'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

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before