You might know stand-up comedian/ presenter/ podcast host/ radio presenter Billy Kirkwood’s charming and charismatic brogue from his WestFM morning show, as the voice and compere for the wildly entertaining wrestling phenomenon ICW, host of Monday Night Improv at The Stand, or from various other performances and events. What you’ll have discovered, no matter where, is that he’s an unforgettable whirlwind of hair, tattoos, and side-splitting comedy talent.
With the news that Billy is headlining his new show Energetic at The Stand before showcasing it at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. SNACK caught up with the (you’ll never hear him say it) five-time Scottish Comedy Award-winner to chat about the new show, inspirations, performing at The Fringe, and pretty much everything in between.
So, Billy, tell us about your new show.
Yeah, ‘Energetic’ at The Stand is basically my preparation for this year’s Fringe. It comes from the expression that people most use when describing me: energetic. Which, as a 42-year-old, is a bit weird. But you know what, I guess it’s because I’m genuinely excited to be there and always enthusiastic to be performing on stage.
The idea is to bring together everything that’s happened over the last few years: life on the radio, wrestling, shows, and a few wildcard moments. People can come along, have some filthy, dirty, silly fun, and forget about the world for a while. The Stand will be the show’s first run out, a kind of ‘kick the tires and see how we get on’ thing.
Developing a successful career through a burning passion for comedy means it’s hard not to compare you to a certain similarly- named iconic Scottish comedian…
I wish I could compare myself to him. I mean, there’s not many comedians in Scotland that could honestly say they haven’t been inspired by Billy Connolly. He showed people from a working- class background, or any background for that matter, that they could be a success. He helped break down the barriers for everyone.
Growing up, my comedy hero was Robin Williams, I remember watching his show Live at The Met on TV. I was probably aged in single figures. Watching it, I was like ‘that’s absolutely amazing’. Definitely my inspirational moment.’
What about first gigs?
Well, my wife met someone doing a stand-up course and encouraged me to sign up. I basically signed up knowing that there was at least one gig at the end. The course was taught by Viv Gee, who is known as the Godmother of Scottish comedy. My first gig, bizarrely, went very well, and the second night absolutely bombed.
I thought I could write an entirely new set in 24 hours, but it was the best thing that could have happened to me, because even in that moment I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do.
You’re known as the morning voice of WestFM, and you’re an award-winning comedian, presenter, stand-up compere, podcast creator etc. Do you ever find it difficult to adapt your voice when switching between various roles?
Not really; when I’m doing each role it feels like a separate persona. The guy you see on stage isn’t the guy that presents on the radio in the morning.
I guess it’s about being able to adapt. If I’m doing a kids’ gig, the energy remains the same, because kids’ imaginations are amazing. But the comedy and the content change.
My passion always drives me through, and to be honest I always remind myself how lucky I am, doing something that I’m passionate about for a living.
And what about returning to The Fringe last year, for the first time in years?
Honestly, I loved every minute of it. My show was kind of old-school; it was called Notes From a Phone, and I had a giant pile of notes. I would improvise and interact with the audience, and every day we just had a ball. No two shows were ever the same.
Any stress-inducing moments?
Aw man, sometimes it was arse-clenching. The audience would tell me where to stop on the pile of notes, and occasionally it would be quite literally three random words. Obviously, with it being a live show, the energy and outcome were unique. Definitely my favourite form of stand-up.
What’s up next, after The Stand and Fringe gigs?
Well, straight after the Stand gig, I’m going on my first family holiday for six years, and then it’s straight back for The Fringe. After that, I’ll perhaps take the show on tour.
Billy takes Energetic to The Stand, Glasgow on June 16th, and to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe