Comic you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley
HECKLE comedian Craig Campbell at your peril.
The Devon-based Canadian fears no verbal onslaught. And if things turned physical he wouldn't be too fazed either.
He's been compared to the Funniest Man in the World, aka Billy Connolly. The match-up has a bit to do with the hair – Campbell and Connolly have that in common – and there's the bullish anecdotal style, too.
The comparison ends with the Glaswegian's much-publicised recent walk-offs when heckled or interrupted mid-story; the Big Yin took no prisoners when a young 'un but doesn't do confrontation now.
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Campbell, it appears, walks away from nothing – even when one-handed.
He tells the story of being mugged in a dark alley in Belgium late one evening while walking with a Brit mate, Dan, who had the takings from the previous night's gig in his back pocket.
"I had clocked these guys earlier and what they didn't know was that I was looking for a thousand different reasons not to go to jail," he says.
"When Dan suddenly said his wallet had gone that gave me the green light. They'd run out of luck. I decided I had better take one of them hostage.
"I have trained in advanced martial arts, and that is about dealing with a situation without causing (the attacker) damage.
"I put one guy against an aluminium shop front – forcefully – and told the other one that if he did not want his friend harmed he had better give the wallet back, which he did.
"I think they will think before mugging somebody again.
"When it was all over I realised I still had a plat of vine leaves and hummus in my other hand. I hadn't dropped anything."
Phew. As for verbals from the audience, "I have a bit of a reputation for dressing down people, but I do not like to be mean."
Campbell insists that he has sympathy with Connolly. "There is a big difference between people heckling to be funny and somebody who is just (showing) yob-like behaviour. You can't have an audience being held hostage to one person's behaviour."
Campbell's delivery is from the so-relaxed school, as if the thought had just dropped into his head.
He mines the ordinary for a comedy seam, often drawing on his travels. As he is currently part-way through his first solo UK tour, a 116-date marathon, having previously supported Frankie Boyle's 120-night monster, there's a lot of travels to talk about.
Few can match his versatility, playing to audiences who lap up Boyle's bare-knuckle humour while still appealing to the rather more mainstream Russell Howard set (the Good News, BBC3) and the decidedly soft middle of Michael McIntyre crowds on Macca's Comedy Roadshow (BBC1).
Britain has been his home for 15 years, 12 of them with his partner Jane – a comedy booker – near Cullompton in Mid Devon.
"I don't think I've turned British at all," he says, "although I do drink more than I used to.
"But when I'm back in Canada they think I'm really British because I've turned so polite."
Except, that is, with those who overstep the mark down a dark alley.
Craig Campbell plays Plymouth's B-Bar at the Barbican Theatre (01752 242 0210) on June 22.