Comedian Damian Kingsley is almost a month into his ‘Knock Knock’ tour for homelessness charity Shelter – a “ridiculous challenge” he’s set himself to do 120 stand up gigs from Land’s End to Edinburgh, without using any money or public transport.
Here, he documents his journey so far.
I cut up my debit cards at Land’s End, and I don’t have any money on me.
That sounds dramatic, but in fact the tour has already been way better than I’d hoped in every respect.
Once all the money is transferred from gigs I’ve done in the first 27 days, we’ll be over £4,000. The original target for the whole tour was £7,000. I think we’re going to easily reach that, but I hope we can double it.
I say “we”, because this isn’t a solo effort. Hundreds of people have helped out already – people who run the pubs and theatres, people who’ve put me up or given me lifts and food, or helped out by sharing this on social media. I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness and support.
Venue owners have gone way further than just hosting a show and looking after me – they’ve chipped in large amounts of their own cash and bought prizes for raffles or items to auction off at shows.
I’m in grave danger of becoming less cynical. I’ll probably have to give up comedy after this. There’s nothing that funny in banging on about how nice people are.
lovely David Trigg from the audience of @LambInnSandford gave me a lift sunday and bought me food from garage. That kept me going yesterday!
— Damian Kingsley (@DamianKingsley) April 21, 2016
Ultimately, I think people are very sympathetic to the cause and supportive of the work Shelter does to prevent bad housing and homelessness.
I’ve met quite a few people who’ve been incredibly honest in telling me about their own experiences of homelessness and the circumstances that led to it. None of the minor daily inconveniences that I’ve had come anywhere near these experiences, and every time I’m tempted to have a little moan about being slightly tired or hungry (which hasn’t been that often, to be honest), those stories help me get things in perspective.
I’ve had some difficult times too, however. I’ve had days where I’ve not really eaten and I’m just sitting in a pub from the morning to the evening watching food go past me.
That has only really happened when I get a lift to the next venue early and the manager’s not about. One place I had this was at a pub in Cornwall, and I had to sit around listening to a couple of daytime drinkers getting more and more drunk. One bloke was so hammered by 6pm he was shouting at people in the street outside.
Imagine how pleased I was to see him back in for the show at 8pm. He’d actually drunk himself sober by then. Probably not technically sober – like you’d let him give you a lift – but he’d gone through the shouty, lairy stage and moved onto swaying quietly in the corner.
Overall, I’ve been spoilt. I think I’m actually putting on weight. I blame that on the incredible hospitality of the Cornish and the fact they all really competitive about which town has the best Cornish pasty. It’s a bit of a problem though because the fatter I get the less believable my claim that I’m undergoing an incredible grueling physical challenge becomes.
— Damian Kingsley (@DamianKingsley) April 19, 2016
In terms of the shows themselves, they’ve mostly been great and really well supported. The small villages in the middle of nowhere (Sithians, Breage, Gwinear and Tywardreath, in Cornwall and Sampford Peverell and Silverton in Devon are good examples of this) tend to be the best ones, because word gets around quickly and I’m not competing with hundreds of other events.
One of the hardest parts of the tour has been persuading some of the pubs to have the shows in a separate function room rather than the main bar. Comics and promoters usually try to avoid main bars because you want to be performing to people who want comedy, not inflicting it on someone who just wanted a quiet pint and a chat.
At one pub in Devon, we tried to ask a few chatty groups if they could go into the other (empty) areas of the bar, but they just looked at us like we’d set up a hog roast at the AGM of the vegan society.
Fair enough. It was a tough gig but it wasn’t really a death though, as most of the people there were just indifferent. We all gave it our best, but in the end we ended up playing to the five punters who’d turned up for the comedy.
We (me and the local acts) are all quite experienced and either professional or semi-professional, but without the right set up, an audience that aren’t really up for it would probably even want Michael McIntyre and his man drawer to f*ck off.
The support from local comedians along the route has been incredible too. I’ve had lots of acts from Cornwall, Devon and Somerset join me to do spots at the shows and they’ve given me lifts and food, and just generally been there for moral support.
One example is Cornish comedian and promoter Graham Wilkes, who put me in touch with most of the support acts for the first 19 gigs, brought friends along to shows and found me quite a few places to stay, as well as doing some great sets at the shows.
Damian Kingsley will be back with another update next month.
Catch Damian on tour at the next few dates:
April 22: The King Arthur, Glastonbury
April 23: Wunderbar, Midsomer Norton
April 24: Pilton Working Mens Club, Pilton
April 25: The Talbot Inn, Mells
April 26: The Three Swans, Frome
April 27: The Tolgate Inn, Bradford upon Avon
April 28: The Rondo Theatre, Bath
April 29: The Royal Oak, Corsham