Tour - Page 2 of 2
Comedian Rosie Wilby started life as a musician. Since taking to the comedy circuit she has toured a number of solo shows around the UK and was a Finalist at Funny Women 2006, an national competition which goes on a search each year for the best new female comedy talent. You may well have caught her as a roving reporter on 5 Live and as a guest on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek, Loose Ends and Woman’s Hour.
Phil Nichol, acclaimed actor, award winning comedian, producer, presenter, writer and musician. This year, he performed his 14th solo show Phil Nichol Rants at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to rave reviews all across the board whilst also appearing in Dave Florez’s drama The Intervention. Now, six years after originally recording his two shows Nearly Gay and The Naked Racist, which were never originally released on DVD, they have both been unleashed.
Comedian Kevin Precious wants to take us back to our school days, making use of the teaching skills amassed as an RE teacher. Having completed a successful run of packed out shows at the Brighton Fringe 2010 (first four outings) – and further tightening proceedings up at the Camden, Kevin is back with a fourth helping of his show “Not Appropriate” which will tickle anyone who has ever taught or – for that matter – been to school. Reluctant to reminisce on my “wonder years”, I hesitantly had a chat with Kevin as he prepares for tomorrow’s show.
How would you compare your comedy career with your previous experience as a teacher?
Comedy is easier, definitely, if you know what you’re doing. People have paid to see you and expect you to justify their faith in their investment. A group of kids – particularly with regard to my subject, RE – are there under duress; it’s more of a challenge to control the situation and offer something of interest.
Are a lot of your former students fans?
I’ve had a few turn up here and there, making approving noises. But I think it’s a matter of taste, and they would probably prefer someone nearer their own age talking about matters relevant to them.
You also have a fair bit of experience as a musician. How did that compare to the comedy circuit and which do you prefer?
You’ve done your research. Like most people, I probably engage more with music on a day-to-day basis than comedy, and it has a far deeper effect (on me). One of the attractions of comedy is the autonomous nature of the job. In bands, you can pretty much guarantee personality clashes and, usually, at least one almighty pain-in-the-backside to deal with; if there wasn’t such a person in any given situation, I’m sure I could fulfil the role.
How did you get involved in the NME pop quiz and how did this lead you into the world of comedy?
I used to run a pop quiz in Camden in the mid-90s just as everything was becoming Brit-Pop, and as a consequence, all manner of band/industry/journo types used to turn up; which in turn led to the NME job. The laughs I got by making spontaneous remarks in relation to the proceedings suggested there might be a route into comedy. However, comedy is a lot harder than hosting a pub quiz and as much as anyone can get laughs from the writing of humour, the real deal is in being able to perform.
You are also co-founder and regular MC for Barnstormers Comedy. Tell us a bit about that and what kind of nights we can expect there? There are some great acts lined up.
We promote shows in Arts Centres and Theatres and the customer can therefore expect quality in an environment conducive to that.
Comedians always have hilarious stories to tell but also horror stories. What is the worst heckle/occurrence you can remember at a gig?
The worst gig was undoubtedly a freebie media/awards event at the Dome in Brighton; with loads of free alcohol as well. A horrible death in front a huge crowd of beer-soaked individuals who had been corralled there on the basis of the freebie; the worst aspects of human behaviour akin to the ‘All You Can Eat Buffet’. My fault for not seeing right through it but it does put me in mind of the famous Bill Hicks line about people in marketing and advertising killing themselves.
Coming back to the present. What can you tell us about your solo show “Not Appropriate” without giving too much away of course? I hear it delves into your experience as a teacher?
It’s all about teaching, along with some of my own experiences as a schoolkid. Subject matter includes the Staff Room, Parents’ Evening, the School Trip, Teaching RE/PSE, Ofsted, Political Correctness and Assemblies.
What would you class as your greatest achievement so far as a comedian?
