SCA Spotlight on…our newest mentor, Mr Iain Lee

Iain Lee is is a broadcaster, writer, former television presenter and stand-up comedian best known for The 11 O’Clock show and the infamous strawberry steal in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

He’s now a mentor here at SCA. So, we spent a few minutes with him to find out more about his career, the highs, the lows and how he’ll be mentoring our students to creative success.

1. Hi Iain! How long have you worked in the industry?

I trained in performing arts at Middlesex University, left in 1995 and did stand up (badly) for a few years. I got lucky and saw a huge mail out that Talkback productions sent out basically asking EVERYONE to audition for this new topical comedy show they were doing. Against all the odds, I auditioned and got the part. This was my last roll of the dice. I was in debt and back living with my mum. If I hadn’t got that I would have got myself a normal job.

After that I kind of lived my career in reverse. Everything I did after seemed to get smaller and smaller. What am I proud of? I really enjoyed RI:SE, the breakfast tv show that replaced The Big Breakfast – it got terrible reviews but I still believe it was funny and insane to have it as a breakfast show. I’m proudest of my radio stuff, especially towards the end. The early stuff is pretty problematic nowadays, and I’m not too proud of that but what I’ve been doing the last few years is alright, I guess.

2. Where are you from and what inspired you to head on the career path you took?

Grew up in Slough. Hated it. Could not focus in school. Failed nearly all my exams. Found out much later I’m bipolar and have ADHD so stood zero chance in a school in the 80’s. I needed to break out and it seems I managed that by sheer force. In terms of inspiration, anyone doing something slightly out of the norm – Peter Cook, Andy Kaufman. My radio hero is Clive Bull.

3. You’re our newest mentor at SCA – Welcome! What do you teach here?

I don’t really know what I teach. My background is in radio and I’ve done 100’s of voice over. I know what I like and what I think sounds rubbish, so that’s really all I got! Opinions and experience. It’s up to the students if they take on board what I’m saying.

4. What are your thoughts on SCA so far and what are you enjoying?

I was relieved in week two when people still booked in to see me. That could have been a disaster. I enjoy it because it keeps me on my toes. It’s always exciting working with creative people. The last few years of my career, I was working late nights so I saw no one apart from producer. I’d forgotten what it’s like to have people throwing ideas at you and it’s brilliant.

5. Any recommended reading or listening?

Listen to the radio. All of it. Every station. Don’t just stick with stuff you like, that’s easy. Dip into stuff you hate and sit with it. Why do you hate it? What is it that they’re doing that you don’t like and what would you do differently. You don’t like Nick Ferrari? Great. Listen to him for a whole week. I know this course is geared towards advertising but for me it’s communication. Learning how different people communicate, the tricks and techniques they use, that can only be beneficial.

6. For anyone that thinks ‘they can’t’, what would you say to them?

I suggest a key thing is working out what success means to you. Is it having shed loads of money and a huge house? If that’s the case, good luck, it CAN happen but the odds are stacked pretty high against that being the case. If success is being creative and making things that fill you with pride, then go for it. That is achievable. I cannot in good faith say you will all become successful in advertising and get rich. I know so many talented people – singers, actors, presenters, directors – that are infinitely better than some of the people on TV and they never made it. I suggest the key is defining success for you and doing your best to enjoy it.

7. Top tips/advice for anyone wanting to succeed in the creative industry.

Be nice to EVERYONE.

8. Best piece of advice you were ever given.

Don’t be a dick. I did not follow this one for a long time.

Follow Iain on Twitter @iainlee

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