“Nothing brilliant happens in my comfort zone.” | Ali Woods talks tackling friendship and masculinity in his debut show at Vault Festival

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival.

It’s a stand-up comedy hour about male friendships and how much we choose to value them or not. I personally find it difficult to summarise a show especially before it is fully written but I believe that’s the main crux of it. 

What’s exciting is that this will be my debut full stand-up show so I’m looking forward to performing what I hope will be the first of many shows to come!

This is a work-in-progress show. How much do you expect it to change between the Vault Festival performance and the finished product?

Part of you hopes you’ll not have to change a thing and part of you hopes you’ll change every single sentence for a better one! I anticipate it will be somewhere between the two. 

As a comedian there’s always bits you write or say to yourself, and you think they’re hilarious gems that will propel you to the big time. It takes an audience of good honest people to politely tell you that it’s not funny in the slightest. I am sure this will be happening a few times in these previews.

Where do you plan to take the show after Vault Festival?

I’ve got previews coming up in Glasgow, London, Bristol, Gillingham and I’ll be taking part in the Brighton Fringe before finally debuting the finished version at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. 

Follow me on social media @aliwoodsgigs to keep up-to-date if I’m performing near you! (Apologies for the shameless self-promotion but nowadays I’m ending all my sets like this.)

You’ve had consistent praise from comedy competitions over the past couple of years. What do you have planned to top your past achievements in 2020?

That’s very kind but I feel like there’s a lot more to be achieved. That’s probably part of the brain chemistry of a comedian. After any minor breakthrough you’re always thinking “What’s next?” It’s a drawback of trying to climb a mountain without any real discernable peak.

In 2020 I suppose performing my first full show is something that scares and excites me, and I want it to be as good as I know I can make it. The more things in my diary that scare or excite me, the more things I feel I achieve. Nothing brilliant happens in my comfort zone.

Tell us about the charity you’re supporting through this show.

Child.Org is a fantastic charity that helps support vulnerable mums across the world, and I’m really glad to be contributing even in a small way. There are an alarming number of mothers who are forced to raise children in very difficult circumstances, and often without the necessary finances or education, and the work Child.Org do in these situations is genuinely inspiring. 

I’m very lucky to have one of the best mums going so perhaps this is a minor avenue through which to give back. She doesn’t like being mentioned in my comedy so please don’t tell her I said that.

I’d like to personally shout out Amy Taylor who I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last year through various shows and initiatives in aid of Child.Org. People like her I’m always slightly in awe of, that they would give so much of their time and energy to helping others around the world.

Tell us about your podcast, All I Do Is Fail.

In my opinion the undisputed best podcast named after a parody of a DJ Khaled song! 

All I Do Is Fail is a podcast hosted by myself and fellow comedian (and friend) Tom Elwes where we invite people on to talk about times it hasn’t gone well for them. We’ve had some fantastic comedian guests over the years including Dane Baptiste, Eleanor Tiernan, Sean McLoughin, Tony Law, Elf Lyons to name a few.

It’s a really fun way to reduce the stigma around imperfection and we’re lucky to have had so many guests who are willing to open up about their own struggles. Whilst it may seem like everything’s been an upward trajectory for them it’s important to shine a light on the missteps along the way, and how they’ve bounced back from them or not in some cases.

We do really enjoy each episode and we post every Tuesday so please listen if you’re into podcasts or failing! You can find us on iTunes, Spotify and acast.

What do you hope people take away from your show?

I hope they’ve had a good time! I’m not a big believer in comedy shows including long periods without laughter, I feel that’s moving more towards theatre, which I am not smart enough to do. 

It would be quite rewarding to feel that my personal story will have a positive impact on young men, and push them to consider why they behave and act the way they do when they’re at their worst. It’s what I have been trying to figure out writing this. 

But if everyone leaves having laughed and wanting to come to another one of my shows I would feel very satisfied. 

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

Want to shout out the other brilliant comedians doing their first full-length shows: David Ferguson, Chloe Petts, Thanyia Moore, Mo Omar, Joe Hobbs, Patrick Spicer, Andrew Nolan, Pope Lonergan, Jamie D’Souza, Sam Lake, Alice-India, Lily Phillips, Kate Barron, Neil O’Rourke, Patrick Healy, Ophelie Hocquard

There’s a lot of names there but I’ve worked with all these guys and they’re all annoyingly talented, so you won’t regret spending an hour watching any of them.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

There’s nothing special about comedians. I used to think that they were these divinely funny naturals who were born hilarious, but the more I do this the more I realise that the reason people make it is because of the hard work and the risks they’ve taken along the way.

If you’re reading this you can be a comedian, I honestly believe anyone can. There’s a wonderful motif in Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse where they make the point that anyone can be behind the mask and be Spiderman if they want to be. I think about that a lot when it comes to comedy.

Let no fear or anxiety stop you from giving it a go; or stop you from doing anything you’re passionate about for that matter. If anything it’s good, it will make you prepare more thoroughly.

Ali is performing at Vault Festival on 5th and 6th February.

Book your tickets here.

Find out more about Vault Festival here.

Find out more about Child.Org here.

You can keep up with Ali’s other work by checking out his website or following him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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