I’m not sure the term ‘greatest achievement’ would apply but I’m pleased with this show, and the fact that I’ve been able to get it out there, without having to spend a fortune in Edinburgh; but then it’s niche, darling. It was great doing it at the Hull Truck last year to a sell-out crowd in my hometown. There’s been a couple of real blinders at the Old Joint Stock Theatre (Birmingham) previously as well; that was a good feeling.
What about your own comedy kicks? Of all the up-and-coming comics on the circuit who do you think deserves to make it?
Favourite stand-ups include Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Chris Rock and Doug Stanhope. I don’t know about up-and-coming but my favourite circuit acts include people like Jeff Innocent, Hal Cruttenden and Liam Mullone. They all do social-related themes, politics with a small ‘p’, class-related stuff etc…
As a final note. You have said the following: “Fame is fleeting; obscurity lasts forever”. What made you say this?
Well, never having been famous I suppose that’s speculative. Either way, we’re a long time dead, and I think, if anything, it serves as a reminder to focus on those things that are important. As well as the obvious family and friends, that would have to include crafting good work and finding an audience for it; as opposed to getting caught up in the whole modern phenomena of ‘celebrity’ and mass acceptance. The pursuit of ‘fame, for fame’s sake’ is a bit of a fool’s errand, I believe. Still, a bit of recognition wouldn’t go amiss, especially if there were few more coffers involved.
You can catch Kevin tomorrow at The Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham Comedy Festival. All ticket info can be found here.
They thought it was all over…but it’s not!
Yes, that is the cheesy opening I am writing to this interview. I don’t promise class with my writing, or quality, or that it will be funny. What will be quality and funny is the man I am interviewing. See, you wondered where I was going with that but I brought it back. I have the great honour of interviewing a very funny man. Who is this man? Lee Hurst. Yes, the star of the hit TV show “They Think It’s All Over” Lee Hurst is back once again like a renegade master. Possibly without the ill behaviour. I can’t speak of that because I don’t really know the man. Well, it’s been 10 years since his last full-on stand up tour, but it’s official: Lee Hurst is back with a bang. He is embarking on a mammoth 50 plus date tour of the country with his new show “Too Scared to Leave the House”. Now Lee Hurst – the man, the myth, the legend – is taking a look at various scare stories such as acid rain and global warming that keep people from leaving the house out of sheer fear. For me, the reason I don’t leave the house is more a case of laziness, repeats on Dave and a general lack of interest in having what society considers “fun”, but I get his point.
It has been 10 years since Hurst last hit out on the comedy road, as I mentioned earlier, but I know comedy fans don’t have massive attention spans. How is the comedy road different to any other type of road? It isn’t. There! That was much simpler than you thought it was going to be, wasn’t it? But, seeing as you, yes you, reading this right now are a comedy fan that does pay attention, you must be thinking “10 years”? Just what has he been doing? Well, he has taken time out from touring his comedy to pursue other things, which I am sure will come up in the interview. How am I sure? I wrote the questions so I know it will definitely come up. I remember watching Mr Hurst on the hit BBC show “They Think it’s all Over” and I was a big fan of that. For me though, that show went downhill when he left. But that’s just my opinion and I am pretty sure that this is not what you want to read. I am pretty sure what you want to read are the words of the man himself. So let’s get on with the interview. Yeah why not. It’s an interview, so we might as well do the interview. Seems pretty logical…
Thanks for your time Lee. Tell us about the tour. What was your inspiration for the show?
Well, as we all know, the world is due to end in 2012. I thought we should all have a laugh about it, and, at the same time, I liked the idea of not having to pay tax on the income for the tour because we’d all be dead. I often giggle to myself that the tour is due to run through to April 2013, which means not only do I not pay tax on those earnings, but I don’t actually have to do those shows. Obviously, should the world not end, I may find myself at the centre of an investigation by HMRC. I suppose at that point I would have to turn to Jimmy Carr for help.
