Stuart Goldsmith: The Interviewer's Interview
Embarking on his first tour and welcoming a newborn baby, comedian and founder of the revered Comedian's Comedian podcast Stuart Goldsmith lets us in on the tightrope walk that is his life
Stuart Goldsmith is a busy man.
"Right now, right this second, we’re on baby lockdown… I’ve been finally getting round to doing some YouTube channel creation…" he tells The Skinny over the phone. Now may also be a good time to mention that he’s currently on his first ever solo stand-up tour, An Hour, across the country. And he couldn’t be happier.
Goldsmith is a stand-up comedian with over a decade of performing under his belt, in addition to being the host of the incredibly successful Comedian’s Comedian podcast. Pushing well over a million downloads, Goldsmith has racked up more than 150 interviews with some of the greatest comics from around the world, unpacking their technique and pulling back layers to reveal their inner soul. As you can imagine, he’s gotten pretty good at interviews.
“It has changed the way I talk to people, not least because I’m now more experienced than a lot of people who interview me, and that’s quite weird,” he says. “Sometimes with young excitable interviews, they’re asking me questions and I’m like, ‘Aw come on mate, pull your socks up!’”
So no pressure, then! The Skinny gulps.
Despite Goldsmith’s rising stature within the comedy scene, there’s a warmth and sincerity to his answers that's also there in his stand-up and his own interviews. Since starting the podcast in 2011, Goldsmith has taken his place on the UK comedy landscape, and perhaps it’s fair to say that, unlike fellow comic interviewers Marc Maron of WTF and Richard Herring, Goldsmith’s profile has developed significantly alongside the show.
“I hear what you’re saying; they cheated by being famous first.”
Bingo. But does the success of ComComPod shadow his stand-up career?
“I know the podcast is my foot in the door, so I’m more than happy to talk about that. It’s always difficult; I’m only just learning to have both my comedian and podcast hat on. The podcast is all about integrity, and I’m trying to find the integrity of the podcast in my stand-up, and the lightness of my comedy in the podcast. So it’s a difficult balance to try and wear both hats at once – I suppose the best plan is to just be myself.”
A dedicated audience
It’s certainly true that the podcast has given Goldsmith’s standup a helping hand, and with the show reaching new heights, both in terms of listenership and the quality of guests – it recently featured megastar American comic Patton Oswalt, for example – it would be difficult for the podcast not to have a positive impact on his stand-up career.
“I think the difference is I’m contributing in a way that I wasn’t before… I’m helping people who care about comedy, and I feel like there’s a lot of goodwill towards what I’m doing. People appreciate it.
“I was at Glastonbury and I saw Mark Kermode’s band, Dodge Brothers, because of his podcast. But I wouldn’t have stayed if they weren’t great.
“This is the first time I’m on tour – because I’m having a baby and I wanted to be out of the house. I’ve wanted to forever [both have a baby and do a tour, though not necessarily at the same time], but I feel that because of the podcast some people might come to see me.”
Though it might not be the perfect time to tour, professionally the iron is hot. “I don’t have a huge TV profile,” Goldsmith says, “but I do get sent emails, every couple of weeks from all over the world, [people telling me] I’ve changed their lives and they’re doing comedy now because of me and they love the show."
And while a world tour isn’t on the cards just yet, this is the start of an exciting touring career for Goldsmith.
“I’m dipping my toe in, the way that a diver has to before they go in in slow motion,” he says. “It would need to go really wrong for me to not go and do it again next year. Oh god, I wonder if I’ll go on to eat those words!”
Having caught Goldsmith’s show at the Fringe last year, The Skinny doesn’t think this will be necessary. An Hour is, well, an hour of pure nuts-and-bolts stand-up. While it’s somewhat in vogue at the Fringe now to focus on meta-narrative and theatrical device as much – if not more than – comedy, Goldsmith’s show was a refreshing and solidly funny outing from a comedian whose skills are growing and growing.
“Thank you for noticing and calling it nuts-and-bolts, because I love watching all sorts and there’s room for all sorts,” he says. “I see so much nuts-and-bolts stand-up that I actually sometimes prefer to see some weird naked clowning, because it’s kind of refreshing… but the job for me is not to have the artiest idea – [although] I love watching arty shows. The job for me is to do the thing that I love, to honour the thing that I love most, by doing the best possible version.”
Roots in theatre
For any naked clowns reading in fury, put down your seltzer guns, preferably covering your shame. Goldsmith comes from a background of street and experimental theatre, covering the gamut of device and trick, magic, juggling and general circus skills prior to entering stand-up.
“I speak as someone who went to this weird hippy art college called Dartington about 15 years ago. So I feel like, before people started doing it in stand-up shows, I felt like I had all of the options at my feet… I felt like I get enough of that at home, do you know what I mean?”
He says this before offering what could pass as a crash course in abstract clowning: ‘If you want to be theatrical, you want to get a pair of old shoes and fill them with milk, because shoes represent everything, and milk represents everything. A pair of shoes filled with milk, that’s what I’m going to call my new show! And I’ll have shaved my head and I’ll be naked walking out of the sea!
“What I want is for someone to get an idea that’s never been expressed before, and express it in a way that’s surprising and satisfying at the same time,” he explains. “That makes me physically fall over – it makes me clap involuntarily. So, that’s the stuff that I want to do. A really fucking good joke is more exciting to me than a really neat trick.
“What’s funny about me is being a bit loose and flappy and discovering things. So all of my favourite jokes in the show are things I discovered on stage. For me it isn’t interesting to smash a gig with my best stuff. You only get to be incandescent when you’re prepared to take risks.
“And because of the podcast, that’s what I’m doing – I’m able to sell some tickets to people that know me. These guys know me and that feeds into the right feeling of me [being] relaxed enough to own my space. I was properly taking all the risks that I wanted to take.”
With such confidence in performance, a newfound fan base and a newborn baby, things are pretty good for Goldsmith right now. Juggling the numerous aspects of his personal, online and on-stage life, it’s a good job he’s got those circus skills to help him out.
Stuart Goldsmith: An Hour is touring the UK in March and April, including 21-23 Apr at London Soho Theatre and 30 Apr at Machynlleth Comedy Festival. For full dates, visit Stuart's website.