Ian Smith on Crushing: ‘It’s about stress, love and driving a tank over a car”

Photo: Matt Stronge.

Ian Smith is set to take his Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated show Crushing on tour this January. It earned glowing reviews including a five-star review from the Mirror which described it as “one of the best you will see at the festival.”

For those who haven’t seen his live shows, Smith will be familiar to radio listeners as a regular guest on The News Quiz and to television viewers for his roles in BBC sitcom Popatron and in BBC drama The Ark alongside David Threlfall. He also recently made his Just A Minute debut and hosts the Northern News podcast with Amy Gledhill.

But from January his focus will be on his tour which kicks off in Brighton, visiting twelve venues around the country, including a run at London’s Soho Theatre.

“The show is about stress, love and driving a tank over a car in Slovakia with my hairdresser – three timeless themes,” he says.

The tank incident came while on holiday and there is a caveat – he didn’t get to drive the tank himself he “had to sit in the back while a trained professional did it.”

He did, however, get to smash the car for 30 minutes with sledgehammers before the tank finished it off. “I’d highly recommend it.”

All the same, it’s a unique basis for a comedy show and also, strangely not the weirdest holiday he’s been on. “I went to Chernobyl with my brother – that’s probably the weirdest one…. You have a Geiger counter around your neck like a piece of jewellery that keeps beeping to let you know you’re in a high radiation area, it’s not the most reassuring thing to have around your neck.”

Ian Smith (second from left) in the tank. Image courtesy of Ian Smith

Though not reassuring, it was presumably stress-inducing – and stress is the basis of Crushing. “I think being stressed is quite good for comedy,” he says. I don’t think audiences want to hear a comedian who has a perfect life and finds everything fantastic.”

Smith prefers “hearing about the weird and awkward situations people have been in and why things are shit, so we can all laugh at them together.”

He does attempt to keep his stress levels down, sometimes doing meditation and yoga – though like most people he does it “for two days and then not do it again for another 5 months.” Even less successful was a session in a sensory deprivation floatation tank.

“I found that to be a terrible experience and nowhere near as relaxing as advertised. I got salt water in my eyes and felt like I’d been pepper sprayed by some riot police.” He’s also tried therapy, reducing his smartphone screen time and taking up hobbies such as Scrabble but he “ended up entering a tournament and getting too competitive.”

But the show isn’t all about Smith’s personal experiences. “I have a joke about a man getting sacked from a vineyard which depending on the gig can last between 3 minutes and 35 minutes. I hope that intrigues you enough to come along.”

Northern News is also less personal – inspired by some of the bizarre news that Smith and Gledhill spot in Northern newspapers. “In my home town of Goole, for example,” he says, “three different girls got stuck in basketball hoops within three months and there was a local vote as to which of the two water towers looked most like a salt or pepper pot. Complete madness.”

As well as taking Crushing on tour, Smith will be filming the show and is also channelling his experience of stress and his failing attempts to be more relaxed into a Radio 4 series commissioned for next year.

Then it will be on to the next show. “Luckily I’m still stressed so I’m sure I’ll have lots to write about.”

Full tour dates:

19 Jan 2024 – Brighton | Komedia

29 – 31 Jan 2024 – London | Soho Theatre

8 Feb 2024 – Sheffield | Leadmill

10 Feb 2024 – Manchester | A Lovely Time, Cultplex

11th Feb 2024 – Leeds | Hyde Park Book Club

17th Feb 2024 – Cambridge | Junction

18 Feb 2024 – Newport Pagnell | That Time of the Month

22 Feb 2024 – Glasgow | Blackfriars

24 Feb 2024 – Edinburgh | Monkey Barrel

28 Mar 2024 – Bristol |The Alma Theatre

6 Apr 2024 – Selby | Town Hall

18 Apr 2024 – Hull | Social