Comedian Colin Geddis on playing Belfast's SSE Arena and 10 years of Barry The Blender
Newtownabbey comedian Colin Geddis is playing his biggest ever live shows next January at the SSE Arena in Belfast. With the first of the two dates already sold out, David Roy quizzed the creator of viral video sensation Barry The Blender Henderson and the hit podcast General Banter about what he has in store
CONGRATULATIONS on selling out your first Gedzilla date at the SSE next January. Will these be your biggest ever live shows?
Absolutely! I think the SSE will be the biggest venue I’ll play for a while – unless they let me headline Belsonic in 2021.
You’ve also got a winter tour of smaller regional venues lined up beforehand: will you be bringing the same show to the SSE as the Ardhowen Theatre or will you be adding pyro and lasers or something for Belfast?
I’ll be utilising everything they have available at the SSE; pyro, lasers – if they have some cables strong enough, I might even request to be lowered in from the ceiling. That might mess with the structural integrity of the building, however.
Can you tell us a bit about the actual content of your show?
It never changes... it’s a guy (me) dishing out his opinions on the current state of the world, without doing any real research. I’ll be tackling equality, the trans movement, global warming, Ryanair... all the hot topics.
Your character Barry 'The Blender' Henderson turns 10 this month. What was your original inspiration for The Blender and, when you were shooting his first I Am Fighter video sketch, did you ever imagine that one day you’d be doing live comedy in Belfast’s biggest venue?
The original character came about through a love of Mixed Martial Arts and the desire to make funny video. The only thing I had access to at the time was a cheap JVC camcorder, a punchbag and a bandana. So I basically just worked with what I had.
At that stage in my life I couldn’t even imagine performing stand-up comedy, let alone playing a venue the size of the SSE. But after steadily building up from venues like The Limelight to Mandela Hall then Ulster Hall etc, the SSE seems like a natural progression.
Also, I’ll have a new baby come January. I actually like the idea that a gig of that magnitude won’t be the biggest thing happening in my life at the time. I want to treat it like any other gig where I have to just turn up and make everyone laugh as hard as possible.
Was it hard to shake off The Blender when you wanted to do new characters and how will you be celebrating his 10th 'birthday'?
Initially, it was difficult, as it was the only thing I had done. I did spend a few years developing many other characters – Besty McD, DJ Bellies, Garrii Henderson – and, once people were beginning to recognise me for different things, I felt more comfortable going back and making more Barry The Blender videos.
I’ll be marking 10 years since the first I Am Fighter video with a documentary about Barry The Blender. I’m not sure what I’ll do with him after that, but if I never do it again, the documentary will hopefully be a nice send-off.
Which do you enjoy doing more, your videos or stand-up – and when did you start to combine the two in a live setting?
Stand-up trumps everything else. It’s instant gratification for the jokes you have written. The video stuff is a much longer process, but I have to make the videos to get people to want to come see me perform, so it’s a vicious circle.
I started to mix the videos and stand-up back when I first did the Edinburgh fringe in 2014. It’s a great way to break the set up and keep the audience engaged.
Your General Banter podcast has been a huge success, how much of a learning curve has it been and who would be your dream guest to invite on?
It’s been a strange journey, what started as me just talking to myself in a room as a way to work through possible ideas for stand-up material, has now become a bit of a movement with listeners really looking forward to or even depending on the release of the podcast every week.
I’m at a point now where most of the people attending live shows are there because they are General Banter Podcast fans, which I am very happy about! As far as guests go, I’m not really that bothered about guests, if you can find me someone funnier than the regulars like Micky Bartlett or Aaron McCann, I’ll have them on.
How much of a difference does fan funding through Patreon make to your work/life – and do you support anyone yourself?
It’s an amazing system, real fans have the option to financially support a podcast that is otherwise available for free. That helps take care of equipment and hosting fees and ultimately creates a better quality product for the listener. It then means the podcast becomes a job for me, not just a hobby.
I do support a couple of podcasts, however a lot of podcasts that I listen too are hugely successful and have many, many sponsors, so they have no need for a crowd funding option.
How often do companies approach you to promote their product and is it hard to keep control of the actual content that’s produced in those scenarios?
I get it quite a lot, usually for some very obscure brands and products. I’ll only do it if I think I can make something really funny and if they let me have almost total creative control. I know what works for me, so I have to do it in a way that works for my audience.
What does your average day look like?
Coffee, weights, podcast, editing, coffee, writing, dinner, coffee stand-up gig, Netflix, five hours of sleep. Repeat.
Given that the podcast and videos have a global reach, have you done much live comedy beyond Ireland?
Yeah, I try and get about as much as I can. Dublin, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow etc. The furthest away I have performed was Los Angeles, where I gigged with fellow comedian Aaron McCann who lived there at the time.
What have been your best and worst live shows to date?
I can’t remember any gigs standing out as being the best. They are all good as long as nothing disastrous happens. I have performed at some awful gigs in my time – I walked off mid-sentence at a gig in Lurgan once (nobody in the audience seemed to notice or care) shortly before a 50-man riot broke out in the car park. That probably wasn’t ideal.
Finally, should heckling be made illegal – and if so, what would the punishment be?
If you heckle and it’s not funny, you should be made to pay for a round of drinks for the whole audience.