Opinion: Stand-Up's Other Type Of Double Acts

Jon Richardson

I heard recently that a rising comedy star had split up with her boyfriend, a fellow comedian. Nothing unusual about that, you might say. Relationships sadly come and go. But it did strike me as unusual because at the moment stand-ups seem to be doing a lot more coupling than consciously uncoupling.

Only last week, via the medium of a Channel 4 documentary, it was revealed that Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont were engaged. Comedians seem to be hooking up more than ever. Obviously in the past there was George Burns and Gracie Allen, who actually performed together, though even I’m not old enough to have seen them. More recently there was French and Henry and Saunders and Edmondson. There’s also Lucy Porter and Justin Edwards. Tom Craine and Nat Luurtsema were together for a while then split, but on the bright side both got solo shows out of their break-up and continue to work together in sketch combo Jigsaw.

Edinburgh this summer seemed full of loved-up double acts offstage and they couldn’t all be doing it just to share the flat rental costs. Obviously the most famous twosome is Bridget Christie and Stewart Lee, who feature in each other’s acts. Well, sort of. At The Stand Christie jokingly described her “onstage husband” as racist and sexist and the well-informed audience all laughed because they knew who Christie’s right-on husband was.

Elsewhere across the city in his set John Robins worried that the most creative state for a comedian was to be miserable. In the last year he had fallen in love with Sara Pascoe and was concerned about whether he would be funny or not. It didn’t seem to matter and he got some good material out of her moodiness. It didn’t seem to trouble Pascoe either, who got a lot of laughs by describing how tubby and disinterested in sex her boyfriend had become.*

These are not the only examples of comedians mining their domestic bliss for banter. Sarah Millican gets quite a few gags describing in intimate detail what one hopes is a fictional picture of her marriage to Gary Delaney.

I sometimes wonder though whether being in love with another comedian can put a strain on the relationship. Comedians are naturally competitive. That’s why they tend to do so well when they are on Pointless or Celebrity Mastermind. But relationships between them do seem, by and large, to work. Elis James and Isy Suttie make a lovely couple. Richard Herring seemed to be a serial commitmentphobe but finally tied the knot with fellow comic Catie Wilkins. And Foster’s Award winner John Kearns’ girlfriend is Gabby Best. 

But while the competitiveness might possibly threaten the relationship, there is another, much more rational reason why comedians get together. They are so dysfunctional, so indiosyncratic, maybe it is only another comedian with the same dysfunctional, indiosyncratic mindset that can understand them. 

*Update March 2017. Sara Pascoe and John Robins are no longer together.



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