LISTEN: Comedian Karl Minns on social media scandals, depression and the future of The Nimmo Twins
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
In a new podcast series, editor David Powles chats with key Norfolk and Suffolk characters about their life in the region. In his first interview he was joined by comedian Karl Minns, best known as one half of The Nimmo Twins and a writer for numerous popular television shows, including Have I Got News For You and Russell Howard's Good News. He is currently appearing at Norwich Playhouse with his much-loved character She Go. He are some of the extracts from the interview.
Karl on... playing live.
It's going really, well and everyone seems to be enjoying it. There's been lovely feedback and it's been wonderful looking out and seeing people in tears of laughter. When you do theatre you only really see the first couple of rows. The problem is that you get to see the people laughing, but invariably you also get to see that the Norfolk character with his arms folded with a face like thunder, who's just looking at his watch. There's always someone who doesn't enjoy it and being a neurotic performer those are the people I tend to go home and fixate on. I have to just accept that I am the kind of person who will always, always focus on what's wrong.
Karl on... becoming the next social media scandal.
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Do I worry about offending someone? I do. Not because I think offence is something to worry about, but more how it affects me. The big difference in comedy now, with say 20 years ago, is if someone came to the show and didn't like you or they didn't like a particular joke, you'd maybe get one angry letter posted to the Playhouse. And now, because of social media, if someone doesn't like the joke, by the interval they can post something. They're acting. Taking a joke out of context. It gets retweeted and suddenly they've got 60, 70, 80, 100 people going, 'Oh, God. I've never liked Karl Minns'. I don't think you can do comedy now without offending someone. Not because comedy has got more offensive, but because the ability to register offence has become so much easier. Al Murray has a very interesting take on this. He says that when people say they're offended by comedy, what they actually mean is they don't get the joke and that's a big difference. But they turn it into offense. It's a nice feeling to feel like you've got the moral high ground. I make my choices based on whether I can justify looking the person in the eye and saying 'I did a joke about you'. But also, I have to look after my mental health. I've dropped certain sketches now because people have complained. I just thought 'you know what I think those jokes are fine, but I can't deal with it'. I'm a fragile soul.
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Karl on... getting into comedy.
I've always loved it (comedy). I'd watch comedy with my Dad and things like Dave Allen, The Two Ronnies and Not The Nine O'Clock News. I remember I had joke books from about five or six and I guess, if you're gonna be psychological about it, I was very, very shy, I was very insecure. My Dad was dying and I guess it was a way of having something that was mine. And also, I found that I was naturally funny. I would say things and people would laugh. That's quite nice. But I wasn't a class clown, I was the very, very quiet class clown. I would say a joke to someone else and they would say that joke and get the laugh. So I was always a writer, I was always writing material for other people.
Karl on... the future.
I can imagine giving it up, but not right now. While the audiences are still there and it still gives people pleasure, I want to carry on doing it. I just have to kind of take big breaks in between and take a little bit time off because it's massively exposing, especially in Norwich. When I play in London, what are the chances of bumping into someone who has been at your gig?
It's the 25th anniversary of the Nimmo's next year so there's been talk of us doing something. It'll be about how the schedules come up and my writing career. I would really like to develop a narrative for TV, write a sitcom or a drama. That's really the next 10 years. And hopefully that's going to happen and I'll get to work with people that are far, far better than me, so that I keep learning and keep becoming a better writer.
Karl on... doing a Creative Matters show about depression. I'm not wishing to be a poster boy for mental health in any way. But having any kind of platform, small though it is, it's important you're not just doing gags. I just thought, I needed to tell people about my upbringing. I'm ready to tell people about my struggles because it is unburdening for me and it might resonate with people in the audience. And it did resonate. We're losing far too many young men, especially here in Norfolk where it can be an isolated environment.
My dad was very ill. He was disabled, so I grew up with my mum having to look after my dad probably more than she looked after me. It wasn't her fault, but that was just the way it went. He got very morbid and depressed. He had MS and he tried to kill himself. And I was about 8, 9, 10 years old and that's profound. When he died it was the curtain coming down on my childhood. It was a very tough time and I've come out of that neurotic, I've come out of that with low self-esteem. I'm not alone in that, but it can make me feel needy, which is not some something I'm proud of. So when my depression comes I try to do good things, I try practical, simple things, like I cut down on my drinking. I exercise. The gym is great. I talk with other people, I do group therapy. Its hard being a writer, because often you're a hostage to work coming in. I'm not in control of the work all the time and when the work doesn't come in you have to just go, 'okay, this is not a reflection of me as a human being'. It's just the way the industry goes and that's why She Go and the Nimmo's are a real lifeboat for me, because I can throw myself into the work and people seem to like it.