Yes it’s poor. Yes It’s unsteady. And yes it’s terrible sound quality. But it’s a start. Johnny Vegas
The Stand Up Blog, is ashamed to present the Stand Up Blog You Tube Channel. The channel will serve as the portal by which all those grainy stand up videos taken on your phone can be viewed. First on the bill is Johnny Vegas Performing for the first time in two years at Friday’s gig with Stewart Lee. Enjoy
It’s long overdue, it’s unabridged but is finally here, THE STEWART LEE INTERVIEW.
How’s the tour been going?
Its been going really good, I gave up stand up for a few years, and then I started again after about four years. I’ve been getting about two or three times as many people as a few years ago.
Why did you record 90’s Comedian with the website Go Faster Stripe?
I made a DVD the year before with a company called Two Entertain, it was really good because aside from the money being nice I had a record of that years show, and then you could draw a line under it for next years one. I wanted to do another DVD, and my management couldn’t find anyone to do it for me. And in the end I told them to offer it for free if they just filmed it. Literally in 2005 I couldn’t give my work away. And then this guy who was a tech support man at this Arts Centre in Cardiff read the interview, had seen the show and likes it, so set up this company to film it. Basically I didn’t get any money for it, but I get a share of any sales. Subsequently he’s filmed about ten DVD’s with people like Richard Herring and is doing really important work.
Who have you recorded this tour with?
It’s been recorded in Glasgow, for a company called Real Talent. Its really great. The main thing about a DVD is – even though I made about £2500 out of the Go Faster Stripe DVD – that when you film the show its like you put the show to bed, its difficult when you’re a comedian, its really hard to draw a line under your show. It forces you to move on. So when people come up to and ask you to do so and so bit you can say well there’s a video of it, I cant remember it and I’ve got some new stuff, it’s a way of forcing yourself to move on.
Congratulations on becoming a dad, as a father do you think you’ll be carrying on with such large tours for many more years?
No I don’t, I’ve been very lucky because we had the baby last year and we really needed to get some money in, to get him his own room. A 70 date tour, up in Edinburgh , it’s the longest I’ve ever done, its just getting ridiculous, it was very hard on my wife.
However two weeks ago BBC 2 decided they were going to do a series with me. It was first talked about in 2005, then it was cancelled in 2006, then it went back on the slate in 2007 and about two weeks ago they commissioned it. The great thing about that is that I can work on that for about a year, then when I do tour again the whole set up will have changed . A 30 date tour of bigger places, in the short term I wont have to be away for much, which is great because every time you go back after three or four days away the babies different. The last year everything has worked out so well, i’ve been in a real rut for a long time.
Are you going to be doing this years Edinburgh Festival?
I am, I’m going to do a little play, about an audience with Queen Elizabeth I, conducted by Sir Walter Raleigh. I’m also going to do stand up 5 nights a week at The Stand which is a comedy club in Edinburgh, its not a proper show, but it will be used to generate new material for the TV show. Its just going to be a bit cheaper than the other show, a bit of a shambles.
What do you think of the big four comedy venues separating and forming the Edinburgh comedy festival?
I think its really bad, it might not be so bad the big four, coming together under a marketing banner. Its incredibly insensitive and rude. The Edinburgh comedy festival has announced that ‘its separating from the main event’ , but not a single person involved in it has issued a statement to artistic policy. Its all about branding and money. And also I think it could have a real damaging effect, if they keep talking about it in the same light as Glastonbury.
Why do you think Glastonbury haven’t sold out this year?
Its because if you went to Glastonbury twenty years ago, half the bands gave there money back and that went to charity, so there was a real feeling of mucking in. As a comic you got paid about 100 quid but you didn’t mind because you were part of a bigger thing. As artists you have to sleep in a ditch with all the mud, but Neil Diamonds not giving his fee back and Kate Moss is flying in in a helicopter.
Then you think hold on a minute someone’s doing really well out of this why should have to endure shit conditions. Likewise it’s the same with the Edinburgh Fringe, at the moment if you’re watching a really good comic, in a cold stage with water dripping on your head you don’t mind because everything is done on a wing and a prayer. If I’m in at a comedy festival that has a £500000 pound sponsorship I’m going to be pissed off if I’m on sitting on a wet stage with water dripping on my head. I want to feel like I’m part of something, mucking in for a big free for all. The money wont feed through to the acts, but as usual it will all go on branding and bars. So I think their in danger of really fucking it up in Edinburgh. Part of the fringe is that you don’t mind if its rough and ready as long as no one takes any money out of it. If the Edinburgh fringe comedy festival has big sponsorship people are going to feel ripped off. And the same will happen as what happens at Glastonbury, people will stop going and will go to smaller more manageable festivals.
Do you think TV execs have been slightly weary of you since the backlash over Jerry Springer the opera?
