Scottish comedian Connor Burns is bringing his debut stand up show Vertigo to the Leicester Square Theatre on 20th January, and spoke to SW Londoner about a whirlwind 2023, performing in the capital, and what Londoners can expect from the show.
The Edinburgh-based comedian began his journey in 2017 to a crowd of eight people at an open-mic night in a Glasgow basement.
Fast forward to 2024 and Burns is now regarded as the future of Scottish stand-up, experiencing a rapid rise to become one of the most exciting comedic acts in the UK.
In what was a whirlwind 2023, Burns went on a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Glasgow Comedy Festival, made his American debut at the New York Comedy Festival as well as a two-month sold out tour across Australia.
Reflecting on 2023, the 29-year-old said it went beyond expectation.
He said: “I can’t really describe it. We had no idea that this was going to be the reaction.
“I’m very much of the mindset that I got into this not really expecting this to happen.
“So, I’m just going to try and take the ball and run with it while I can.”
Since October, Burns has embarked on Vertigo’s debut national tour.
In what was originally planned to be a modest tour following the Edinburgh Fringe, Burns has added extra dates owing to popular demand.
He said: “It was crazy.
“We sold out the whole run at the Edinburgh Fringe and then we thought to do a 10 or 15 date tour in the UK, and it’s just grown so many arms and legs.”
Now with over 40 dates, an extra date in London at the Leicester Square Theatre has been added following a Soho Theatre run in November and he can’t wait to perform at the venue.
Burns said: “It’s just such a prestigious venue, especially within comedy. It’s got such a good comedy pedigree, I’m very excited.
“Just to get the chance to tread the boards this quickly in my career is a real honour.”
No stranger to the capital, Burns cites London’s diversity as a reason for why it’s so fun to perform there.
He said: “The great thing about London is that it’s not really one city, it’s like four or five cities cobbled into one another.
“There’s such a good vibe in London comedy clubs and the audiences are fantastic.
“Every part of London has a different audience.”
When quizzed on how it compares to performing in his home-city of Edinburgh, he highlights their similarities.
He said: “It’s kind of like London in that it’s a year-round Fringe audience.
“Because it has such high visitor numbers, it’s probably not going to be a majority Scottish audience.
“That’s really fun, I really like that about London as well.”
Burns, who has lived in Edinburgh his whole life, added an extra 2,000 seats to his sold-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year in what was only his second appearance at the festival.
With a wealth of acts and talent on his doorstep, the festival served as a constant inspiration growing up and has played a huge part in his success.
He said: “Now that I’m in the industry, I’ve realised how spoilt we are. I got to go and see acts who are really big in Australia and South Africa, 15 minutes from my house in a 100-seater venue.”
The starting point that would set Burns on the path to comedic success came at his brother’s wedding.
He said: “The thing that sparked it was that I was the best man at my brother’s wedding.
“I wrote a funny speech and people laughed when I wanted them to laugh.”
This gave Burns the courage to do his first open mic in that aforementioned Glasgow basement.
Before comedy, Burns worked a variety of jobs and uses those experiences to help put his upward trajectory into perspective, saying: “I wouldn’t change anything.
“My last full-time job was fixing washing machines – I was there for about two years, miserable, hated it.
“Now that this is full-time, I’m very well adjusted.
“If I’ve had a bad gig, I tell myself that I used to get up at seven in the morning in torrential rain to fix someone’s washing machine.
“I think it’s a good life lesson to have done something you hate for a while.
“It makes it easier to connect to that experience. I think I know how to make people like me laugh.”
The quotidian is the basis for Burns’ material and when asked what Londoners can expect on Saturday, he said: “It’s very every day, a lot of it’s very personal and stuff from my life.
“I try and find the little things where I think this must have happened to other people.
“But there’s a few dicier bits of the show as well, there’s a few sharp intakes of breath.
“For me, I think that’s important. I think sometimes your job is to challenge your audience a wee bit.
“I mean about half of what I say on stage, but I’ll never tell you which half.”
A lot of the material centres around his relationship and shared experiences with his audience with some aspects of the show taking on a renewed life as time has gone on.
“A lot of it is about my relationship with my girlfriend who’s American.
“Like so many couples, especially in a place like London, we’ve experienced the whole VISA problem and what that’s going to mean for people.
“I think if you’re in a relationship, and you’re in the age bracket of 25 to 40, you’ll recognise a lot of the stuff.
“My girlfriend’s from a very different economic background to me so a lot of the shows about that and the butting of heads that happens, I think a lot of people have had that experience as well.
“I think there’s something for everyone and the reaction to the show has been great so far.”
Wherever Burns has ventured so far he has doubted whether people would attend his shows only to be blown away by the support.
This feeling was only exacerbated in countries the other side of the Atlantic or, indeed, the world, where he thought the humour might not translate in New York or Australia.
“Luckily, funny is just funny everywhere.”
On his American debut at the New York festival, he said: “It was just surreal.
“I really did not think comedy would take me there – again, it was so similar to London.
“It’s got that melting pot thing, I love the pace there and it’s such a historical place for stand-up comedy.
“People came up to me after the show saying we’ve seen your clips, you don’t think that it has that kind of reach – social media is such an amazing tool.”
As Burns enters 2024 after a well-deserved Christmas break, he is about to embark of three months of shows at a frantic pace before returning to Australia for the fourth time in his career this Spring.
But he is already looking ahead to his next show after Vertigo and will be sneaking in new material to help him do so.
He said: “I have about 15 minutes of the next show written.
“When you’re touring you know the show inside out and some nights I’ll drop in an occasional new joke, it’s worked really well and then there’s maybe space for that in next year’s show.
“It’s very natural.”
Not only does natural describe Burns’ presence on stage but also his creative process.
He said: “I’ll just be driving usually, and something will pop into my head and I’ll make a voice note or something.
“The editing process happens on stage.
“I’ve tried to mess around with it on paper but going up and saying it out loud is the most valuable thing.”
And with one eye already on the future, what are his future goals?
He said: “I hope to come back from Australia with at least half of the new show written.
“Like any performer, you hope that the new stuff is better than the old.
“I’m going to work very hard on the next show, hopefully have another really good Fringe and then take the show on tour after.”
Connor Burns will perform at the Leicester Square Theatre on 20th January, with tickets for the tour available here.
Image courtesy of Melody Joy. Used with permission.