On the front Foot

We talk to one of Britain’s most influential stand ups.

Paul Foot is one of the most highly-regarded comedians on the circuit. His TV appearances range from Come Dine with Me to Never Mind the Buzzcocks, his stand-up work is widely received around the world and he’s about to embark on a UK tour.

This must be a strange time for comedians, when you’re over the Edinburgh festival and not yet started on the pre-Christmas tours. Is the country full of blitzed-out comedians, hungover from comedy overdose?

“I don’t know. Edinburgh’s a funny one because some people hold great store by it and get very stressed, but I find it very relaxing. I’m not out partying every night. Some comedians do that and they’re exhausted by the end of the festival by getting into a great state of emotional stress and burning themselves out. I just go to enjoy myself, so I’m still full of humour at the end.”

Is a large group of comedians gathered in close proximity a good thing or bad? Do you all run around trying to outdo each other?

“I think audiences wonder about that. Do they think we sit around depressed all the time we’re off stage, or do we try to make each other laugh? The reality, which I probably oughtn’t to reveal as it will destroy show business myth, is that we’re just a normal lot of people in one place. Well, not completely normal. We do have fun, we’re not sensible people like some jobs who have to keep up a reputation all the time. We do have to be seen as ridiculous sometimes.”

There have been some recent accusations that newer comedians are copying more established acts, and your own material has been thought to have been copied in this way. Does this concern you?

“I’ve been accused of many things in my career but stealing someone else’s act is not one of them. If they steal mine it doesn’t really make any difference; I’ll just carry on doing my thing. There are some quite new comedians who are heavily influenced by various people including me, I don’t really see them so I’m oblivious to them.

“When I do a show then as far as I’m concerned I’m the only comedian that exists. I turn up at a theatre and I’m the only one there apart from my support act. The only time I’m aware of other comedians is when I go to Edinburgh or Melbourne, somewhere like that.”

Do you agree that you’ve been a big influence on other comics?

“I am but I’m an odd person to ask because I don’t know much about comedy except my own. I don’t have my nose to the ground. Some people say it but I don’t know who these people are. It’s not up to me to be worried about it, I just do my own thing. I do my comedy and the only feedback I get is from my audience, which dictates what I’ll work on for my next show. But even if they are influenced by me, there’s nothing I can do so there’s no point in raising any concern about it.”

We were speaking on the afternoon when Johnny Rotten appeared on Loose Women, and the sight of these middle-aged women hanging on the every word of a singer was quite surreal. It also showed that musicians can often be seen to be profound, whereas comedians rarely are.

“Much less so, yes. Comedians are, I suppose, seen as anti- establishment. When you get Mick Jagger being knighted it’s clear that he’s become part of the establishment. You don’t get comedians being knighted, well apart from entertainers such as Bruce Forsyth. It does show that comedians are seen as less a part of it.”

Who makes you laugh?

“I like to watch Peter Sellers sometimes. I don’t really watch much modern comedy; I do watch Brian Gittins who’s a character actor but I don’t watch much comedy really. I do it for a living and after the show I relax by doing something else. Most comedians watch lots of comedy, but I’m one of the unusual ones who doesn’t have any real interest in comedy except my own.”

Speaking of which, your current show is…?

“It’s called the Hovercraft Symphony in Gammon # Major. The title, as with all my shows, bears no relation to its content. The content is a source of ridiculous things such as taking revenge against a bed and breakfast landlady, the ups and downs of living and lots of other silliness

You like silly, don’t you?

“Yes, the show is very childish. Childish and pointless. I pride myself that all my shows are absolutely pointless.”

Paul Foot plays Artrix, Bromsgrove on 30th October and the Glee Club, Birmingham on 5th November.