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Kieran Hodgson on writing a comedy show about Lance

Lance Armstrong makes his third comeback in this hit Edinburgh show. Cyclist speaks to the comedian and lone star of Lance, Kieran Hodgson.

Kieran Hodgson
Sam Larner
27 Nov 2015

When a show about cycling is the hit of the Fringe festival you know the sport has found a wider audience. We talk to Lance creator Kieran Hodgson about his own cycling fandom and love in with the Texan.

Comedy and cycling are usually kept apart. A cyclist goes to bed early living on a diet of quinoa and spring water. A comedian on the other hand stays up late consuming beer and processed meat. Kieran Hodgson is a stand up comedian, and boyhood cycling fan. His show Lance is a wonderfully crafted tale of nerdy cycling obsession as a child, through to eventual disillusionment when Armstrong admitted to his great deception. He took it to the Edinburgh Fringe this year and was one of just nine acts nominated for the Main Prize award.

Hodgson thinks cycling fans and comedians are similar in many ways as they both exist at the fringes of 'normal' society. “For as long as I can remember, liking cycling was a very outsider thing. Amongst my friends it was normal but it wasn't something that was widely circulated around the school,’ says Hodgson. ‘For us, we were in the scouts, we were losers anyway.’

There's wistfulness in Kieran's voice as he talks about his own University-influenced drift away from cycling, which forms a central part of the show. He'd left the north to come 'down south' and enrol at Oxford University but he'd also left his small group of cycling obsessed scouts behind and entered a world where no one was interested in cycling, ‘I'd have to drag people in to watch the ITV highlights.’

There had been a brief peak when he spent a year in Besancon for his degree and headed back onto the roads, ‘it was a very rural part of France and you could ride for hours and hours without many cars, it was wonderful. But to try and recreate that on the fume ridden streets of London strikes me as quite sad.’

Kieran Hodgson

As is often the case with cycling, talk soon turns to doping. A particularly good scene in the show features noted arsehole, Riccardo Ricco, doping while interviewed by the media. Kieran's own Tour watching decline had begun in 2006, the first Tour of the Post-Armstrong era, ‘You had Landis then 2007 you had Rasmussen getting chucked off and I think I watched one stage of the 2008 Tour, Sastre winning on Alpe d'Huez.’

For anybody in their twenties, who was interested in the Tour as a child, whoever you supported has now been torn down, either publically or quietly. Kieran’s character in Lance is an Armstrong obsessive but in real life he has a much more holistic view of the sport, ‘I loved Ullrich actually. I liked the idea of there being a real race to it like in the 2003 Tour, which I mention quite a bit in the show, Ullrich nearly had him. 

‘One reason why I love to watch the Tour de France is because it's a three-week novel. You get introduced to some characters in the first week and then more get added in the second week. In tennis someone gets knocked out and that's the end of their tournament but in cycling you can have a horrible day one day then a great day the next and people cheer just if someone finishes within the time cut.’

The love of cycling may have taken a huge hit when Armstrong's lie was revealed but it seems to be flickering for Kieran once again. This is particularly the case when the Tour came to Yorkshire in 2014, an event that led to bemusement but eventual joyous responses from the local population, something captured beautifully in Lance. ‘

‘In my village the Tour was the best thing that had ever happened. Towards the end of the show there are maybe not as many jokes as there should be because I'm just trying to enthuse about that weekend.’

Kieran Hodgson

That one weekend not only took on redemptive qualities but also captured the attention of the region, irrespective of whether people were cycling fans or not - ‘It wasn't that special, a bike race came through and that was that. But, this wonderful power of the Tour, that gold dust, for some reason the Tour has this hold on people and that makes it more than it is.’

I'm also not afraid to admit that I was genuinely moved by the recount of the 2014 Yorkshire start, nostalgia can do that to you. I watched it with someone who had no interest in cycling and we both loved it equally - apparently Kieran was told to cut his impression of Chris Froome because nobody would know what the Kenyan-born Brit sounded like. There's still plenty for the nerdy fans to cling to though with unannounced impressions of Sean Kelly, Bradley Wiggins and David Walsh. It's hard to enthuse enough about Lance. If you're still not convinced then stop thinking about going and instead, Just Do It.

Kieran Hodgson's Lance has one final gig in 2015 on Saturday 28th November at London's Soho Theatre for more information. He will also be back in 2016 for a Nationwide Tour from 12th January - 11th June, you can follow Kieran on twitter for complete dates, @KieranCHodgson.

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