Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Relatively Speaking: Shane and Denis Todd

We ask personalities about the special family relationships in their lives

All smiles: comic Shane Todd and his old man Denis

Name: Shane Todd

Age: 25

Occupation: Stand-up comedian

Relationship to Denis: Son

I never wanted to follow dad into motorbike racing and he never encouraged me to get into it, as he had a very bad accident on my third birthday and was left paralysed for a while. I used to enjoy the odd North West 200 but I was always more interested in writing. I worked for a business magazine for a while and a call centre but I've decided to focus on stand-up full time.

I told mum and dad what I wanted to do at 19 when I took the notion. Dad wasn't surprised because he knew how much I loved comedy, and he encouraged me. I always loved Steve Martin and Richard Pryor, who's dead now, and grew up watching Only Fools and Horses, and The Fast Show, always with dad.

We still watch a lot of TV together – at the minute it's Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Breaking Bad, which has loads of comedians in it, like Saul the solicitor. Dad and I have a similar sense of humour; we like dry, anecdotal comedy. He can definitely take a joke too and we have good banter back and forth. I suppose I'm influenced by real life – I'll take something and make a long anecdote out of it, with a twist. I really admire the Scottish comedian Kevin Burgess and Omagh man Kevin McAleer is a hero of mine. He's absolutely brilliant, so different and brave in his style, and a very nice guy too.

I seem to appeal to a younger, student-type audience but my act isn't restricted to that age group. It's probably due to using Twitter and I don't swear or cause offence. I used to swear when I was younger in order to shock, then I challenged myself not to, and haven't since.

I was always quite confident and could speak to people quite easily but I didn't let anyone I knew go to my first gig. Dad comes regularly now. I can always go to him for advice or a chat, although he's 65 now and just agrees with me sometimes when he can't hear what I'm saying, which is annoying! But he's very honest. His best advice to me was 'Be your own man'. It took a while for me to get exactly what he meant but now it's something I have incorporated into comedy.

NAME: DENIS TODD

AGE: 65

OCCUPATION: FORMER MOTORBIKE RACER

RELATIONSHIP TO SHANE: FATHER

Shane was only three when I had a bad accident at Dundrod and broke over 30 bones. I'd had others – they used to call me 'Crash Test Dummy' – but this one left me paralysed from the neck down. It was the Ulster Grand Prix and I made a mistake that day. They had to 'jump-start' me at the circuit and at the Royal Victoria Hospital, and got me going again, but I couldn't move a muscle. The family was told to prepare for the worst.

I remember Shane coming in and climbing onto the bed, with me in plaster cast, and saying "Daddy, you're not going to race again". Then there was a big flood of tears. You can't fear death in racing as you can't prepare for it – my only fear ever was paralysis, I couldn't cope with that, but I was lucky. It was a one-in-a-million chance – I'd broken my neck and there was swelling on my spinal cord but it gradually went down and I slowly got the feeling back. I was in hospital for two months and that was the end of the racing. It's a great sport but a cruel one.

There's a 'Like father, like son' thing in racing but I always steered Shane away from it. I first noticed his comedy talent around 1994. We'd watch The Fast Show together and we'd be mimicking the characters. Shane's fantastic at accents and I knew he had a flair for comedy. I haven't – but I'm told I'm a joke! He told me what he wanted to be when he was 19. I thought he was being a comedian when he came out with that, as it was so out of the blue.

You have to admire anyone who can do stand-up, as there's nowhere to hide. It's tough and you can just die up there.

I saw he was good but I didn't think he was going to make a career out of it. I went to see him in the Empire in Belfast and it was jam-packed. He came on stage and he was like a rabbit in the headlights at first. His mouth was dry but he was great when he got going.

It takes such guts to do that. I knew he had confidence but seeing him actually perform was a surprise. He makes fun of me – that takes up about 40% of his material and it's not complimentary! We never argue, though. We don't socialise together but we go on holiday together – probably because I pay ...

Still plenty on the menu...

The Out To Lunch Festival wraps up this Sunday, but there's still plenty of events left to whet your appetite ...

Nat Luurtsema, Black Box, tomorrow, 1pm – the stand-up presents her new show Here She Be!, in which she tackles relationship break-ups among other things

De Temps Antan, Black Box, Friday, 9pm – comprising three former members of Québec's legendary La Bottine Souriante, the group channel boundless energy into a big and buoyant sound

Kevin Doherty, Black Box, Sunday, 3pm – a live performance of tracks from the Irish musician's folk and Americana tinged new album will provide a fitting climax to the festival

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Shane Todd will be performing with fellow comedians Ruaidhri Ward and Lorcan McGrane as part of the Out To Lunch Festival and the Black Box, Belfast, this Friday at 1pm. For details, visit www.cqaf.com

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