Comedian Stephen Bailey heads to Manchester
- Credit: Archant
Stephen Bailey is coming to Manchester this month with his new stand-up tour, but alongside the comedy, he’s bringing some important issues to the main stage too
If Stephen Bailey isn't already on your radar, he needs to be. For one thing, he's born and bred in Denton, and he is fiercely proud of his roots. 'From growing up here, you realise that there's so much heart and such a huge sense of community. You always felt looked after,' he remembers fondly. And for another thing, Stephen is offering a kind of comedy that is refreshingly different to the one that has historically dominated the biggest stages: as he says, he's camp, he's northern and he tells dirty jokes, 'but that doesn't mean you get to put me in a box,' he adds. 'I'm more than just one thing.'
The wonderfully named 'Can't Be Bothered' will be his third solo tour, and it's stopping off in Manchester with a performance at The Lowry in February and at Bury's The Met in March. Audiences should expect the same outrageous quips that Stephen has come to be known for, but this time he'll be using his platform to vocalise the matters that are important to him. 'On stage, I think I'm the "me" that I'm not brave enough to be in real life,' he reflects. 'I do not like conflict, I do not like confrontation, but on stage I literally challenge people to pick a fight with me and I will win!' The tour will discuss all that's going on in the world around us, but Stephen will also raise the issue of the pressure within our society to have an opinion on absolutely everything. 'Everyone is just waiting to be offended. I recycle, I try not to use fast fashion, I do a lot for LGBT rights, but then people will say things like "Oh you're not doing enough for veganism and feminism",' he laments. The tour will bring these matters to the forefront, with a healthy dose of laughs thrown in for good measure.
Getting to where he is now hasn't been the easiest of rides. Stephen points out that, unlike many others, he didn't have access to drama schools or local theatres when he was growing up. 'There's not really anywhere in Denton where you can go to just do some acting, so my very first time performing was when I was 24 in London,' he explains. This lack of access to the arts world, especially for those living in working class communities, is something that Stephen is now passionate about changing. 'I've just taken over as President of Hyde Festival Theatre, which is exciting,' he says. In order to ensure The Festival Theatre continues to stay open for young people to benefit, Stephen is working to put on a packed calendar of events to make sure the money continues to come in.
Also unlike some of his contemporaries, Stephen wasn't pushed to pursue a career in the arts as a child; instead he was encouraged to get a 'proper' job, resulting in him going down various avenues such as working on the tills in Sainsbury's in Denton before going into HR. 'I think, like most people, I didn't really know what I wanted from life,' he reasons, but one thing he did know was that he wanted to be on TV. Whilst working in the magazine industry, he reached out to the likes of MTV and was able to secure some work experience. 'Slowly, slowly, it grew. I became a production secretary and worked behind the scenes on The Wright Stuff and T4.' However, work behind the scenes didn't quite cut it for Stephen and he had hopes of breaking into the world of presenting. 'But then you meet someone as good looking as Steve Jones or Rick Edwards, and it's like "well I either need a new face or a new body, or I need to develop a new skillset",' he laughs. 'Everyone said that I should think about comedy because I was just so ridiculous and unprofessional!'
From there he took part in a comedy writing course, and the rest, as they say, is history. It wasn't always plain sailing, with numerous rocky gigs in the early days - including a performance that involved Stephen falling flat on his face in front of the audience. But now, with multiple smash-hit solo tours to his name, it seems that Stephen has cracked it. He's also broken into the world of TV, with the likes of Live at the Apollo, Celebs on the Farm and Celebrity Coach Trip all on his CV. However, whilst being an incredible experience, doing TV alongside stand-up is a necessity for Stephen. 'Being on TV gets people to see you, which then sells tickets for gigs, and TV pays better too. Aside from some venues, comedy often doesn't pay well,' he comments.
But as Stephen's career goes from strength to strength, there's no doubt that his heart remains in Manchester and he's looking forward to bringing his tour here. 'The audiences will get all the turns of phrases and the nuances,' he smiles. 'I think that northern people are generally just a bit more welcoming. The attitude here is "we're going to have a good time, no matter what".' And if my afternoon chatting to Stephen is anything to go by, audiences are going to have just that...
Stephen Bailey will perform his 'Can't Be Bothered' tour at The Lowry on 13 February, and The Met on 28 March. Find out more at stephenbaileycomedy.co.uk