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Bobby Mair: "Paul McCartney saw me bomb"

Canadian comedian Bobby Mair on the inspirational Whoopi Goldberg, opening for Bill Burr and his hatred of the NME Awards 

Bobby Muir

Bobby Mair is a tough man to kill. A survivor of addiction and mental illness, Muir named his upcoming fifth show Cockroach in tribute to his similar ability to keep on keeping on.

A new father with fellow comedian Harriet Kemsley, Muir is now enjoying a relatively normal life. His comedy, however, remains extraordinary.

Here are the five moments that have made him the comedian he is today…

Whoopi Goldberg Is My Inspiration

I was 12 years old and obsessed with trying to be funny, which I rarely was. As sad as that may sound, it was sadder. I wasn’t an amusing child, just a needy one.

Years ago people would just watch whatever came on television. It was strange and sometimes you even watched things no one had recommended to you. I saw a documentary on the comedy career of Whoopi Goldberg. I don’t know what it was called, but I remember seeing her do stand up in it. That was all I needed. I knew I wanted to be a comedian.

A Dingy Cave

My first full-run at the Edinburgh festival consisted of doing daily shows on a show called Big Value in a cave that probably had black mould in it. I think it was 2013. It might not be. I have a terrible memory.

Every night, me and a few other comics including a completely unknown Romesh Ranganathan would do 15-minute sets. One night a producer from 8 Out of 10 Cats was in the crowd. He liked me and it lead to me eventually being on the show.

In Canada, panel shows don’t exist really so once I Googled ‘what is 8 Out of 10 Cats?’ I was pretty excited.

I hate the NME Awards

It’s great exposure. That’s what I was told when I was asked to open the NME Awards for free in 2015, I think. It was around that year. At first I thought I was being asked to host. No. I was being asked to do a set before the show started. Paul McCartney and Aaron Paul would be in the crowd, I was told. I couldn’t say no. I told EVERYONE I knew I might meet a Beatle and Jesse from Breaking Bad and was the most excited about any gig I’ve ever been.

I should have said no. When I arrived, it became clear no one in the audience knew I was going to go onstage. I was told to do 10 minutes. I went out with a radio mic and heard the sound of thousands of people talking. I did what felt like an hour of material while the wall of noise hit me like 1,000 tiny arrows. Then I left.

The floor manager informed me I only did five minutes. I didn’t care. Paul McCartney saw me bomb. I think I cried before I fell asleep that night.

$10,000 Nobody Wants

Comedy competitions are looked down upon by comedians. We always say comedy can’t be judged. How can you possibly compare two comedians? Very easily, it turns out.

Before I moved to the UK I was languishing in obscurity in my homeland of Canada, but would usually do very well on the shows I could get booked on. A comedy competition called Stand Up And Bite Me was in its second year and the prize had doubled to $10,000 Canadian, which for a man who was making a living from being a medical lab rat, seemed pretty good. Even better, most professional comedians in Canada turned their nose up at the contest.

I thought this was a great opportunity. I made it to the finals, got the fourth spot on the show and had the set of my life. I won and immediately booked a flight and moved to London.

Nobody Asked To Open For Bill Burr

A few years ago, Bill Burr was doing a UK tour. He was playing the Hammersmith Apollo twice and some other dates. I was a huge fan and when I checked to see who was promoting the show I realised I knew the promoter.

I emailed him to ask if I could open for Bill Burr. Odds are he was bringing his own opener as most American comics do but what if he wasn’t? Would Bill watch my video and decide?

It was in August, which I knew increased my chances as most comedians were at the Edinburgh Festival and I was taking the year off. A few weeks later I got a reply. I was opening for Bill Burr mainly because I was the only person that thought to ask.

I doubt Bill watched my video but he did compliment one of my jokes after the last show and that compliment kept me going for a long time. 

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Bobby Mair’s Cockroach is at Soho Theatre on 5th and 6th July. Get tickets here 

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