Tuesday 21 August 2012 | By Chris Cooke
Chris McCausland: Shattering expectations
Chris McCausland has a pretty good record of pleasing ThreeWeeks reviewers, so it seemed like it was time to throw some questions in his general direction…
CC: Let’s start at the start, remind us how you changed careers from computing to comedy?
CM: I used to be a web site developer but my eyesight got worse and worse and the websites just got uglier and uglier. I decided that nobody wanted an ugly website and so made the decision to get out of IT completely. I ended up working in a call centre for a while just until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and it was while I was there that I dared myself to give stand-up comedy a go… and here we are nine years later!
CC: This is your fourth consecutive year at the Fringe – what persuades you back each time?
CM: I get bored very easily, especially if I can’t see progression with what I am doing and committing to do the Festival each year is a good way of pushing yourself professionally. Not only does it give you a deadline to work towards each year in terms of writing new material, but I think that the process also improves you as a comic.
CC: Tell us about ‘Not Blind Enough’.
CM: The show is basically a response to the suggestion that for a comic who is blind, my comedy is not ‘blind enough’. I have always avoided making my disability the focus of my comedy, instead favouring to make it a small detail that makes what I do a little bit different. This show is also about how I got into comedy and my thoughts about how and why it works… or doesn’t.
CC: Why focus more on your blindness now?
CM: On the back of three shows that only occasionally referenced my blindness, I thought that now would be a good time to do a show where it was the focus, but not in the way that people would expect. I wanted to do a show about why making my blindness the focus of my comedy would be an awfully boring, predictable and clichéd idea. Next year I’ll probably be back with something totally random again.
CC: You also talk about the upcoming Paralympics – is that an issue you feel strongly about?
CM: Yes, I am not a fan of the Paralympics, if anything I would say that I am anti-Paralympics. I think that in today’s society where people with disabilities are striving to compete in the mainstream in things they can do properly, the Paralympics actually sends out a very negative and harmful message that disabled people should be doing disabled things, and more often than not at a more substandard level to the norm. I think it lowers peoples expectations of those with disabilities and is well past it’s sell-by-date, to be honest.
CC: You originally performed as part of the Free Festival – how is the Fringe experience different when you perform free shows versus performing at a venue like the Pleasance?
CM: Personally I prefer playing at the Pleasance and being part of the paying festival, but appreciate that the free festival strands also have their place, it just wasn’t for me. I prefer audiences to buy into the idea that I am selling as, with any comedy gig, I think it makes them more committed to the show.
CC: Do you share any of the concerns expressed by some comedians this year regarding the dominance of the more commercial venues at the Fringe?
CM: Yes, there are larger venues and also free alternatives taking thousands of punters off the streets each night. I think that the lesser known performers at paying venues are definitely suffering because of this. Something needs to be done to bring the cost of staging a show at the Festival down, so that these performers, like myself, can reduce the cost of our tickets during the week to make our shows a competitive option to the big names. Under its current model I think that the Festival is not sustainable.
CC: Some of our very young readers (well, more likely readers who own some little people) will recognise you from the CBeebies show ‘Me Too!’. Would you consider doing a kids show the Festival?
CM: I don’t think doing a kids show at the Festival is for me, really. I enjoyed making the TV show and would certainly consider something like that again in the future, but in terms of a live show, I think I’ll just stick to my stand-up. Not sure if I’d trust myself enough not to swear!
CC: Have you managed to see many other shows this Festival? Any stand outs?
CM: I really liked Chris Difford’s show with Norman Lovett at the Gilded Balloon. On paper I don’t know how they ever thought it would work really, but it does, I loved it. Also Erich McElroy has got a great stand-up show on in the afternoon at the Pleasance Courtyard called ‘The Brit Identity’, I highly recommend trying to see that if you can.
CC: And finally, what are your plans post-Fringe?
CM: Well, I got married three days before heading up here for the month, so really this Festival has been my honeymoon… on my own! When I get back I think we need to look at going on a proper one, maybe together this time.
Chris McCausland performed ‘Not Blind Enough’ at Pleasance Courtyard at Fringe 2012.
Photo: Stuart Armitt