H: Why/how did you get into stand-up?
It was more or less forced on me. Let me explain - I’ve been performing since I was a child, one of those annoying theatre brats you associate with Bonnie Langford. I was quite happy with acting, but then I was in a show that required me to learn circus skills, which I loved. So with a bit of training I was off around Europe being “Circus Boy”. This led me into street performing, travelling the world, busking at festivals everywhere. At the end of ‘89 I was working for a big US entertainment corp. and they were aware I wasn’t having such a good time. So they offered me an MC-ng slot in a stand-up tour around Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana. So, my first ever stand-up was in the southern states of America.
H: What was your first gig like? Did it go well?
It was strange, I was nervous but overly confident. The bookers were in the audience to make sure they’d done the right thing. I had some lines and a street act that I was going to break down into different sections around people telling jokes. I had a costume, the other acts were just in T-shirt and jeans. I had props, the others had punchlines. There was obviously a clash of performing styles on the stage that night but what won it for me was my accent. As soon as the crowd heard my dulcet south-east London tones, well it was an easy in. And by the end of the two and half months, I’d won myself over. No more dress up, no more things out of a bag, just me and a mic.
H: How would you describe your stand-up to those who haven’t heard of you?
Playful teasing. A smiley smut-peddler. Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes I get in a mood about things and I rant a bit about a topical subject. It all depends what mood I’m in, I guess. But I hope it’s always entertaining.
H: What's your writing process like? How do you decide when to test material and where to put it?
It just goes in. If it’s a new piece I’ll bang it in at the top. Don’t know why, some people let the audience get to know them before trying new stuff and then do it in the middle. For me, it’s a couple of jokes, and then do it. I think I’m excited about wanting to try it out in front of fresh ears. My writing process usually involves sitting in a bath and things just come to me. I try adding to material all the time. I never write down anything, which is silly and lazy, especially when a subject comes around again and you’re thinking “I used to have a great bit about breeding pandas”.
H: Do you think comedy should have a message or ideology behind it?
No, not really. I think if you’re doing an hour-long show it’s nice to give an audience something to think about. Create something that’s more then just joke after joke. I suppose it’s easy for me to say, since Hoorah For Cancer was pretty much an emotional rollercoaster. But for twenty-minute club sets, nah, the audience wants to get away from being lapdogs of normality, so just give ‘em a good time. I bet now I say that, next gig, I’m going to get all preachy on the crowd.
H: Where does the inspiration for your work come from?
So many places. Books, cartoons, newspapers, websites, silent movies, graffiti, seriously, so many different things can set me off. Some of my muses are: Laurel & Hardy, Tony Hancock, Frankie Howerd, Roscoe Arbuckle, Sam Kinison and Bill Irwin.
H: Is critical approval important to you?
Not really. I recently created a website and realised I had no records of good reviews (there have been some). I read reviews and take on board what the critic has to say and usually learn from that. Some comics say “I don’t read reviews, never have done, never will” – well, how are you going to grow? An independent outside eye is important to have. But I very rarely bask in the warmth of a good review.
H: What do you think of the impact the internet has had on the comedy industry? How has is benefited/harmed your career to date?
I love the internet, from networking on social media to the lone critic in a bed-sit. It all helps the big comedy boat sail along. It’s so random where your name will pop up or what people will say. Someone once posted a review of The Early Edition and said I was “Crude, cheap and in the gutter” but they had registered on the site as “HardPink69”. Only on the web…
H: Could you tell us about your upcoming Edinburgh show: Nature’s Candy?
Have no idea what this is….not me anyway.
H: I noticed you’re playing Latitude this year (alongside Marcus Brigstocke), with a live version of your BBC Radio Show: The Late Edition. What can people expect to see in that show? How does live version differ from its original incarnation?
Again not me, well not this year anyway. Brigstocke is doing an Early Edition at Latitude, with whom, I could not tell you as he’s booking it. And it’s a live show that spun off from a BBC4 TV show: The Late Edition. See www.theearlyedition.co.uk
H: You once opened for Bob Hope. How did that come about?
I was in Columbus, Ohio in 1992, 500 years since Columbus had discovered that quaint nation. To celebrate the anniversary a festival called “Ameriflora” was created and it only seemed fitting to do it in Columbus. I was invited since I could tick so many performance boxes: street show, improv, stand-up, wandering characters. Well, Bob Hope was booked to do two nights and I pushed myself forward to do the warm-up.
H: What was it like opening for someone so renowned in the comedy world?
Interesting, he was old, very old, I spoke to him and said “I live in Bromley, Just next to Eltham where you were born”. He looked at me and said in a very confused voice “Eltham? Eltham? Ah, Eltham, I was born there” I was worried because, as a comedian your powers of recall are quite important. Then I noticed the front row of the auditorium were covered in cue cards for him to read from, including his theme tune which as some might know is Thanks For The Memory. The irony was lost on the Americans I pointed this out to. But when he was on stage you would never have known, he breezed across the stage like an old pro, reading his lines as he moved. In the end he was an absolute joy to watch.
H: I really admire how personal your material is. Do you ever find it difficult to talk about some of that stuff on stage? If so, how do you get past that?
Not at all, nothing is off limits in my mind. When I got cancer, people would say “You can’t do jokes about that, someone’s nan will have died of it and they’re watching you” but, it’s my cancer, my story and do you know what, I find it funny. Finding the funny for others to find funny can sometimes be difficult, especially if they’re already closed-minded about the subject.
H: Is there anything you have coming up that you want to promote?
Edinburgh 2012 – The Early Edition – everyday in an upside down novelty bovine bivouac. 2pm.