being a knob”, a teenage Kevin Bridges decided to take a punt at standup comedy after getting Frank Skinner’s autobiography for Christmas.
It turned out to be a wise move for the Clydebank-born comic.
He has come a long way since his first tentative steps into the world of standup, scaling the heights of the industry with ease, going from performing at open mic nights in Glasgow to filling arenas, festivals and TV screens nationwide, and all while still in his early 20s.
This year will see Bridges, 25, add to his burgeoning list of TV credits with his own BBC1 series Kevin Bridges – What’s The Story. The show began on February 8, runs for six weeks and follows the comedian as he shares the stories, inspiration and, most importantly, the people behind the jokes.
Joining the Celtic-loving star on his journey are a host of his comedy peers including Jack Whitehall, Micky Flanagan and Sarah Millican – as well as some familiar faces closer to home.
The series will see some Cardonald College Glasgow students take the spotlight as Bridges looks to find the real face of Glasgow style, a reference to his much-loved routine ‘wee mad mental Davie’, the apprentice joiner.
The joke centres on the rebranding of Glasgow a couple of years ago as “Scotland with style”. Bridges asks why none of the people on the billboards, which were produced to emphasise Glasgow’s stylish status, looked like a true representation of the city and suggests they should feature someone more authentic.
Putting his money where his mouth is, Bridges set out to find that person and decided to seek a candidate for the “true face of Glasgow style” in Cardonald College Glasgow, which is just ten minutes from his home.
Now living in the west end of Glasgow – a veritable comedy hub with the likes of Frankie Boyle and Greg Hemphill living nearby – the young comic spent his formative years in Hardgate in Clydebank.
Like any master of the comedy trade, Bridges uses observations of the world around him, from the street he grew up on and encounters at bus stops to family gatherings and other everyday Scottish experiences. He is appreciative of his early experiences and grounded by his typically average west of Scotland upbringing.
“It’s kind of hard to tell how your life would be if you never grew up where you did, becasue you only get one childhood,” he said.
“You can move away but your childhood is the most memorable bit, it shapes your life. So, I don’t know what it would have been like if I had moved elsewhere.
“I grew up in, not a nice area. It wasn’t an affluent suburb or something like that, it was just working class. Bought council houses and stuff like that.
“So it had that sort of earthy feel about it, where you meet real people. In my comedy, I’m grateful for that, that I grew up, not in a sort of fancy place. I had the right mix.
“It was rough enough to find comedy in, but affluent enough that there wasn’t really any poverty so I didn’t struggle for anything really.”
The new show is set to explore Bridges’ background further, giving fans the chance to see the inner workings of his comedy, and his personality.
The show will be based in Glasgow, but the comedian also had the opportunity to travel further afield in order to explore his inspirations. When Bridges spoke to the Cardonald Courier, he was preparing to jet off to Utah to meet Chad Hogan, a young American whose name will be recognised by fans from another of the comic’s popular routines.
He said: “We got an email from this guy out in Utah, who said he had been inundated with friend requests from all these Scottish kids, so he did some research and came across me. Apparently he finds the whole thing hilarious, so we decided to feature him in the show. I didn’t even know he existed, the name thing is just a coincidence.”
Fronting his own BBC series at the tender age of 25 could be overwhelming but Bridges, who will become the first comedian to play six consecutive nights at Glasgow’s SECC this autumn, has risen to the challenge. And he won’t compromise for cheap laughs.
He explained: “The BBC wanted to give me a show, and I was going to do sketches but I just think it’s been done and most sketch shows are really inconsistent. Maybe you can chuck the odd one in as part of another show, but six episodes of sketches can be a bit much. It’s only really Chewin’ The Fat that’s nailed it, in Scotland anyway.
“They also wanted to buy the DVD and show it as a special, but I thought if they want to buy the DVD and they want to give me a show, we could combine them and chop the DVD - show five minutes of standup in each episode, and the other 25 minutes we will use the standup as an inspiration to, not so much go behind the jokes, but be more of a sort of autobiographical thing, sort of seeing my life.”
He added: “My mum and dad are in it, that sort of stuff. My wee pal Tony and my old teacher were in last night, and were getting gunged off Dave Benson Phillips. He did a comeback show of Get Your Own Back for us in Glasgow, in front of a studio audience.”
“So, it’s stuff like that. I did a routine about Get Your Own Back on my last show, so you’ll see that routine for like two minutes then you’ll see us actually in the studio with Dave Benson Phillips, bringing the jokes to life.”
“The format is sort of like Billy Connolly’s World Tour. So you see the stand up and then you see something, it’s not a stage, it’s not performed, it’s him literally speaking to people. It’s real but the stand up’s there as a sort of narrative for the show.”