It's been a while since I've done one of these, so it gives me pleasure to post my interview with comedian/TV/radio personality - Richard Blackwood. During the 90's Richard enjoyed a glittering career as a TV presenter, fronting shows on the BBC, MTV, as well as his own self-titled comedy/chat show on Channel 5. It was a remarkable feat for the charming and ambitious youngster from south west London. But being young with the world at his feet, Richard took it as a given that the money and dream roles would keep rolling in. But they didn't. And when the work started to dry up, his bank account followed suit. Soon enough he found himself bankrupt, and at his lowest ebb attempted suicide. Thankfully, he's still with us to give his testimony to those in a similar position. In this, the second act of his life, his star has emerged stronger and brighter.
Richard is now fronting his own radio show on London's Choice FM. The show merges entertainment with matters of the heart such as relationships, parenthood, and youth crime. Here's what he had to say:
We know you from your stand-up work and TV, so what urged you to get into radio?
It’s a weird one. When I went through everything, the bad stuff, I wasn’t really working that much. I was doing a column in the Voice, which helped me a lot because it kept me out there creatively, and kept me working. And then not long afterwards Choice approached me and asked how I’d feel about doing a show with Kat. At the time I hadn’t really much going on so I said yes. We did our first show together four years ago and then I was offered a show permanently. Things went well and it was a natural progression from there on. So it wasn’t necessarily my plan, but it had come at a time when I most needed it, and helped reach out to my core audience.
Your talk show is quite serious, have you abandoned your comedy roots?
As comedians, initially all you want to do is make people laugh. But most comedians when they’re actually off stage you’ll find they are not really funny. To write comedy or develop it, it’s quite a serious thing to do; it requires quite a level of depth. That’s why you find a lot of comedians are quite inward. You have to find humour in pain and anguish and that’s quite a hard thing to do.
Do you have any plans to return to television?
TV is something that will definitely always be my drive, but more recently it’s been film. I’ve always been behind the scenes learning my craft in acting. But I was doing so well in TV that my attention got diverted. But now I know what I want and I’m focused and sticking to it.
You’ve also started your RB Seminars to address the issues in our community. What kind of other topics will you be covering?
The subject matters that we’ll be covering will be things you see in agony aunt column or something. Like the next one we’ll be covering is relationships. You have a lot of mothers and fathers that are not together and the kids are feeling the effects. A lot of these kids don’t feel the love they need to feel due to that family breakdown. So everything we cover will be issues that are in our community and wider communities. The last one we did was on the youth crisis, titled: The next generation – can we save them? On that one we touched on the fact that some of the fathers were not there, because with regards to the woman that they slept with - they had no intention of building anything with that person. And as coarse as it sounded, I said to the women in the audience, you have to be responsible for your actions. If you sleep with a man and you knew you classed it as a ‘ting’, and then you decided to have his baby. You can’t condemn him for the fact he doesn’t want anything other than sex because you were both adults. Now I’m not saying it makes it right for a man not to not take responsibility. But at the same time it takes two to tango. So if you’re purely in it for sex, then protect yourself, in all ways. Because men can run away from their burden, women can’t. There are a lot of wo’tless men out there as we know. But if you knew he was wo’tless before you got involved, you can’t complain afterwards. And that’s the kind of things we deal with - we don’t ‘pretty things up’. We must stop blaming the government for a father not being around.
Why have you chosen to be so vocal about all your personal struggles?
Because my situation was so public - it went straight to the papers when I lost everything. And then what was sad, especially at that time, was I was doing so many ground-breaking things, and you know it’s always the same old argument from people in the industry that they are not being respected for what they’ve achieved. And you know unfortunately it’s true. At that time I had my own show on Channel 4, and I came from doing the circuit of Hackney Empire and The Comedy Store – I came up the hard way. I went from being a stand up comedian to fronting my own TV programme. So straight away that inspires young gifted comedians to show them that there is a route. But yet, I never got a front cover of a magazine. A lot of the people that were writing these columns used to come and see me perform at these clubs. They saw my progression. And never once did they turn round and say we should celebrate that someone from our community who came up the hard way has broken though. What we’re doing to the younger ones is showing them that you too can get this. So the only time I got a cover was when I lost it all. It was as if the powers that be were just waiting for my demise. It angered me so much. I thought ‘my gosh, can’t you see what you are fuelling right now?’ We’re promoting the demise or the bad news. It was that anger that made me become so vocal. So in terms of me saying ‘don’t make the same mistakes as me’. My thing is I had no choice because my mistakes were put out there and I had no control. But rather than look and laugh, look and learn. Because I’m a fighter, I’m still coming back. You can’t stop my growth because I have too much self-belief. I believe 150% in God and that believing in God you have the same amount of faith in yourself. Some people used to mistake it for arrogance, but it’s because I have so much faith in God. And God has chosen me. You’ll never deter me from believing.
How did you manage to lose so much money?
My demon was my money. When people become successful, the demon comes in whatever vice they have. So it might be women for someone else, it might be drugs. When we look at Amy Winehouse, we know she had a drug problem before she was successful this time round. But now she’s successful, the press is focused on her addiction. And that’s not helping her. So watch out for your demons because they will come. One thing about this industry is I’ve tried to help people to understand how unbelievable it is. Let’s say for instance they say men think about sex every three minutes. Men are like women with shoes. In the sense that even if they don’t do anything about it, they know it’s something they want. Now when you are in an industry where all of a sudden through your power and your success women who wouldn’t even blink at you before, are now coming up to you saying ‘I love your show’ and are flirting with you, touching you and asking for your number. As much as people might say ‘come on man, you must be able to see through that’. There’s a part of you that can’t believe that they are talking to you. And the only way I can give an analogy is if a woman walks into a shoe shop like Jimmy Choo and the owner says, every shoe in this place you can have. But if you speak to a man, a man will say, I look at women the same way you look ladies at shoes – I’d take all of you if I could.
So with entertainment, it brings you that. It says that you can go out partying all night and we’ll pay you to turn up at this club, clubs you’d go to for free. Every club I used to go to would give me a bottle of Cristal. I don’t even drink. I’d have bottles of champagne stacked in my fridge. You’ll go to a clothes shop and they give you clothes for free because you are helping their label. They give you free cars because you are helping the sale of their cars. So all of a sudden when you are no longer successful, and when things turn bad for you. It’s very hard to go back into that shoe shop as a woman and say ‘yeah, I want that whole rack’ and they say to you ‘oh no, we can’t give them to you, you have to buy them now. And there’s no pre-warning. So my point is the entertainment industry is not real. I found it very hard to accept the fact that I wasn’t successful anymore. I was doing MTV, Richard Blackwood Show, TOTP. I went through a period of constantly working. The bankruptcy tarnished my name, it was like a CCJ. And everybody was trying to find reasons, there were rumours at one stage that I was taking drugs, whereas I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. So that was the hardest part of my entire life. But people would always say to me ‘you are on the ground now, so the only way you can move is up’. And they were right.
To find out more about Richard’s seminars visit www.choicefm.com