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Norwich. A city of mavericks and makers, creators and trail blazers. A big-hearted city beneath even bigger skies, and open air, open minds. In Norwich, everyone has a story to tell. And we’ll be sure to tell it. Every month, we’ll be sitting down with local writers, designers, makers, artists and influencers to discuss life in Norwich. This week we sat down with award-winning comedy writer, performer and presenter, Karl Minns.
Karl was obsessed with comedy from a very young age, having his first gig aged nine. Although the event was far from successful, this did not deter him from pursuing a life in comedy and in his early twenties he joined a local theatre group in Norwich. It was here that Karl met Owen Evans and Nigel Woolston, and The Nimmo Twins sketch show was born! From humble beginnings in pubs and bars, the show has grown year on year, culminating in residencies at Norwich Playhouse and Theatre Royal. Their 20th anniversary show in 2016-17 sold out its entire run and was seen by over 17,000 people. Today, Karl is a creative comedy writer for radio, TV, stage and print. He also performs solo theatre shows and in September he will be appearing at Interlude, a six week programme of outdoor shows and participatory activities taking place in Chapelfield Gardens. We sat down with Karl to discuss life in Norwich’s thriving comedy and arts scene.
How did you get into your chosen career/profession, and why did you decide to pursue this in Norwich?
A mixture of chance, desperation, good luck and tenacity. I joined Crude Apache Theatre Company in 1994 as I had a vague idea that I’d like to act and write. I wasn’t very good at either, to be honest but I liked it enough to keep going. I joined up with Owen Evans in 1996 as The Nimmo Twins. We took a show to the Edinburgh Fringe that did well enough to get us an agent and some TV and radio appearances. For the last 25 years my career has been less like a motorway and more like a minor B-road in Norfolk: lots of twists and turns, slow in parts but with some nice scenery to make up for it. Pursuing it in Norfolk seemed the obvious thing to do: Normal for Norfolk had been a hit first time out and we just chose to put our energies into that. It was absolutely the right move and ‘She Go…’ came out of those early shows around 1999.
What do you love most about Norwich and why?
It’s beautiful and easy to live in. The thing I love most about Norwich is Norwich Playhouse. Over the last 22 years, it’s given me both a spiritual ‘home’ and the most wonderful nights of my life. I’m hoping it opens again very very soon. It’s a wonderful space run by wonderful people.
Favourite place(s) to eat in Norwich?
Favourite place(s) for a coffee/beverage?
The Playhouse Bar. Between 2004 and 2008 I practically lived there. It’s one of the few bars in the city where the arty and the alternative can feel unthreatened and at home. It’s now full of the local art students who weren’t even born when I started drinking there and they’ve made it their home, which is exactly as it should be.
What are you most looking forward to doing in Norwich now lockdown is easing? What did you miss most?
The shows! I was meant to be performing in June and was gutted when they were cancelled. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself the week of the planned run, so it’s amazing to be given such an unexpected chance to do them again at INTERLUDE.
What was your experience of lockdown like, and do you have any lockdown tips/recommendations for our readers?
Up and down. The down days were long, lonely and pretty dark. My tip: get a routine, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t stick to it. I got a timetable and divided it up just to make sure the days felt different and didn’t just drift into one: some days I followed it, others I didn’t. Call people. Be kind to yourself. Also: you don’t have to learn a language or write a novel: sitting on a sofa watching TV and being with whatever feelings are coming up is important too.
And finally, what does ‘Norwich’ mean to you, or can you tell us your favourite memory of the city?
It’s more what the people mean to me. I’m lucky enough to have built an audience who come to my shows and really enjoy them. People have really taken the shows and characters to their hearts. It’s a very privileged position. My favourite memory is playing the Theatre Royal for the first time in 2014. It was a dream come true and the volume and frequency of laughter was like getting hit by a wave. I could’ve died happy that night.