Arts Q&A: Comedian Terry McHugh on Slash, Billy Connolly and Back To The Future

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, north Belfast comedian and former yo-yo champion Terry McHugh

North Belfast stand-up comedian Terry McHugh calls his new show Mini Strokes of Luck. Picture by Philip Walsh

1. When did you think about a career in comedy and what were your first steps into it?

I suffered panic attacks when I was about 16 and the only way I could shake myself out of them was to put on the videos of Billy Connolly's Two Night Stand or Patrick Kielty's Stir it Up. That’s when I thought stand up might be the way to go.

People could have the most horrible of things going on in their lives but for that hour or so they are laughing at a comedian they’ve forgot whatever it is they have going on.

I didn't do anything about it until I was 30 something when I got seven minutes at my local comedy club. Fast forward eight years and I'm on my own tour and I've even gigged at Celtic Park.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I asked my friend this question and she immediately said Pink in Longbeach which makes my Slash at The Mandela Hall sound a lot less glamorous. I went to see Iron Maiden in Prague once, my mate knows the band so I had a few drinks with Iron Maiden back at their hotel after the gig. I was the only one on the beer though – they were all on cups of tea.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Guns N' Roses and Iron Maiden but Michael Buble would be on first as a treat for some of the female guests.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

If it’s just one song then it has to be Stand By Me by BB King because it reminds me of my best mate. Can I smuggle a second record on with me? Come and Get Your Love by Redbone

5. And the book you’d take to a desert island?

Billy Connolly’s Tall Tales and Wee Stories because it’ll always make me laugh

6. Top three films?

Stand By Me, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Reservoir Dogs – there are far too many to do a top three, but Back to The Future is definitely number one.

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

I hate the Matrix. I have tried watching it so many times then get to the bit where Keanu Reeves has a spoon and the wee lad says "there is no spoon"... then I throw my shoe at the TV.

8. Favourite authors?

I know I’m 39 but it’s still Roald Dahl.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Celtic. I missed the first dance at my wedding because I’d snuck off to watch a Celtic match in the front bar of the hotel

10. Ideal holiday destination?

New York.

11. Pet hate?

People who say the word 'hashtag' before something.

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and extra stuffing

Dessert? Anything with chocolate in it

Drink? Iron Maiden's Beer, Corona, Guinness, Red Wine, Hop House 13... can you see a pattern developing here?

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

I can’t tell you who my best friend is because they’ll kill me for getting their name in the paper but they know who they are. They’ve seen me at my best and they’ve seen me at my worst and it doesn’t matter what troubles or strife I have going on, they can always make me laugh like nobody else can.

14. Is there a God?

Only when I’m in trouble or looking for something.

:: Terry McHugh will be taking a very funny and honest look at his experience of suffering two mini strokes in his new show Mini Strokes of Luck at Lisburn's Island Arts Centre (Nov 8), Omagh's Strule Arts Centre (Nov 9), Downpatrick's Down Arts Centre (Nov 23), Dungannon's Ranfurly Arts Centre (Dec 7) and Enniskillen's Ardhowen Theatre (Dec 21). Tickets from venues.

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