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Interview: Comedian Connor Burns brings his Vertigo tour to Sussex

image credit: Melody Joy

With his new touring show Vertigo about to arrive in Sussex, we talk to Scottish comedian Connor Burns

After a sold-out run at what was only his second appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2023, Connor Burns embarked on his first full tour at the beginning of this year. Now the young Scottish comedian brings his new show, Vertigo, to Sussex with a show at Brighton's Komedia on Saturday March 2.

Ahead of his arrival, we caught up with Connor for a chat about what we can expect from his new show, being a comedian on the age of social media, and why the Fringe is still an important fixture for any upcoming comedian...


You’ve already been on the road for a while now, already when did you start this run?

“I’m a couple of weeks in now, but I’m at home at the moment, which is nice. We’re just coming into the crazy part of the schedule these next few weeks. I actually kind of started the tour in November, we did a bunch of dates and then took a step back to assess. We thought the tour was going to be much smaller, but now it’s ended up that January, February and March has been pretty much solidly on the road.”

It keeps getting longer too - that must be a good sign?

“Yeah, it’s good, it’s really encouraging and it’s quite exciting to be on the first tour because it really is just a lot of market research. Obviously you have an idea going in sometimes, from social media I can see that I’ve got a chunk of followers in one city or another, but there’s been a fair few places where we’ve gone ‘right, let’s just put on a show and see what happens.’ And people are coming, which is great.”

You made your stand-up debut in 2017 – how long have you known you wanted to be a comedian?

“Oh, ages before that. Since I was little, really. I love music as well and I was always in bands and stuff, but it became apparent very quickly that I didn’t ‘have it’. I still play, and I enjoy it as a hobby, but you know what it’s like when you’re around someone who just has the thing, and I’m glad I met with that early on because it was like ‘OK, right, I don’t have it!’

“Whereas with stand-up I just always wanted to do it, I’ve always loved stand-up. Honestly, probably from a kid watching it I wanted to do it, but it wasn’t until I was about 23 that I started. It took that long, and it sounds silly but it is something that you can just start to do. At the time I didn’t really understand the idea of comedy open mic nights or starting in the pubs.”

Where was your first gig, and how did your set go down?

“It was a Wednesday night gig at a pub in Glasgow. It was at a Scottish independence-themed bar called The Yes Bar - amazingly, it’s no longer there! I think it was literally 10 or 12 people in the audience, but it went well enough that I thought ‘well, that’s the first one done, surely that’s the hardest one out of the way.’ And then there were varying degrees of success for the next few years after that, doing little pub gigs and stuff.”

Scotland, and particularly Glasgow, has a reputation as a tough place to go for a comedian, has that been your experience?

“Yeah, I mean it is tough, and I think we kind of lose sight of that because we get used to it up here, but I love it because they’re just very honest. I think there’s this thing where people think that if you’re not funny you’re going to get a bottle thrown at you or something. I think that’s kind of gone, but they won’t give you a courtesy laugh. I’ve been in places where an audience will really let you get away with not being great, just out of sheer politeness, but I think any of the places that are proper working-class cities – Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool – you go to any of those places and it’s like: This is our night out, and we’re gonna let you know if we’re not enjoying it!”


Your show at the Edinburgh Fringe was a sell-out last year – the Fringe has become a sort of Mecca for stand-up comedians, do you think it’s a blessing or a curse having that in the city where you're from?

“I’m obviously very lucky because I live here, so it takes a lot of the potential stresses out of it. You know, if you’re arriving in this city for the first time you can get really done over with accommodation, or you can get sold a real dummy on a terrible venue or something. I’ve got a bit of an inside track in that I know the lay of the land here. But I think the thing that drives comedians mental at the Fringe is that it’s all about your frame of mind going in. In the 90s, having a good run at the Fringe really was like an overnight career-changer, whereas now I think maybe the way that you should go into it is to think: ‘I’m probably not going to get plucked out of this and have my life changed overnight, but at the end of this month I will be the best at stand-up that I’ve ever been.’

“It’s just like a boot camp, you’re gigging every night for a month, often multiple times a day, and you come out the other end of the Fringe a hundred times the stand-up that you were going into it. If you look at it like that, then there’s no real alternative.”

Is it still as important or relevant to play there these days, in the age of social media?

“Social media I think is more valuable now, because it can put you in direct contact with audiences anywhere, not just who happens to be at the Fringe. But I’m still a huge advocate for it, because it really teaches you how to deal with every kind of audience in such a concentrated spell. You might be doing the same show, for me something like 10-15% of the show changes night on night, just because I like talking to the audience and trying to be spontaneous. But even though the main chunk is the same, I guarantee your second Tuesday of the Fringe show is going to be so different than the third or fourth Saturday night. Very different audiences with very different atmospheres, so you can’t skip that pure experience.”

Who were your comedy heroes growing up? We have to assume that Billy Connolly would have been one of them?

“Oh, yeah, absolutely. It’s become a sort of cliché now, almost, but you’re forever in this giant footprint left behind by Billy Connolly up here. He’s done that rare thing in showbusiness where he just seemed to get better and better as he got older, and even more loved, I think. He had his share of controversies in his day, but I think he’ll always be kind of omnipresent in Scotland.

