Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges on his Kiwi connections and harshest heckle
Scottish comedian Kevin Bridges has never been to New Zealand before - he's touring here from September 25-30 - but despite growing up on the other side of the world, he's not unfamiliar with the place.
He's got a mate who lives in Christchurch, one of his favourite movies is Once Were Warriors, and seeing Jonah Lomu in action at the age of nine convinced him to take up rugby - for a couple of years at least. (Not bad considering his bedroom walls had previously been adorned with nothing but Celtic football posters).
Asked for his top bit of New Zealand trivia, he proffers the fact that the only guy from his hometown - Clydebank, near Glasgow - to have played in a football World Cup is actually a Kiwi.
"He grew up in the same town as me - Michael McGlinchey," says Bridges. "Maybe that's a personal fact. He went to school in Clydebank, same as me - different school but same area."
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"He played for Celtic, then moved to New Zealand. I think his parents are Kiwis or whatever [McGlinchey was actually born here before moving to Scotland at the age of one], and he got pulled into the New Zealand squad - so he's the only guy from my hometown that's played in a World Cup. That's a fact."
On the phone from his home city of Glasgow, Bridges is out walking his five-year-old labrador Annie early on a Monday morning when I get to talk to him.
"Give me two minutes," he says, in a surprisingly thick Glaswegian accent. "I just need to get onto the pavement here - my dog's refusing to move in the middle of the road."
Bridges has a show on that night - testing out new material with a warm-up gig at a small local comedy club ahead of a tour that will take him through Australia and New Zealand before moving on to Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Bridges has been touring internationally for years - 'Scotland's biggest comedy export' they call him. That's no idle PR boast either - Billy Connolly himself once described the 30-year-old comic as "brilliant", and Bridges' first comedy DVD went on to out-sell both Connolly's and fellow Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle's.
Picking up his first gig at the age of 17 after a 2am email to The Stand Comedy Club, Bridges guesses he's done some 2000-odd gigs over the past 13 years - and reckons that if someone were to remind him of a specific one, he'd be able to remember it too.
His biggest gig to date was at The Hydro in Glasgow, in front of 12,000 paying customers. His smallest was as a teenager, for three people in a pub who had just wandered in for a pint.
"The bar manager insisted the show went ahead - so I had to get up and perform 10 minutes of stand-up to three people," remembers Bridges.
He still considers it a success of sorts. "I think I made two of them laugh. So 66.6 per cent of the audience loved it. Even with the sound of two people laughing though, it's not exactly a fulfilling, hairs on the back of your neck experience. But they're the kind of gigs that you learn so much from really."
Speaking of learning experiences, the time he performed at a high-security prison for long-term inmates surely has to be up there.
"Some guy got up about 10 minutes into the set and just went back to his cell!" laughs Bridges. "I thought that was quite funny - rather than listen to me he just went back to finish his life sentence. That's about as harsh a heckle as it gets you know?"
Unamused inmates aside, Bridges says he doesn't often have to deal with real hecklers - although fellow Scots abroad can be a bit of a problem sometimes.
"Usually I don't get heckled - people just shout my name or shout out my old jokes. I think I'm the only comedian that gets heckled with his own jokes. It's a bit like, how do you come back to your own line, y'know what I mean? And that gets a bit annoying."
"But usually the crowds are alright. I get a lot of Scottish people when I travel. Australia, Dubai, America or wherever else - there's always Scottish people in the audience that want to tell you whereabouts in Scotland they're from, or want to let you know they know your cousin or something."
"That's actually a nice thing though, cos I definitely get a bit homesick or nostalgic for Scotland."
Kevin Bridges New Zealand Tour
Sep 25 - Christchurch's Horncastle Arena
Sep 26 - Dunedin's Regent Theatre
Sep 27-28 - Auckland's ASB Theatre (first date sold out)
Sep 30 - Wellington's Michael Fowler Centre