Richard Gadd plumbs dark depths in amnesiac comedy show ‘Breaking Gadd’

Muswell Hill comedian Richard Gadd’s fictional family tale explores real life themes of struggle and isolation.

“I don’t really watch comedy,” admits Muswell Hill comedian Richard Gadd. “If someone said to me ‘do you want to go on a night out and see a comedian’, I’d say: ‘can we skip the comedy’,” he adds laughing.

His candid comment comes at the end of a stint at Soho Theatre performing his darkly disturbing, psychologically warped act, Breaking Gadd.

Originally from Fife, Scotland, Gadd’s routine is a follow up to last year’s fringe hit Cheese and Crack Whores and revolves around a man who mysteriously gets hit on the head and loses all memory of the first 21 years of his life.

His doctor prescribes hypnotherapy in the hope of unlocking his past, before Gadd’s character discovers his childhood was so appalling he’s better off not remembering it.

“Now obviously none of that happened to me,” he says, keen to separate fact from fiction.

“But at the same time, certain themes of childhood struggle and isolation have been relevant in my own life. So it sort of contains some fictional autobiography - there is truth within the heightened surrealism of the whole thing.”

Most Read

Unlike his fictional alter ego he was never attacked in the street, had an inbred uncle or went hunting with his grandfather.

“But the idea of a personal upheaval, of being alone and vulnerable is based, I suppose, in truth.”

Gadd partly wrote the piece to explore whether as a troubled child, his life would have been much altered had he been born to different parents.

“A lot of people leave and think ‘wow you must have had a dark past’, but it’s more fictional than I care to admit,” he says.

“My family came four times to the show and they are completely oblivious to how much they damaged me,” he laughs.

“I kid, of course. They’re the only ones who know just how fictional it is.

“My parents are quite understanding that I use licence in my work quite a lot.”

Since developing a hallucinatory style that he mockingly refers to as ‘performance art’, Gadd now cares less for conventional stand-up.

“In my early days when I was trying to be a comedian in the purest sense, there were people who inspired me to do things differently. I always enjoyed the idea that you could do things outside of the box and the more I progressed with the performance art route I found myself enjoying the sitting and laughing side of comedy less and less.”

For that reason he doesn’t do the stand-up circuit anymore and has been inspired by TV, theatre and other art forms

“As long as the art itself is good. All I need is a bit of emotional depth to be satisfied by something.”

He next takes Breaking Gadd on tour including Brighton and New York, is working on a comedy for Channel 4, and has an online BBC Worldwide series airing in February.

“It’s about an alcoholic college tutor who is a former Oxbridge graduate and makes a mess of everything. It’s quite PC as I go. Fingers crossed it’ll be well-received.”

He adds: “Writing for television was always the dream. I grew up on Fawlty Towers, and Father Ted, and then The Office came along and blew my mind and I thought ‘how do I do this’ Then I noticed more often than not every one in these sitcoms were comedians themselves, so I thought ‘fuck it’, I’ll be a comedian then. I love the immediacy of live performance and what you can do with it. It’s more important than television, but with television there is longevity and posterity.”