Interview: Stuart Goldsmith on I Need You Alive, “If everything goes according to plan, I die first.”


Stand-up comedian and podcaster Stuart Goldsmith’s Comedian’s Comedian podcast comes with a recommendation from Ricky Gervais and has over 20million downloads. Listeners have enjoyed Goldsmith interview some of the world’s funniest people to ask them in depth about how they do it, and how they cope with the challenges of a creative life; people like Jimmy Carr, James Acaster, Stewart Lee, Sarah Millican, Sindhu Vee, Bill Burr and Russell Howard.

But Goldsmith can probably count himself among that list of people; he’s earned praise for his stand-up and his new one-off stand-up special I Need You Alive is premiering tomorrow (February 23rd) at 8PM GMT.
Halfway through his life (his estimated figure), he reflects on mortality, ambition and the future, in a landscape of lurid toys, vanishing friendships and explosive tantrums.
I caught up with Goldsmith to talk about the special, finding success and his top tips for parents.

Stuart Goldsmith on I Need You Alive

On how the show came about

I’ve been doing comedy for a long, long time and it’s the first special where a third party has invested in me. I’ve always self-produced my work in the past, so it’s really exciting to have.

The show itself is kind of a ‘best of’ of two different shows – I kind of choose the best bits and, interrupted by the pandemic, as you might imagine, put them together; wove them together. And it’s just such a treat, it was just an absolute treat to make.

It’s an American company, 800 Pound Gorilla – because they’ve got the money it was shot to like a Netflix spec. So it was shot with multiple camera people and runners and makeup people on the day, and I took two mates with me as an entourage to help me because we recorded the show twice. I kind of wanted notes from close friends and what have you in between times.

It was an absolute delight of a day to shoot. And that stuff is the best of my stuff [from] over a period of about three years, and it comes out on Thursday! Super excited!

On the origins of the show

It’s called I Need You Alive because the starting point of it was that one day in the car, I was driving my wife and my two young children, and I looked in the window in the mirror and I suddenly realised that, if everything goes according to plan, I die first. That was the scenario.

So it’s, kind of, reflections on accepting my role as a parent. I say in the show, I don’t know where I’ve got this from and I’d love to be able to credit the original author of this sentiment, but ‘parenthood is when you realise you’re no longer the picture but the frame.’

You realise you’re not the main character in your own life anymore. You’re sort of they’re serving another… or more than one. So it’s a sort of simultaneous moment of realising that, and realising that I’m halfway through my life… what’s important to me now? What sorts of things do I actually care about now that the chips are down?

Like I say in the show, you’re either a parent or a child. And if you’re not yet a parent, you’re still a child. And if you find that patronising you’ve probably not understood it. So I see things within that dynamic… the indescribable change in the way you view yourself and your place in the world that happens when you become a parent.

The stakes are just changed; if you’re playing a game of chess, it’s like suddenly you’re playing a game of mousetrap now. The stakes, the winning condition, everything is different. To try and get my head around that has taken me years. I’m pleased to say I think I pretty much accepted it now but it was a very difficult and abrupt change for me.

As a comic, as an independent-of-children comic, childfree comic, I had a profoundly easy life and so I had a lot further to fall than most. I think I found the first few years of parenthood much more of a struggle than a lot of my friends.

On how parenthood changed his approach to comedy

It really made me as a comedian. I was a strong comic before but I think in comedy we say the problems are the material and suddenly I had far more problems to talk about.

I’m naturally a problem solver, so the grist to the mill of all comedy was ‘I find this difficult, this is a struggle, I don’t understand X, Y Z’. And that’s where you get the gear from.

But I’m naturally a problem solver – not to say I glide through life! But my shows previously were kind of about the problems I have with my mental health or the way I related to people, and they were less concrete.

I suppose there was less overtly there to complain about, whereas suddenly, I could go, ‘I’m walking my infant son in a baby carrier around the baby, and bumping into other dads who just look as lost and alone as I am.’

And you can really nail down, like, ‘I carry my child at the top of the stairs, and briefly consider hurling him down’. Trying to really access the sort of the really deep and very, if not universal, then very well-known and understood experiences; those really, really sharp end experiences, where you’re like, ‘Oh, Christ, I had a great life and I seem to have ruined it in pursuit of something better’ and it does become something better but you have to pass through the membrane to get.


