Daniel Kitson Interview

A better meal for the heart.

As a stand up comedian, Daniel Kitson is savagely funny and confrontingly crude but  he manages to do it in a polite and considered way. It’s a style that obviously works. In just his second appearance at the Melbourne comedy festival, he was boasting sold out performances. Kitson is back in Australia to do it again, but this time around he’s found room in the travel diary to perform in Sydney for the first time as well. Geoff Bartlett spoke with the bearded and bespectacled West Yorkshireman.

Kitson is tucking into lunch at a café on the Opera House walkway whilst he admires the harbour view. He begins to tell me a story but is immediately interrupted by a passing group of teens who ask “Are you that comedy guy?” Kitson nods and is given the thumbs up. As they move on, he mutters “I don’t handle it at all well. This peculiar urge that most human beings have to meet people who’ve been on telly.’”Kitson admits he has heroes of his own but says of them “I don’t really want to meet them. Not because I think it’ll be a disappointment  but I think it’s best to admire things from a certain distance.”

Kitson is already a veteran of the comedy scene. “I did my first gig at 16” he tells me. “There was no heroism in it, I simply thought ‘I’ll do that.’ And my Mum and Dad were ridiculously supportive. We had a careers advice meeting  at school and the deputy head said ‘So, Daniel, what do you want to do?’ And I said ‘I’m going to be a comedian.’ And he looked at my Mum and Dad in a way that said ‘I assume you’ve told him this isn’t a viable option?’ But they said ‘Yep, that’s what he wants to do.’ They just wanted me to be happy.”

Kitson’s style is one where he revels in supposed self aggrandisement and mock arrogance. But he’s also earned a reputation for being wickedly good at dealing with hecklers. When I mention the subject, he shrugs it off, saying “You get to the point where you’ve heard it all before. I’m bored with it. It’s like someone saying to a chef ‘You’re really good at the washing up, aren’t you.’ That’s only because it’s what you have to do in order to be good at the cooking. But it’s not what you should be focusing on. I’d rather do stuff that I think has some sort of hermetically sealed quality to it, that’ll stand up beyond the moment. I far prefer melancholy to out and out hilarity. It’s more substantial. It’s a better meal for the heart.”

Much of the material Kitson comes up with is channelled from his own experiences, but he confesses that even his favourite stories rarely remain in his repertoire for long. “I can’t do them for too long. The first couple of times I did stuff about my grandmother’s funeral, I was shivering with emotion and my voice was going a bit weird. It’s an amazing thing to have these confused thoughts and feelings and talk about it on stage and have it become really funny and really powerful. But as soon as it feels like it’s becoming a bit of material and involving the contrivances of stage work, I’ll stop doing it. Because to me, it feels a bit disingenuous to do stuff that claims to have an emotional weight that’s no longer there.”

With our time at an end, Kitson scans my notes from the other side of the table and spies something that captures his fancy. “A better meal for the heart” he reads aloud, slowly savouring it. “That’s the first time I’ve ever said that.” Kitson leans back with a glint in his eye. “Fucking genius, that.”

This piece first appeared in Drum Media in 2004.

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