Viv Hardwick finds that South Shields stand-up is excited about his big night out in Newcastle and ready to reveal the truth about the worst night of his life in London

‘IT’S crazy,” agrees stand-up Chris Ramsey about a ten-year career which has seen his life transformed from Tyneside open-mic night hopeful to Metro Radio Arena main attraction.

“I literally started at the Dog and Parrot, on a Tuesday night, and after ten years I can walk out of that pub, go straight ahead, turn right and i’m at the arena. It’s taken me ten years to manage a 40 second walk,” jokes the South Shields-born comic.

“The choice to do the arena was kind of difficult because I know I’ve got the energy to do the venue and I know I can fill the space. I also know the crowd and the support in the North-East is incredible. Last year, my DVD was supposed to be filmed in London and the venue found asbestos. I had less than two weeks to find another place, work it all out and get it on sale. We put 2,000 tickets on sale at the Tyne Theatre and it sold out in a couple of days. That’s the kind of support you can get in the North-East,” says Ramsey.

He has no fears about his May 6 visit to the North-East’s biggest venue selling well and gambled that he could produce enough appeal to attract thousands on one night rather than stretch his current tour over several nights at places like the Tyne Theatre of Newcastle City Hall.

“If someone says to you, ‘You ought to be doing the arena’, you don’t reply, ‘I’ll not bother’. My solo shows have included the little room at the Customs House (South Shields), then Northern Stage and Newcastle Theatre Royal. So, I felt I’m ready for the big stepping stone. You’ve still got to be good. They’re not going to come and watch me scratch my backside. They’re going to want to be entertained. The only thing I’m worried about is the audience interaction.

“I do a lot of that during my shows and I’m currently working with a couple of arena tour guys to work out if I’m going to use a camera and a big screen or whatever. I’m going to shout loud enough for everyone to hear, don’t you worry,” Ramsey says.

He recalls watching Disney on Ice as a child at the arena and admits that every time he goes past the building on the train he stares because he can’t believe that he’ll be playing there next month.

Ramsey added actor to his comedy credentials when he took the starring role of Jack Pearson in fellow North-Eat comic’s Jason Cook’s BBC sitcom Hebburn in 2012 and 2013. He confesses that he hasn’t got any more plans to act because his comedy tours have got bigger and bigger.

“Hebburn kind of fell in my lap because it was about an area near where I lived and a dream to do. Stand-up is so much fun and so true and a pure form of entertainment. It doesn’t take that long to do. Filming a sitcom takes forever. I was doing Sunday Brunch on TV and I was with Bob Mortimer and he told me that when he and Vic (Reeves) did House Of Fools they did it like a live show and filming was just 45 minutes. So, I’d do that kind of thing,” Ramsey says.

Besides the usual range of panel shows, he also has his own show on Comedy Central which again appeals to Ramsey because it was shot in front of a live audience. “Even the bits that didn’t make it on to the TV screen were like a live performance. It was all still in the moment and it means that I don’t have to say the same thing about 40 or 50 times. It’s a lot more enjoyable... not that I wouldn’t mind going back to sitcom if someone asked me to do something. I actually do have a couple of ideas, but it’s a matter of getting the time set aside to write a script. It’s such heavy going. Very often I can write a comedy show sketch while I’m working on stage. A proper script that’s drafted and re-drafted I think hats off to people like Jason Cook,” Ramsey says.

His act for Newcastle will feature how his life has changed since he became a father. “The whole thing culminates in me finally spilling the beans about the incident last year when I was arrested in a London Hotel due to mistaken identity. The fans have been dying to know and I nearly did a piece in my TV show, but I kept it for the tour because people love the story and it’s such a gift for a stand-up. You don’t need to embellish anything because it’s the most unbelievable and ridiculous story.

“At the moment it happened I didn’t think about the comedy because it was the most scary thing. I’d just seen a programme on Netflix about a guy who had been in prison for 20 years for a crime he reckoned he didn’t do. I thought, ‘Is that it, am I off to prison now?’ because the police were so sure that I was the guy they wanted. They kept saying, ‘You’re coming with us’. And I’m saying, ‘What have I done?’. Thankfully, it ended up as a fantastic anecdote,” Ramsey says.

He confesses he’s been dining out on the incident at London’s St Pancras Hotel ever since. “I ended up emptying the minibar and room service was free and I’ve got a weekend down there with my wife (Rosie Winter) in a suite when I get round to booking it. I let them know I was very upset,” Ramsey says.

  • Wednesday, May 3. Harrogate Theatre. Box Office: 01423 502116
  • Saturday, May 6: MetroRadio Arena, Newcastle. 0844-493-6666