Most people wouldn’t know quite how to react if the driver of a passing car on Lewes High Street wound down the window and shouted out ‘Naughty Little Geezer’ at them.
However, Owen Ridley loves it when that kind of thing happens as it’s a sign he is gaining recognition for his ‘alter ego’ character in the Youtube channel he launched a few months ago.
Being outrageously funny appears to be second nature to this man with a deep, attractive voice that always seems to be about to break into a hearty chuckle.
And making people smile and laugh is central to Owen’s aim to forge out a new career for himself as an entertainer now that his milestone 50th birthday is only a couple of years away.
It’s an ambition he has held since his youth, and now he feels that the popularity of his slightly crazy Youtube videos could be the breakthrough he has longed for.
His background before delving into comedy was reasonably mixed. He worked mainly as a manual labourer, on farms, roofing and in power stations.
“I reached the age of 29 and thought I had to do something else,” he says.
Entertaining was what he wanted to do, and so he enrolled for a three-year degree in Theatre and the Visual Arts at the University of Sussex where he achieved what he laughingly describes as ‘a First Class Degree in mucking about’.
Making a break into the world of entertainment didn’t prove easy, although Owen did take part in several productions at the Little Theatre in Lewes and performed in pantos at Barcombe.
His dry humour came to the fore when he wrote a play entitled Ridley’s Prospects, an hour-and-a-half of dark comedy about pubs and drinking. Intriguingly, none of the characters had names, and some people described it as being a bit like the famous Waiting for Godot.
Ridley’s Prospects was staged 16 times, mostly in pubs, but the highlight was at the Beautiful Day Festival in Devon where it was enthusiastically received by a sell-out theatre audience of about 300.
It was suggested that the ironic subject matter even ‘incriminated’ some of those who watched it!
“The play turned into a bit of a gig and gained quite a following,” Owen says. “One man came to see it nine times, and my drama teacher from university saw it seven times.”
He would like to revive Ridley’s Prospects sometime in the future, but in the meantime, he is writing another play, an acerbic piece about being let down by an actor.
His primary focus now, however, is his Naughty Little Geezer channel on Youtube, building up the number of likes and subscribers in the hope it could lead on to greater things.
“I’m 48 now and working as a painter and decorator which isn’t good for your health – you get RSI, your lungs get full of dust,” Owen says. “I’d like to make enough money to adjust my living arrangements as at I’m currently residing in a summerhouse at the bottom of a friend’s garden.
“So I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m trying to make a go of my Youtube channel as I believe it has all kinds of potential. Producers who’ve heard my distinctive, deep tones on it are now using my voice.
“I also need to get round to recording bedtime stories and books – people of either gender or persuasion tell me they’d happily fall asleep listening to them!
“I’ve just been up to Horsham for an audition because the BBC are looking for new voices – we had to tell a story within 60 seconds, which was quite a challenge.
“I really want to build up Naughty Little Geezer on Youtube and monetise it, but I know it will be a slow build, probably taking up to two years. But I am drawing people in with the absolute nonsense they see me doing.”
Owen’s sense of humour is dry and quirky but can be quite dark at times when he decides to poke fun at the establishment or highlight issues he feels strongly about.
“I don’t really do much political stuff, though I am quite left-leaning,” he explains. “But I do hate the self entitlement you often come across in people. I want to tell them ‘get over yourself’, ‘learn to look at yourself’. And I find it disturbing that so many teenagers nowadays lock themselves in their rooms rather than communicating, and it’s very worrying that so many of them carry blades.
“I don’t do stand-up although I enjoy watching it. Naughty Little Geezer is ultimately all about my views, so people can make what they will of it. It actually seems quite bizarre to be talking to a camera, but the process changes when you know people will be watching you.
“Quite a few people are following me now, and I am getting more and more interaction. I welcome feedback and enjoy ending up having some bizarre conversations with people.”
Owen has a deep affection for Lewes, and the majority of his work as a painter and decorator is in the town.
“I care about Lewes and spend a lot of time here. It’s great when people sidle up to me in the pub or on the street and say Naughty Little Geezer, or wind down their car windows and call out that name to me.
“I’ve suffered from depression most of my life, and I think that because of that, it’s made me want to entertain people, make them smile and laugh. I believe there should be more laughter in the world and hopefully, Naughty Little Geezer can add to it.”