HECKLING is usually the worst thing most audiences can do, maybe walking out if they really don’t like you,’ ponders comedian Nathan Caton. ‘At a show in a car park, they could drive off. Imagine watching somebody doing a really awkward three-point turn in protest?’
Thankfully, it’s not something that’s likely to happen to the rising comedy star, who is more used to playing clubs than pay and displays. But this weekend, he’s appearing in a socially distanced show, which the audience will be watching from their cars, as part of the Comedy Store’s line-up at Car Park Party at Newbury Racecourse. The bill also features Charlie Baker, John Moloney, Dom Holland and Tania Edwards.
‘I don’t think I have ever been so excited about a show,’ he enthuses. ‘Normally, I’m gigging six or seven nights a week, often with multiple shows a night, so to be stuck in my flat, just talking to my girlfriend, it’s been a bit of a shock for us both.
‘I’m always busy. I’m used to being on the road, seeing different places, meeting people. Instead, I’ve been at home, spending far too much time on social media, thinking, “Hurry up and do something.”’
Like many performers, Nathan has had a tough year, postponing a run of live dates. ‘Personally, it has been a bit of a disaster because I had this summer all planned in with shows, getting all my new material together, ahead of my solo tour next year. I can’t see that happening now,’ he admits, ruefully. ‘But we are all in the same boat. So, yes, I would describe 2020 so far with all the bad words I can use without swearing, but hopefully we are coming out of it.’
Presumably a spell of isolation has given Nathan plenty of material for his show this weekend. ‘Yes and no,’ he explains. ‘Nobody wants set after set about lockdown and every other joke to be about Covid.
‘Obviously, as a comedian, you pick up on the news and try to be topical, and that’s the biggest story of the year, but like Brexit before, unless you’ve got something very different to say about it, keep it in small doses.’
He’ll also be talking about the summer’s other recurring news story, the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘That was something that came up really during this time of lockdown, although obviously it’s always been there,’ he says. ‘I felt like I was saying, “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean only black lives matter” a lot. The movement is not about superiority, it’s about equality. If we needed our eyes opening, hopefully this summer has done that.’
However, it’s also been a period of enforced rest. ‘I realised I haven’t really had a break from comedy for as long as I can remember,’ says Nathan, who started doing shows in comedy clubs while still at university studying architecture, winning the Chortle Student Comic Of The Year in 2005 and Black Comedy Awards’ Best Young Act in 2011. ‘It’s been most of my adult life, which is why I think I’m not very good at being at home.
‘I’m desperate to get out there. I’ve been letting people know I’m still alive, doing Facebook live shows, podcasts, hosting sports quizzes, trying to be creative. I’ve done Zoom gigs, and they are great, but nothing replaces actually having the crowd there with you.’ This weekend, he’ll have just that — albeit with the crowd in their cars. ‘I’m hoping they honk their horns to show they’re laughing,’ he says. ‘Although maybe not all the way through. It’s definitely going to be weird, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to see their faces, and get an idea of how they’re feeling.
‘I’m going to have to tell myself to slow down, that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and remember to pause where I hope the laughs will be. It’s definitely going to be an interesting experience.’
One of the things he’s looking forward to most is seeing the other acts. ‘I am such a massive comedy fan, I absolutely can’t wait for that,’ he says. ‘As much as performing, I’ve missed the vibe of comedy clubs, that great feeling of watching a live show. I don’t know where I am on the bill yet, but I’m not bothered as long as I get to watch everyone else. They’ll be sweeping up round me because I’m really not going to want to leave.’
■ Car Park Party is at Newbury Racecourse tomorrow, before moving to Chelmsford and Powderham Castle, carparkparty.com