You haven’t toured in a long time, are there any concerns, on your part, about being back out on the road in such a big way or is it a bit like riding a bike?
Ironically, I do ride a bike in this show. I was run over by a uni-cyclist as a child and always believe you should face your fears. I consider myself fortunate as, with a unicycle, it was just the one wheel. A good friend of mine was once run over by the entire GB cycling team in a freak accident and lost the use of his wallet. My only concern about having not been on the road for some time is that my map may be out of date. Do you happen to know if the Vikings are still in control in the North?
Your show deals with scare stories of various kinds. Are you, generally speaking, a person who finds things scary?
I’m very fortunate in the fact that I’m pretty fearless. I am never nervous. I often kick suspect packages on the Tube for fun and touch wires extending from lamp posts for a dare. I do however have a recurring nightmare that I am Nick Clegg.
You have taken a break from full scale touring but you’ve been constantly performing and compering. The problem can be that if you aren’t on TV as much as you once were, for a lot of people you appear to have dropped off the face of the planet. What have you been doing in the last few years?
Many people think because I haven’t been on TV for a bit, I’m dead. You expect that from the general public, but not from your own family and friends. I have considered capitalising on this fact because mediums are selling out venues all across the UK. I thought I could be the warm up act.
Your own comedy club, the Backyard Comedy Club, is great. It’s currently undergoing some redevelopment I believe. Could you tell us a bit about that and what the future holds for it?
I closed the club at the end of 2010 and it was due to be demolished by developers. This fell through for various reasons so I took over the reins and decided to redevelop it myself. There were problems from the start when the extremely conscientious builders demolished the building and informed me that they had discovered a mass grave. Usually this means a complete halt to the work (at my cost) whilst archaeologists are called in with their tiny brushes to scour over the ‘find’. Fortunately for me, there were a bizarre series of fatal accidents immediately. Within days a new team of builders were on site.
The brand new venue will be called the Backyard Bar on the ground floor. Above us will be a 131 bed hotel. We hope to open in January 2013. As the name suggests, it will be a bar throughout the week with a large performance space at the rear. This will house the Backyard Comedy Club as well as live music, variety and we also intend to screen films too.
That sounds great. Now you admitted that despite being a large part of the success of the BBC show “They Think It’s All Over” and a West Ham fan that you didn’t know much about football. Is that still the case?
I did follow West Ham as a young man, but fell away from football many years ago when I realised Premiership footballers are incapable of passing another human being without falling to the ground in agony.
Are you surprised that, given the mass appeal of football, there isn’t more mainstream cross over between football and comedy?
Not really. I think if you add up the total attendances for football, the figure is not actually that big compared to the UK’s population. In fact more men visit prostitutes every week than go to football. The chanting is very similar from the prostitutes ‘Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.’
I want to get your opinion on something because you have your own history with this subject. Chris Rock has stated that he won’t do gigs at comedy clubs until they sort out the problem of people filming his sets with their phones. I was wondering, firstly, how you deal with that problem as someone who owns and runs a comedy a club?
At the old venue we used to have signs everywhere telling people to switch their phones off during the show. Before we began the show we would have our head of security make a public announcement stating no filming, no phones etc. You could hear a pin drop. If someone had their phone on, not even filming, they would be told to switch it off. If they were approached again they were removed from the building, as were people who were found filming. Can I just say at this point that despite many allegations of our involvement in people disappearing after visiting the club, none of them have ever been proven. The fact that after the demolition of my club I was found down Brick Lane Market selling soil covered mobile phones from a stall is pure coincidence.
Now you had a very public incident with this when you smashed someone’s phone on stage for filming your set and the case went to court. How big a problem, from a comedian’s point of view, do you think this is?
It’s a very big problem and I would ask the public to respect the wishes of the performers not to be filmed. Do you know where I can get my shovel fixed? The handle’s broken.
