'A man walks into a bar': Comedian Seann Walsh on the dangers of mixing alcohol and stand-up

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Comedy and booze go together, says stand-up Seann Walsh. Good gig? Celebrate with a drink. Bad gig? Consolation tipple. The trouble is stopping at just the one – he once drank so much he collapsed on stage. So when do the hangovers stop being funny?

I'm 27, and I've realised I have to become an adult. The turning point came with a knock at my door. There was nobody there. Someone had done knock-down-ginger on me. I was always the one who did knock-down-ginger.

I've always liked to drink and talk about it on stage, but I moved to London from Brighton last year to try to get away from the person I was.

I was in a bubble. Brighton is the sort of place where everyone is aspiring but nobody is doing. My friends would call themselves film-makers, but all they were doing was getting drunk.

I decided to try to join the real world. I've been failing miserably. I thought if I was living on my own I'd have fewer nights out – but there's always someone calling to say, "Let's have a drink."

The first time I got drunk, I was about 15. I was on holiday in Spain and had too much vodka; I had to have my stomach pumped. I didn't drink for ages after that, and I still can't go near vodka. Guinness and red wine are my favourites now.

Comedy and alcohol go together. If you have a great gig, you drink to celebrate. If you have a stinker, you drink to get over it. But I think the reason anyone drinks is that it gives you the unexpected. Every night is an adventure; you get good stories out of it. For instance, when I was up in Edinburgh five years ago, I appeared on Mock the Week for the first time. That night, I couldn't get into my flat and had to sleep in the street using bin bags as pillows. In the morning, people were having to step over me to get to work and going, "Isn't that the bloke from Mock the Week?"

The first time I did a solo show in Edinburgh, four years ago, I had a panic attack on stage. I'd always wanted to do comedy, but there was too much stress. If you had a bad gig, there was no time to recover from it, and the next night you'd have another bad gig. I'd been smoking and drinking coffee all day, and it was drink, drink, drink after each show, and that was bound to have repercussions. For some reason I walked on stage and started at the wrong point in my act. I skipped the first 10 minutes and I couldn't get back. I couldn't breathe and I had a strange feeling in my teeth and I thought I was going to die. Then I just collapsed, I fell to the floor; the show had to stop and people had to leave.

I still get nerves. I can't tell you the number of times I've thought of jumping on a plane to Dublin and hiding in a pub and not going to Edinburgh. Or just hiding in bed.

Last year I tried to stay a bit healthier to get through the Festival, but in Edinburgh, there are so many bars to go to, so many people to bump into.

I don't end up slurring, I don't fall over. I sing and dance. I'm one of those people you hear singing Oasis outside your window when you're trying to sleep. I don't lose things, just friends. In the morning, my phone is full of texts saying, "Where are you?"

I still have big sessions in the evening when I know I've got the next day off, but I don't drink before a show because I know I could never stop at one. Some comedians think they're funnier when they've had a drink, but I don't think I am.

There are comedians whose careers have been ruined by drink, but I think the real problem is when it is a combination of drink and drugs. Everyone in the business knows about talented people who looked like they were going to be big, then blew it.

I've always had terrible hangovers. The worst was when I fell asleep with my head on a hot radiator. One night I had a really bad hangover and every time I tried to eat, I threw up. I ended up doing my show with only half a banana in my system, but actually it was a great gig. Maybe I should do that more often.

I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't doing comedy. I didn't pay attention in school, I got kicked out of college. I went through a phase when I could have got into more trouble. I don't think I'd have been a dealer, I don't think that would've happened – but I definitely would have had six kids! I can't say if I'll still be doing it in 10 or 20 years' time. I love comedy, but I'd like maybe to direct. And I think I'll be drinking less. When you're doing TV, you often work office hours and I can't do it with a hangover, so the drinking can't go on forever.

In fact, lately I've started exercising to sort myself out. It's not like Rocky, but you can't just turn up and do a gig. I noticed the bags under my eyes weren't going so quickly, and I was getting knackered after eating a baguette. Playing football used to wear me out. Now it's baguettes.

When I was a kid, Jim Carrey inspired me to get into comedy. At one point, I could do everything he could, like move my eyebrows independently. I practised in front of the mirror for ages. But you get older and it's not cool to do Jim Carrey impressions; it's cooler to drink and smoke. I wish I'd stuck with the eyebrows.

As told to Bruce Dessau

Seann Walsh's new show, 'The Lie-In King', about trying to turn his life around, is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 9.20pm until 25 August. He will record his debut DVD in a double-header with Josh Widdicombe at the Hammersmith Apollo on 26 September

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine