Named after a famous freedom fighter, New York comedian Michael Che doesn’t concern himself with provoking some serious disagreement.

Michael Che is not an obviously ‘New York’ comic. Despite being born and raised in the city that gave us Joan Rivers, Woody Allen and Eddie Pepitone, Che seems neither acidic, angst-ridden nor angry.

In person he is even more chilled than onstage. His lowdown, crawling, drawling tones make Iggy Pop sound like a hysterical girlie. “I like to leave it a little loose,” he says of his comedy. He is comfortable with a “loose” audience too: “I like a room where people are drinking a lot,” he says. “People behave differently in a bar than in a theatre.”

Michael Campbell was first called to the mike in 2009. Che is really his middle name (yes, after Che Guevara) and, having been referred to as Michael Che all the way through high school, he kept it as his stage name.

He used to watch comedy in New York clubs and was fascinated that guys could: “get up and be bad at it and still go on trying … so I thought, maybe I could be bad at it too.”

How long was he bad at it, I wonder aloud. “According to who you ask,” he purrs “I’m still bad at it”.

Stand up hadn’t been exactly a life-long ambition, but he had always wanted, he says “to be opinionated”. Job pretty much done, I would suggest. He luxuriates in the reactions he generates. I would have said ‘revels’ but Che is way too chilled to revel.

“It’s a weird thing when you are on television: people take ownership of you. If they like you, they want you just the way you are on TV and if you deviate from that, they get angry.” Indeed, they did love Che, on everything from guest appearances with Letterman to The Daily Show. “I have a big liberal audience,” he says “and if I turn out to have conservative views on something, they feel like I’ve betrayed them.”

Late last year, that liberal audience turned on him in a Twitterstorm of outrage after he opined online that the much ‘liked’ Facebook video of a girl walking through the streets of New York being ‘harassed’ (my inverted commas) by men making remarks as she passed, might have been overstating the case a little. A cyber-hate campaign ensued about which he remains sanguine.

“You can’t believe everything you read,” he says. “People write harsher than they speak. I mean some of the things … there is just no way they could be that mad at me.” His belief in a comic’s right to a good, ongoing disagreement with an audience is one reason he despairs of the current attitude of TV companies to comedy.

“TV is doing an irresponsible job in letting the audience dictate content rather than allowing the artists to do it and let the audience tune in and out. No matter how many sharp corners they trim off of comedy, they will never get something that doesn’t offend anyone. It’s like parents who are too lenient with their kids, and the kids end up running the household.” I, for one, am not going to disagree with that.

Where & When
Michael Che: Six Stars, The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4, 6-20 August, 10.40pm, from £10, Tel. 0131 558 7272
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