Leeds comedian Ben Randm explains why the world is ready for the message behind his punchlines
Ben Randm is a comedian, presenter, DJ and all-round entertainer. As he hits the road for the first time in 18 months, he tells Abbey Maclure about the message behind his punchlines.
Racism, gender identity and male suicide prevention are not topics you'd expect to come up in a comedy show.
But Ben Randm is no ordinary comedian; he's determined to use his platform to bring a deeper message to the masses, as well as promising a barrel of laughs.
The stand-up artist, presenter and all-round entertainer, real name Ben Brown, shunned the traditional comedy circuits, instead coming up through his own comedy nights in Leeds.
His raw style of comedy sees him lay out his life struggles, taking his audience through a journey of laughter and poignant reflection.
“I believe there are three elements to comedy," Ben told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"You need to understand the science, the art and the magic. The science is the structuring, things that help the set like the rule of three and pacing. The art is the construction of the set. And the magic is being in the moment.
“I feel like a lot of comedians only have two of the three, but I really believe I have all three elements.”
Ben took his debut tour to Australia and has performed at the UK's biggest festivals, as well as presenting for platforms including the Premier League, MTV and Red Bull.
He wants to show aspiring comedians that there are more routes into the industry than performing short gigs across the country, taking their career into their own hands.
The 38-year-old said: “Breaking into comedy doesn’t have to be done in the traditional way - doing the circuits.
"It’s expensive, you don’t get paid as well and if you have a job it takes a real commitment to drive to places like Birmingham or Northampton to do a 10-15 minute set.
“I prefer to be on stage for a longer time, so I launched my own night S**ts and Giggles at the former Hearst's Yard, where I encouraged comedians to perform longer sets."
As the world feels the lasting effects of the pandemic, as well as being confronted by racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd, Ben said there is a newfound appetite for his comedy-with-a-message.
The medium of comedy allows Ben to confront issues that often get avoided in conversations, hoping to subtly change people's points of view.
“It’s in the skill of the writing, because it is a comedy show," Ben added.
"You don’t want to lose people or mislead them; they’re coming to be entertained.
"It’s like a slalom - I’ll start with something really funny, then take them down a trip that’s deep, in the middle of the deepness there’s a joke that comes through to cut that tension, then it goes back to being funny.
“We’re in a world where political correctness puts added pressure on how we’re expected to respond to things. Stand-up comedy is a platform to say anything on stage. But if you’re going to say something, you need to understand the responsibility of what you’re saying - and be able to back it up.
“There’s a lot of research, facts and societal issues that I’ll go at. Because in that domain, everyone can understand it. The material itself will be really funny and highlight the ludicrousness of certain situations.”
Ben has been back on the road this month, performing a revised version of his sold-out debut tour Tales of the Universe at Duke Studios and Brudenell Social Club in Leeds - and he'll perform an extra show at Duke Studios on November 9.
It was "bizarre" to be back on stage, but the last 18 months has allowed Ben to reflect on his message, adding new material that he believes the world is now ready to hear.
He kept busy over lockdowns creating a comedy film, hosting Instagram talk show Loose Lips and preparing for a new tour which he'll premiere across the UK in February.
“It was like hibernating," Ben said.
"The show I’d written was already touching on elements of topics I wanted to speak about, but I didn’t think society was ready for me to go as deep as I wanted.
“Coming out of the pandemic, everyone needs a laugh, a release and that connection. Comedy is such an important art form and it helped to save my life, so for me it’s sacred.”
Ben's breakout tour, Tales of the Universe, took him to Australia in 2019 where he received a standing ovation from a crowd in Sydney.
“It was mad," Ben said.
"I wrote a show and took it to the other side of the world. It shows people can look at other ways into the industry, not just the circuit route.
"I have aspirations that it could be on Netflix and I wanted to find out if it serves a world audience. And it does.
“It was very humbling to see that my material can stretch that far and that its message can be received by people across the world, and to get those numbers in a place where I’d never been.”
Finding a rhythm
Ben says comedy has saved his life, providing a form of therapy as he makes light of his personal struggles to a room full of people.
That might sound like a daunting prospect, but Ben urges everyone to try it.
He said: "There’s something really cathartic about releasing the burden of your mind to a room full of strangers and being able to laugh at that collectively.
"It really dissolves the ego and it’s an amazing release.
“It helps you to develop your self-confidence as well. You’re not going on stage to be accepted or make people laugh, you’re going on there to share your views - and everything else is a bonus."
Ben developed his style of comedy by taking inspiration from artists he looked up to, taking the "conscious awareness" of Dave Chappelle, a "love of language" from Noel Fielding and tying up his shows in an accessible way, like the late Sean Lock.
He advised aspiring comedians to watch as much comedy as they can to develop their own voice.
"Enjoy the process of writing, fall in love with it and find your style," Ben added.
"Don’t put a time limit on when you think you should 'make it', just keep creating and make your own path.
“And don’t worry about being s**t. Too many people put pressure on themselves, wanting to be amazing straight away.
"Just know you’re getting better with every performance and you’ll find your rhythm.”
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