Kate Copstick is one of the judges on ITV’s Show Me The Funny. She’s also one of the most respected and feared critics on the comedy circuit. OTB spoke to her about who she thinks will win the TV show she judges, what she thinks makes a good comedian, and her reaction to being called ‘bitter and twisted’ by a previous contestant she voted off.
Hi Kate, how are you doing?
I’m fine thanks.
How have you enjoyed your time on the show?
It’s been fantastic, it’s been wonderful! I think apart from seeing the comics participating and developing, the good ones anyway, it’s been great for me to have to opportunity just to sit and talk to people like Alan Davies, Jo Brand, Ross Noble and Johnny Vegas about comedy! Not that you’d know that as the finished show is heavily edited, but the judges’ discussions are great. To talk to people at that level has been what I’ve enjoyed most I think. And the luxury of having someone to do my hair and make-up of course…
That’s always nice isn’t it? Obviously I can’t say I’ve had experience of the make-up side of things though…
[laughs] Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it Nathan.
Well obviously I wouldn’t be at liberty to discuss what’s happened in the past…anyway moving on! Which contestants have stood out for you this series then?
I have always been a huge fan of Dan – I think he has funny bones- from the very beginning actually, despite him having some terrible gigs! But through it all for he’s the one with funny bones, and I just hope that he’s got together a good set for the final. He’s very inexperienced, and that was one of the most exciting things about him- he’s really done very, very few gigs. He’s a very kind of entry level comic up against much more experienced guys, but hey- look who’s in the final! I hope that Pat does a proper set because so far, although he’s incredibly engaging and people love him, you tend to get about 30 secs of material and the rest of it is just him running about hugging people. But he can’t do that on the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo because he’ll break his neck – that stage is very high! [laughs]. He doesn’t get to come in through the audience either as he enters through the back of the stage, and there is no one there to hug! I’m very excited to see what Pat’s going to come up with, because truefully there is a terrific comedy inside him, he’s just not letting him out because he’s anxious to keep whipping the crowd into a froth of excitement.
You famously were the first critic to give Michael McIntyre a five star review. What would you say makes a good, lasting comedian?
Someone who knows who they are, and someone who knows who they are on stage. The people that last are the people who you say ‘oh, I remember that guy- he does this, or his voice is like this, or his hair is like this, or he does the one liners.’ You need to know who you are as a comic, and be that person with all of your heart, and then people will remember you. Not everyone will like you, but that’s you, and that’s how to go forward. Not just being what’s cool this week, or trying to be someone else. Be yourself.
So it’s not just about concentrating on being different?
Only if you are different. If you just try to be different, then that’s just a gimmick that won’t last as you won’t be able to keep it up. Audiences are quite stupid, but they’re not totally stupid. They know a cheap gimmick when they see one.
Out of interest then- what are your thoughts then on Karl Pilkington? Gimmick or here to stay?
I’ve never really thought of Karl as a stand up comedian. I wouldn’t pay money to go and see him. I don’t know him well enough- he could develop into something but what he does now probably has a shelf life.
And who would you say your personal favourite comedian is? You’ve certainly worked with a few of them..
I love Michael Mcintyre. In Edinburgh, Glen Wall is just been extraordinary, he’s the best he’s ever been. I love Mark Thomas and Rob Newman, really political guys. Also there’s a guy up here called Dr Brown who’s totally surreal and strange – his act is violent, but he’s just a joy to watch.
How do you feel to being called the Simon Cowell of the comedy world?
Well, I wish I had his money! I think whilst people will go ‘oh, you’re the nasty one- like Simon Cowell’, but I don’t have an agenda like he does. Cowell has so much invested in the acts as he’s going to take one of them forward and make a lot of money from them. I don’t have any investment other than that I care about comedy, and I want to choose the best guy to win. I would like to think that I’m not as sneery and dismissive as Simon Cowell though. I might bite, but I don’t sneer.
You’re no stranger to controversy. Former contestant Rudi Licwood certainly didn’t mince his words, calling you ‘a bitter and twisted failed stand up’ and saying you ‘stifle comedy rather than letting it grow’. What do you say to this accusations?
[laughs] I was a terrible stand up but I only did it for about a dozen gigs but I’m very up front about it. This is why I know terrible stand up when I see one! I know how people cheat and I know what holds people back, because that’s what I did. Bitter and twisted- it’s arguable I suppose. [Laughs] As for stifling comedy, I would absolutely deny this accusation. If someone is new, fresh and if they are trying, I will never criticise them for having an honest go. I might say it didn’t quite work, but also that it was brave and good to even try it. There is nothing left to stifle in Rudi, he never tried, and he never goes outside his comfort zone. Rudi is on autopilot, he’s a hack with nothing left to stifle.
When I spoke to Ellie on Monday she was relieved that you’d take back your comment about her being a Bunny boiler. Do you regret using the phrase?
No, of course I don’t regret it. She came on stage, and was just so needy. She did come across as bunny boiler.
So you believe in being truthfully blunt then?
[Laughs] Yeah, what is the point in being asked to judge if you don’t judge? If you just sit there and say ‘hmm, that was quite interesting’ then that’s not useful to anyone!
When you’re not working in comedy, you also do a lot of charity work I hear?
Yes. For about six years I’ve been working over in Kenya. I work with predominantly women in slum areas, a lot of whom are HIV positive or might be commercial sex workers – an industry with a very high percentage have HIV or Aids. Money goes either to help them set up small business to give them an income. I also offer this to sex workers, but if they won’t leave the industry, I teach them how to make more money and do it safely. The charity is called Mama Biashara (Business Mother).
Sounds like a very worthy cause. Lastly, who do you think is going to win the show?
I think because it’s a public vote, and only because of this, Pat has to be the favourite. He’s such a monumental crowd pleaser. I’d like to see Dan win though, but I have a feeling it will be Pat.
OK, do you think Dan has the potential to go on to big things after the show even if he does lose?
Yes, massively. I would travel to Wales to see Dan. [Laughs] I hope the exposure has helped him, and that getting to the final has given his confidence a massive boost. I hope that he’s got the sense to use his new found fame to gig and just get more and more experience- that’s all he needs.
Thanks then Kate.