At the time of the case, you brought up the issue of joke theft. Your point, and correct me if I am wrong here, was that people would go to see you at clubs and film your set and then write your jokes into a TV show which would lead to you being accused of stealing your own jokes. What do you think comedians can do to help stop that being a problem and protect themselves and their act from this sort of thing?
It’s up to each comic to decide themselves on how best to deal with this issue. I mean, look at this. It’s come right away from the head of the shovel. I suppose I could try hammering it back in with this mallet. I always carry one in the car next to the bin bags and gaffer tape.
If you don’t mind me asking this because it certainly interests me: Do you regret smashing his phone? If the same situation arose, would you do the same thing?
No I don’t regret it. Second point. No idea.
Thank you for being so honest with us. Now, I did some research for this, which in this day and age means I Googled you, and according to that most reliable of all sources Wikipedia, you suffer from a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis. How does this condition affect your stand up?
It’s a condition that affects my spine which, as you can imagine, makes digging holes quite a tricky business. Always best to do it in the spring – the ground gives a lot more.
Turning once again to what can only be called “in-depth googling”, I believe that in 2003 there was talk that you would run for the Mayor of London’s office. Is that correct? If it is correct, how close did that come to being a reality?
I did consider it and did look into it, but then my Nick Clegg nightmares began and I thought better of it.
In 1999, and I don’t know if you are sick of talking about this, but, you were voted one of the 100 sexiest men of the century by Company magazine in their “Millennium Men” list. How did it feel to be considered a sexy man?
I only found out about this a few years ago. It would’ve been nice to have been told back then as I could have then carried a copy of the magazine around in bars to show girls what they were in danger of turning down.
It must have felt great ranking higher than the likes of Robert Downey Jnr, Al Pacino and Kevin Bacon? Did you feel even a little annoyed that Vinnie Jones and Jamie Theakston placed higher then you?
For health purposes I must of course congratulate Vinnie Jones on his success and I believe Jamie Theakston is a very tall man as well so I have no problem with either of their positions in the list.
What I would really like to ask you about, all be it briefly, is Salvage Squad. Was that show as much fun as it seemed when I watched it at home?
It was a lot of early morning starts and also filming in very cold conditions. Once I had to spend 5 minutes slapping my face so I could actually move it to do a piece to camera as it was so so cold. The crew I worked with were great. I got to ride in a tank and met some old boys who’d fought in the war and even one who’d escaped from Dunkirk. What’s not to like? It was an honour to meet and talk to them.
Having done a show like Salvage Squad, are you a DIY person? Would you consider yourself a Mr Fix It?
I did lay about 60% of the flooring in the old venue. Over the years I had to do a lot of repair work from some digging we had to do.
Thank you for your time. I’ll let you get back to that shovel…
For tour dates and information on when Lee Hurst is coming to a venue near you head over to his website. When you see him let him know we sent you, unless he has a shovel in his hand. You don’t have too. It might be nice. It’s really your choice but all I’m saying is a bit of recognition. We don’t ask for much here you know.
Stephen K Amos. You’ve heard of him. He’s that one off the telly. He’s also on panel shows, the News, Breakfast TV, everywhere! In fact, if you want to avoid him, you’ll probably have to close your eyes for a while. He gets invited to do all of these things seeing as he’s rather good at what he does. If the above list wasn’t enough food for thought, he’s also got a book out, a new show in October, a radio show and a sit-com in the pipelines. We just had to ask him a few questions about all of these projects, whilst discovering who he is and why he loves what he does.
Hi Stephen. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. You’re obviously a busy man as a ‘Live at the Apollo’ favourite, day-time TV and News frequenter, giving your opinion on important topics. Why do you think the public have taken to you so well?
Now that’s a question I can’t really answer! I am very pleased that people like my sense of humour as I am currently in a semi-autobiographical phase. I also like to have a spin on things, looking at life with my own honesty and point of view.
You’re an actor, comedian, writer and presenter, among other things. What is your favourite aspect of what you do?
