Comedian Scott Bennett on bringing his greatest hits tour to Belfast

Ahead of his post-Christmas performance in Belfast, comedian Scott Bennett chats to Sophie Clarke about his career highlights, writing material for Rob Brydon and why he enjoys being screamed at by an overly aggressive ex-army officer...

It's great that you're returning to Belfast with your Great Scott! Tour. How has it been going so far? 

It’s been amazing. There is no better feeling than playing to your own audience. I never take it for granted. It makes a change from having to fight for validation on a mixed bill in some basement on a Saturday night!

Belfast audiences have always been amazing. I’ve recently done the Empire and these people know their comedy. I think it’s nice to do a show in January too. The post-Christmas depression is real, and what better way to shake it off than coming to see me. Think of me as a keyworker, it’s missionary work not jokes. I’m basically Bob Geldof with punchlines.

What can audiences expect from the new show?

A great night out. Uplifting, tightly written, relatable observational stand up. It’s my favourite routines from the last 10 years. There’s something for everyone, topical stuff, family anecdotes and a story about going swimming that’ll make you never be able to go to a leisure centre again.

You recently had to extend the tour. Where are you most excited about visiting that you didn’t get to on the last leg?

So many places. Although I gig five to six nights a week there are places that haven’t seen me yet. Belfast is obviously going to be a highlight. As well as that, there’s Huddersfield, which is a beautiful theatre venue, Warrington, Norwich and even Blackpool, which, let’s face it, really needs its comedy.

You started your career back in 2009. Have you always wanted to get into comedy?

I’ve loved comedy for as long as I can remember. For me, it’s been more important in my life than music. I never wanted to do comedy until I discovered stand up. Seeing Harry Hill when I was 15 years old, doing stand up obviously, not just in the street, made me realise that there was an outlet. It’s the last great art form, I think. The instant feedback, the energy you exchange with an audience, the freedom to write something and try it that night on stage, is something that gives me a huge buzz.

What was it like when you were asked to perform at Live at the Apollo for the first time?

A dream come true. It felt like a nod from the industry and I still can’t believe it happened!

Since then, you’ve been described as a trail blazer on the circuit and have been compared to the likes of Peter Kay and John Bishop. How does this comparison make you feel?

Honoured to be in that company. I’m proud that I can call them colleagues now, having supported some of them on tour and written with them. It’s so surreal. It’s like someone going to see the Rolling Stones play a gig and then a decade later, standing on stage and playing with them. It’s absolutely inspiring.

In addition to being a comic in your own right, you’ve also written for other comedians, such as Jason Manford and Rob Brydon. Do you prefer being up on stage or behind the scenes?

I love to do both. They complement each other. Writing is a muscle and the more you use it the better you get. I do sometimes worry that it’s not a bottomless resource and I won’t have anything left in the locker, but you can always manage to pull something out the bag. I also love writing for people who have different voices to me, it’s a challenge and feels like freedom, compared to writing for yourself. You tend to be less critical and more creative as a result.

That said, I will never stop getting up onstage. It’s great to write for these people, but I’d like to have their careers and success, it’s what motivates me.

As a comic, a writer and a filmmaker, do you have a constant flow of creativity or are there times when you find it difficult to come up with new material?

Yes. It’s like anything creative, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Although you can’t force it. I tend to go for a walk, or go to a spin class at the gym. Pedalling like a lunatic behind neon lights, like you’re chasing a gritter, being screamed at by someone who was removed from the army for being a bit too aggressive, really helps to focus the mind.

What is your biggest career highlight?

Coming to Belfast in January obviously. But supporting Micky Flanagan at Nottingham Arena and recording my own Radio 4 special (out this month) comes pretty close.

What advice would you give to those who want to get into comedy?

Don’t - it’s competitive enough already... Seriously though, just get onstage and do it. You don’t learn anything from just writing ideas in a notepad. Gig loads, watch loads and never stop thinking of ideas. Also, get an understanding partner who knows that this isn’t a hobby you’ve started, it’s a mental illness.

Scott Bennett brings Great Scott! to The Limelight 2 in Belfast on January 31 2024. Tickets via limelightbelfast.com