Sean Kelly’s non-stop – and utterly magnetic – approach to his job as the auctioneer on the TV programme Storage Hunters, which features highly entertaining auctions for mystery items, has won him legions of fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
And he is bringing the show to the Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, on Wednesday, October 18.
Viewers have been drawn in by his wonderfully anarchic, spirited and downright funny method of auctioneering – a style that has been described as “Like someone has attached electrodes to a woodpecker!”
Sean’s madcap life includes gaining top secret military clearance and completing a combat tour in Iraq, tackling shoplifters as an undercover store detective in Italy and headlining at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the past three years. But now, thanks to Storage Hunters, he is now the most famous – and the most mesmerising – auctioneer in the world.
Chatting from his home in Beverly Hills, Sean explains that, “The cool thing about being an auctioneer is that there is no rule book. You can make bid calling how you want.”
In Sean Kelly and the Stars of Storage Hunters he will be joined on stage by his two co-stars, Tarrell “T-Money” Wright and Cameron “Green Mile” Rowe, marvellously effervescent comedians renowned for their antics and outrageous bidding styles.
Sean recollects that “Before we did Storage Hunters, Tarrell, Cameron and I performed stand up together for many years. I had my own comedy club in San Diego. We did seven shows a week every week for eight years. So we are very well practised triple act now. That’s why we’ve got such good chemistry on stage because we were friends for years before we did any TV.”
Comedy, however, was not paying the bills. “We were not making a ton of money doing stand-up,” Sean continues. “So we had to do other things. I was managing a newspaper when a friend said to me, ‘You should come and be the auctioneer at my sale’.
“So I started doing auctions. One day, all of a sudden a fight broke out at one of my auctions. I immediately thought, ‘This would be a great TV show. It’s WWF meets The Antiques Roadshow!’”
He adds that, “It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of an auction. I once sold a puppy for $17,000. People start to lose their mind and forget how much money they’re spending at an auction. They want to outbid each other.
“They cross over into pure emotion and begin bidding too much. I think I’m good at stoking people up because I’ve done stand-up, I know how to work with audiences.”
Sean proceeds to give us an example of the bidding fever that afflicts customers at auction. “When we were last on tour in the UK, my wife would go to Poundland and get little canvases, so I could draw stick figures of the bidders. It was the worst item ever, but in Burton on Trent, I sold one for £450!”
Storage Hunters has proved an immense hit – the format is currently airing in 130 countries.
“I’ve now made 80 episodes in the US and 56 in the UK. I’ve met lots of fans at conventions, and they all love it. They adore the atmosphere of the show. It’s really struck a chord.”
But why has Storage Hunters become particularly successful on this side of the Atlantic?
“I’ve figured out that Brits love gambling and they also love fights. Wrestling is very popular in the UK. So, viewers are attracted by the mixture of gambling, arguments, pushing and shoving and the mystery of ‘Did they make a profit? What’s under the tarpaulin?” said Sean.
He clearly thrives on the buzz of playing to a live audience.
“It’s such a rush for me. It’s a dream come true. As a kid, I was absolutely thrilled the first time I ever saw Robin Williams do stand up. It seemed so magical. Comedians are true illusionists because they give you the impression that they are thinking up crazy stuff off the top of their heads, and we buy into that,” he added.
Sean Kelly and the Stars of Storage Hunters will close with a charity auction for Help for Heroes. Sean, who created Storage Heroes in 2011, recalls that he road-tested the idea of the charity auction on a small tour of this country in October 2015. “I asked the audience to bring in cheeky items, and a lot of them brought in joke items.
“One guy brought in a jersey and jeans. He stuffed them with newspaper and placed a photocopied face of me on top of them. It was the creepiest thing, but a woman still bought it for £300 and put it on her couch at home!” Sounds like a top night!
Finally, what does Sean hope that audiences will take away from his shows? “First of all, I hope we get to make a difference and raise a lot of money for Help for Heroes. I served in Iraq and have a strong connection with wounded veterans.
“I also hope we leave them wanting more, so that we can do it again down the road! Above all, if people don’t know what to expect from our shows, I’d like them to come out at the end and say, ‘Wow, that was really fun!’”
Tickets for Sean Kelly and the Stars of Storage Hunters can be found at www.theapex.co.uk or by ringing 01284 758000.