Nothing beats going out on the road and doing a live comedy gig, be it in a room above a pub, a festival or a large theatre. There is something about the immediacy and energy that a pre-recorded TV appearance cannot give you. In this regard, I am my own self-censor and I can absolutely say what I think, believe and like. I can’t think of any other job that gives you this freedom with no other agenda than laughter.
You smile A LOT. What is your own personal key to happiness?
I genuinely do have a positive disposition, though believe me, like everyone else, I don’t smile all the time! Can you imagine how nauseating that would be? Just an annoying grinning clown? I don’t have a key to anything apart from my house. I do think we all have the ability to respond to whatever life throws at us in a particular way, which will determine how you move forward.
You used to joke that Lenny Henry would have to die before you got on TV. He’s still alive and there you are addressing the nation! What has changed?
All I think that has changed is that people in TV land, I hope, are looking around and seeing that there is a significantly more diverse range of comedians out there. In America, there are so many programmes and channels reflecting the ethnic make-up of the nation including hosts, sitcoms and comedians. I struggle to remember when two ethnic comedians were on any TV station at the same time. I’d like to see a new talk show hosted by me! A trip onto the comedy circuit in the UK and you will see a variety of performers who deliver.
Tell our readers how your Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Laughter is my agenda’ went.
The Edinburgh run was a new angle for me, as it was work in progress for the new tour. I had a chance to try things out and even take risks to see what would happen. The Edinburgh Fringe is simply the most all-around amazing arts hub of the world.
How will your October tour differ from the Fringe show? Sell it to me in 5 words.
The progress has been done!
What is your favourite joke?
My favourite joke is one by a comedian friend of mine, Carey Marx. It is a beautiful and well-constructed joke. His ability to challenge our perceptions of words is amazing. It is a joke that works on many different levels and I won’t repeat it here!
You are described as honest and charming, with a child-like joy.
Am I? I bet that person didn’t meet me after a heavy night out…
Your book came out on the 20th of September entitled ‘I Used to Say My Mother was Shirley Bassey’. What’s all that about?
The title refers to the naive innocence we had as children, when all we want to do is fit in and get on with it. Not being cynical or jaded, I took pleasure in telling a little white lie! Tell me any little kid who hasn’t, and I’ll show you a massive liar.
Is this strictly autobiographical or have you stretched some of the truth for comical effect?
The book is actually a memoir, a collection of anecdotes from my past and starts when I was quite young, so through the eyes of child me!
Did you learn anything about yourself when writing the book that you hadn’t realised until you put pen to paper?
The only thing was the immense flood of memories that came back, including smells and feelings. I really wasn’t prepared for that. I guess I learned that I was always a person who felt on the outside, on the fringes, and have dealt with most of life’s issues by finding the funny, laughing or dare I saying keeping a low profile.
What have you got planned on the horizon? Any telly projects in the pipeline?
I am on a short UK tour in October, excited about my book. I’m also doing a new Radio 4 series, out in January and I’m in talks about a sitcom too. Next year, I plan to return to Australia and the US. All in all I’m very busy and grateful that I am doing a job I love.
Stephen’s book is available from Amazon.
He’ll be setting off on an extensive tour tomorrow and you can find out when he’s coming to a town or city near you over on his website.
Jeremy Hardy speaks to the nation at a theatre near you very soon. That’s right, one of Britain’s most popular comedians is hitting the road, and will be appearing imminently at your local comedy venue. He is performing a new show, and it promises to be an absolute treat.
One of our most compelling and respected comics, Jeremy has a huge and loyal following thanks to his superb work as the presenter of Radio 4’s Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation and a regular guest on The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. But he is also a brilliant stand-up comedian.
