Love Island comic Iain Stirling plays free Ally Pally gig for NHS staff

Iain Stirling

Iain Stirling's Stand Up show Falling Upwards is at Alexandra Palace in Muswell Hill on November 14 - Credit: Supplied

He's the voice of Love Island but Iain Stirling is firstly a comic, who is back on the road after a Covid delay with his show Failing Upwards.

During the hiatus, the North West Londoner, who says "I've never been rock and roll," has had a baby with the show's presenter Laura Whitmore, which will no doubt work its way into his set.

The 71-date tour hits Alexandra Palace on November 14 with a free afternoon gig for 1,000 NHS staff plus an evening show, recorded for Amazon Prime.

"I'll wear the same t shirt for both and scrabble together the best of them to make a comedy special," he says.

"The shows went on sale in 2019 so there are people who got tickets for their 16th birthday who can now come and have a few drinks."

Stirling wanted to thank NHS workers for their efforts during the Covid crisis, plus it's "a nice nod to what they've done for me and my family over the years."

Reflecting on "a year when it became illegal to hug your own mother," the affable comic says: "Like everyone at the start I enjoyed a bit of a break from the rat race, but after a while I missed human contact. It was strange not being allowed to do your job."

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The fruits of lockdown were evident in his sit-com Buffering, which debuted in the summer and sees him playing a children’s TV presenter with an aversion to kids - based on his own experience presenting CBBC alongside a canine puppet sidekick.

"I got my big break doing a gig in front of Ed the Duck! I did five minutes about going on terrible caravan holidays as a kid and got the job. I had never worked with children and was no good with kids, I was in a cupboard where there's only room for you and the puppet. I put all that in."

Like his podcast, and 2018 Not F*cking Ready To Adult, Buffering riffs on the plight of millennials who are too old for nightclubs but too poor for mortgages - pressured by social media to live their best life, while grappling with the reality of failure.

The 33-year-old says with the first two episodes recorded pre-lockdown and the rest afterwards "it gave time for redrafting and I'd like to think you can notice an extra year's TLC on those later episodes."

Growing up in Edinburgh, Stirling insists he wasn't funny at school. "I wasn't a geek but I wasn't one of the cool kids either, I wanted to do comedy rather than people telling me I should do it," he laughs.

But he was "mesmerised" by the annual fringe festival. "I assumed all those people handing out fliers were superstars and didn't realise they weren't selling any tickets."

While his first home town gigs were "really embarrassing shows to nine people who used to go to your school and were baffled," he's now king of prime time, appearing on Taskmaster, or over seven seasons, providing the quips that have helped Love Island become a cult hit.

"It's been an absolute pleasure to do it," he says of the reality dating gameshow. "It's a real honour to work on something that feels like it will be very small cultural artefact in the history of British television. It's rare to be in a show which resonates so deeply with an audience.

"I'm not the reason it's so popular. It's about relationships. That's the biggest gossip point in everyone's life, who's getting off with who? We eliminate all other bits of conversation so it's people chatting about sex."

Failing Upwards marks his personal transition from sofa surfing millennial to marriage and fatherhood.

"I always try to keep my personal stuff personal. The main thing is I look so much older and more tired than I would have two years ago! My material is all true, but from my viewpoint. I like to be the butt of the joke and I don't want to sell any other narrative than my own because that's the person I know best."

File photo dated 16/1018 of Love Island narrator Iain Stirling who has said his new comedy series, B

Love Island narrator Iain Stirling whose stand up show comes to Alexandra Palace on November 14. - Credit: PA

Stirling's observational anecdotal, occasionally surreal style is less likely to offend or be cancelled, I suggest.

"Offence is taken not given. Some say 'we comics can't say anything these days'. You can say whatever you want, but you might just be pulled up on it. The question is are you willing to stand by it? Maybe comedians are more careful about a joke they can't justify, but if a joke is funny enough and justifiable enough in your own mind, you can say what you want, you just have to take the flak."

He's glad his career has diversified: "Stand up's quite a lonely experience. You come up with jokes you've written in your office then perform them alone. A sit-com is a collaborative experience, you have rehearsals with other actors. I miss that 9-5, finishing on a Friday, having drinks after work and a bitch about the boss."

Failing Upwards is at Alexandra Palace November 14.