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Alasdair Beckett-King: “I think people got quite offended about things in the past as well, we just didn’t have Twitter to express it.”

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Comedian and writer Alasdair Beckett-King began his stand-up career in 2012, the same year that he graduated from London Film School with a Masters degree in Filmmaking. He is perhaps best known for the pantheon of silly sketch comedy featured on his YouTube channel.

Beckett-King combines his powers as filmmaker and funnyman into these daft sketches, which playfully pastiche various modes of popular art; films, television, video games.

He has recently recovered from an assuredly “extremely minor” case of COVID, that had forced him to reschedule his stand up show The Interdimensional ABK, which hits Manchester’s HOME theatre this weekend.

We speak to the wonderfully “whimsical” Alasdair Beckett-King to talk about their show, creative process, and their experience online.

“The premise [of the show] is that I come from a parallel universe, which is very similar to this world, but just slightly better. And really that is just a jumping off point for a whimsical version of observational humour about the little wrinkles in life… those sort of things that make this world slightly frustrating and disappointing.”

Alasdair Beckett-King’s upcoming show is part of his first UK tour. He reflected on one change that he made to the show, since he originally performed it in 2019.

“I don’t know if I should say this, but there was a three minute long kill the Queen section in it,” he chuckles a bit nervously. “I mean, nobody liked it when she was alive, [it was] by far, the least popular bit of the show.” 

Beckett-King says he was almost never able to get the audience to chant “kill the Queen”, and that when he did it was “frightening”, so he has removed that section in the interest of “arse-covering”.

To his new fans, the comedian emphasises that his live show is more or less structured as a traditional stand-up: “During lockdown, I did loads of online social media skits and sketches and animations. [The show] is multimedia. There’s bits of animation, there’s bits of video, but it’s just quite a good standup show.”

You may recognise Beckett-King  as ‘Gunnar Gunnarson’ from the YouTube video ‘’Every Single Scandinavian Crime Drama’, which went viral in 2021.

The short parody of “nordic noir” exemplifies his unapologetic silliness as a comedian, and his tendency to cleverly lampoon pop culture conventions.

Beckett-King became active on YouTube in late 2019, uploading segments of his stand-up-routine which he had recorded and adapted into sketches.

“Some of which worked and some of which didn’t.”

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic gave Beckett-King a great excuse to focus on his online material. “Well it was very convenient for me, which I feel quite guilty about,” he says.

Prior to making online videos, he performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, the largest performing arts festival in the world. He explained that prior to the pandemic, this event was  “around which a lot of the British comedy world revolved”.

He says, “You take a big gamble. You go up there, you hope that something’s gonna come of it. If you do a good show and audience members come and watch it, then you’re very lucky and you’ve done well, but it’s not a life changing experience.

“I came back thinking, ‘Okay, well that was a respectable run’, but you know, I didn’t make huge career strides so I’m gonna have to do something else.” 

Like many creatives, Beckett-King used the internet to gain new exposure. He describes his experience of online success as “quite bewildering” but “quite welcome”.

One of the biggest changes this brings to Beckett-King, is the type of audience he performs for. “It’s just a very different vibe… doing a tour to an audience that’s expectant. It’s different.”

Beckett-King transitioned from stand-up to YouTube to traditional television, appearing as an occasional panellist on Mock The Week, until the show’s cancellation in 2022. Beckett-King says he doesn’t know if there will be any more television work for him but “it was nice while it lasted”.

When discussing the differences between YouTube and TV production, he explains how the Covid-19 safety measures allowed him to gradually ease into the new process: “There [were] plexiglass screens up separating me from Hugh Dennis, as if I was some kind of threat to him, like he was the Pope.”

He describes this experience as feeling like “an expensive version of a podcast, except that Dara Ó [Briain] is there”. However, he explains that the presence of a live audience does make a big difference: “When it’s good, it’s good. So when it doesn’t work, you are really, really aware of that.”

