A toast to Micky Bartlett, the stand-up who is now 80 per cent hand sanitiser

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Lurgan-born comedian Micky Bartlett

Micky Bartlett – I’ve gotten really good at watching paint dry, staring out windows and weeping. Picture by Martin Lynn
Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

I've been a stand-up comedian for about 10 years now, so my morning routine has stayed fairly consistent. I wake up at the crack of 11, plan my day, then immediately ignore all those plans and go straight back to bed.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

For breakfast I keep it pretty simple – just some toast.


Lunchtime is always interesting for me. Due to the pandemic, I haven't been able to earn much money, so I use simple, cheap recipes. I have this thing called toast.

Evening meal?

My evening meal is were I get really decadent: I have toast, but with a cup of tea.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

Working at home has been a joy for stand-up comedians. I've started a comedy club in my parents' living room. It helps me keep my material sharp and up to date. My parents have since moved out, but the cat thinks I'm absolutely hysterical.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

When I was at university I fell in love with cooking on a budget. I can create some really splendid dishes in a matter of minutes. Usually, it's noodle-based (either ‘pot' or ‘super', either is fine) and if I'm feeling cheeky I'll have some toast as a starter.


Weekend treat?

After working hard all week, what with all the naps and looking out the window, I like to really let my hair down at the weekend. I like to have a long, hot bath on a Friday evening, but unfortunately, due to the lack of support from the government to the arts industry, I can't afford to heat the water, so I usually just hold a lighter beside a flask.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

Physical fitness has always been something I'm passionate about. I like to box and lift weights, but with the stricter rules on gyms and social distancing, I've found that working out from home is more beneficial. I don't have any weights or boxing equipment, though, so I just watch Rocky 4. Staying mentally fit has been a doddle. I find taking the dog* for a walk really helps. *I don't have a dog. I've just tied a teddy to a bit of string.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

Outdoor exercise is incredibly important. I love to get out amid nature and explore the countryside. Unfortunately, I live in Northern Ireland and it's constantly teeming [with rain], so I find looking out the window or just googling natural beauty spots just as helpful.


How do you relax?

To be completely honest, relaxing is never a problem for me; I'm incredibly lazy by nature. Answering these questions has been the most I've done in six months.


Teetotal or tipple?

Tipple – I aim to be absolutely hammered 86 per cent of the time.


What book are you currently reading?

I purchased a ton of books from the internet at the start of lockdown but I haven't actually gotten round to reading them yet. I'm currently planning to start reading The Handmaid's Tale, Muhammad Ali: His life and Times and It (the one about the clown).


Best Netflix?

I've been watching tons of stand-up specials on Netflix including Norm MacDonald: Hitler's Dog. Also, anything Dave Chappelle creates is 100 per cent genius.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

That I can't say the word ‘pterodactyl'. I mean I have a degree and I'm really good at reading and talking... I just cannot pronounce pterodactyl. Why is there a ‘p'? No need.


On a scale of one to 10, where have your been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I got so bored at one stage that I took all the stuffed animals in the house and had a carry-out with them.


What are the three things you missed most during lockdown?

I missed doing stand-up in pubs, I missed meeting my friends in pubs and I really missed just going to the pub.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I'll go anywhere that doesn't require joining a ‘virtual queue'. I'll even go to vegan restaurants as long as I can just go in without having to fill out 50 forms.


Biggest gripe?

Zoom! I hate Zoom now. I remember when speaking to people on FaceTime was fun and a treat; now I absolutely hate it. I hate Skype too.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

No, not at all. I'm still just dying to get on stage and spread joy throughout the world. It's my vocation.


Any new skills or hobbies?

I've gotten really good at watching paint dry, staring out windows and weeping. Between that and clapping at my front door at 8pm for 10 weeks, I think I've really blossomed.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

I just really hope that we all get to keep our jobs and houses. I also hope that we get to keep our free hospitals. But, apart from that, I hope someone shuts down Zoom for good.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Not really... I'm just super-careful about taking the steps that are guaranteed to beat the virus. I wash my hands more. And I sing Happy Birthday while doing it. Oh, and I only drive if I think my eyes need tested. I've drunk so much gin that I think I'm now 80 per cent hand sanitiser and I travel exclusively in packs of six.

Micky Bartlett performs 'Carmedy' night featuring Micky Bartlett, Diona Doherty and support at the Lough Down Drive-In Arts Festival in Belfast at Catalyst, Queens Road, this Sunday (September 27). Tickets on sale at

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