Comedian Martin Chidgey is somewhat of a cult figure to a select few in Southampton, but he’s gathering a few followers elsewhere and may well spread across the country. To others, he may well be the worst comedian they will ever see. Martin’s rather unorthodox approach to stand-up involves him going on stage wearing dark glasses with a clipboard to read his jokes from (“as my memory is really bad”, he explains in his ComedyCV biography), with no deliberate emphasis or timing. Whether or not his jokes make sense isn’t a concern either. Here is a video of him in action.
But while a portion of the audience is perplexed, embarrassed, or even irritated watching him perform, to the rest he’s fall-down-on-the-floor hilarious. “I want to study him; he’s an enigma”, said one anonymous forum poster; “It’s like he’s missing a gene to tell jokes… yet paradoxically he gets quite a lot of proper laughs from his lame attempts.”
At 39 and currently living in Bristol, last year he graduated from Southampton Solent University with a degree in Comedy: Writing and Performance. However, his presence there is very much missed, with new students disappointed that he’s no longer there, wondering where ‘The Chidge’ has gone. Despite it being only his fifth gig, his filmed performance in the 2010 Chortle Student Comedian competition managed to make it into their best-of compilation video. He continues performing, and recently took the time to answer a few questions I had.
What made you want to become a comedian?
When an audience laugh at a joke I create and I get great feedback from people after gigs, it means everything to me. Also, discovering I now have fans just from watching videos of mine has helped me believe I can do comedy, and to never give up on your dreams.
Why did you choose to do a comedy course at Solent as an entry into the business?
Southampton Solent University was the only university doing a comedy degree at the time, and I also thought studying comedy full-time would help me know for sure if I could become a comedian.
How did your style come about? Is it done intentionally?
This is an anti-comedy character with an awkward style, which I developed to help me get started in comedy.
Were you surprised at how well you did in last year’s Chortle competition?
Yes, and it was great to have validation from a well-respected comedy organisation such as Chortle.
Who are some of your favourite comics, either working today or not?
Steve Martin, Andy Kaufman, Norm MacDonald and Tommy Cooper are artists who have incorporated anti-comedy in their acts. I also love Richard Pryor, Mickey Flanagan and Louis C.K.
What do you have planned next? I heard you wanted to go on Britain’s Got Talent.
I will move to London once I get a day job then do more comedy gigs and competitions, so hopefully within five years I will be able to develop into an even better comedy act so I can get noticed by comedy agents and become a professional comedian.