Hello there. Following on from a recent chat with a local newspaper where the journalist’s printed transcript had about as much semblance to what I’d said as a tin of alphabetti spaghetti emptied over a rock, I thought I’d cut out the middle-man and do a self-interview. So, I’m asking the questions and answering them. If you don’t like it, it’s entirely my fault. You can also read a brilliant self-interview by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. here: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3605/the-art-of-fiction-no-64-kurt-vonnegut
Q. So, what have you been up to?
A. Well, I was working on the second series of a sketch show for BBC Radio Wales called Here Be Dragons, a lot of writing and failing to act anywhere near as well as Cariad Lloyd, Nadia Kamil and Elis James. I recorded a couple of episodes of Unbelievable Truth for BBC Radio 4 and then it’s mainly been the tour.
Q. What’s the process for preparing for the tour?
A. It’s a tweaked version of last year’s Edinburgh show and another 40 minutes of a mixture of older stuff and newer stuff that I haven’t done on tour before. I kind of collect all of the possible routines together and then do some warm-up gigs, where you’re trying to fit all the pieces together and having to excise routines that maybe don’t quite work in the context of the show…
Q. Such as?
A. I had a bit about a guy in the States who killed a chap who was annoying him in the cinema, and I basically said that I thought it was completely justified. It was deliberately provocative, and ridiculous, taking an indefensible position and trying to justify it, and I also thought it was funny to suggest executing mis-behaving audience members in front of an audience. But it’s one of those bits, that sometimes really flew and other times, if it was taken literally, is just you telling a room full of people you wouldn’t mind if some of them were killed.
Q. I guess they don’t like that.
A. No, they don’t. But the inappropriateness of it was so enticing. I’ll put it away somewhere and come back to it when I’ve got the tools to do it justice.
Q. How have the audiences been on the tour so far?
A. Ha ha, I’ve had some characters in. And also some proper bell ends. A guy in Warwick who was obsessed by a perceived influx of Uzbekistanis. A man in Guildford who muttered and danced for most of the show. A woman in Windsor who started kicking off because she didn’t know what Tinder was and had a mini meltdown about being old and irrelevant. The trouble with Arts Centres, as opposed to comedy clubs, is that a lot of the staff are volunteers rather than security staff and it’s not really fair to expect them to eject someone who’s misbehaving. I don’t really like throwing people out either, unless they can’t be reasoned with. In terms of heckling/disruptions, I think logic and sobriety are the key weapons in a comedian’s arsenal.
Q. Is there a big difference in each show then?
A. I think doing the same show repeatedly, on a tour or at the Edinburgh Festival, for example, you see the real difference in the audience, as the show pretty much stays the same, but the audience is a variable. There are ad-libs, one-off events etc but the core of the show remains the same. I know audience members are always judging comedians, but it’s a two way street too, because comedians always compare audiences. A comedian turns up to a gig after it starts, the first question is 'What are they like?' Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people are great. I’ve had some wonderful experiences on this tour. A woman in Bromsgrove insisted she introduce me onto the stage in the second half, climbed out of her seat onto the stage and did just that. Later on, her husband suddenly developed cramp, so he got up and started doing lunges. It was the sort of madness you can’t prepare for. You just have to try and keep on top of it.
Q. That’s not really something you expect!
A. No, and nor should you. Little moments like that can really lift a gig. The audience knows that this is completely unprepared and there’s a joy to it. Well, they usually know it’s unprepared. I had about ten different disruptive, sometimes aggressive punters in the Windsor gig and some people in the room thought they were plants! Why would you pay ten people to come and fuck a gig up?! I’m perfectly capable of doing that myself.
Q. Who do you really rate at the moment, comedy-wise?
A. I think Bobby Mair is pretty special. It’s just a beguiling mix of unpredictability and fragility and proper funny, often dark jokes. Who else? Hannah Gadsby’s brilliant art shows. I did a gig with John Robins recently and he consistently made me laugh both on and offstage. Oh, Kayleigh Llewellyn too. Not a stand-up, but an incredibly talented comic writer. She has a blog about customer service in the West End and it’s so sharp and delightedly vicious.
Q. Who or what do you really rate at the moment, non-comedy wise?
A. In terms of music, I don’t know why but I’ve been listening to a lot of funk. Eugene Blacknell and the Savonics, The Deirdre Wilson Tabac, Esther Marrow and The Kashmere Stage Band, who were this high school Texas college band in the late 60’s/early 70’s that also managed to be this phenomenal instrumental funk outfit. In terms of films, I was boggled and captivated by Rino Di Silvestri’s Werewolf Woman and also really enjoyed The Parallax View, a sort of overlooked 1970s paranoid conspiracy theory thriller with sex man Warren Beatty and great supporting cast. In terms of Wikipedia pages, the List of Unusual Deaths and if you want to overturn everything you think you know then the page on the Monty Hall Problem is great for that.
Q. Finally, are you looking forward to doing the show at the Glasgow Stand?
A. I am, yeah. I think it’ll just be the hour version so I might write up all the routines on a board and let the audience pick. And the Stand staff are great. There were a bunch of lagered up rugby fans in the Edinburgh Stand once, heckling and shouting, I put the ringleader down, turned away to take a sip of my drink, turned back and he’d already been ejected. I think some of them are ninjas.