On how he approached writing the special

I had such a lot of material to work with; there was a show called End Of that was never filmed… a lot of the death bits are from End Of, and then there was a work-in-progress show I did called Primer which had other elements to it, which was more to do with coping with the early stages of parenthood, or coping with the late-stage early-stage where [my] kids were kind of three and a baby by then.

So I had a choice of lots of different stuff. So that was very different because even in the edit there were bits that I kept in the show, and then I would watch the third draft of the edit and I’ll go ‘do you know what this is great, but it doesn’t need it’. From that perspective, it was interesting.

In terms of the making of the actual material; the process has been refined over many years. I write down some simple, unfunny sentences that I think are articulate and true and I take them on stage and try and talk around them. And if I spiel for long enough, I eventually blurt out something funny. But the basis of it, the platform of it, is something that’s articulate and meaningful to me.

On whether he thought he would have the success he’s had with his Comedian’s Comedian podcast

I’m very easily distracted. There’s sort of an argument that says I should have spent all the time podcasting just writing jokes and maybe I’d be a better comedian, but I don’t know – I have a very busy brain. I’m excited to have my ADHD referral appointment coming up next week! Very exciting news!

And I think the podcast surprised me, and its success. I think its success is due to the fact that I really genuinely care. Like, I’m not interviewing people for the sake of riffing and producing some yucks. [It’s] a really forensic investigation, initially into how people wrote the judge and then laterally into how they cope with the pressures of a creative life. Those things are endlessly fascinating to me. I’m obsessed with comedy and I’m obsessed with coping. So the podcast is sort of an opportunity to talk about both of those things at once.

I find the administrative aspects of it and booking guests and organising interviews and doing the research… those elements I find difficult [but] the conversations themselves I can have all day long every day and absolutely love it.

What I’m saying is that I think my passion for the subject bubbles out of it. And if, if there is a reason for its success, rather than the kind of early adopter of [the format], I think it’s just because people listening to it can tell that even if no one listened, I’d still do it.

On his top tips for parenthood

I’ve constantly got to fight my instincts because my instinct is to give you actual advice, whereas I realise my job is promoting my special!

One of the things I find the most useful is to not try to hold yourself to a standard of what your own parenting was like; you’re your own parent, you’re your own person, and the type of parent you are is based on you. And I think there’ll be a lot of instinctive parenting in you from your own parents, assuming you had a kind of standard kind of parenting relationship with them.

But lots of the rules from back then are very different now. I’m always very happy to be vulnerable in front of my children, to be emotional in front of my children, to apologise to them. I don’t remember my dad ever apologising to me once – a lovely dad, great relationship with him, but I will pretty much immediately, if I flare up, I will say, ‘you know what, maybe I’m totally wrong then and the reason I flared up was because it has stuff to do in my life – we’re late because of me, not because of you who’s totally not to blame me for it.’ So things like that. I think being really honest and really clear with them will set them up.

I know so many brilliant, brilliant kids of street performers – you may know my origins are in street performing and loads of my best friends are street performers – and a lot of them are older than me. A lot of them now have kids who are in their teens and 20s, and growing up kind of seeing those kids grow up – the vast majority of them are the most rounded human beings who are amazing at talking to grownups. And I think that’s because their parents have time for them, and they were honest with them, and they were emotionally available with them. I think that’s the main thing you can do.

Also, don’t buy anything. Every parent you know, wants to get rid of every fucking thing in their house and all you need to do is find someone whose kids are two years older than yours; befriend them. You can say to them, ‘you’ve got potties, what potties do you recommend’ and they will pay you to take a potty out of their house that they no longer needed.

I think a general rule of thumb is every decision you make is the right one, and you don’t need to buy anything.

On how would he describe I Need Your Alive special to someone considering buying a ticket for the online show

I think it is honest, open-hearted stand-up, which was all forged in comedy clubs. So it’s all banging funny stuff, and it is eloquent and articulate and you’ll enjoy it – whether or not you’ve got kids. But if you do have kids, some of it will speak deeply to your heart.

Stuart Goldsmith’s new special I Need You Alive premieres on Thur 23 February; visit his website for more information.