To prove the point, he has won the coveted Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival and mounted numerous sell-out tours of the UK and Ireland. Subversive and satirical, Jeremy is not afraid to stir politics into his topical stand-up routines. But above all, he is just killingly funny.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. The critics have been queuing up to lavish praise on this wonderfully accomplished comic. The Guardian has said he is, “One of the sharpest comedians on the circuit.” and The Financial Times said “One minute lewd, the next blimpish, the next acerbic, he is always one step wide of insult and one ahead of expectation.” The Strabane Chronicle describes him simply as, “Britain’s own Michael Moore“.
Jeremy and I are chatting in the run-up to the tour. He makes for enormously engaging company. He is a rare example of a comedian who is just as entertaining offstage as on it.
The comic, who has also wowed audiences at the Montréal Comedy Festival, begins by underlining how much he relishes live performance. “I love being on the road. It’s how I started, it’s where I come from. I really enjoy the sense that it’s all happening there and then.
“I love that feeling of immediacy and the fact that nothing is cut out. When you listen to a radio programme that has been edited down from a live recording, it’s always been commodified and turned into something else. But on stage it’s all there, and it is only happening that night.”
Breaking into a smile, Jeremy continues that, “Mark Steel, bless him, performs a different show every night, which is perhaps a little unwise in terms of conserving energy. My show changes over time, but from one night to the next the material is very similar. Having said that, I might talk about it if I’m freezing cold or tired. Sometimes reviewers come along and mention my ‘rat in the dressing room’ routine, and I think, ‘I don’t always talk about a rat in the dressing room – only in Monmouth!’”
The other aspect of live performance that Jeremy enjoys is coming face-to-face with his fans. He says that, “I like the feeling that I’m touching base with people. They get to see my progressive decay. Because I’m on the radio, people don’t know what I look like. They think I’m in my 70s. They have this vision of a Wilfred Pickles-type character!”
Jeremy, who was also starred on such TV shows as QI, Blackadder Goes Forth and Mock the Week, reveals that he also really likes touring because, “I’ve developed a great fondness for this land. I don’t mean that in a Countryside Alliance kind of way. But because I’m on the road a lot, I see a lot of new places and I always get a lot out of that.
“However, the other day I went to a town and I was convinced I’d never been there before, but it turned out that I had actually been there three years earlier. That’s because places increasingly look the same. They all have the same car park and the same high streets.”
He is especially delighted to be performing on this tour not in aircraft hangars, but in more intimate venues. “I like smaller spaces because you can see the audience, and you are more aware of them. When you’re at the back of the circle in bigger venues, you can’t see anything, and you’re basically watching TV. I can’t see the point of that. There is a Nuremberg Rally element to it.”
One thing Jeremy promises he will not be doing is pestering you. “I don’t hassle the audience. If you’ve got no ideas, don’t bother the front row with questions about what they do for a living. That’s just to distract them from your own lack of material.
“But I love the fact that the audience are there. I get lost a lot during my act, so they help me out. And don’t worry, I won’t be selling you the DVD of the show that you’ve just seen. I suppose I’m like a folk singer touring the country, but I promise I won’t sing any horrible tunes!”
One reason why Jeremy has such devoted fans is that they are drawn to his marvellously downbeat stage persona. “Obviously, I’m a professional misery guts,” he deadpans. “That’s what we do in this country. We have a sort of Wartime chipper resignation. We’re cheerful, even though everything is absolutely ghastly. I was born in 1961, and that mood was still around then. It was only 16 years after the War, and you still heard people talking about it and saw people walking around with limbs missing.”
He goes on to explain that, “The misery guts persona works so well for me because, for a start, people aren’t sure how genuine it is. But they also like characters such as Victor Meldrew, Tony Hancock and Leonard Cohen. People like miserable acts. Throughout post-war British comedy, there have been characters like Captain Mainwaring and the Steptoes. We like that attitude because life is quite hard and disappointing and a lot of things go wrong.
“A lot of people feel buffeted. Life is what happens when nothing else works. There is no point having a grandiose plan, because suddenly the roof falls in and you have to rethink and do something different. That makes people feel powerless.”
