Chris McCausland is one of the UK’s most in-demand comedians. The 46-year-old Liverpudlian has appeared on shows including the Live at the Apollo, Have I Got News for You, Would I Lie to You? and QI. He has also fronted his own TV series, Wonders Of The World I Can’t See, and hosted his own radio show, You Heard It Here First.
Following the success of his last tour, Speaky Blinder, which ran for over 140 dates and was filmed for broadcast on Channel 4, he is about to start a new tour, Yonks!
Your last show was called Speaky Blinder, which was a brilliant title. You’ve steered clear of puns this time with Yonks!
It was one of those situations where we were announcing the tour and didn’t have a title yet. I just like the word Yonks and it’s fun to say. Plus I suppose, I’ve recently been called an overnight success even though I’ve been doing stand-up for over twenty years now, which is definitely yonks, so that tied into it.
Can you remember your first gig?
It was at a pub called The Bedford in Balham on July 29, 2003 at 9.20pm, roughly speaking. Over 20 years ago now so I think I’ve earned my comedy stripes. One of the first TV things I did was a Cbeebies TV series for tiny tots called, rather unfortunately, Me Too! On the last tour I had fully grown adults coming up to me and telling me how they used to watch me on TV when they were one of those tiny little kids. How old do you think that made me feel!
How does this new show differ from your last tour?
All the material is different, but different in a lot of ways. The last show was pretty personal. There was a lot about my experiences of being blind, being a dad, being a husband, and doing all of that in the dark. This show has none of that really, this show is really quite daft. I’ve gone old school. It’s about loads of funny stuff, everything from my hatred of Shakespeare to my love of Schwarzenegger, from Jesus to doughnuts, and A.I. to turnips, it’s a real bucket load of stuff and family life doesn’t get a look in this time.
Can you give readers a sneak preview? What are your thoughts about AI? You used to work in software development so you know about computers…
I am sure that AI will likely one day kill us all if we don’t manage to do that ourselves first, but right now it’s bloody fantastic. I don’t think AI can write comedy at all. It can explain things but it can’t write a decent stand-up set. It can’t make the connections that comedians make. You need to make unrelated connections a lot of the time to get surprising jokes. And you need a bit of anger or passion which AI just doesn’t have. But last time I did Have I Got News for You, I got it to explain the Northern Ireland Protocol to me as if I was a child, and that was a massive help!
You’ve become a panel show regular. Do you enjoy appearing on them?
To do something like Have I Got News For You, a show that has been around since I was a kid, it’s amazing. And it’s my dad’s favourite comedy show. I’m not naturally politically opinionated really, but I love the challenge of doing it. When I do it I try and make things a bit daft, and try to ridicule all aspects of the political spectrum, and that seems to work well.
I’ve done quite a lot of panel shows now, and I just love being involved in it all, and I think that probably shows on the telly.
Sometimes some small adjustments need to be made to a format. I did a week of Richard Osman’s House of Games where they made the whole week completely non-visual. The picture rounds were replaced with audio clues for everyone and Richard didn’t even use the autocue so nobody else could see the questions before I did.
In your Channel 4 travel series, The Wonders of the World I Can’t See, you were often unimpressed by the places you visited. I enjoyed watching it, but I wasn’t sure if you enjoyed making it…
Liza Tarbuck, who was in the Canadian episode, described me as a “grumpy Scouse git,” which was fair enough I suppose. I really enjoyed making the show, but in terms of sightseeing, some of the things were great and some of the things weren’t really worth the effort. Niagara Falls was staggering, but the surrounding area was tackier than Blackpool in the 1980s. It was amazing to be in the Colosseum with Tom Allen, but I still don’t really know what that wonder was that Guz Kahn was trying to describe to me in Jordan. It was really amazing to make the series though and I hope we might get to make another series soon.
You dipped your toes into reality TV in 2023 with Scared of the Dark, in which you shared a blacked out house with fellow celebrities. I read that you are still in touch with the winner Paul Gascoigne.
He’s the main one I bonded with but we’ve all kept in touch on WhatsApp. It’s crazy. In 1990 he was the best footballer in the world. And he’s so sweet, he wears his heart on his sleeve. He lets everybody in and he doesn’t try and hide anything. Whereas Chris Eubank was a bit more complicated. He built a fence and he played a pantomime villain at times. I had a feel of his muscles though. He’s in his mid fifties and he is the most chiselled specimen of a human that I’ve ever had my hands on. He feels like he’s been carved out of marble. By comparison, I feel like I’ve been shaped out of an old marshmallow!
Will we be hearing more of your radio panel show You Heard It Here First, where you get guests to answer sound-based questions, like identifying a celebrity talking while eating cake…
Yes, we’ve got another series which we will be recording soon. I am currently putting it all together, as I need to find some interesting audio to use for the questions, and come up with some silly games I can get the guests to play. The first series was such a hit with listeners. We had some great guests taking part, from Lee Mack and Andy Parsons to Kerry Godliman and Alan Davies, and it’s all up there to listen to on BBC Sounds.
You turned your hand to acting in Not Going Out. Was this because you were such a funny double act with Lee Mack at the BAFTAs handing out an award?
After the video of myself and Lee went viral at the BAFTAs, Lee asked me to do an episode of his sitcom with him, I was tentative at first because I love Not Going Out, and I didn’t want to be rubbish in something that was really great, because I’d never done anything like that in terms of acting in front of a live audience before. My instant feeling was how am I going to know where to stand for the cameras during a live performance, but Lee is really generous and supportive. So we came up with the plot together, setting it on a train. It was really incredible to get to be part of it all.
Do you ever think about what life might have been like if you had not lost your sight? Would you have still tried stand-up?
Well obviously I’d now be retired from a twenty year career as Liverpool’s highest ever goalscorer. In terms of stand-up though, I was always a massive fan. A Rowan Atkinson live show was the first comedy video I got bought for Christmas as a kid, and from then on they were always on my Christmas list every year. So stand-up was always in my head as this amazing thing that some people could do, but not something that you could ever achieve for yourself. But then after I’d lost my sight completely and couldn’t really work as a web designer any more, the websites were just too ugly, I ended up working in a call centre and I was completely dissatisfied with my job and was looking for something else.
I even applied to MI5 to be a spy, but didn’t get in because of my complete lack of sight, which is fair enough I think. Maybe I wouldn’t have tried stand-up if I’d got the MI5 job. If I hadn’t lost my sight I might still be in IT. Or maybe a real life Scouse James Bond!
As it happens, I tried stand-up, just as a bucket list dare to myself to do it once, but then that became a hobby, and then a job, and here we are now over twenty years later and stand-up and comedy is all I really know now, and I am promoting my second national stand-up tour which is still pretty nuts to me. I just wish people still bought videos at Christmas.
- Chris McCausland’s Yonks! tour includes dates at Apex, Bury St Edmunds on February 20 and 21 2024; Marina Theatre, Lowestoft on September 27; Corn Exchange, Kings Lynn on October 11; and Ipswich Regent on October 27.