Interview with Paul Foot

By Luke Simmons

Paul Foot was lovely enough to grace us with an interview on the afternoon before performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala

Luke: How does it feel coming back to Australia?

Paul: Nice.  It’s my 3rd year in Australia but my 6th visit.  I’m well used to it and I love it.  It’s a brilliant place.

Luke: All of these were for comedy or were any for pleasure?

Paul: All for comedy. The first time I came here was for the Melbourne Fringe. Having never been to Australia in my life, I went back there again 10 days later arriving back to England to do the Virgin Mobile Advert.  So that was extraordinary having never been before.  The 3rd time was last year when I came to Melbourne for 4 days for pre-publicity for the Melbourne Fringe.  Then I flew back to Britain for 3 days for my Grand Ma’s 93rd birthday and a couple of shows and then flew back to Australia straight away.

Luke: You were like a yo yo!

Paul: Yes, so that was quite hardcore. So within a week I’d been to Australia and back again then back to Australia and back again.  My 4th time was to do the Fringe last year and then the 5th time was in January when I came to Adelaide to direct a brilliant sketch group called Gravity Boots. I directed them because I was so stunned by how wonderful they were at the Edinburgh Festival.  The 6th time was for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and now I’m here to do the MICF – as well as Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.

Luke: Besides from the size, what’s a major difference between the comedy audiences in the UK and that in Australia?

Paul: The short and boring answer is that there’s not much difference.  I go all over the World and I increasingly find that wherever I go, people are the same. Sometimes you may have to adjust a reference.  Or sometimes for some reason they laugh at some things more in Australia and lesser in the UK or vice-versa.  As a general rule, it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.  It’s all the same really.  Indeed, when I’m performing on the stage, I’m so kind of in the moment.  I’m there doing my thing and I forget where I am.

Luke: You have a loyal fan base (The Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs) of which you are the Life President of the Guild – with the badge to prove.  Are you planning any special surprises for Australian members of the Guild?

Paul: I always make sure that after my shows, I’ll be available for photos and signings.  I’m not an aloof Life President of the Guild and it’s always nice to meet connoisseurs.  People often come up to me and tell me that they’re a connoisseur.  I love them.  They’re all very appreciated.

Luke: For those that are new to your comedy, what can audiences expect when they see you at the upcoming festival?

Paul:  Well, my comedy is not mainstream and it’s different to other comedians.  Not that I’ve ever planned to make it different.  I mean, I just do the type of comedy that seems obvious to me.  The kind of comedy that I would go and see if I weren’t a comedian.  I think this is what most comedians would do.  People say it’s unusual, it’s different.  But I don’t plan to make it different – I just do my thing.  I’ve been described as a “marmite comic” which you would call….

Luke: A vegemite comic?

Paul: Yeah, a vegemite comic.  In other words, some people really like it and others perhaps don’t like it.  Although the same applies to all comedians in a certain way.  So (in terms of) what to expect from this show, I come on and tell some ridiculous stories that I’ve made up for about 38 minutes, then I do  anagrams, then I do something called My Madness where I just say things that don’t even make sense.  It just seems like it’s completely random, but it’s a little more planned than that.  It’s funny but no-one knows exactly why it’s funny.  So it’s comedy on the edge of meaning. 

Luke: So it’s a little bit like your first gig?

Paul: It is a little bit like that in a way.  My first gig I just made stuff up about fruits.  There are some similarities indeed.  The other day I was performing in the same city as where I had my first ever gig.  Which had been 20 years since my first performance my first gig as a student and it was interesting because clearly, over those years I’ve gained experience and I have changed in some ways, but there was also a sense that after 20 years in comedy, there was also something completely unchanged.  There was an essence in what I was doing that I noticed that had been exactly the same as it had been 20 years ago.  There’s a sort of shambolic, amateurishness to it that was exactly the same.  I’m not a slick comedian.  There’s a sort of silliness, a sort of anarchy to it, a sort of madness to it.

Luke: Like organised chaos.

Paul: Yeah, like organised chaos. And that has stayed exactly the same.  It will always be like that.  