Jeremy, who has also written a book, “My Family and Other Strangers”, charting his desperate search for interesting ancestors, carries on that, “The spirit of resignation and muddling through and making the best of things is peculiarly British. Americans don’t get it. When they ask an audience what they do for a living, they want people to say, ‘I’m the CEO of a weapons company’. They don’t want people to say, ‘I duck and dive for a living’.”
Audiences are also attracted to the political vein that runs through Jeremy’s humour. He says that, “I talk about politics because I’m interested in it, just as comedians who are interested in sport talk about that. I discuss politics in the broadest sense – it’s not all about trade figures and you don’t need to bring along a notebook.
“Obviously, in the show I talk about what’s going on with this coalition government. It has destroyed the Lib Dems. It’s fascinating to see how they got themselves into this ghastly mess and how Nick Clegg has become such a lost and tragic figure.”
Jeremy, who in the show will also be addressing such diverse subjects as transgender people, hip-hop music and the different roles we play when we are with different people, proceeds to say that, “Class is also big issue in politics at the moment. There is a big difference between the old-fashioned, noblesse oblige, paternalistic Tories, and the current lot for whom government is like the first day of the grouse season.
“Also, in the old days, politicians used to be older than me. They were like the bad guys, or the bosses. But now that I’m older than most people in the government, I understand those grumpy old colonels who write to The Daily Telegraph complaining about how things have gone to the dogs. It must be enormously annoying when you’re 150 years old and fought in the Boer War and you’re seeing how all these 30 year olds are messing things up.”
He adds that, “Tory columnists sometimes say they’re big fans of mine. But that’s because the right sees the left as amusing court jesters. To them, we’re like the musicians at the Cotton Club, inferior, but rhythmic.”
Jeremy closes by reassuring us that he is first and foremost a comedian, not a politician. “I first became interested in politics during the era of Mrs Thatcher. I felt everything which was good about my country was under attack. But I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can sort this out with my irreverent and sideways look at politics’. People say that comedy can change things. But I think AK-47s are more effective.
“However, I don’t think I’ll ever use one. If I tried, I’d just miss!”
Tickets for Jeremy Hardy’s tour can be found at http://www.jeremyhardy.co.uk/
Courtesy of James Rampton
[Photographs: Andy Hollingworth]
Rob Rouse, comedian, actor, writer, presenter, radio personality and all round lovely man, seems to be one of the hardest working men on the comedy scene. You’ll no doubt have seen him on the likes of Dave’s One Night Stand, Celebrity Juice, 8 out of 10 Cats, to name just a few of his numerous TV appearances. He took the time out to speak to PPSF about his life as a performer, this years forthcoming tour and firstly, playing the trumpet…
First off, how are the trumpet lessons going, I’ve been following them on line?
Thank you. It’s good to get another disciple of the horn on there. I think I’ve shown a lot of improvement. I’ve nearly done my 10,000 hours and, once I’ve done that, I can probably, officially, sign myself off as the world’s greatest trumpet player. I don’t try and over think it when I play. I try and feel it. You don’t want to over analyse these things. Just to let the music out is one of the messages I try and get across.
You’ve been doing this for a long time. What was it that made you step on stage for the first time as a comedian?
At some level there are circumstances and stories, or narratives, as to how it happened. I think ultimately, to agree to do it, and to keep doing it, there’s some kind of deep rooted personality flaw, insecurity or borderline mental issue that all stand-ups have got that makes them somehow rationalise what they’re doing. For most people this is the antithesis of what they’d want to do with their day. It’s a terminal illness.
I balance this odd night work and shambolic, irresponsible career with a family life, so deep down, I’m just as sensible as any one who, quote unquote “does a normal job and in fact if anything”. As I get older, the more I think about it, being able to stand on stage and shout and scream and swear at strangers is a really healthy thing to be able to do. I’m lucky to be able to do it because all the stuff you couldn’t scream and shout about, if you worked in an office, I can scream and shout about and get people to laugh at and I get paid for. The more I think about it, it’s quite a healthy thing for me to be able to do with my time.