As a seasoned comic with experience performing in real and digital spaces, Beckett-King has a lot to say about the differences between delivering jokes live as opposed to through the internet, and how the reaction economy of the internet gives rise to offensive shock content. 

“Edgy pseudo humour, which is more edgy than it is humour,” he says. “In that sphere, if you make a reactionary joke, then you get boosted by the people who love the joke, and you get boosted by the people who hate the joke, who are quote-tweeting it and saying, look at this terrible joke.”

He adds, “People are experiencing a transition from either that online space, or the edgy open mic world, where people quite like dark jokes that would bomb at a normal gig.”

As someone who grew a sizeable following online, I was curious to hear Beckett-King’s perspective on the impact of the internet on culture and creative industries: “It’s perhaps beyond my remit to completely unpick how the internet and social media in particular has contributed to, and to some extent, destroyed the fabric of our society,” he laughs.

He goes on to describe Twitter as “a terrible medium for conversation, but a really brilliant platform for insulting people.” 

He says, “I think with Twitter in particular, we have a problem… Most people aren’t on Twitter, it’s not like Facebook or Instagram, it’s for nerds. The problem is that all the politicians and the people who write broad newspapers are nerds. So they’re all on Twitter.”

He’s conscious of the effect, where people see the extreme comments of the vocal minority who use Twitter, and then assert that the minority represents the general consensus.

He specifically refers to overblown fears about ‘cancel culture’: “Those problems, I think have been recast as societal — society-wide problems. So we’ve got journalists and media people who are afraid that cancer culture is a crisis in our society… Which is not to say that I think, you know, sending abuse to famous people is reasonable behaviour. I don’t.”

Beckett-King questions common narratives surrounding cultural shifts, and the popular idea that the new generation is an overly sensitive one. 

“I’m always sceptical of claims that we’ve changed, that there’s a new crisis, that people these days are so offended. Well, I think people got quite offended about things in the past as well. It’s just that we didn’t have Twitter to express it.”

He is also doubtful of the notion that the internet creates an echo chamber effect: “There is this idea that we need to get out of our echo chambers, I think we need to get back into our echo chambers! We didn’t used to hang out with Neo-Nazis the whole time, and finding out what they think everyday is really annoying!”

Beckett-King said he was not envious of people growing up with the internet, “I’m pleased that there was no record of what I would’ve tried to say, and jokes I would’ve made that I would now be extremely embarrassed by.” 

Though thankful he didn’t have social media in his early twenties, he calls out snobbery directed at artists that make use of the online platforms 

“They’re just trying to reach an audience in mind. if a new thing comes along, I don’t think it’s that it’s that different. I don’t think trying to be a TikTok comedian is that different to being a stand-up comedian? If you’re making people laugh, what does it matter?”

This has been an exciting year for Beckett-King’s creative projects, as well as coming to the end of their first UK Tour, they also became a published children’s author.

His murder mystery novel for 9-12 year olds, Montgomery Bon Bon: Murder at the Museum, was released in February. It sees ten-year-old Bonnie Montgomery dons a large false moustache to become the foreign gentleman detective Montgomery Bon Bon, because of course “kids aren’t allowed to solve crimes”.

Beckett-King is an avid fan of the murder mystery genre, and has recently watched Columbo in its entirety. The book was a passion project of his that had been brewing for some time, though not always initially intended to be a book. He describes the novel writing process as “incredibly difficult”.

Playing at Manchester HOME Theatre tomorrow, Beckett-King tells us that his father is from Manchester and he is “basically second generation Mancunian, if that’s a thing”.

“Manchester owes me,” he jokes. “[You] should come to the show to see what the son of a Mancunian man would be like, if he had really not run with the Mancunian vibe.”

Alasdair Beckett-King’s The Interdimensional ABK show takes place Sunday 4th June – Monday 5th June at HOME. Visit homemcr.org/production for tickets and more information.

About the author / 

Clayton McLoughlin-Lopez

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