Feature: Brett Goldstein for GQ Hype!

15 Mar 2023

Performing stand-up has become a bit trickier for Brett Goldstein of late. He’s been doing live comedy for the best part of 20 years, since long before Ted Lasso, Apple TV+’s sugary football hit in which he stars as AFC Richmond’s gruff, ageing midfielder Roy Kent, made him a recognisable face. But the show’s popularity means that Goldstein’s audiences are now full of fans whose expectations are dramatically different to that of the average comedy club patron. Some nights, he’ll hear the “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where, Roy Kent” chant emanating from the crowd. On other occasions, people will heckle him: “Do Roy Kent!” “[I] really have to practice empathy, forgiveness, whatever the word is,” Goldstein says, alternating between a black coffee and a fancy juice at a London members’ club. “You think, ‘You are being nice. You’re not trying to piss me off.’”

Goldstein’s crowds weren’t always like this. At 42, he’s played the Edinburgh Fringe 11 times. He made his first film, SuperBob, in 2015, at the age of 35, but it failed to dent the public consciousness. But when Ted Lasso – the series about a struggling English football team coached by a relentlessly positive American, played by Jason Sudeikis – dropped in 2020, it brought with it a tidal wave of deep, obsessive fandom on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, nearly three years on and with a Marvel debut under his belt (he appeared in the end credits of Thor: Love and Thunder as the MCU’s new Hercules) he’s making two Apple shows at once, the supposedly final season of Ted Lasso, and Shrinking, a comedy about a psychiatrist trying to piece his life back together after a period of grief-induced recklessness.

But stand-up has historically been where Goldstein exorcises his demons. Across hundreds of nights on stage, he’s learned that while comedy demands a level of artifice, being truthful – sometimes brutally so – is the most cathartic way to connect to an audience. “It’s where I put the ugly thoughts I have, the bad parts of myself. Every time I go, ‘I shouldn’t say this, is this gonna work?’, those are the best bits.” This will go some way towards explaining the content of some of his early Edinburgh fringe shows, which delved into his relationship with pornography (he gave it up years ago) and, in one case, detailed the time he moved to Marbella to manage his dad’s midlife-crisis-buy strip club.

But now, he has to wrestle with the fact that he has a public persona to contend with. The cultural products he’s tied to – Ted Lasso, Marvel – are earnest, sweet, family-friendly. It means, whether he likes it or not, that people will have expectations of what he’s going to say and do that might not align with his own. “I think there was a brief period of time where I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I have to be more careful now.’ But then I’ve thought, ‘No.’ Otherwise, why am I doing this?” [More at Source]