Luke McGibbon: Comedy and counselling are pretty similar
The rising local comedy star tells Andrew Johnston how he's putting his day job to good use on the live circuit
They say comedians must be natural exhibitionists to get on stage and try to make strangers laugh. And judging by Belfast funnyman Luke McGibbon's penchant for promotional photographs that show him either in drag or wearing no clothes at all, it seems spot-on where he's concerned.
But Luke insists that appearances – even those involving a 23-year-old Dundonald man sporting a flowing wedding gown and clutching a bouquet of flowers – can be deceiving.
"I'm hugely uncomfortable with my body," he grimaces. "If I could wear a hoodie and a veil in the shower, I would. But I'm a big believer in airing your weaknesses and things you don't like about yourself. In this case,it was my hairy chest and ample man-cleavage."
Luke does, however, conform to that other common trait of the stand-up comic – the desire to be loved. Indeed, his one-man show Is This What You Want? – which debuts at Belfast's Black Box on April 15 – is billed as 'a stand-up comedy show about neediness'.
And the bearded jokesmith is making no apologies: "What's wrong with trying to please people?" Luke retorts. "What's wrong with thinking? If we truly didn't care what other people thought, we'd be living in caves, head-butting each other."
Luke has been performing on the Northern Ireland comedy circuit for a couple of years now. He has made his mark at open-mic nights and support slots, and even runs his own gig each Monday at Belfast's Pavilion Bar. Is This What You Want? is his first attempt at a full hour of material, and he admits it's a daunting prospect.
"I'm terrified," Luke laughs. "But it's a terror I can harness and throw at you, hopefully. Any time I've not been nervous, I've not been funny at all."
Luke's entry into the world of stand-up came after realising he wasn't good enough to be an actor. Or, as he puts it: "I was absolutely b******s at it. My dad had always told me that he thought comedy was something that I would be good at, so after about a year of fretting about it, I finally took his advice. All in all, I think it has made me happier and healthier mentally, against all odds."
Luke – who cites the likes of Dylan Moran, Ross Noble and Terry Alderton as influences – has yet to play with any of his comic heroes, but he has met one of them. Well, sort of. "I met Dylan Moran in the street once," he blushes. "He was asking for directions to the Duke of York. I was young and didn't know, and basically just stuttered until he left. I'm still ashamed!"
As is the case with most nascent acts, the gigs don't pay the bills, and by day, Luke has a job, and quite a responsible one at that.
"At the minute, I'm a support worker for adults with learning disabilities," he reveals. "I used to be a volunteer counsellor on the phones for a charity, and I'm training to be a proper counsellor now.
"Counselling is a lot like observational comedy. You're talking about things that everyone thinks about but never verbalises.
"The message is the same – you aren't alone; you're not mental. I honestly see comedy and laughter as a form of preventative medicine for mental illness like depression."
And before things get too heavy, he promises the Black Box show will feature not only fine, thought-provoking humour, but tasty treats, too. "I will be making delicious buns for the first audience members to arrive," Luke beams.
Luke McGibbon plays the Black Box in Belfast on Tuesday, April 15. Visit www.blackboxbelfast.com