Interview: Craig Campbell

Following TV appearances with Michael McIntyre and Russell Howard, Canadian comedian Craig Campbell has found himself a whole new audience – and now he's heading to Norwich. ABIGAIL SALTMARSH reports.

The last time comedian Craig Campbell took to the stage in Norwich he was part of a Comedy Store line-up – and the time before that as well.

The Canadian funnyman, who also supported Frankie Boyle on tour last year, is no stranger to the city – but, following his recent successes is currently on tour with his own show, he will now be stepping under the spotlight alone at the Norwich Arts Centre on Thursday.

'It is strange. I have been having a lot of exposure recently that I am not used to,' explained the man, who has been dubbed the 'Grizzly Adams' of comedy.

'My performance on Michael McIntyre keeps being rerun on Dave and Comedy Central, and all of a sudden I'm finding I'm being jumped by teenagers at airports!'

Craig is, by his own admission, more used to being the compere or warm-up man on stage – a role he said he quite likes.

'Do you know, I enjoy drumming up the audience for other people. I think it is very hard for comedians to put away their competitive edge sometimes and to introduce someone else but I like it.

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'In fact, on this tour I found that in the first couple of shows I forgot to do that for myself. I went straight into it, forgetting that you need to be nice to the audience first, introduce yourself and shake a few hands,' he said.

He went on: 'I also had to think about the fact that I'm used to doing about 20 minutes fairly late on when the audience has had a few drinks. On this tour I start much earlier, when they are sober, so I realised I had to up the frequency of what I was doing in the first half.'

Craig, who portrays himself as a rugged, outdoors, 'no nonsense' character, is known for his storytelling style of humour and his warmth towards his audience.

'This tour is mostly retrieved memories, some story-telling and not too much social comment,' he said. 'I am not a comedian who picks on people in the front row – I want them to like me!'

And he went on: 'Doing a tour like this is very different from appearing with an ensemble of comedians. Then, you get an audience of people who are on a night out and haven't particularly chosen to come to see you so you will probably get quite a few interruptions.

'But this tour has been amazing for me - people have chosen to come to see me so they tend not to do that.'

Craig made his debut on the comedy stage appearing alongside Tony Lw and Dan Antopolski as part of comedy trio The Dinks. Their debut Edinburgh show in 2003 was both a critical and box office success, leading to an invitation to perform in the Best Of Edinburgh programme in New York.

Following another successful Edinburgh visit with The Dinks, Craig then took his first solo show to the festival. Since then, he has supported Rich Hall on his international tour, had two further successful solo shows in Edinburgh and made numerous appearances at other festivals, such as Latitude.

He has also taken on the roles of host of Canada's legendary Ed's Night Party, and headline guest on numerous Canadian TV shows such as Jim Carrey Live, The Dennis Miller Show and Just for Laughs.

He has presented Sky One's hit series From Wimps to Warriors, and recorded Comedy Cuts, Radio 4's Mitch Benn's Musical Comedy Show, Radio 2's Out To Lunch, BBC3 Comedy Shuffle, Comedy Blue and Edinburgh and Beyond (both for the Comedy Central channel).

Two years ago, he also departed from his traditional stand-up, writing and performing his own, innovative, one-man

play, Mr Eyetwister.

His tour at the end of last year, supporting Frankie Boyle, was a resounding success - and he is quick to leap to the defence of the controversial Mock the Week regular who has recently been widely criticised for his 'close to the bone' comedy.

'It is all so small minded. If there is a punch line at the end of it, and the audience laugh, then it is comedy – it's entertainment,' he said. 'I do not understand why an adult can't do adult comedy for a room for of adults. This is what our grandparents fought for.

'At the end of Frankie's tour, his fans just loved him more – and those who don't like him anyway, still didn't. That's fine.'

Having appeared alongside Frankie before more than 200,000 people, Craig's exposure might have rocketed but he was also determined to maintain his own, lower key, shows, even if it meant a frantic few weeks.

'In October I did 43 shows and just had one night off,' he said. 'Frankie was very generous in letting me go off to do my own shows after I had been on for him. I was like a comedy astronaut!'

It has all been exciting, but there is a downside to solo touring too, he stressed.

'I wasn't prepared for the abject loneliness,' he admitted. 'When I tour with other comedians, there are always other people backstage but when it is just me, the audience is my only friend. That's fine until the interval, and then I'm bouncing off the walls waiting for them all to get back!'

But he added: 'This tour has been mind-blowing and I would like to do it all again. When I come to Norwich next week people can certainly see it as a calling card for potentially coming back and doing more shows there in the future.'

? Craig Campbell is at Norwich Arts Centre on March 17, �10 (�8 cons), 01603 660352,