The Scotsman Sessions #138: Leo Kearse

Welcome to The Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, comedian Leo Kearse shares his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic, spending Scottish money in England and some of the things Donald Trump got right

Leo Kearse was performing stand-up in Australia when coronavirus took hold in the Antipodes. “My flight got cancelled and I was stranded,” the Dumfriesshire-born comic recalls. “It was great, I went camping up the coast. Running on the beach every day. Hiking in the mountains. It was nice.”

He returned to London in June. “But I wish I'd stayed to be honest,” he says. “There were no comedians in Perth, certainly no foreign ones. If I'd have hung on till their festival next year, with nobody able to fly in, I'd have been selling out stadiums as the only comedian in town!”

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One of the few openly right-wing acts on the comedy circuit, Kearse has been disappointed with Boris Johnson's approach to the pandemic.

Leo Kearse
Leo Kearse

“I thought coronavirus was going to get done!” he laments. “I thought the Conservatives would prioritise business and just let it cut a swathe through the weak and vulnerable. But instead they've tried to stop it, so I feel a bit swindled. Like we don't have a Tory government.”

He's equally scathing of the SNP and is a vocal opponent of the controversial new Hate Crime Bill, arguing that its consequences for free speech are “terrifying."

“Everybody from the Catholic Church, to the Law Society, to the Police, everybody that could possibly have a stake in it, bear the brunt of it or will be enforcing it says it's a terrible idea. But instead of revising it or scrapping it, they're doubling down. I'm surprised more comedians aren't speaking out about it. It's not popular [to criticise it] because the SNP are still seen as benevolent nationalists.”

Kearse's views make him an outlier in UK comedy. He's clashed with its recently set up union, the Live Comedy Association. And despite having written for several BBC shows and featuring in an upcoming BBC Scotland hidden camera comedy, the combative, contrarian performer is dismissive of the “woke” agenda he perceives at the corporation, arguing for more white, working-class and right-wing representation in its comedy output.

“The comedy industry builds ships of wet dogshit that burst into flames as soon as somebody gets on the ships” he maintains. “They never listen to what people are saying. It's all identity-based, systematically woke and systematically shite.”

For more on Leo Kearse, visit https://www.leokearse.com/

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