Lloyd Langford interview: “I don’t really believe dogs are more intelligent than babies.”
Most well-known for his work with superstar-comedian and fellow Welshman Rhod Gilbert, stepping out of this man’s shadow would always prove an interesting journey – but Lloyd Langford is going for it, with his first solo stand-up tour.
National audiences will be most familiar with Langford from the BBC1 show Ask Rhod Gilbert – also featuring Greg Davies and Langford as weekly panel members, where it was always fairly obvious that Langford was playing a character. Slightly naïve, a little bit dense – but with some incredibly astute yet obtuse observations on everyday activities.
Most of Langford’s bits were presented as a little bit of a bizarre aside to the straighter edge of the other guests. You can see his anecdotes translate well to stand-up – despite him noting that differences being that he’s doing stand-up as himself, it’s more than likely he’ll take a similar, but perhaps less self-deprecating approach on the road.
But what will be most exciting during this first solo outing, will be seeing how Langford holds a crowd on his own – the riffing he has with Gilbert has an electric edge – one of the great accounts from the show was his discussion with Gilbert over the re-packaging of bacon. “I turned around to get the packet of bacon, turned back and the cling film was all scrunched up,” said Langford.
“NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON CLING FILM,” screams back Gilbert. It’s the simple naivety in the face of a rageful personality that makes them work so well. But it’s no longer about Gilbert – this show is all about Lloyd.
Read on to see Langford talk about being a Welsh comedian – if that’s even a thing – the status of various projects, and how an innocent question can accidentally spark a terrifying mental image of himself, Greg Davies and Rhod Gilbert. All apologies.
Obviously a lot of people know you through Rhod Gilbert, so your backstory kind of starts there – but give us some pre-Rhod history with some obvious ones – how long have you been doing stand-up, how did you get started, and at what point did you start working with Mr. Gilbert?
I did a little bit of stand-up in comprehensive school, but telling jokes that I’d heard or found in books. My first proper gig would have been at university, sometime in the autumn of 2001. I’d seen a documentary about the Edinburgh Fringe that summer and I remember myself and my father really laughing at a brief snippet of Daniel Kitson. And then at Uni, I went to a stand-up gig with Chris Addison and Francesca Martinez during Fresher’s week. That was the real catalyst. After that, I knew what I wanted to do.
You’ve quite the strong Welsh background, and there’s no getting around that – do you think this has helped your career or held you back at any points – some examples would help set the scene, if you would be so kind?
I think it’s quite a good accent for comedy. Though I can’t win really. In England I can be heckled for being Welsh but then when I go back to Wales I’ve been heckled for sounding too English.
I don’t think your nationality has too much bearing on your career. It’s all about the jokes and the work ethic really. I might get a few seconds more grace in a gig in Swansea for example but I’ve still got to deliver the jokes.
Additionally, do you think that because there aren’t that many Welsh comedians, despite the obvious, that this has helped or hindered you?
Well, there are probably more Welsh stand-ups now than there have ever been. There’s been a recent flourish of great new acts, spearheaded by Matt Rees and Tommy Rowson. Also the success of Rhod Gilbert and the establishment of comedy festivals in Cardiff, Llangollen, Swansea and Machynlleth have provided a fillip for Welsh comedy I think.
I think when I started off, I had the support of comics such as Rhod and Steve Williams and that definitely helped me. Because there were less of us, we tended to provide a bit of support for each other.
Now despite what I just said, I’ve seen a couple of Welsh comedians and I get a familiar impression. Particularly through a chap I saw support John Robins a couple of weeks back. He had the demeanour (which Robins insisted was real) of a borderline depressed, straight man. Now from watching your output on TV, and bits of stand-up I can see certain elements, but you also spend a lot of time grinning quite intensely, so now I’m confused. Would you say you’re a fairly atypical Welsh comedian – what are the main characteristics, and how do you differ… if at all?
You’re talking about Matt Rees. I wouldn’t say I was typical or atypical of being a Welsh comedian. I think of myself as a comedian who happens to be Welsh rather than my Welshness being my defining characteristic.
There are generalisations to be said about Welsh humour, such as a tendency towards the surreal and adopting an underdog or low status position but whenever you deal in these types of observations there’ll always be examples that contradict the stereotypes. So Noel James is different to Ruth Jones who is different to Ben Partridge. Yet they’re all Welsh comedy writers.
How much time is split between your own stand-up, and writing for others? And what kind of writing projects have you been working on recently?
It really varies. If I’m working on a TV series, half of my time can be spent writing for someone else but at the moment I’m concentrating on writing stuff for myself. I’ve had a script commission for Radio 4 so I’m working on that right now. I was also writing a couple of lectures for The Unbelievable Truth, which I’ve just recorded.
