Monday, March 24, 2014

Good, Bad & Ugly Interview

The Stand Comedy Club asked me some questions about “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” show we're doing at The Glasgow Comedy Festival on Monday 31st March.

The show features me, Mark Nelson, Bruce Morton, Julia Sutherland plus a *SPECIAL GUEST* (All people you've seen on Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, Rab C. Nesbitt, Still Game, The Now Show and The News Quiz.)...anyway...

When you're given a list of your forthcoming shows and you see that The Stand is included in that list, what do you think?

Hmm. Interesting. You’re starting an interview with ME by talking about YOU? OK, let’s talk about The Stand, but you really should look up the term "narcissistic personality disorder" in a medical dictionary…

What's your take on each of the 3 Stand clubs, both the clubs themselves and the audiences at each?

Every comedian knows the Stand Comedy Clubs are three of the best comedy clubs in Britain. The staff understand comedy, the audiences understand comedy, the rooms are laid out with comedy in mind. If someone was setting up a new club the Stand would be the perfect blue print of how to do it. Are you happy now?

Do you need to adapt your act in any way for each club, or does the city/venue not affect what you do?

I never adapt my act because (a) I'm not clever enough to do that, and (b) it would be insulting and patronising to the audience.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that different towns like different styles of comedy. For example: what is the Glaswegian sense of humour? Is it Billy Connolly or is it David Keay? Is it Chick Murray or is it Jerry Sadowitz? Is it Janey Goodly or is it Susan Calman?

Turns out it’s all of them. Audiences in Glasgow just want to see good comedians and laugh. The same goes for Edinburgh and Newcastle. And Portsmouth, and Liverpool and every other town in Britain. Except for Newbury. They don't like to laugh in Newbury. I know that because I've played there twice. Never again.

What made you want to do a monthly show at The Stand in Edinburgh, was it just practical reasons, the feel of the room itself, or the type of crowd that it attracts was best suited to this sort of show?

It’s 10 minutes walk from my house. What? Oh sorry. I mean, the audiences in Edinburgh are intelligent and sophisticated.

We recognise that you work very hard on the show, both on its component parts and booking appropriate guests to appear on it, so could you overlook that and sum it up for us in an easily digestible soundbite?

“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is the ultimate live comedians panel-show. Four comedians onstage, working off each others lines. No-one is censored, no-one is sober.

You’ve done TV panel shows and will no doubt have read the criticisms by some about their competitive nature, and how they’ve affected the live comedy scene and people expectations when they come to a live show.  Did you have this in mind when devising a panel show that seems less about each act trying to crowbar in their material?

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” is definitely less combative. Before the Glasgow Comedy Festival show Mark Nelson, Bruce Morton and our *special guest* will be backstage doing each others hair and swapping knitting patterns, I’ll be decanting the sherry and host Julia Sutherland will be taking up the hem of her miniskirt.

I wanted the show to be fun for the comedians and audience alike. It’s relaxed enough that the comics can make off-the-cuff remarks, but they’re still very much on the ball and chasing laughs. Often at each others expense.

If someone has seen the show before, how will the Glasgow show compare to those?

The Glasgow Comedy Festival show will be more feisty. We’ve got local lad Mark Nelson and comedy-legend Bruce Morton on the bill, along with a *special* guest we can’t name. The questions will definitely have more of a “57th most liveable city in the world” slant. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Commonwealth Games gets a mention.

The last Good, Bad and Ugly show in Edinburgh is available for download on itunes, will forthcoming shows be available to download not long after the live show? 

Yes - the show will be recorded and the podcast should be out a couple of days later. Why not come to the show, laugh loudly, download the podcast, then try and identify your own laughter?

When you moved to Edinburgh a few years ago, you could easily have settled into a role of big fish in a small pond, the comedian from the telly than can move from headline gig to headline gig doing the same commercial material, but you’ve gone in the opposite direction. Are you averse to resting on your laurels and feel compelled to keep evolving and developing your comedy?

Wow. I wish I had some laurels to rest upon.

I’m always working on new material. I know some comics are happy to perform the same routines for several years, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I get more excited when I’m trying something new.

I have a rule for new material: If I try a new joke three times and it doesn't get a laugh - I throw the audience away.

What prompted you to form the Edinburgh Comedy Collective, and to use this show as a platform to allow local acts the chance to try new things that they’d never get the opportunity to do so elsewhere? 

