Markus Birdman


Written by Jack Sharp
23 Monday 23rd January 2012

Speaking to me from Cyprus, where he's been gigging, Markus talks to me about his upcoming Southbank Centre appearance, his stroke and his comedy.


Hi Markus. Thank you speaking with us. How are your shows out in Cyprus going?

Good, thank you. Nobody has died yet!

You do quite a few foreign shows it seems. How do they differ from shows here, and how do foreign audiences respond to the dark subject matter?

Ah, well apart from a few specifically English references, they are pretty similar. In fact, mostly the people that come to the shows speak better English than the home audiences! And my themes are pretty universal—sex, death and religion apply to any human, I think.

What can we expect to see from A Stroke of Luck?

Well, if I can get hold of one, I shall be sacrificing a goat as a closer, having taught it to sing "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" in the first half. It's difficult to find a goat who's also had a stroke, though, to achieve the appropriate pathos. So I make no promises.

So what's it like to have a stroke? And how has it affected you and your comedy?

Oh, it's enormous fun. Just when I was reconciling myself to being 40, this comes along. The Lord moves in mysterious ways. I think it's affected my desire to be more frank and honest as a comedian (although in real life, I am just as duplicitous as ever). It seems facile and pointless to talk about the contents of your kitchen drawer when you've personally looked into the ink black eyes of the Grim Reaper. There now seems a more real story to tell. He sends his regards, by the way.

Did the stroke change your outlook on life?

Ha! Literally, I am now partially sighted! And everyday is a gift. It could all end tomorrow, so enjoy it while you're here.

What would you like people to take away from the show?

I'd like to see them take the grand piano. I will be accompanied by a pianist, and I'd enjoy the sight of a massive Joanna being carried into the night. You paid for it with your taxes. Seize the day, and the piano. I am being flippant. Please do not steal the piano. I will never be booked again.

Have you received any strange or interesting about comments/feedback on the show?

Well, I am making light of the subject but I am not trying to be glib. It is serious and I hope I get the balance right. And it seems having a stroke is quite common, and many people after a show have said how this has happened to them or someone they care about, and appreciate me talking about it. And I appreciate them sharing it with me. Just make sure the person you are talking about isn't dead. This tends to frighten me.

Stand-up comedy seems to be a huge thing all of a sudden. Has this affected you in a positive or negative way at all?

I don't think it's really affected me. Well, except I tend to shout at my TV more. I would say I'm not keen on the type of comedy that's becoming “huge”. It tends to be pretty beige. Personally, I've tried to stay off the TV. And in this aspect of my career, I've been hugely successful.

Do you have any favourite comedians, perhaps one's that you feel are under-appreciated?

Well Mitch Hedberg I loved. Tragically he died, and died young. But check him out if you don't know him. It's beautiful.

Are you going to any of the events/talks/etc. at "Death" at The Southbank Centre. If so, what are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to the Sandi Toksvig “memorial” and the photographer Ben Johnson's presentation. His work is fabulous.

What are your plans for the future?

Not having another stroke. A noble ambition! Oh, and I'm going down under. By which I don't mean 6ft under; I'm off to Australia for six weeks to do the show at the Adelaide Fringe and in Sydney.


You can watch Markus' A Stroke of Luck show on Sunday 29th January. Tickets are  £10  and can be purchased here. Be sure to check out more from Death: Southbank Centre's Festival for the Living, which takes place Friday 27 – Monday 30 January.

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