The surrealist Englishman who started out with Noel Fielding, and has been credited with inspiring Russell Brand’s comedic style, is heading Down Under, so LEIGH LIVINGSTONE said hello…
Why did you become a comedian?
I did my first gig when I was 19. I thought it would be quite nice to just do it once. Never planned to do it ever again and as soon as I did, I immediately knew that it was going to be my career. Initially it didn’t go very well but I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
When was your big break?
I don’t think I had a big break. I suppose after about 12 years people started to accept it more and more. I invented the Guild of Connoisseurs about eight years ago, which is my fan club. The whole purpose of it was because I would often do shows where some people really liked it and others weren’t really interested. I just thought I might as well get all those people that really liked it and get them along. It gradually changed to having the right people along to see me and targeting it and it gradually improved.
If you weren’t a comedian, you’d be…
The short answer is I don’t know. I can’t imagine anything else, it feels so natural. A little bit of me feels like I would want to be a scholar in a library shut away, shy, behind bookcases, all quiet and never talking to anyone, the complete opposite. I do prefer the show business under the bright lights. It is just like anything to do with performers and performing, it’s often a mass of contradictions, the people who are the performers if you met them at a party you wouldn’t know they were comedians. At once I feel utterly at home in show business and at the same time I feel utterly ridiculous.
How was working with Noel Fielding?
We have known each other for many years. We started in comedy at a similar time and he unwisely said he would like to direct my show, which he later described as trying to direct a cloud with a stick. He is quite interesting actually; it was more a meeting of minds really. The show was entirely my work; he would just sometimes have an idea of how I might move about as I did it or bring it to life really.
Is it true that Russell Brand’s comedy style is inspired by you?
We worked in a double act for quite a few months in 2004. I think certainly some influence from me was felt on Russell. He became a bit more like me afterwards. It’s a compliment.
You have a cracking mullet; do you hope to bring them back in style?
My hairdresser informs me that it is not technically speaking a mullet. Mullet is slightly different, something to do with the ears. Anyway, it is certainly an unusual hairstyle, I have no say. My hairdresser modelled my hairstyle on my personality and it has stayed the same for eight years. Every four to five weeks I get it trimmed but you would never notice, a bit like dusting.
Will you do any sight seeing in Oz?
As a general rule I avoid sight seeing, I prefer work. I like sight seeing in a very casual way, like maybe with a bit of paper sitting somewhere having a nice cream tea writing some comedy ideas down while the sun shines in my face and I just glance out of my eyes at some nice Melbourne skyline. That’s enough sight seeing.
You’re in the Robin Da Hood Virgin Mobile ads here. How did that happen?
They asked me is the short answer. They liked me and it was a bit of a gamble but they decided to have me and my highly eccentric manner. Basically the Robin Da Hood character was based around me and I just put my ludicrous accent on. I hear you can go into Virgin Mobile stores and there is a life size cardboard cut-out of me? What I am hoping to do is go into a store and ask “may I have one?” and I am hoping that the airline will allow me to take it back.
Do you improvise a lot?
There is some that is prepared but there is a lot of improvisation. I am just going with the vibe a lot of the time, just surfing the waves of energy. I see myself as like a Bondi Beach surfer, the waves are the waves of laughter, I am the surfer, my board is my humour and the beach on which I am eventually washed up is the tax man who then takes much of my money away. Leaving me with a crushing disappointment. In that analogy you are a lady sitting in a beach hut high up on the beach looking out of a window.
Paul Foot plays the Adelaide Fringe Festival (6-18 March). He’s then at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 29 Mar to 22 Apr. Head to http://www.tntdownunder.com[tntdownunder.com] to win tickets for this Thursday’s Adelaide show. http://www.adelaidefringe.com.au[adelaidefringe.com.au] & http://www.comedyfestival.com.au[comedyfestival.com.au]