Following a sell-out debut tour in 2019, Britain’s Got Talent winner, Lee Ridley – aka Lost Voice Guy – has a brand new show for 2021, Cerebral LOL-sy. He talks to Carmel Thomason about life during Covid and looking forward to getting back on the road after the pandemic.
How have you been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic?
Lee: “Obviously, it’s affected me quite a lot, both personally and professionally. From a professional point of view, it wiped out nearly all of my work for most of 2020, so that was pretty devastating because I was looking forward to a lot of it. Thankfully, I still had some writing projects that I could work on at home. Although, even then, it was very hard to get motivated and inspired to write anything. So I can’t wait to be let back out on the road again!”
Are you doing any online gigs?
Lee: “I’ve done quite a few but it just isn’t the same as performing in front of an audience. You don’t get the same interaction and feedback when you’re sitting there telling jokes in your living room. On the bright side, I did get to perform in my pyjamas on a couple of occasions. I might keep on doing that during my next tour”.
Can you tell us about your new show, Cerebral LOL-sy?
Lee: “My new tour show will mostly just be me celebrating being let out of the house again. But it’ll also be a funny and cheeky look about how I’ve coped since winning Britain’s Got Talent. From the highs of meeting 50% of The Chuckle Brothers to the lows of being called ‘him off The X Factor’, and everything in between. I’ve had a lot of time to write it, so hopefully people will enjoy me poking fun at my life living as a disabled person in a post-apocalyptic world”.
What will you most enjoy about being in front of a live audience again?
Lee: “I think the thing that I’ve missed the most is the interaction with my fans. Not only hearing them laughing during a show, but also chatting to them afterwards and stuff. I used to really enjoy the meet and greets after my shows because I got to meet all sorts of people. So I can’t wait to do that again”.
What or who makes you laugh?
Lee: “I’m a huge fan of Ross Noble. I just love how quick witted and random he can be. And he has been a massive help to me. Not only did he invite me to warm up for him at one of his Newcastle gigs, he has also been very helpful with advice and things like that. So I owe him a lot, both as a fan and as a performer. I first met Ross outside one of his gigs, at the Newcastle City Hall. He had done an impression of Stephen Hawking on stage during his show, so afterwards I challenged him to a competition, to see who could do the best Stephen Hawking impression. He found it so funny that he actually told the story in his next show”.
When did you first realise you were funny?
Lee: “I don’t think there was a moment when I realised I was funny. I think it just developed over time. I’ve always enjoyed watching comedy shows on television and grew up watching the likes of Jack Dee and Lee Evans doing stand up. I’m also a huge fan of the League of Gentlemen, which explains my twisted sense of humour! So I guess it just grew out of all of that really. I do remember always enjoying making other people laugh though, it made me feel good. So it’s nice to now be able to do that for a living”.
I used to really enjoy the meet and greets after my shows because I got to meet all sorts of people. So I can’t wait to do that againLee Ridley
How did you go from making people you know laugh, to trying out stand-up in front of a crowd?
Lee: “My career in stand up comedy came about because my mate thought it would work well. Of course, I thought he was crazy but the idea stuck in the back of my head. Eventually, a few months later, I decided to give it a try because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. It turns out my mate was right! It’s just grown from there really. My first gig was in Sunderland, which was an experience in itself. To be honest, I was very nervous beforehand because I just didn’t know how it would go. I was worried that people wouldn’t be able to understand me, and that I’d just be standing there telling jokes to myself. But, once my first few jokes were out of the way, I began to relax and enjoy myself a bit more. It just felt so great to be standing up on that stage and having people laugh at stuff that I’d written myself. By the time I walked off stage, I didn’t want it to end at all. I was on a massive high for the rest of that night. In fact, I didn’t get any sleep that night because I was still so excited about what had just happened. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to be a stand up comedian, and I couldn’t wait to get up on that stage again”.
How did you know it was time to give up the day job?
Lee: “I think winning the BBC New Comedy Award in 2014 was the turning point in my career. At that point, I still had a full time job as well as doing comedy as a hobby, so it was getting difficult to juggle the two. But after winning the award, I just started to believe in myself a bit more and told myself that I could have a career as a comedian. A few months later I had quit my day job……and the rest is history”.
One of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past.Lee Ridley
After winning BGT you became a household face overnight. What are the best things about fame?
Lee: “One of my favourite things has to be that the general public have been so supportive. I’m always getting stopped for selfies and having people congratulate me. It has been really nice. I’m very grateful for all the kind words I have received. One of the best things to happen since I won is that people are engaging with me a lot more than they would have in the past. For the first time they seem comfortable talking to a disabled person. I’m used to being stared at for negative reasons so it’s nice to be stared at for positive reasons for a change”.
Your Radio 4 sitcom Ability is now in its third series. Are there any plans to bring it to TV and is this something you would like to do?
Lee: “Ability is a sitcom about a disabled bloke who can’t speak, who sometimes uses his disability to his advantage and can be a bit of a dick at times. So obviously it’s purely fictional! But I’ve really enjoyed doing it. It was much different to writing a stand up set, but in a good way. For a start, it meant that I could bounce the characters off each other. When I’m on stage, I can’t really do that because it’s just me talking directly to the audience. The magic of radio also meant that I was able to put the characters into any situation that I could think of because I didn’t have to worry about the visual element. I really enjoyed having that freedom to allow my imagination to run wild. So I’d love to bring it to television one day to see how it develops on screen”.
If you could have a cameo in any TV show, what would it be and why?
Lee: “It’d have to be The League Of Gentlemen. I still think it’s a masterpiece of comedy and definitely helps explain my twisted sense of humour. I think I liked the fact that they were making jokes out of stuff that was a bit weird and left-field. That was probably my introduction to the darker side of comedy”.