Who says former Buddhist monks can’t be comedians? Ok, maybe nobody has ever asked that question. But award winning comedian Sam Brady is going to prove it wrong regardless. ‘Kindness’ is the uplifting one man show by Brady, kicking off with a hometown return of sorts, after studying at Leicester University from 1987 – 1990. The tour starts at the Looking Glass on Saturday 22nd February. Brady is a failed Buddhist monk, and after years of trying, left the Buddhist community to try his luck in stand-up. We had a chat with Brady before his show this weekend to talk about his tour, show, and coming back to Leicester.
Sam, you’re kicking off your show in Leicester, are you looking forward to coming back?
“I always enjoy coming back to Leicester. I think the city where you go to Uni remains a special place your whole life. It’s the time and the place where everything starts. You arrive as a slightly nervous kid far from home, and you leave as an adult with a sense of who you want to be and with your whole life ahead of you. So whenever I come back to Leicester I feel the buzz I got when I first went there aged 18. Of course, then I see today’s students walking round and I feel insanely jealous that I can’t do it all over again.”
Any fond memories of your time here?
“I have some great memories of my time in Leicester: seeing REM at De Monfort Hall; having my nose broken playing for Leicester Uni Rugby League team in their first ever season; going to the the summer ball in a second hand tux that was too big for me. And lots of other great times the memory of which was obliterated by my youthful inability to handle alcohol.”
What was the comedy scene like when you were studying/living in Leicester?
“The comedy scene was much smaller in the late 80s than it is now. Live comedy had an underground feel to it And the whole scene was much more experimental and very political. Thatcher gave comedians a focus and a chance to talk about things that really mattered to people’s lives – and her cabinet provided a rich source of material.”
Certainly with your show, you touch on quite important and life affirming subjects. Do you think it’s a performers job to talk about big and/or difficult issues?
“My shows often deal with difficult, emotive subjects – not because I think that’s what all performers should do- but because those are the things that I am interested in discussing. I love to connect with people on that level of shared human experience and talk about the things that worry us, sadden us, excite us and move us. All of human experience can be a source of comedy if we look at our lives honestly, and I think comedy is much richer for it. But there are also times when we want to just laugh at some daft jokes. There’s a need for that kind of comedian too.”
One of your previous jobs was training to be a Buddhist monk? Why were you drawn to this?
“I spent four years living in a Buddhist community training to be a monk. Before that I worked in business and had quite a lot of success at an early age. But I reached a point in my early thirties when I looked in the mirror and didn’t like the person I was turning into. I started to look for a different way of life. I read a lot of philosophy and eventually I came upon Buddhism which seemed to provide a very practical and peaceful approach to life which focused on kindness and mindfulness rather than competition and greed. It turned out that the monastic life wasn’t for me but the experience changed my outlook on life completely.”
Why did you come to comedy after the radically different job of being a monk?
“After leaving the Buddhist community I had this idea of becoming a conference speaker and talking to business people about compassion and ethics. This turned out to be a rubbish idea! At the end of each talk, bewildered business people would ask things like – “compassion sounds great but how can it help me sell me sell more shoes?” Then someone suggested I have a go at comedy instead. It’s possible they were being sarcastic – but I gave it a go, and from my first big laugh I was hooked.”
Was there any particular comedians that influenced you in your stand-up?
“I think there are so many people who influence you subconsciously that it’s hard to say. But I love Stewart Lee’s cleverness and Simon Amstell’s soul-searching honesty and Daniel Kitson’s innovation.”
Could you see yourself returning to become a practicing monk?
“Not now. I like my wife too much! And also, although I loved that old life, I don’t really like the label of Buddhist that comes with it. Labels can be very divisive. I just want to keep working at being a more positive, kind human being and – as people who come to see the show will find out out – I still have a lot of work to do in that department.”
Finally, what would be your ultimate goal in stand-up to make you stop? Or will you just keep going?
“I don’t really have an ultimate career goal. For me and for most comedians, comedy isn’t a means to an end but an end in itself. You keep going until you’ve nothing left to say and it stops being funny. Hopefully I’ve got a good few years left in me yet.”
Sam Brady will be performing ‘Kindness’ at The Looking Glass on Saturday 22nd February at 4:45pm. To buy tickets, click here.