■ The voice of Love Island, 30, talks struggling millennials, favourite couples and the dark side of show business
Series four of Love Island finishes tonight — who’s been your favourite couple so far?
Jon and Hannah from series one. They were almost caricatures of what you’d expect — Jon was an Essex geezer and Hannah was a Playboy bunny type. The two of them would argue like they were married for 40 years, then were so sweet to each other like 18-year-olds. She’d dress like Malibu Barbie and he was like a car dealer. They were brilliant.
Why do middle-class viewers make up elaborate justifications for watching Love Island?
They try to legitimise it for themselves — they enjoy it and want to find reasons for enjoying it rather than accepting they’re just enjoying a fun, well-made show. But maybe there is a deeper meaning. You’re watching a load of people under surveillance, so you’re going to learn something about the human psyche. You can take from it what you want. On the face of it, it’s a dating show but if you delve deeper maybe there is a deeper meaning — if you observe any creature you’ll learn more about it. Humans are just another species of creature.
What difference has Love Island made to your career?
A huge difference. People know who I am now and I have a wider audience to come to see me. It’s nice to know when you write a new stand-up show people will see it — I won’t just be doing it to four people at the Edinburgh Festival. My tour’s been extended again because at first we didn’t expect anyone would come to it. I did a gig to three people and that wasn’t too long ago — and at one point they all went to the toilet at the same time and I had to stand on stage waiting for them to come back.
You’ve just written a book, too… is there a general theme?
It’s about the millennial generation and how we struggle with adult life — why it doesn’t feel fulfilling, why it seems everyone else is doing it so well and we’re doing it badly. I’ve used personal stories to reflect the theme. It’s about a generation who grew up on the internet and with camera phones and how that’s affected their psyche.
How has it affected their psyche?
People are addicted to their phones and they filter their lives to make them look better than they are, which isn’t ideal. It leads to people making comparisons that make them feel rubbish.
Were you surprised by any research in the book?
The mental health statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. And another one that says if you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone it will be 60 per cent about you and 40 per cent about them but a conversation online will be 80 per cent about you and 20 per cent about them — so you become more self-centred.
The suicide statistic is widely reported but not much seems to be done about it…
No, and people still conduct themselves in the same way and send abuse to each other online and there are still these mass hysterias about how someone looks or acts and no one seems to realise we’re killing each other. There’s a lot more to be done in this area.
Is the corporate gig you did for the Army the worst gig you’ve ever done?
Definitely. Getting dry-humped by a soldier in front of 300 squaddies was horrific. It was the best reaction I’ve ever had at a gig — people thought it was hilarious but I didn’t find it very funny.
Were you traumatised?
That’s a bit of a strong word. It was fine. You get over that stuff. I just thought it was embarrassing but you learn from it and I’ve got a funny story out of it. It has changed my approach to corporate gigs — I now ask what time I’m on, who the audience is and who they think is coming. For that one they were expecting Al Murray, who cancelled. We had the same management, so they sent me instead. I was 24 and looked like I was in McFly. No one told the Army and it didn’t end well.
Why did you get kicked out of cubs?
Just for being naughty and cheeky. Nothing that bad — but they cut off my seconder badge in front of all the other cubs as a warning. But I kept on being naughty and my parents were told not to bring me back. It was just for being a little s***.
What was your first gig like?
Really nice — it has to be alright or you’d never do it again. I was 19 and it was at The Stand in Edinburgh on their new act night. It was packed and it went quite well.
What lessons has your showbiz career taught you?
The online world is nothing — you have to keep connected to those around you, your friends and family. Don’t be distracted by the shiny lights of fame. And relationships are a lot more difficult when they’re filmed in a villa.
Stirling’s book Not Ready To Adult Yet (Harper Collins) is out on Aug 9. The Love Island final is tonight, 9pm on ITV2