I really don’t know I think the thing about big Tele people is that I get all these big reviews and they think here’s a good one and we will get this one on Tele. Then they come and see me and think I cant have this on Tele. Its not so much about content but style, you’ve gotta think I’m forty, I talk really slowly about involved things, you cant put me on bbc3 for 16 to 24 year old. So they ask what do you do with me? So its not fear so much. The fact that I’ve been very lucky that the last few years and have had the best reviews any stand up has ever had really still doesn’t mean I make good television. Its difficult for Tele people none of them have got any idea but there in charge .
Any aspirations to become a Tele exec?
Not really no, I know Richard Herring applied for a job at head of comedy at BBC2, but I think they thought it was a joke, but I think it would be really great, he can write and he does gigs, and he knows who everyone is. How about that then?
Once I get the other side of this Tv series I will see if it gets enough viewers to be re-commissioned, if they don’t I wont worry, I will have a bit of money to get a room for the baby to sleep then I can go back to doing all the really interesting fun things, hopefully go back to the world of making art with renewed gusto. Although It would be great to do the television thing because you can pass the responsibilities onto someone else, maybe get a driver. ( Lee is currently talking to me in a taxi as his car has broke down whilst travelling to a gig).
Did you find more people recognised you after your guest appearance on Have I got News For You?
Yeah , and it wasn’t much fun, you get about 600 quid for going on HIGNFY, 6 million people watch it but really I don’t like doing things like that, because I’m not very good at them. But I was getting married and we needed the money for it. A week after we were on our honeymoon in Aberdeen, 1 in 7 people watch it, so every other person in the street was shouting ‘hey funny man’ its fucking terrible. If you are properly famous you’re probably not wondering around Aberdeen at night. You think at 25 it would be really cool to be recognised, but being 40 and being recognised everywhere is quite upsetting and intimidating really.
Richard Thomas is apparently writing another opera this time on Anna Nicole Smith, are you going to be involved?
No I’m not, but I would love to do something with him again. It became very difficult, all the opera stuff, because of this campaign against us from the Christian right, we couldn’t get paid anything. I really love his work and I really love him, he is one of my best friends, I did about 4 or 5 years on Jerry Springer but I never really saw any money for it, I will do something with him eventually.
He’s good fun to work with, some people are precious about things, and some you have to be careful working with their egos, but Richard works really hard, if he doesn’t agree with you , you just have a forthright argument about it. I’ve worked with some people who have been a real education.
How farcical do you think shows like the hundred best stand up in the world are? You were beaten by Jim Davidson
Funnily enough I was sitting with all the Jongeleurs comics in Bristol the other night, and we were having a laugh, a lot of them were off the main stream circuit, a lot of them do cruises. All the Jongeleurs comics do the same sort of stuff, but there making £50000 to £100000 grand a year, and yet you’ve never heard of them! There were people playing last night that id never heard of that have three houses! The comics that win awards and get 5 star reviews are on teachers money.
All those sort of shows are farcical, I was asked to do a show called the shows comedians favourite comedians, they asked me to pick my favourite comics, So I said yes id like to talk about Simon Munnery, Chick Murray, so they said we haven’t got any of them on the list, can you choose one of these three.
With regards to the hundred best comedians of all time there is no way that me and Daniel Kitson would have got in that list because of a public vote, because were simply not well known enough, but I think they tried to give it a degree of credibility by shoe horning in a few people that are critically seen as good into it. It got my mum off my back for a bit though. I thought I’m never going to be in it again so I will write a show called the 41st best comedian ever.
Any plans for another novel?
I did the first 30000 words of the last one then my management started to tout it around to people. So we got all this money and we got deadline but you cant rush a novel, it sort of went wrong. The one I’m doing i have about 10,000 words for it, but I’m not going to take it anywhere until its done. But also I’m tempted to see if I can get it published without anyone knowing that I’m a comedian. I think proper writers are slightly irritated by the celebrity culture of publishing, there’s a section in Waterstones called celebrity hardbacks!
There no Americans on the bill for you ten best stand ups bill, why is that?
If we could have got Chris Rock I’d have had him, but he’s doing Wembley throughout that period. Apart from Chris rock there would be a living American i would put on at the expense of any of the people on the list.
– The list includes-
What were trying to do with the series is present people who are not known or have been forgotten about , like Simon Munnery, or like with Harry Hill, people don’t realise what good stand up’s these people are. I suppose there was sort of an agenda behind it, these people are all really brilliant and you may not know them.
The Stand Up Blog aims to give the reader interviews with the best stand up comics performing in Britain today. The Blogs first interview will be with legendary stand up Stewart Lee who is currently touring with his 41st best stand up show. For those who are not familiar with the comics comic here’s an example of his classic Joe Pasquale routine: