The TV Burp star tells us why he’s wild about Fairtrade nuts and what watching all that television does to his brain
Interview Alison Grinter
You’ve just launched a new Fairtrade product, Harry’s Nuts! Peanut Butter. How did your brand of Fairtrade nuts come about in the first place?
They [Fairtrade] contacted me seven years ago. I was already broadly aware of it but not aware of the specifics and they asked me whether I fancied a trip to Ghana to see the banana plantations so I went and, of course, once you’ve been to Africa and seen the benefits of Fairtrade, it’s pretty hard to resist. I was wheeled out as a sort of ‘celebrity endorser’, if you like, and I eat a lot of peanuts anyway, so I had the idea of combining the two.
All the money from Harry’s Nuts! products goes to the farmers in Ghana and Malawi. Could you see the benefits when you were out there recently?
In Malawi they’d spent the Fairtrade premium [the sum of money paid on top of the agreed Fairtrade price for development projects], on a shelter next to the hospital. Because there are so few hospitals there, people have to travel miles to get to them and, when they get there, there’s nowhere for the relatives to stay. So now they have a shelter where the families can sleep.
Do you feel a certain responsibility as a celebrity endorser?
Yes, and that’s why it’s better to limit myself to one or two charities rather than backing a whole load of things not very well. I learnt that early on, that you can’t spread yourself too thin.
Before becoming a comedian you were a doctor. Do you miss medicine?
No, I don’t. I didn’t enjoy it. I mean, I was interested in the science part of it, but, nah, I don’t miss it. In fact, I thank my lucky stars that I managed to get out of it.
Were you the class clown at school?
I wasn’t the clown, no. I was sort of sarcastic, what you might call a humorist or a wit in the playground, rather than falling over to get laughs, which is what I do now, of course.
Last year you made some internet-only TV. Are you up for doing more?
Yeah, I did 10 of those shows just for fun. It reminded me of when I first got started in comedy. In those days you tended to do things with friends. You used your cine camera and everything was a bit homemade, and it was good to go back to that. I like the DIY aesthetic, it’s what I’m all about.
Are you planning to do any bigger DIY productions?
I’ve been trying to get various screenplays off the ground over the years. I’ve started writing one that I would be starring in, something I’ve always resisted.
Do you still get your large collared shirts made to measure?
I have done for years. You can’t get them off the peg for some reason. Originally, I only ever had one, which I got from a charity shop, and then people started to make a thing about it so I started to get them made.
Which comics influenced your absurdist sense of humour early on?
I just followed comedy the way other people followed music. I loved Monty Python, Spike Milligan, Morecambe and Wise, Tommy Cooper, all those great guys.
Is it true you play the ukelele?
I’ve had a few lessons and it’s a great instrument to have around when you’re on tour. I often take it into the studio. It’s good way to relax, just to have a little strum.
Where do you get your trademark tics and mannerisms?
It just developed over the years. I dunno, it was just one of those things. You try something out onstage – if it gets a laugh it stays in, if it doesn’t, it’s out. My comedy’s an evolutionary thing, really.
Just how much TV do you have to watch for TV Burp?
Oooh [sounds pained] as much as I can. I watch it all day and all night. Sometimes I have meetings, one day or I’ll record a show but if I’m not doing either of those two things then I’m watching TV. I mean, it’s a very rigorous process and you have to put in the hours – that’s the only way you can make a good show. But it’s a brain fryer – it’s like an experiment.