The outsider comedy of Jordan Brookes explores the darker areas of his own life and breaks with convention wherever possible. But has his recent fame changed how he sees himself? Elin Evans finds out.
A big part of your comedy is about self-deprecation, but over the past couple of years you seem to be winning all of the awards! Has the way you view yourself as a comedian changed at all?
Not at all – any sensible person would view success and a higher profile as the poisoned chalice that it is. More people having heard of me doesn’t stop me feeling like a piece of shit, and nor should it – fame is not a medicine and we would all be best advised to stop treating it as such.
You’re willing to take your audience to some quite personal places in your comedy, and clearly people really connect with what you’re saying. Do you find writing and performing more cathartic than watching someone else do it?
I think it’s about the same. Though perhaps marginally I prefer to watch someone else do it because as a viewer you get the safety of second-hand feelings. You get to walk away at the end. When you’re performing, you’re having to really inhabit that personal place and it can be a bit more stressful. But I love that people can connect with it and it makes me feel less alone and I hope it does the same for audiences. Any response is valid though. People can hate it, as long as they’ve been present for it, engaged with it, given consideration to how they feel about it.
Why do you think comedy is such a good vehicle for talking about these darker subjects?
No one likes to be beaten round the head with harsh truths. Comedy is perfect for Trojan-horsing that stuff in.
Your last show Bleed was really hi-tech, but there must have been restrictions on how spontaneous the show could be, whereas I’ve heard that I’ve Got Nothing will be partially improvised. Do you have a preference for the kind of format your show takes?
I like all the shows I’ve done and have always followed my impulses and been proud of the result. At the time of Bleed, I wanted to do a show about control and so being restricted by the concept was frustrating but made sense for what the show was exploring. I think I’m definitely, ultimately, at my happiest when I’m not trapped on the rails of a show though. I like the spontaneity and the thrill of thinking, “How the hell am going to make this funny?” I think audiences prefer and respond to that stuff better too.
You studied animation at university. Do you think you would ever take a break from performing live to do something in more in that vein?
I’d love to – I think live performance is where I’ll always focus my attention, but I’d definitely love to make more stuff. I recently filmed some online shorts for Channel 4 that will be out soon, and I’m really pleased with them. Hopefully, there’ll be more opportunities like that in the future.
Would I be right in saying that it seems that I’ve Got Nothing has been particularly influenced by things happening in the world generally?
Every show I’ve done is a reflection of where I’m at in my life, but I’ve Got Nothing was particularly that. I was at a pretty low ebb and wasn’t sure where to turn or how to untangle myself from the chaos and I think a lot of people connected with that.
Jordan Brookes: I’ve Got Nothing, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Fri 6 Dec. Tickets: £12/£10. Info: 029 2030 4400 / www.chapter.org