An interview with Richard Wheatley
by Alexandra Mackie
As my dad told me, jealousy is the only sin that is no fun to commit. This came to mind as I found myself having a reunion with the comedian Richard Wheatley, who I met in my school years attending New Worcester College for the blind. And with lots of hard work and natural comic timing, Richard’s career is going from strength to strength. He performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year and I was keen to find out how he found the experience. Richard’s short response was that it was “amazing”… below is Richard’s long response!
“One of the best in my life.
Seriously, I loved it so much!
There were bad points, like standing around on the streets trying to hand out flyers in the rain while everyone in the street just wanted to get home. But most of it was fantastic. Being able to perform that much meant I could develop way more than I would in London.
Before I went up to Edinburgh I had done 30 gigs in 9 months. In Edinburgh I did 47 gigs in 27 days, most were 45 minute solo shows and the rest were 15 to 20 minutes as part of a stand up show with two friends. I learnt so much about myself and my performing style and it turns out my performing style is having fun on stage!
I chat to the audience, I randomly remember funny stories and tell them as I remember. I respond to hecklers and just have fun. Audiences then tend to catch the fun and come with me.
Sorry, I’ve gone on a bit. It was amazing.”
I asked Richard what made him want to get into comedy?
It turned out that comedy was Richard’s first love and his grounded disposition has turned this ambition into a reality. Richard admits to listening to comedies such as ‘Hancock’s Hour’ and ‘Round the Horn’ since his first gift of a radio at seven years old. It was the programme ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ that cemented his wish to be a comedian.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that VICTA played an unknowing hand in Richard’s fate. While on a VICTA activity trip he made friends with a fellow comedy lover. They arranged a comedy night meet-up but unfortunately her guide dog had an accident and so consequently he had a date but no one to share it with.
Richard, being very practically minded, obviously did not expect this evening to change his life for the better and had already, in his words “planned to make his ‘millions’ as a financial accountant, lawyer or something else that would that would allow him to use his intellect.”
Richard had dreams which he placed on the back burner. His biggest ones were to be a children’s entertainer, mathematician or scientist. Richard showed humility in recognising the statistical likelihood of his dreams becoming reality were low but admirably he kept his ambition and at the end of that comedy night, asked the comedians as they were packing up how he should go about becoming a comedian.
Their advice was to attend a comedy course. Richard’s resolve was to stand up and perform, completing his first gig before the course had even finished.
I wondered whether or not being able to see his audience affected Richard’s stand-up routine.
Richard explained that he loves performing comedy because you don’t need to be able to see but expressed disappointment at not being able to use some of the visual comedic cues that the audience could provide him with. Cues such as a particularly colourful shirt or a funny hat that may have been useful talking points.
Richard’s keen awareness of his inability to join in on certain aspects of human interaction however offers its own different slant. The individual laughs he hears within the audience helps him gauge the comedic topic of choice in order to interact on a more intimate level. This helps in creating a memorable performance that encourages people to come again to see this self-described ‘over confident energetic and friendly’ person.
Since I heard that he was overconfident and keen to chat, I thought the best way to show case his talent was to ask him a few rapid fire questions on hot topics.
How do you feel about…
I was never a massive fan of our school dinners, but I loved the German system when I went on an exchange trip.
There was no choice, everyone got the same meal delivered to them at the tables. Then once per week there was a vegetarian meal. Just to keep the wolf from the door, you know. One meal a week is all the vegetarians needed.
Then, when I was there I found out what they counted as a vegetarian meal.
Pancakes with sugar…
Followed by the pudding.
I loved that they were trying to accommodate vegetarians but they just had no concept of how to deal with people who didn’t eat meat.
Vegan sausage rolls?
I frankly don’t care if they are vegetarian, piscatorial or vegan.
So long as they end up in my sausage roll the pigs can eat what they like.
Dunking biscuits in tea?
I don’t do hot drinks so I don’t have much to say about dunking biscuits.
But if you put a giant mug on a wall, 10 feet up, then give the biscuit to LeBron James
Then I would definitely take an interest in slam dunking biscuits.
Calling a guide dog fluffy bottom?
Well I was bored and I had the fake beards in my pocket.
He dropped all charges so I think he saw the funny side.
Seriously, has someone got a guide dog called fluffy bottom?
The only proper way to end a birthday party.
Why don’t they ever question where the music is coming from? They hear music and just start singing! If I heard that I would probably start banging on the wall asking the neighbours to turn it down.
And as for when I see a grown man dancing with a group of children and orange men and singing about entering his chocolate factory…
Knock knock jokes?
So last century, we’ve all got door bells now.
If you could be any animal would you be and why?
A dog, probably a Labrador.
I get to cuddle people without a valid excuse, eat everything in sight, chase anything that moves and sleep in front of the fire.
Everything I’m not allowed to do because I’m a modern man.
Who are your comedy heroes?
Barry Crier, Ross noble, John Oliver, Jon Finnemore and Michael McIntyre.
What makes you unique as a comedian?
I’m Britain’s funniest blind physicist turned award-winning news reader and stand up with a blue peter badge… well definitely top three.
So if you want to see Richard in action but not heckle him, you can catch him in stand-up here:
- Every Thursday at the Good Intent, 24 East Street, London SE17 2DN.
Richard hosts an open Mike night called Funny Box Live
- 10th, 11th and 31st of May and the 1st of June, Richard will be performing his Brighton fringe show at the Quadrant, in Brighton, ‘Richard Wheatley is Blindingly Obvious’.
- For any further show times and dates please visit his home page at: richardwheatleycomedy.com
- Tweet Richard at @rwheatleycomedy
Written by Alexandra Mackie