When a 23-year-old Chris Ramsey went in for a first meeting with his new management company, they just had one question for him: “So, what do you want to do?”... and the young South Shields comic had no problem giving them a full, rounded and some might say pretty ambitious answer.
“I was already on the circuit and gigging,” says the now 27-year-old. “But I said: ‘I want to do Edinburgh, I want to get a show together and then have my own tour one day; I want to be able to go on panel shows one day; and I’d like to be in a sitcom one day as well please.’
“Somehow I’ve managed to knock all of them out, which I’m pretty pleased about... I should have said I wanted to win an Oscar.”
For anyone not fully acquainted with Chris’ rise to becoming a comic of sell-out (in the good way) proportions, it’s probably useful to take a look at the details of his wishlist.
It was in 2010 when he took his first show up to the Edinburgh Fringe. Aggrophobic saw him make his mark as an engaging (and very smiley) storyteller in the annual comedy Olympics before following it up in 2011 with Offermation - a show which made the coveted Foster Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier) shortlist and gave Chris his first headline tour.
Two have followed since: Feeling Lucky, which was extended and extended again last year; and his current UK-wide meander. More of which later, but safe to say that in terms of live performance, we can certainly say ‘check’. And so to the panel shows.
Whether you’re a fan of just one or all the comedy panel programmes which pepper the TV schedules, you will have doubtless had the pleasure of seeing Chris Ramsey - particularly if you’re partial to a swig of ITV2’s Celebrity Juice, where he is a bit of a regular alongside host Keith Lemon and team captains Holly Willoughby and Fearne Cotton.
“Ah, I love it,” he laughs. “It’s just a total mess around. Loads of people who watch me on Juice come and see me live which is great. I really like going on panel shows, but the best bit about them is when someone says, ‘We saw you on that and we’ve made the effort to get up off the sofa to come and see you live’.”
That’s another tick then... but what of his sitcom dreams? Well, as viewers of BBC2’s Hebburn will well know, Chris plays the leading role of Jack in the comedy, which has enjoyed two series and is currently awaiting a green light for a third.
Written by fellow South Tyneside-bred comic Jason Cook - who has also directed Chris’ Edinburgh efforts in the past and serves as his gag sounding board to boot - the series offered Chris his acting debut, if not any extra material for his stand up.
“It’s quite taxing when you’re filming it. I can’t even think about stand up when I’m doing Hebburn. It’s really weird. Your brain just goes in different directions... whoa, wait a minute... sorry, we’ve had to slow down a bit because some trucker has just blown a tyre.”
I wonder whether ‘trucker’ is a newfound rhyming slang for Chris, to avoid the kind of incident which offered the foundations of his current tour, Chris Ramsey: The Most Dangerous Man on Saturday Morning Television.
Apparently not. It seems a lorry-like vehicle has indeed had a motorway misdemeanor somewhere between Newcastle and Leeds where Chris - who has moved back to his native North East following a stint in Manchester - will perform after our chat.
Nevertheless, the interruption brings us nicely onto his aforementioned tour, and the mishap which inspired it - a repeated use of inappropriate language (and associated image-conjury) on Sky’s knockabout Saturday morning show SoccerAM, resulting in a red card and accompanying third party apology from the sofa. “It was so weird. I didn’t do it on purpose or anything,” he says. “I knew it wasn’t going to be an entirely acceptable thing to say, but I thought it would be a case of ‘hey now, that’s a bit cheeky’... but apparently not.
“Still, I got a tour out of it, so f*** it.”
The said tour kicked off in November and was supposed to come to an end on March 21 with a sell out gig at Newcastle City Hall, where Chris recently joined the stellar Sunday for Sammy cast for their biennial fundraiser. “It was such an honour to be asked to perform with those legends,” he says, referring to the likes of Tim Healy, Kevin Whately, Jill Halfpenny and Denise Welch. “To be honest, it was such a lovely atmosphere, I just treated it like a day off.” Of which there’ll be less than he thought in coming months. The tour now looks like it will stretch into autumn after a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer.
“It has been brilliant. The crowds have just been amazing,” he says. “My old head teacher from Harton Comprehensive School came to see me last night in Harrogate.
“I said to the crowd that this was probably the highlight of my career because at school I was constantly getting in trouble and being told to stop talking... and tonight, my old headmaster has paid money to listen to me talk.
“He came back to see me afterwards. I’m getting to the age now where I realise teachers actually only want the best for you and aren’t actually a bunch of a***holes trying to ruin your life.”
You heard it here first kids.
For up to date tour dates , visit www.chrisramseycomedy.com