‘Knock-knock jokes aren’t so good when you’re homeless’: the amazing rise of comedian Kev Mud

In comedian Kev Mud’s home in Cornwall, a caravan overlooking Porthcothan Bay, he has a mountain of DVDs stashed in a corner. There’s Hitchcock, skateboarding films, Rugrats and Fraggle Rock. “It might be a bit weird for some guy living in a caravan on top of the cliffs to have a load of kids’ DVDs,” he says. “But there’s nothing alarming going on. It’s just sometimes you don’t want to watch a Swedish noir about suicides from a bridge. Sometimes, you just want a talking bear.”

Mud started collecting them during lockdown, after he moved here from Leicester. “The DVDs were me catastrophising – there’s always catastrophe going on inside my head,” the 37-year-old continues, pausing to take a sip of his favourite concoction – Horlicks, milk powder and chai. “I’ll go through these periods, ‘What happens if I have to live without the internet?’”

It’s a strangely relatable thought, although he followed through so obsessively that he now owns 10,000 small plastic discs that hardly anyone still has a player for. When Mud wants to do something, he really does it. That’s what has got him so far so quickly in his burgeoning comedy career. Since first taking to the stage less than two years ago, he has performed about 300 gigs (three or four a week, often several in one night, then sleeping in his car). He reached the British Comedian of the Year final in 2022 and has taken his brand of self-deprecating, surrealist standup from 20-capacity pub function rooms to Glastonbury’s Greenpeace stage.

In February, he was nominated for best debut at the Leicester comedy festival for Homeless Sex Biscuit, a left-field journey into his brain that incorporates intricate sound sampling, one-liners and absurdist characters that nod to The Mighty Boosh. He topped that off by winning the 2024 UK Pun Championships, despite describing himself as “not really a pun person”. His championship-calibre lines included: “There are many ways to convert your bungalow into a house. Step one …” And: “I travel a lot being a comedian. In fact, I’ve spent the last year living out of a suitcase – which isn’t bad but my back hurts and my legs stick out the end.”

‘What happens if I have to live without the internet?’ … Kev Mud at home in Porthcothan Bay, Cornwall. Photograph: Charlie Milner

His journey to breakthrough success has been far from steady. After growing up in a rough part of Peterborough – he still has stab scars and burn marks from that time – he moved to Leicester for university. He was homeless on and off for years, including a stint in London that included pitching a tent in the Parliament Square protest camp. “I would run away to deal with my problems and hide and forget about them all, whether they’d be financial, mental health, friends, girlfriends or whatever,” he says. “I would just end up getting drunk.”

He is unafraid to talk about that part of his life on stage. One of Homeless Sex Biscuit’s most memorable gambits leads with: “Jokes weren’t really a thing when I was homeless – especially knock-knock jokes. I’d go, ‘Oh that’s nice, I’ve got a door.’” With the UK’s homelessness crisis growing – figures from the charity Shelter found a 14% rise in 2023 – the issue is more important to discuss than ever. It is common for audience members to tell him that seeing his comedy has encouraged them to open up about their own experiences.

Away from comedy, Mud is a mental health worker for homeless people. Social justice drives everything he does. “There’s all these people with their thumb firmly up their arse doing nothing and it’s like, ‘Can you not see out the window?’” His T-shirt has “Capitalism sucks” written across the chest. “The birds are screaming, there’s no jobs, suicide is through the roof, everyone’s on antidepressants, the NHS is on fire, and in the world’s sixth largest economy we have food banks everywhere.”

Towards the end of his show, which he is touring and taking to the Exeter and Bath comedy festivals, he “goes political” in a rant that is combative and challenging. “Do you know Keir Starmer failed his driving test three times?” he asks the crowd. “Kept signalling left but turning right.” He also discusses the “huge drop-off of working-class people in the arts” and the dominance of middle-class standups.

“A lot of acts are where they are because of money. They can afford to put on a gig and they can afford to take risks and fail because mum and dad pick up the bill. I can’t afford to do that. There’s a lot of ‘us and them’ going on in my head, even with comedy. Like they’ll find out soon and tell me I can’t do it because I’m working class.

“I’ve been homeless and I’ve been at the bottom. So I’ll be open and frank about things. I’ll be individual and carry on my path – regardless of whether it’s going to help me in my career or not.”

The Guardian