“For my generation though I think the big one was Kevin Bridges. Coming into comedy, I loved Connolly and all those guys, but there was no clear path to that. I wasn’t around in the ‘70s, I don’t know what it was like to be on the working men’s club circuit and all that, but Bridges came up through all the comedy clubs that I could go and visit. That felt more like ‘oh, he’s just a normal guy, he went through these channels and this is where he is now.’”

For those who haven’t seen the show yet, what kind of themes can audiences expect to hear about on your Vertigo tour?

“It has kind of grown arms and legs since we started. I talk about a lot of family stuff, there’s a lot about the relationship with my girlfriend, because we’re from very different backgrounds socially and economically – basically, if you ran us through some kind of online dating algorithm we’d probably be grossly mismatched! There’s a lot of family stuff, there’s quite a chunk of topical stuff too, but for me I find that the personal stuff is more enjoyable to do.

“I love finding those little moments where you’re like: ‘Hmm, my family does this really weird thing, I bet no-one else does that.’ And then you work up the courage to share that publicly on stage, and 20 or 30 people come up to you afterwards going: ‘We do that! I thought we were the only ones!’ But yeah, there’s a lot of personal stuff in there.”

You’ve got a show coming up at Komedia in Brighton– have you played that venue before?

“I haven’t, actually. I’ve gigged in Brighton a couple of times before but never at the Komedia. I love it though, anywhere that’s got a good arts scene or music scene, you just feel such a difference when you perform in a place like that because they’re spoiled for choice. Sometimes they can be a bit like: ‘Yeah, you’re not going to get away with that throwaway line, we are versed in comedy!’ But then sometimes I feel like you can be a bit more self-indulgent, delve a wee bit more into the craft of comedy because people have got an appetite for it. I love Brighton, it’s a great place to perform."

How do you find English audiences generally compared to the Scots?

“I don’t think it’s as much an England-Scotland thing, but there’s definitely a north-south divide sometimes. It’s funny though because there are pockets of the south that don’t really feel like the south of England, and even with the north there are places that don’t live up to the stereotype. I think we love to find ways to divide ourselves, whether it’s by class or by geographical location or whatever, but there are definitely differences. I don’t try and pander to audiences, but I do definitely alter the approach a little sometimes.

“You can get a feel straight away if maybe it’s a nicer, more middle-class place. Maybe it’s an arts centre and a lot of people are there just to support the theatre. You can feel that vibe straight away and I’m still going to do the show the way I wrote it, but I think you do maybe soften your approach a bit to some extent. But then if it’s Friday night in Newcastle, they don’t want that, they want you to go full-throttle. So yeah, there are differences, but I think that keeps you on your toes and keeps you sharp.”


Where’s the toughest place to play in your experience?

“One that jumps to mind – and I love this place, this isn’t a slight on it in any way – but the only city I’ve ever played where there was an actual brawl while I was onstage was at a fantastic comedy club in Cardiff. I’ve played that gig a few times and it’s always lively, you always have to be razor sharp!”

What’s the best heckle you’ve ever had?

“I’ve had a few, but the one that shook me to my core wasn’t even really a heckle. I was less than a year in, doing these horrible pub gigs around Glasgow, just barely surviving. It was at one of those, and this woman a couple of rows back said, just loud enough for me to hear: ‘Och, just keep going son.’”

Ooof. Quietly brutal…

“It was so crushing! Like, I’d much rather you just swore at me or something, but that is just so deeply sad. “Come on son, keep going.” God, it killed me! I’ve seen people do things like that before and I swear they know what they’re doing. Sometimes, someone will be in the first or second row just quietly throwing little digs at you, that only you can hear, so if you then snap you just look mental, like you’ve completely overreacted. They’re the hardest ones to deal with I think.”

What’s your favourite venue? Is there anywhere you haven’t performed yet that you’d love to play?

“I’ve been lucky enough to tick a big one off for me, which was at the Edinburgh Playhouse. To play at a ‘home’ venue like that – and I think it’s 3,500 people, it’s huge – so I got play that as part of a bigger show during the Fringe. I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve gotten to open for some big comedians too, so I’ve been able to play some really big rooms. But I think the thing that makes a theatre really good for comedy is when they’re quite intimate with seating that's stacked high. There’s some sort of magic ingredient in rooms like that. I got to play the Sydney Opera House last year as well, which was incredible.

“As for ones I’d love to play, it’d be great to play the Apollo, just because it has such a rich seam of comedy history. I’d love to try and tick that one off soon.”

Finally, what’s next after this tour eventually wraps up? Are you already planning your next show?

“Yeah, it’s been nice actually because I’m already starting to throw myself into little open mic gigs and stuff, just to try and get the next hour set underway, so it’s coming along, I’m chipping away in the background. After the tour ends in March, I’m going straight to Australia for seven weeks to tour the show there at all the comedy festivals. What I tend to do is try and sneak some of the newer stuff in so I can work away on that as well. Then I’ll be back at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2024 with a brand-new show, and we start the process all over again!”


Connor will be appearing at Komedia in Brighton on March 2 - you can find booking info on their website.

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