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The comedian and author on fixing society, the meaning of life, saving the planet, and why laughs come first

Your last show, God Collar, tackled some pretty big topics ...

That was the best show I have ever done. It sprang out of a conversation I had with Daniel Kitson about religion, saying I have all these things about religion written, but I don’t have a specific conclusion.

He said the interesting thing about religion is it would be better to have no conclusion and instead ask some serious questions. I didn’t want the audience to be made up of some atheist rabble to be cheering it, though.

This show will be interesting, too, in that I think some fairly extensive cuts need to be made to the way we spend our money in the UK, which is at odds with my liberal politics.

But I know enough people who know a lot about economics who have explained it to me in such a way that I realised ‘we need to spend less money!’. It’s not a dialogue, it is a monologue … but I don’t expect everyone to agree. 

You’re also doing Spamalot …
I have been touring with Spamalot for a year-and-a-half. I have time before and after Edinburgh to do it, it is such a pleasure, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do it again. 

How does it differ from the previous version of the show?
It originally came to the West End as the Broadway show – very big, full of dancers – but it wasn’t very funny.

This is a revue show and all of the emphasis is on the funniest way of doing it – the musical theatre services that aim! When we do it people are absolutely helpless with laughter. How does doing your own shows differ to the comedy circuit scene?

By the time I finished on the comedy circuit, there were too many gigs where my ideas were at odds with the clubs – I was playing Jongleurs talking about Euro politics! I like something with an argument behind it. 

Is that how you became involved with environmental campaigning?

That happened a few years ago, when Channel 4 Four showed that doc The Great Global Warming Swindle. I ended up being very involved: I did a few research trips to the Arctic, to see first hand, and became involved with various climate activists, who are almost as frustrating as the deniers!

There are full-on eco-warriors who have no idea how to sell a set of ideas. I have tried, as a comedian, to sell it to audiences, but now, just a mention of climate change and their eyes roll back in their head – ‘last year’s news’.

More than 97 per cent of climate change scientists believe it’s happening and that it’s manmade. But Johnny Ball and David Bellamy don’t think it is happening and they’re on the TV, so they must know what they are talking about!

Spamalot. July 25-Sept 9. £15   Harold Pinter Theatre, SW1Y 4DN   
Tube | Piccadilly Circus  
 atgtickets.com

The Brig Society. Aug 2-25. £12.50  
Edinburgh Festival Fringe  edfringe.com

Your last show, God Collar, tackled some pretty big topics ...

That was the best show I have ever done. It sprang out of a conversation I had with Daniel Kitson about religion, saying I have all these things about religion written, but I don’t have a specific conclusion.

He said the interesting thing about religion is it would be better to have no conclusion and instead ask some serious questions. I didn’t want the audience to be made up of some atheist rabble to be cheering it, though.

This show will be interesting, too, in that I think some fairly extensive cuts need to be made to the way we spend our money in the UK, which is at odds with my liberal politics.

But I know enough people who know a lot about economics who have explained it to me in such a way that I realised ‘we need to spend less money!’. It’s not a dialogue, it is a monologue … but I don’t expect everyone to agree. 

You’re also doing Spamalot …
I have been touring with Spamalot for a year-and-a-half. I have time before and after Edinburgh to do it, it is such a pleasure, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do it again. 

How does it differ from the previous version of the show?
It originally came to the West End as the Broadway show – very big, full of dancers – but it wasn’t very funny.

This is a revue show and all of the emphasis is on the funniest way of doing it – the musical theatre services that aim! When we do it people are absolutely helpless with laughter. How does doing your own shows differ to the comedy circuit scene?

By the time I finished on the comedy circuit, there were too many gigs where my ideas were at odds with the clubs – I was playing Jongleurs talking about Euro politics! I like something with an argument behind it. 

Is that how you became involved with environmental campaigning?

That happened a few years ago, when Channel 4 Four showed that doc The Great Global Warming Swindle. I ended up being very involved: I did a few research trips to the Arctic, to see first hand, and became involved with various climate activists, who are almost as frustrating as the deniers!

There are full-on eco-warriors who have no idea how to sell a set of ideas. I have tried, as a comedian, to sell it to audiences, but now, just a mention of climate change and their eyes roll back in their head – ‘last year’s news’.

More than 97 per cent of climate change scientists believe it’s happening and that it’s manmade. But Johnny Ball and David Bellamy don’t think it is happening and they’re on the TV, so they must know what they are talking about!

Spamalot. July 25-Sept 9. £15   Harold Pinter Theatre, SW1Y 4DN   
Tube | Piccadilly Circus  
 atgtickets.com

The Brig Society. Aug 2-25. £12.50  
Edinburgh Festival Fringe  edfringe.com

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