Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed: ‘I didn’t think about comedy seriously until doing a PhD in seismology’

The character comedian and TV star on meeting angry fans, his first UK tour as megalomaniac magician Mr Swallow and taking inspiration from Torvill and Dean

Who did you look up to when you were starting out?
French and Saunders were probably the most inspirational. I used to watch a lot of older stuff too like Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em and Fawlty Towers. But it wasn’t just comedy. I found Torvill and Dean hugely inspiring purely in terms of sheer dedication to their craft. I feel similarly about Derren Brown – people who just completely own their areas.

Why did you decide to go into comedy?
I’m not sure it was ever a decision, in that there was never any guarantee it would all work out – and in many ways that’s still true today. I used to perform magic a lot when I was younger and so I knew I liked entertaining people and it was something I wanted to do for a living. But it wasn’t until I started doing a PhD in seismology that I started thinking seriously about doing comedy for a living. I wouldn’t advise anyone else to take this route though, it’s a little longwinded.

Can you recall a gig so bad, it’s now funny?
My last Edinburgh show ended with me trying to memorise the names of everyone in the audience. One night there was a fire alarm in the middle meaning we had to vacate. When everyone came back in, they all sat in different seats which affected the memory system I was using to try and recall their names. It was a spectacular disaster.

Nick Mohammed as Mr Swallow in A Christmas Carol-ish …
Clueless … Nick Mohammed as Mr Swallow in A Christmas Carol-ish … Photograph: Matt Crockett

Describe your character Mr Swallow for those who may not have seen him.
Northern, bombastic, clueless megalomaniac.

Where did the idea for Mr Swallow first come from?
The character is based on a school teacher. She had the same voice and more or less the same attitude as Mr Swallow. So it kind of started out about 25 years ago.

How do you test a character to see if they work, or is it instinctual?
With Mr Swallow I kind of see it as effectively an endurance test. When I first started out it definitely divided the room. Part of the joy, for me at least, is in occupying that sweet spot where it could all come tumbling down. One aspect of Mr Swallow is that he delivers his material (not that he thinks it’s material) with utter conviction. He acts like he’s storming it and that everyone’s on side regardless. This is why I almost always work with a director as I usually can’t tell how it’s going once I start.

Mr Swallow returns this year with a musical retelling of A Christmas Carol before a UK tour next year. What can audiences expect?
A Christmas Carol-ish … is Mr Swallow’s take on the Dickens classic. Naturally he’s cast himself as Scrooge but has forgotten to learn almost all his lines plus he doesn’t understand the rules of time travel. It’s another musical farce basically in the vein of his previous shows Dracula and Houdini. And the tour is a collection of solo Mr Swallow shenanigans I’ve been showcasing in Edinburgh and London over the last decade, but have never had the opportunity of taking on tour - so that’s exciting/terrifying!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
The oil needs to be really hot before you add the batter when making Yorkshire puddings.

And the worst advice?
Going cross-eyed when you see a magpie so that you see two will bring you good luck.

Since appearing as Nate in Ted Lasso, you must get recognised more on the street. What’s one of the strangest fan encounters you’ve had
It’s a weird old thing getting recognised and definitely something I’m still getting used to. Lots of people are pretty angry with Nate too, given how the last season of Ted Lasso ended - so managing that has been fun. The strangest encounters are almost always in Richmond, where the show is set, and where we’ve lived since 2014 – so way before the show’s lifetime. But now it just looks like I’m hanging out there to get spotted.


Interview by Liam Pape

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Nick Mohammed: ‘Paul Daniels was inspiring and a brilliant host’
The actor and creator of sitcom Intelligence explains how his love of the magician started his career as a performer

Interview by Ammar Kalia

13, Apr, 2021 @10:00 AM

Article image
Jon Richardson: ‘My personal decline is much funnier than that of the country’
The comedian on supermarket petrol stations, working with his wife Lucy Beaumont and the comedy heroes he fell in love with in the 90s

Interview by Liam Pape

16, Jan, 2023 @9:13 AM

Article image
Cally Beaton: ‘Connecting with people is the only skill I have. Luckily it’s a superpower’
The former TV executive on life lessons from Joan Rivers, paper-plane heckles and a ‘perfect day’ doing Live at the Apollo

Interview by Liam Pape

04, Jan, 2023 @6:00 AM

Article image
Kemah Bob: ‘I get so much bad advice from men who’ve never done comedy before’
The comedian and podcaster on the charms of British sitcoms, starting her own club night and hot new talent on the circuit

Interview by Liam Pape

10, Oct, 2022 @10:21 AM

Article image
Celya AB: ‘I got a couple of laughs and couldn’t think about anything else for weeks’
The standup on who makes her laugh, what she misses most about home, and learning to tune out bad advice from drunk people.

Interview by Liam Pape

12, Jul, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Guz Khan: ‘I didn’t have an agent, I just had my mates’
The comedian talks about his hunt for fresh talent, the new series of Man Like Mobeen and how one disastrous standup gig led to multiple arrests

Interview by Liam Pape

13, Sep, 2022 @12:23 PM

Article image
Ted Lasso star Nick Mohammed returns as Mr Swallow – and he’s not just for Christmas
Once an under-the-radar live comedy jewel, Mohammed’s alter-ego impresario is hogging the spotlight in two new stage shows. Is the character destined for TV?

Brian Logan

09, Dec, 2022 @4:31 PM

Article image
Rachel Fairburn: ‘A lot of standups have sucked the funny out of comedy’
The comic and podcaster on her pre-show rituals, the worst advice she’s been given and why routines about serious issues still need to make you laugh

Interview by Liam Pape

09, Aug, 2022 @7:00 AM

Article image
Ed Gamble: ‘Terrifying ego and an astonishing lack of self-esteem got me into comedy’
The standup on his worst gig, being inspired by his cat, and the comic genius of Rylan

Interview by Liam Pape

17, May, 2022 @6:00 AM

Article image
Laura Lexx: ‘I did 10 gigs for a master’s in standup comedy – then never stopped’
The comedian and author on studying laughter theory, industry frustrations and the perils of gigging at a racecourse

Interview by Liam Pape

19, Sep, 2022 @5:00 AM