Blog: Kieran Hodgson

The comedian explains why he's proud to bring his show back to his hometown of Holmfirth – but worried that Harry Gration might turn up

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When I went up to Edinburgh last year to do my show about Lance Armstrong, I fully expected that waiting for me when I got home would be a stack of court summonses from the notoriously litigious Texan. Instead, the worst thing that happened was a series of complaints on Twitter from people annoyed that I had “had a go” at Harry Gration, veteran presenter of Look North. Which is only fair, really, as my routine about Harry was deeply inaccurate and pretty ungrateful given the years of friendly yet informative local magazine news content he had provided for me as a child.

The whole Gration backlash was fitting, however, given that the show was always more about Yorkshire than it was about Lance, despite the title being Lance and all the press and publicity photos depicting me dressed up as Lance. Sometimes with an Edinburgh show the need for consistent branding can run away with you.

The show came about, as do all my shows, as an excuse to do a lot of silly voices. Holding the silly voices all together is a story, and as I’m not much of an ideas man my stories tend to start with one of my hobbies, and the hobby in this case was cycling. Cycling does not seem like a natural subject for comedy, as several reviewers were helpful enough to point out, and so I should probably explain why I thought tying my hour-long show to it would be a good idea.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Holmfirth, in West Yorkshire, where the hills are steep and the roads are quiet, and where there was (and, I imagine, still is) a thriving culture of mountain and road-biking. My dad was a member of the Holme Valley Wheelers, and all my friends in the Scouts were mad keen on tearing up and down the bridleways and permissive footpaths of the Holme Valley on mountain bikes. It was impossible to resist the social and poetic lure of pedalling round God’s Own Country, plus my parents were glad that I was finally getting some exercise and not just sitting in the living room memorising the episode synopses of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Last year, when trying to think of characters I had known from my past (and don’t believe any comedian who tells you their character is just “invented” – it is you and you should be angry), I realised that not only did this happy, nostalgic world contain silly voices aplenty, it also had a compelling story. Of these young lads who loved cycling, of how they went their separate ways as they grew up, and of how they all came back together again when the Greatest Thing To Happen In Yorkshire took place in 2014 – the Tour de France’s visit to the land of the White Rose. Add to that the marketable USP of Lance Armstrong, who was featuring on a lot of Netflix documentaries at the time, and I had my show.

“The fear of defamation suits from friends is outweighed by the excitement about doing my Transpennine Express gag.”

On just over 80 occasions now I’ve played out on stage my deep affection for the place I grew up in: a bike race I did with my mates in 2003, a promotional video inviting the Tour organisers to Yorkshire, the crowds on Holme Moss chanting “chips, chips, chips” as the McCain’s van drove past shortly before the race. And, except for a slightly wobbly gig in Bath before Christmas, the rest of the country seems to have gotten on board. But fate, or, more accurately, my tour manager, has saved the biggest test for last – three dates in Yorkshire to round off the Tour de Lance (my phrase).

Am I scared? The short answer would be “I am scared.” The long answer would be the same but with the words “but only a bit” added. The fear of defamation suits ffrom teachers or schoolfriends is certainly outweighed by the excitement about doing my Transpennine Express gag, which has failed consistently everywhere else, in front of people who know all too well where I’m coming from. I hope I’m not seen as a little twerp who’s callously abandoned the Northern Powerhouse to go to London and make fun of people with flat caps and flatter vowels. I’ve tried to do that thing of “writing a love letter to somewhere” and it’s all just meant to be a bit of fun, in any case. The big question, though, is will Harry Gration show up, and if so, just how angry will he be?

Kieran Hodgson plays at Helmsley Arts Centre on 17 June, Otley Courthouse, 18 June, and Holmfirth Civic Hall, 24 June

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