Alfie Moore has swapped policing the streets of Humberside for the stage as a stand-up comic. Yvette Huddleston discovers his years as a policeman and his past gambling problems inspire his act.
It takes courage to give up a steady, well-paid job and take a risk on following your dream but for police-officer-turned-stand-up-comedian Alfie Moore, it looks like the gamble is starting to pay off.
Currently on a career break from the Humberside police force, Moore is making a name for himself nationally on the comedy club circuit, is in demand as an after-dinner speaker and his 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival show I Predicted a Riot received rave reviews.
In a competitive comedy market, Alfie is unique in that he can draw on 18 years’ experience on the beat to create material that is edgy and political as well as being very, very funny.
Born and brought up in Sheffield, Alfie was an apprentice steelworker before he joined the police and it wasn’t until he was in his 40s that he began to think about a career in comedy.
“I haven’t got a creative background at all,” he says. “I left school at 15 and I was very fortunate to get into the police with my qualifications. Academically I was not very good – I was probably the most under-qualified police officer ever.
“I was always very jokey at work,” he says. “As a sergeant I used to run the briefings for the rest of the team and I would try and make it entertaining.”
But it wasn’t until 2005 when he married for the second time that he began to realise he may have a real talent for comedy.
“I wrote a speech – just about our relationship and her kids and one or two other things – and that went very well. Afterwards so many people came up and said that it was the funniest wedding speech they had ever heard, it sort of planted the seed that I could write and perform.”
In 2007 he went to a comedy club in Scunthorpe, where he is based, and ended up entering a competition. He took the day off work and wrote 10 minutes of material.
“I’m sure I was really awful,” he laughs. “But I got a good response to my act and I thought there might be something in it.”
Others obviously thought so too, since he won the competition and began to do spots in comedy clubs around the region. At this point he was still doing his “day job” and apart from confiding in a few close friends and colleagues, he kept quiet about his occasional ventures into comedy. However, once he started getting paid for his appearances, he was obliged to let his superiors know.
“The head of HR and my Superintendent and his wife came to see me perform. They thought the act was fine and they were happy with the material. In fact, I went on to do a lot of entertainment for the police, performing at various police conferences and social events.”
Humberside police have allowed Alfie up to five years sabbatical with the proviso that they can call him back at any time if he is required and he says that overall his colleagues and superior officers have been very supportive.
“My material is quite self-deprecating and can be political and I think they appreciate the fact that I am not afraid to speak out and tell it how it is.”
And it is not only the police which gives Alfie his material. In his latest show. Viva Al’s Vegas, he draws on a very personal experience – addiction to gambling.
“Some people might be quite shocked by it,” he says.
“I did think about what people’s reaction might be but if you are going to write a show you have to make it about something. My dad was a big gambler and I followed in his footsteps.
“It became quite a problem for me; it was an addiction. The show is about my journey through it – it is from the heart.”
There is a political theme woven through it too, as Alfie says he fears that, with the proliferation of casinos and easy accessibility on the internet, gambling could be the next big social problem for the UK.
“I am concerned about how people are being encouraged to gamble. The Government is making billions of pounds every year on the profits from gambling and I am very worried about the vulnerable people.”
Alfie is a very relaxed and amiable presence on stage, quickly building up a rapport with the audience and getting them on his side. He attributes his calm demeanour and ability to diffuse potentially difficult situations to his years of police training.
“When you are a police officer you have to deal with some aggressive people who are drunk on a Saturday night and things can turn nasty,” he says. “When you first start in the police that’s very difficult to deal with but after a couple of years you learn how to control your emotions and you remain calm. Being in that kind of confrontational situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen next and where you have to remain calm is very similar to walking out onto a stage. But you do have to learn that; when I look at tapes of my appearance on Show Me the Funny, which was only two years ago, I looked very nervous.”
His appearance on the 2011 ITV reality show was another brave move by his supportive police colleagues, he says.
Much of the acclaim for I Predicted a Riot – which was partly inspired by the riots that rocked the UK in the summer of 2011 – comes from the open, honest (and hilarious) way in which he discusses the everyday realities of modern policing. He acknowledges that he is lucky in having such rich material to mine.
Whether or not he goes back into the force remains to be seen but, for the time being at least, he is enjoying himself, making a lot of people laugh and helping to raise the profile of the police in a positive way.
What drives Alfie Moore’s success
Alfie Moore is writing a four-part pilot for a live, police-based interactive comedy show for BBC Radio 4, has been commissioned to write a book about his experiences as a police officer and is working on his new stage show entitled Viva Al’s Vegas which, courageously, touches on his past problems with gambling.
He loves the fact that, in middle age, he has tapped into a creative seam that he didn’t know he had.
Alfie finds the whole writing process and honing of material “very exciting” and gets a buzz out of going on stage. However, while he doesn’t miss the bureaucracy of police work (“for every 10 minutes of excitement, there’s three days of paperwork”) he does miss the camaraderie and being part of a team. Stand-up comedians spend a lot of time on their own.
Alfie Moore is appearing at the Hyena Lounge, York on May 12 and The Library, Leeds on May 15, for more information visit www.alfiemoore.com