Award-winning Denby Dale comic Daniel Kitson's career has seen him travel from Regents Park Open Air Theatre to the Edinburgh Festival via somewhere off Broadway. His latest show tour is heading back to Yorkshire. PHILIP KEY reports
AT THE age of 16, a young Daniel Kitson first went on stage and tried to be funny. He was.
"It was at the National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough," he recalls. "The end of festival cabaret.
"The act went disproportionately well and the girl I was smitten with at school said that she liked it.
"Then I went down on to the beach and grinned for a couple of hours."
For the comic, who is from Denby Dale, it was the start of a career which has seen him perform everywhere from Regents Park Open Air Theatre and off Broadway to - most importantly - the Edinburgh Festival.
It was there that in 2001 he was nominated for a Perrier Award for his show Love, Innocence And The Word Cock and then the following year he actually won it with his show Something.
Naturally, he is a fan of the festival if not the actual prize-giving.
"Edinburgh should by no means be synonymous with awards," he says.
"The Edinburgh Festival is, however, incredibly important for me for all manner of reasons, both artistic and emotional. It affords creative opportunities and space to explore ideas and so on. It is wonderful, but awards are a nonsense."
They may be a nonsense for Kitson, but it seems he just cannot avoid getting them.
Last year, he picked up a Fringe First and a Stage award for best solo performance with his latest show, C90.
It is the show he is taking on a national tour which includes two nights at the Lowry in Salford next month.
Kitson is one of the few comics to avoid television - although there have been rare sightings, including on Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights.
But he has tried something different, performing so-called story shows. C90 is one of them.
But what exactly is a story show?
"Well, the phrase 'story show' sums them up pretty well, really," he tells me.
"They are stories.
"The first one I did in 2003 was as a reaction against burgeoning success, which I was suspicious of.
"That one was OK. It got mixed reviews, which were probably what it deserved - not total rubbish but not truly awesome, either.
"The next one was the turning point. It was called Stories For The Wobbly Hearted and I realised that I had to commit to the thing, stop implicitly apologising to the audiences, give them more credit and have faith in the stuff.
"So that's what I did. I didn't say hello at the start, just went straight into it and it worked and changed everything."
So far, he has not written for any other performers.
"It would mean trusting others not to totally mess something up," he explains.
Of course, writing a script for a show is very different from stand-up, although the way he writes them can vary.
"It is a far more overtly writerly process than stand-up, which is more evolutionary in front of an audience.
"With these story things, I want the words to resonate beyond the moment. It is all about the accuracy of the phrasing and the language so it involves sitting down and writing.
"I wrote C90 in three weeks in July, in the heat wave, sitting in my kitchen in my pants."
C90 is not a play as such, he says. "Or at all, really. I am not acting in it, it's me telling a story. So I don't play these characters, I talk about them. It's not an acting tour de force or any such nonsense.
"It is the story of Henry who works in a room where discarded compilation tapes are collected and collated. He has worked there for years and a creeping disillusionment with his job is now swamping him, then something happens on his last day at work in this job. And there are stories of other people mixed in."
Although Northern born - and boasting "an excellent childhood" - Kitson does not wear his regionality on his sleeve.
In fact, he does not believe there is any such thing as a regional sense of humour.
"I don't think there is," he wavers. "I do think there is a lazy parochialism everywhere in certain groups of people and certain mindsets and this is often dressed up as a regional sense of humour.
"It is just the same self-aggrandising bigotries and lazy reference points that exist everywhere."
One of Kitson's more unusual activities is playing records on late-night radio stations.
"Ah yes, I still do graveyard shifts on the radio - in Melbourne and in London. In Melbourne, it is on 3RRR and in London on Resonance FM.
"Both are available on-line. Basically, I play music I like for three hours in a tiny room and sometimes say things between songs."
And his favourite music? "My tastes are generally of a vaguely literate indie nature, that sort of thing - The Divine Comedy, Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, Bonnie Prince Billy, Modest Mouse and so on and so on, all the usual."
* Daniel Kitson's show, C90, is at the Lowry, Salford, from March 22 to 23. He is also performing in stand-up at Leeds City Varieties on March 26 and Wakefield Opera House on March 28.