Luke: Are the titles of your shows merely a cunning plan to keep your audiences on their toes?

Paul: What people cannot expect from the show is seeing any reference to Kenny Large.  It was quite funny at one of my shows in Adelaide.  The show had gone really well and there was a man perhaps who was in slightly the wrong place – it wasn’t his sort of night.  And at the end he complained quite angrily that he hadn’t learned anything about Kenny Large and the rest of the audience were just laughing at his complaint. And I was saying, if you wanted to learn something about Kenny Large, you’ve come to the wrong place.  It’s just a cunning attempt.

Luke: Which comedian inspired you to get into comedy?

Paul:  The answer’s none really.  Some have DVDs of their favourite comedians and know everything about comedy.  I’m the opposite.  I’ve never really known much about comedy on the level of who’s doing what.  I know about the mechanics of comedy, how it works, the stage craft and all that stuff that you need to know.  When I did my first gig, I didn’t really understand how comedy worked.  I didn’t even understand at my first gig that comedians that basically prepare jokes.  I just thought that all comedians just got on stage and made it up.  So when I when I did my first gig, I just made up absolute nonsense.  I mean, I quite liked Tommy Cooper who was a real British genius.  Some comedians will say that it was “So and so” who inspired me.  I wasn’t really inspired by anyone and only really went into comedy and show business on a whim. I just thought it could be more interesting than being an accountant or something.  I just do my own thing.

Luke: Nowadays, do you get influenced by any comedians?

Paul: Without being rude, I attempt to not be influenced too much by other comedians.  I don’t watch too much other comedy.  I just do my own thing.  I create as much as possible in an artistic vacuum.

Luke: What has been your most prolific source of new comedic material?

Paul: The stuff I’m doing now is so abstract and so bizarre that, in fact, normal things don’t really provide inspiration.  People often go and find some situation at a party and say, “Hey, are you going to put this in your act?”, or some will say, “Ough, we’re craaaazy. Do you want to put this in your act?”.  Not many comedians are going to use that sort of material because it’s not that interesting.  Not me anyway.  The comedy I do is so ridiculous with it just based on putting together weird words and ideas.  Things do influence it – just not in a direct way.  For example, there may be a word you say in this interview, it may go around my head and it may come out in 15 years’ time in some bit.  But there’s certainly no direct correlation. 

Luke: Can you talk about any upcoming projects on the boil?

Paul: Yes, there are a few TV projects going on in the UK and I shall be making a DVD when I get back in May.  It will be my first proper DVD. 

Luke: In terms of getting some of your material out there via the Internet, do you think the future resides in YouTube or Podcasts.  Or otherwise!

Paul:  Well, I do both.  Both have a different quality.  With Podcasts, you can kind of ramble on because people are probably listening to you while they’re doing other things.  There’s a little more space and time.  However, with videos you tend to be a little more immediate. 

Luke: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen on the tube in London?

Paul: The great thing about the tube is that no-one takes any notice of anyone.  Everyone on the tube prides themself on ignoring others.  I think the strangest thing I’ve seen was a man wearing a dress with everyone totally ignoring him.  I guess there are also the times when people have totally ignored buskers or really obnoxious drunk people who were shouting nonsense.  Everyone just pretends they’re not there.  I like the tube.  Anything could happen and no one would notice.

Luke: Okay, besides from planking Korean Harlem shakers, what is your prediction for the World’s next stupid, mindless Internet craze?

Paul: The next Internet craze will be staring.  You’re on the Internet, then I watch you looking at the Internet.  And then someone films me watching you looking at the Internet.  Like an endless mirror.  And then everyone is watching videos of other people watching other people on the Internet.  And then eventually, one day after many years, we discover what you were looking at on the Internet.  And then when we find this out, the Internet ends.  This will be the quest to find the last page of the Internet and it will all spiral in on itself.  That will be the next craze on the Internet.

Paul Foot will be performing his show Kenny Larch is Dead at The Hifi Bar

Paul Foot and Luke Simmons