Andy Kind: preaching with punchlines
Comedian Andy Kind has made thousands laugh with his chirpy stand-up over the last 15 years. Russ Bravo chats to him about the hard graft of the comedy circuit, being a Christian in the entertainment world … and why preaching is now his passion
Andy, remind the INSPIRE readers when and how you got into comedy and standup in the first place? What were you doing before?
I wasn't doing anything before that – it's the only job I've ever had really. I started in January 2005, having done French at Uni. Comedy is the only thing I've ever really wanted to do, and the idea of a normal job filled (and still fills) me with utter horror.
What were the hard lessons you learned on the comedy circuit in the first few years?
Within your first 10 gigs, you realise that you're not the prodigy that you thought you were. You are then faced with a choice: work your way up from the bottom, or give up and spend the rest of your life pretending that you could have made it. Most of us live in the conditional tense.
How has the comedy world evolved and changed since you started?
Well, the money offered hasn't changed in 15 years, but there are about 10 times as many people trying to do it! It felt pretty crowded when I started – now it's totally, utterly saturated. I think the standard is genuinely higher now, and the outlook of the average comedian has gradually shifted to that of a more geeky, Beta-male. As a comedian said to me the other day, 'everyone's very good and everyone's the same’.
You've always been pretty up front about the fact you're a Christian - how has that helped you or hindered you in your comedy career?
In general it's helped, in that it's provided a niche where almost nobody else is operating. I've essentially been paid to work for the church for the last 10 years! But it has meant that I've been overlooked by bookers on the circuit at times. Nobody is neutral, everyone has a worldview, an agenda, and their own preferences and prejudices. But I've never felt that bothered by stuff like that. As persecution goes, it's incredibly mild!
You must have played hundreds if not thousands of church gigs over the years. What have been the high points and the low points?
I've played over a thousand I think, yes. The high points have always been the gigs where people leave having been blown away by how good a night they've had – and when they then are more open to linking in with that church community. Fortunately, that's most nights! The low points are when you turn up and see that the night is set up for you to fail. The bad gigs tend to be bad before you've even set foot onstage. I send out a list of guidelines for people to follow, and when they don't it can be quite harrowing. Comedy is all about context. If it was simply a case of 'if you're funny, you're funny' then I would be able to perform at bus stops or in supermarkets and get huge laughs from onlookers.
In the last seven years you've had three books published – were you ever tempted to quit performance and make a go of writing full time?
Yes. And then I worked out the number of books I'd need to shift in order to be able to do that. So I still perform! But anyway, there's nothing quite like the adrenalin and instant gratification of being on stage in a live performance environment.
You're now looking for opportunities to preach as much as you are to entertain a comedy crowd – what has led to this shift of emphasis? Can you combine the two?
I just love preaching the Gospel. Comedy, as it turns out, has been my support act. But I think that I've also gone as far as I can doing just comedy. You can make someone laugh and in two weeks they won't remember anything you said, and in two years they won't even remember your name.
However, when you preach the Gospel you can have an eternal impact on people's lives. That's what I want to do for the rest of my life. I'm still using comedy when I'm preaching, but comedy is now the vehicle and not the destination. My upcoming tour 'Hidden in Plain Sight' is an attempt to do something with two natures – fully comedic and a propel Gospel presentation. I'll be touring different churches with this tour from Christmas this year.
Is comedy a viable currency for Christians and churches in getting through to an increasingly secularised society?
It depends what the aim is. It's a great way of getting people in and making church seem normal, building relationships etc. But comedy itself as a concept doesn't reach people. Faith comes through hearing, and so there has to be a point where people here a message that is better than the messages they're getting from the outside world. That's why I'm primarily a preacher now. I love making people laugh. But even more than that, I love not leaving them alone after that – but instead telling them a better story – one that may have been hidden in plain sight their whole lives.
To finish: what's the funniest thing that's happened to you since you became a comedian?
I once turned up at the wrong venue, but they were actually expecting someone called Andy and so showed me through. It transpired that it was a youth theatre event, and 'Andy' was giving a thank you speech. I managed to work this all out before I had to talk on behalf of the Arts Council. I bravely escaped through a fire exit and found my official venue further down the same road!
HOW TO BOOK ANDY
Andy welcomes bookings for his new show Hidden In Plain Sight. You can contact him on: