Aurie Styla has Sherlock Holmes levels of people reading

The stand-up talks reading his audience, getting snubbed by Tom Cruise and putting mayo on everything

It takes a brave soul to sit at the front of any comedy show. It takes an even braver one when it’s Aurie Styla’s. Since starting on the circuit in the early 2010s, the London-born comedian, writer, podcaster and actor has thrived in the thrill that comes from riffing with ever-changing characters and crowds.

Take a look at his socials and you’ll find a slew of red-faced audience members on the receiving end of his playful interrogations on his latest tour, The Aurator, which he takes back on the road in June, before resuming in October. “At the beginning, you get told ‘where’s your set?’ ‘What is it that you can do with your 15 minutes that you’re on stage?’ Something about that felt quite restricting.” He reflects from his freshly jazzed-up home podcast studio. “But as time goes along you realise that everyone’s path in comedy is different. Yes, I’ve got loads of material. I mean, this tour is my fifth special; writing the material and doing an hour is kind of is fun, but it’s not as fun as being able to go into a room and go, alright, who am I going to read today? What’s funny today?”

This spontaneous style no doubt lends itself well to promoting a new tour, too. While other comedians pick away at their material by teasing gags they’ve spent months working on, Styla can let the crowd work do the talking. “There are some jokes I have that I’m so itching for the world to see, but I don’t want to give it to everybody until the tour is done,” he says. “It’ll be great when everyone sees it, but there are parts of me that wishes you could see it now. The best thing I can do, if I can’t give you the show itself, is give you at least enough to see what I’m like when I’m on stage, and that element is very much in the crowd, working in the freestyling, and it definitely plays a major part throughout the entire show.”

None of this is to deflect from any lack substance, though. The Aurator itself picks up where his last show, Green, left off in 2022, during which time Styla has travelled and reflected on opening up about his mental health and the importance of therapy. “That last tour allowed me to go, ‘how do I be honest about some of the things that are going on in my life?’ ‘How do I be honest about the decisions that I have to make in my life?’ So I can continue to be funny, but it feels like it’s more authentic to me rather than just me finding what’s funny out there in the world.”

We get stuck in a lift with the talkative comedian and get to know him a little better ahead of The Aurator’s UK run.

Aurie Styla The Aurator Tour | Live Nation UK

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

Oh, goodness me. There are a few people. I’m always I’m thinking comedians, naturally, because they’re like-minded, so it would be Roy Wood Jr. He’s got such an insightful mind and he analyses things around him in such a humorous way. I’ve spoken to him briefly online, just comedian to comedian on social media, and I just love how his mind works. I look at his comedy – at his ability to write – and I think if I got stuck in a lift with him I’d probably learn a lot about somebody who stays true to himself as a comedian and also has a mind that’s very intelligent, that can break down things that are happening around him. I think I would learn a lot about being able to look at things around you from a perspective where you’re not being told what you have to think and feel, from somebody who also knows you don’t have to be Mr. Funny, every day of the week. Every time I watch him, there’s always that part of him that I really appreciate.

There’s another person as well, Busta Rhymes. He’s one of my favourite rappers. He’s in a healthy place now. If you see his interviews recently, he’s had a hard few years after losing his father, after losing one of his best friends; he struggled with his mental health. I’ve seen him live recently and I’ve seen him in interviews as well and there’s one thing that stands out is his ability to still be one of the greatest rappers, and still be so relevant, but also be very in touch with his feelings. I’ve seen him cry in interviews. If you’re stuck in a lift with somebody who has been through all of that, and the true side of them comes out, I think I’d appreciate being in an environment where I could just have a conversation. I just love seeing people that have been through things and come out of it, where you can see that they’re healed or on their way to healing.

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

I have a group of people… can I say that? People that use social media everyday just for the likes and the numbers. Because being stuck in a lift with somebody who may not have reception, and who also may have nothing to film or record – or who thinks that this is a blogable video moment – that would jar me.

I think as much as I have to use social media, I’ve learned that I don’t want to just put things out there purely for the likes. If I like what I’ve done and I put it out, that should be enough. If then everybody else likes it, then it means I’ve liked something, you’ve liked something. So those clips that you see of me doing crowd work, there’re so many that don’t make it because I watch it and don’t like how it’s edited or how it looks. If I put something out and I don’t like it and it doesn’t get the likes, I’m going to sit here doubly not liking what I did just for the likes.

Secondly, I think when you become so performative for the outside world, you lose sense of who you are and what you want to do for yourself. I’ve tapped into that before thinking that I’d be happy. It’s a platform to show your talent. It’s not the talent itself. I’d rather be around people that can use it as a tool, but it doesn’t become their every being. I don’t want to have them stuck in the lift with me because their sense of reality would be so warped.

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?

I went to watch Brian Tyler, the composer, on the embankment in central London. The person that I was seeing at the time got me tickets because she knows I love movie soundtracks. I’m an OST fiend. So she got these tickets dirt cheap, but they happened to be in a booth on the balcony. Next to us was another booth and it had a security guard in it.. I’m looking sideways but I couldn’t really figure out who it was, I was too busy watching Brian Tyler and listening to the music. And then, during the break, someone comes into our booth from the booth next to us and they were all amped up like, “Oh my god, the music’s amazing, isn’t it?!” And I turned around and it’s Tom Cruise. He walks off, but he comes back later on, and I was like “mate can I sit down and get a picture?”. And he was like “no. You can’t. I’m sorry.”

I think he was filming The Mummy in London at the time, because the lady who plays the mummy was in there as well. Me and my ex were looking at each other confused at the randomness of one of the most famous actors in the world to just randomly do that. Anyway, it’s great that the music moved him just as much as it moved us.

What was the last show that you went to?

Dave Chappelle at Bush Hall. It was him effectively doing a work in progress for what I assume is his next tour. Really, really good. And the openers for him were Michelle Wolf and Ashley Barnhill. It was just a great hour of him practising his material. As a comic watching it, you can see when he’s working on stuff, because I know what it looks like when you’re working on bits.

What work of yours didn’t get the attention it deserves?

A show called Tech Talk I did recently for BBC Radio Four, and I think that was because of the demographic of BBC Radio Four, in terms of the age group, and because of the medium that radio is. It was a comedic, deep dive into my journey of technology. And nostalgia was very much in the first two episodes. The third episode was me today. And the fourth episode was about the future of tech.

I’ll be honest, I don’t listen to radio anymore. I listen to podcasts, I listen to songs that I know that are out that I stream. I watch stuff on YouTube, but because this is on BBC Radio Four, it came out live. And BBC Sounds is still is a great platform with loads of great content, but it doesn’t get the recognition that it should as a podcast platform to check out. I think a lot of people will have missed it. Or even if I promote it, it’s only gonna be my people, and I can’t really clip it up the way I like to put on my socials to grab people because it’s literally audio content.

I think I think it was a great piece of work that me and Impatient Productions produced. It’s very funny, it’s very insightful, and it also shows the geeky side of me that I would love people to have seen more. I mean, people see it anyway, when I’m always gaming and stuff, but I think it gave even more of a geeky perspective of me and it would have been great if it would have had a more explosive impact.

What did 12-year-old you imagine that you’d be doing now?

A police officer, for some reason, which I know isn’t the answer that I should say. But 12 year old me? A police officer or a lawyer or a psychologist were there three things. Psychologist was kind of plotted in my mind; my mum wanted me to have a BA in psychology or crime scene forensics like CSI and so on.

But those were the times I started listening to Richard Pryor tapes on my own, I would download stuff off Napster and just listen to Pryor and then all of a sudden want to do his material everywhere, like to other people that had never heard of him in school. Then I started to get hold of Eddie [Murphy’s] Raw and Delirious, then started to get hold of early Chapelle when I was 14 or 15, when he did Killin’ Them Softly. I kept watching it and it just blew my mind what this was. I was also doing music; I was in the church performing, like dancing and stuff. I became a performer from 14 years old, comedy-comedy was another eight years later, but 12-year-old me developed from wanting to be someone in authority that could help people to finding other ways to help people by making them laugh or entertaining them.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

For comedy, two people gave me really bad advice. I won’t say their names. One of them I consider to be like an older sister to me. When I started she was one of people that worked around other people that did comedy. She saw me and she tried to discourage me from it, saying “I don’t like that you’re trying to do all of this” and then naming other comedians that she’d been friends with. I don’t know. She saw them getting into it and she was like ‘No, this is probably not really for you’. And because I trusted her advice so much, it hurt my feelings for her to give me that. This was in my first year of comedy, but I didn’t listen to it. I’m so happy I didn’t.

I wouldn’t say I’ve resented her ever since, but I did feel it was almost like a sabotage. Even though it wasn’t intentional. But I’m glad I didn’t listen, because I mean, five tours down, I’ve made a career of this. It’s supported my life. I’ve bought my homes from from this, I’m touring the world from doing this thing that I love. Me and her did have a talk, later on. I actually bumped into her the day of my first sellout tour show and live recording, which was Working Hardly in 2016. I bumped into her at Westfield and she tried to give me a compliment… but I was struggling to hear it because all I kept thinking “if I listened to you…!”.

I got another one real quick. This was from a promoter who was putting on comedy shows predominantly on the Black comedy circuit. He was very prominent in Britain, he had the opportunity to put people in mainstream clubs, Jongleurs and stuff like that. He was trying to tell me how to appeal to the audience and I think he saw it as, “well, that’s a predominately white crowd. They’re not going to get your references or your jokes,” and stuff like that. He was basically saying “don’t do stories”. It’s all gags gags, gags. I remember listening and it just didn’t feel like me. Whereas now, me and many of my peers have cultivated a diverse audience from all different backgrounds by being ourselves. Just tell your stories or be as funny as you are, the way you want to be. So no, go on stage and be yourself and you’ll find your audience.

So those are the two bits of bad advice: someone I trusted who always told me don’t do this, it may not be your thing, and someone who was in a position to help comics cross over to a wider audience trying to tell us how to pander.

If you had to have a song playing every time you walked into a room, what would it be?

‘Protect Your Clan’ by Wu-Tang Clan.

Wu-Tang Clan - Protect Ya Neck (Official HD Video)

What’s the skill that no one else knows that you’re great at?

I’ve lost my fluency, so I can’t say German anymore, but I do speak German. But I’d say aptitude. I did marketing as a kid at university and one of the attachments was buyer behaviour and understanding behavioural psychology. Reading people is something I’m very good at. I have a very high aptitude. At school, I was a Mensa student, which means they consider you to be intelligent in particular fields; it can be maths, it could be English, it could be problem solving. My aptitude is I can read situations and scenarios and people and be able to at least give enough of a background as to why someone is the way that they are based on a quick interaction with them. When it comes to doing the stuff that I do on stage, and crowd work, I don’t throw it at them in an arrogant way, but I can kind of always read it and see what’s going on.

That must be such a fine balance, right? I saw one interaction in Bristol recently that you had to get right there.

Jenny from Bristol, right?! I knew when to talk. I knew when not to. I knew what to say and what not to say. And I also knew she was single, right? Because she came to a comedy show in the front row with her daughter. She’s a fan of the comedy but so is her daughter, she could have come with her husband, but she didn’t. Front row with a glass in your hand with somebody that you’re familiar with, if she was with a husband she probably would not have dressed up that way; the relationship itself would be either very free or in a bad place. All these things go through my head in that instant. I go alright, which could it be? Let me read. Okay, I’m gonna probably go with this one. She’s single. Rather than go “you’re single aren’t you?,’ which sounds really rude, I go, “Are you are you in a relationship?” She goes ‘no’ and I can then go further.

There was one I did in Bath where I was able to understand a guy based on what he was wearing; he had a top on that was in support of addicts, and helping them reform, so I knew he was a vicar in the local area. He works in the vicarage that helps addicts reform from their addiction, and so on, and he does really well in this community to do so. It’s just being able to look and read different things about people and then being able to piece stuff together and pick up on things.

I’ll give you one last one, this is probably the best one. I went to High Wycombe, I think it was, and in the front row, there was a mum and a son. The mum looked really young, the son was too, so I asked if they were in a relationship. I pressed their buttons just a touch and I said “you should be, you look good”. As soon as I did that, I could see how he squirmed a bit. And then I saw he was he was wearing a smart shirt and he had jeans on that were slightly bigger, and then trainers. It was a comedy show on a Friday, so you can dress a bit more casual, but he dressed a bit more smart casual, sitting in the front row. Then I saw when he lifted his hands up, to say that I should calm down, I could see that he had tattoos all the way up to his wrist. Instantly, based on the fashion that he’s wearing, a style that was maybe 10 years old, and the tattoos, the fact that he was very smiley – probably very used to people looking at his mom in a way – and very quickly jumped up to say ‘watch what you’re saying’, even though he did it in a jokey way… I knew he’d done time.

So I came out in the second half, and I said let me just ask you a quick question, if you don’t mind. “You’ve done time, haven’t you?” And he looked at me and went “shh!”. I knew it straight away, I could see his mom was not happy with me being able to read that. I saw it and I said alright, I’m gonna leave it at that. But you know what, the fact that you’re out, you’re able to come to a comedy show and have a laugh… have a good time. That’s what we’re focusing on. And his mum became more comfortable then. Reading people with behavioural assessments, I would say is one of the tricks I have that helps comedy.

What’s your most controversial food opinion?

I love mayonnaise on a lot of food. A lot of food. Rice, all meats. There doesn’t even have to be salad on there or vegetables. I just like mayonnaise on a lot of hot food. And I mix it with another sauce, maybe Reggae Reggae sauce, which is not really a hot sauce but I like how it’s kind of almost a sweet barbecue sauce… Cranberry sauce or sweet chilli sauce, mix it all up with mayonnaise.

Do you have any superstitions?

I’m a Christian, so I wouldn’t call it a superstition. It’s a faith and a belief, I pray before every show. I pray I realise the talent that I have is God given, and I give thanks for having the ability to do so. So what I do before every show is I make sure I pray. I make sure I pray that everyone who’s on the show does well, I pray that everyone who’s at the show enjoys it, and then I go out and have to probably ask for forgiveness for some of the stuff I’ve said…

Catch Aurie Styla’s Aurator tour throughout the UK in June, before it resumes in October and November – tickets are available here