How long was it before you were able to quit the teaching and become a full time performer?
I was lucky. I finished my teacher training course and moved to London in ’98 to start doing open spots because in Sheffield, where I was at the time, there wasn’t a comedy scene at all. Then I won ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ up in Edinburgh and off the back of that got some University tours with Brendan Burns. That enabled me to live off it, hand to mouth, with a bit of temping in between but really that was me, on my way, just eking out a living, but able to do it full time.
You seem to have done everything; acting, presenting, stand-up, radio. Is there anything you enjoy more than the rest?
Lots of things have come along. It’s been a lot of fun. However, throughout the whole thing I’ve always done stand-up. There’s that bit of you, as a comic, that thinks, if I stop I’ll forget how to do it, become out of shape comedically. You feel like you need to be sharp to do it. It’s a funny thing; it’s goes in waves of admitting to yourself that that’s what I am. I have comedian on my passport now.
Are there any gigs that stick out in your memory as the best or worst experiences?
I think, like a lot of comics, you only seem to remember the last few, because you only feel as good as those. I did a gig with Sarah Millican and she was telling me about her rule – the 11 o’clock rule. Whether she’s had an amazing gig, or if something happened that she didn’t like the previous day, by 11 o’clock the next morning, that has to be it. I think it’s a healthy way to look at your life., If you’ve had a difficult show the night before, by 11 o’clock, boom. It’s over. It’s dead to you. If you had a great show the night before, you can’t then think “Well tonight’s show I’ll be just a brilliant.” It makes you refocus. It’s sensible, as a general rule of thumb.
It’s hard to pick out one, but ultimately, what it comes down to is when you really connect with an audience, it transcends what the material is, who is there, what happened. It’s almost like it’s just happening and you’re just part of it and all of you are connected in this crazy, lovely moment. It’s hard to pick it apart and analyse it because it’s just a great feeling.
You did a big walk for Oxfam last year. Are there any charities in your sights for the future?
Yes. I’m always open to stuff, doing interesting things. As I get older, and the more I do, the more of life I see, the more I realise that sadly, we live in a cruelly greedy world and it’s a sad fact that we have to raise money full stop. But then I guess that’s human nature, isn’t it? There’s greed and benevolence out there but the more I realise I live a charmed life, the more I don’t want to end up feeling disconnected from the world. You’re a long time dead and no one ever dies wishing they’d spent more time at work. It’s about finding a balance.
Now, you’re next tour, ‘Life Sentences’, starts on the 28th of September, in Crawley. Are you ready to go?
Yes! I’m chomping at the bit a little. I feel like a greyhound in a trap, ready to go.
You’re going all over the UK. Where are you looking forward to visiting?
There were little places that I found last year, that I’d never done before, like Chorley Little Theatre. That was a spectacular place. I’d never been there. I’d never seen the place or and knew nothing about it but it was incredible with an amazing audience. To be honest, there wasn’t a gig last year that I didn’t love. They’re all fun. It would be cruel to try and pick one out. The bottom line is, no matter how many people come to see your show, they’ve come to see exectly that and it’s brilliant. It’s great being out of the clubs and not hearing another drunk man from the back that claims to have shagged your Mum! It’s great when you get to do your own show and push what you do further and do more with it and express yourself; let it all hang out.
And post tour, what does the future hold for you?
I’ve got a couple of scripts that I’ve got people reading. Other than that, I’m going to keep making short stuff. I’ve got another Stephen Redgrave film I’m editing. I did a live gig pre-Olympics, shot on three cameras, so I’ll probably put that on my website. Basically though, just more writing, more touring and probably a holiday with my wife and kids.
Rob’s tour starts on 28th September in Crawley and travels all over the UK. Details can be found, along with lots of other funny videos, on his website.
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