The good news is, there’s a lot of really talented comics in Scotland. The not so good news is, most of the Scottish gigs tend to be on a Friday or Saturday night, so the comics are under pressure to deliver their A-list material and they don’t get a chance to try out new ideas.
The Comedy Collective is the complete opposite. The idea was to provide a platform where the comics could be more free and experiment with new material, new characters or sketches. No-one is going to judge them. It’s a comics playground, and everyone knows if a comic is having fun on-stage the audience will have even better fun. 
It gives everyone involved a deadline to work to. For every show they need to write 5 or 6 minutes of new material. Last month I wrote a new piece purely for the Comedy Collective, three days later I did it on TV. That was invaluable. 

Can you cherry pick any stand-out moments from previous Comedy Collective shows, and are there any emerging acts you can recommend to those reading this simply because they recognise your name?

Too many to mention. But… Crime writer Ian Rankin turning his hand to standup was exciting to see. Comedians Ben Verth and Jim Park, in character as tour guides, leading the audience on a guided tour round the Stand Comedy Club was just as funny and ridiculous as it sounds. Keir McAllister, Gareth Waugh and Robin Grainger always turn up with new material that never fails to kill on the night, and more times than not, goes straight into their sets. And recently seeing Andrew Learmonth, having what can only be described as an “onstage mental breakdown”, was compulsive viewing.

As for newer comics, along with Gareth Waugh and Robin Grainger, I really like Eleanor Morton. I’d recommend going to see them. But only if I’m not doing a show at the same time. In that case, fuck all three of them, come see me. 

I see you as the renaissance woman of British comedy, as well as this show you do your own solo tour shows, you compere, you have your Speakeasy storytelling show, you do TV and radio, you’ve done theatre, and you have a fascinating comedy blog.  Are there things that you’ve never done that you’d like to try? 

Yes - I am the renaissance woman of British comedy, because I’m fluent in Latin and date back to the 14th century.

I’m happy doing anything that excites me. I’ve acted in sitcoms and plays, spent years writing for other comics and chat shows, and now I’m involved in a sitcom for Radio Scotland.

Fingers crossed it turns out better than my last experience. Last year I was commissioned to write a sitcom based on my life. I handed in the script and the producer said, “It’s very funny, the supporting cast are great but the lead character is very unlikeable”.  It took me a couple of minutes before I realised he was talking about me!

There’s a couple of things I’d like to try: I’ve never done anal. I’m working on a play. I’d like to find a good moisturiser. I‘d be interested in meeting Julia Sutherland’s fashion advisor. And I know it sounds crazy but I’d also like to work with animals and children, as long as no animals or children are involved.

Both Scotland and The Stand are immersed in the independence referendum debate. Being as you live in Edinburgh, do you feel that you need to work it into your act? If so, what approach do you take?

I don’t feel that I “have” to talk about the independence referendum. It’s more a case that I “want” to talk about the independence referendum. Having watched the recent Nicola Sturgeon/Johann Lamont debate I’ll probably be approaching it from the “Scotland needs better dentists” angle.

A lot of people will see you as 'that funny person' but we're wondering if you have an interest, passion or hobby that will surprise people, making them think 'I never expected that’?

Gardening. I’ve recently got into gardening in a big way. There’s someone about getting grass stains on my hands and knees that reminds me of my youth.

Planting flowers is a lot like writing jokes. You spend a lot of time caring for them and nurturing them, but eventually they’re going to die. Sorry, did I say “writing jokes”? I did of course mean, “visiting your grandparents”.

Our clubs attract a different sort of clientele during the festive period, and also during Glasgow Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe, do you find it a different experience playing 'off peak' in front of a 'real' crowd?  

Ooh! Get you with your “clientele”. That’s a fancy word. You’ll be serving pâté and going grouse-shooting next.

The way I look at it is: All audiences are the same - lucky to have me. 

Playing a comedy club gives you a short sharp jolt of excitement. You can practically feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins. You’re competing against the other comics, audience conversations, people ordering drinks, etc so you have a limited amount of time to get to the joke. With a Glasgow Comedy Festival or Edinburgh Fringe show (or a tour show) the audiences are more invested in you, so you can take a bit longer to get to the joke and go into more detail. 

Barry Crier once gave me some invaluable advice about being a comedian. I asked him, “Is there a difference between playing a comedy club and playing a theatre?”, he gave it some thought and then said, “Who are you? And how did you get into my bathroom?” I think that proves what an absolute comedy legend he is.

"The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" - Monday 31st March 
The Stand Comedy Club, 333 Woodlands Road, 
Glasgow G3 6NG

Box Office: 0844 335 8879
Tickets: £7.00

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