‘Nobody’s doing characters anymore’: Comedian Simon Day reveals what’s in store as show lands in Manchester

Audiences can expect laughs from a diverse array of voices as comedian Simon Day brings his show In Character to Manchester.

Best-known for appearing in sketch show The Fast Show and cult music mockumentary The Life of Brian Pern, Day’s latest outing sees him perform as four of his funniest personas at the Waterside in Sale on Thursday.

Joining the eponymous ageing rocker are criminal-turned-author Tony Beckton, Yorkshire poet Geoffrey Allerton, and The Fast Show’s resident pub bore Billy Bleach.

“They’re getting their money’s worth,” Day told MM about those who’ll be in attendance.

“There’s a bit of comedy, a bit of singing, a bit of poetry. It’s been a very good response so far, the audiences seem to have enjoyed it.”

The character-driven show is a pleasant deviation in a comedy landscape dominated by big name stand-ups.

In the early 90s, Steve Coogan and Harry Enfield parlayed characters honed on stage into hit TV series, but similar shows are an increasing rarity these days.

For Day, it’s an approach that seems to be paying off.

He said: “I don’t think anybody’s really doing characters anymore.

“It’s basically stand-up these days, so a lot of people’s reactions have been to say ‘this is nice, it’s a bit of a change’.”

Brian Pern is likely to be the most recognisable character to current audiences, with the humanitarian mock-prog-rock star the subject of three series that aired on BBC Four and BBC Two.

Billy Bleach also had his own BBC comedy series, while Day played both Tony Beckton and Geoffrey Allerton in Radio 4 comedy broadcast Down the Line and its subsequent TV spin-off Bellamy’s People.

With four very distinct personas, the show demands a shift in tone every half an hour – something Day recognises is a tricky challenge at hand.

He confessed: “If people don’t get a character, there’s nowhere you can go with it, because the joke is in the intricacies of the character.

“They’re all quite straightforward characters to do, but Billy Bleach is the easiest as he just incessantly talks.

“Tony Beckton is probably the hardest in that I’m not being silly with him, I’m trying to maintain a real person in there. Some of the things he says are quite profound.

“But certainly from a lot of the crowds there’s a cheer for Brian when he comes on.”

Day has taken the characters to 15 venues, with well-received shows in the latter months of 2017 and early this year. The show in Sale precedes dates in Bridport and Wigan later this month.

“I’ve done places in Greater Manchester loads of times, and used to come a lot during the early 90s,” he said.

“I like it here, it’s a good place to play.”

Though he’s a man of many characters, the real Simon Day sounds pleased to be back on the road.

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