Tell us a bit about your touring schedule – I see the majority is in Wales, but you’re also going to Bristol, and a bit further afield. Have you toured England, Scotland etc. much previously, and how well received are you elsewhere in the UK?
It’s my debut tour, so it’s mainly a mix of stuff I’ve written over the past two years. Even though this is my first solo tour, I’ve performed stand-up comedy all over the world, from Abu Dhabi to Zurich. I love to travel and I feel lucky that my work affords me the opportunity to visit new places.
Now, most people will know you from your work with Rhod Gilbert – such as the radio Wales show that you often appear on, Barrel of Laughs, Ask Rhod Gilbert etc. so before I get on to the next question, can you give me a bit of an update on the status of all these projects. Particular Ask, am I to assume it’s not coming back, and if not, why not?
Ask Rhod Gilbert isn’t coming back. I think The Sun put that out as an exclusive last week, when I’d known for about a year. The BBC didn’t want to commission a third series, which is fair enough really. It’s their channel; they can put on what they like. I think it was a victim of something that often happens in television comedy. The controller who had commissioned it left and then the new controller inherited the programme and didn’t much care for it. Whenever you get a new person at the helm they want to commission their own programmes, rather than put on the stuff their predecessor wanted. It’s like a kid having to wear an older siblings hand-me-downs. They’d prefer new trousers, not some trousers that their big brother used to wear. Essentially, the new controller thought we were a pair of ill-fitting mauve corduroys.
Barrel of Laughs ended up getting Sony nominated but the timing was a bit hectic as we were writing for that and the first series of Ask Rhod Gilbert at the same time. It was quite stressful doing stand-up, writing for myself on a radio and television show and writing for Rhod on a radio and television show, all at the same time.
As for his radio show, I have a hell of a lot of fun doing that and hope to do it a bit more often. But I’m touring in Wales at the moment and he’s doing more and more shows from London so it’s just getting the diaries to match up.
Okay, another quick one while I’m thinking about it, before the actual question I was meant to ask three questions ago – what are your thoughts on comedy groupings. To explain, you get the duos quite frequently, you also get troupes, but how would you explain the threesome you’ve developed between you, Rhod and Greg Davies? Ask Rhod Gilbert saw the three of you bounce off each other incredibly well. Have you discussed any more projects, and is it likely the three of you will work together again soon?
A threesome with me, Rhod and Greg is a horrible visual image. I think we worked well together because we’re genuinely good friends in real life. There’s chemistry and a rapport that you have with your mates and I think people liked watching that onscreen. We make each other laugh and that can be infectious.
I also do a live show with Jon Richardson and Dan Atkinson called Git, and that works too because we’re close friends. We know how to push each other’s buttons and we have a history together that we can draw on. One of the absolute pleasures of this job is getting to work with your close friends.
The tricky thing is trying to coordinate three different diaries. Greg is busy at the moment writing his Channel 4 sitcom, Rhod has just finished a major tour and I’m just starting my tour and preparing for Edinburgh. I think we’ll do more stuff together, I’m just not sure when.
Now back to my question about the tour – most people know you from the telly shows etc. etc. – but how will that differentiate from your stand-up? The Lloyd Langford on television and radio is quite often the butt of jokes, and your stories are very anecdotal, but with a clear pay off. Does your show have a theme, or a narrative, or is it more a series of musings?
I was playing a character on Ask Rhod Gilbert, a sort of idiot savant. It was about being a bit stupid but in a clever way, if that makes sense. For example, I don’t really believe dogs are more intelligent than babies because dogs have been into space. It was just an idea I found funny.
There’s not a solid theme to the show but a lot of it is dealing with everyday annoyances and things other people do that I find equally stupid and amusing.
Finally, what are your summer plans? Edinburgh? Festivals? There are a lot of music festivals with a big comedian presence but it’s mostly London based comedians. Are you based there now? Also, is there much TV, radio etc. on the way?
I’m based in London. I don’t really enjoy doing comedy at music festivals but I love doing comedy festivals. I’m doing Machynlleth again, a new one in Stratford-upon-Avon called Comedy Hullabaloo and Edinburgh again too. I’ve just recorded a few things for Radio 4 so they’ll be out in the spring I think and I’m gigging pretty solidly around the country.
Through March and April, Langford will be on the road and you can check his website for full show listings. While the majority of shows are in Wales, there’s a good handful out in the rest of the UK. You can also keep an eye on Git activities – the show he mentions with Dan Atkinson and Jon Richardson here.