Andrew O'Neill on being 'alternative'
‘Genderspastic’ metalhead comic Andrew O’Neill tells us why he keeps away from the mainstream
Apparently, I’m too weird to have a slot on ‘Live at the Apollo’. That’s fine. They’re making a mainstream TV show. The thing is, according to Twitter, I’m not strange at all. Recently someone I follow tweeted that ‘weird people never think they’re weird’. Which is a relief, because I’ve been called that all my life, and I’ve never really seen it.
‘Alternative’ is a much better word. Standing just outside the mainstream, occasionally peeping over the fence at what’s going on (it’s usually not very interesting). My current show is called ‘Alternative’, because its style is just that. But ‘alternative’ is also my lifestyle, in many different ways…
I consider myself an alternative comedian. As a kid I had the ‘Comic Relief Big Red Joke Book’. Most of the gags were rubbish, but at the back were two chapters, entitled ‘Risky’ and ‘Jokes Too Dangerous Ever To Be Told’. These were the jokes that I learned, telling them to anyone with ears (or holes where ears had once been, due to a tragic industrial accident). Among the jokes at the back of the book were the likes of ‘A woman with a banana in her ear gets on a bus. The bus driver says, “Excuse me madam, did you know you have a banana in your ear?” She replies, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I’ve got a banana in my ear.” ’ Superb. Terrible. Wonderful! Hardly anyone got the jokes, but those who did became my friends. Ever since then I’ve always loved the more obscure end of comedy, and liking genuinely alternative comedy feels much the same as liking underground music: those that get it are my kind of people.
I am an amateur occultist. Most comics these days are outspokenly atheist. I worship a moon goddess. This wasn’t planned: I was perfectly happy being an atheist, I was going to be mates with Richard Dawkins and everything. I was going to be his wisecracking sidekick. But then I read some interviews with graphic novel author Alan Moore in which he made magick sound entirely possible and rational. It made sense, which completely ruined my worldview. Now, I use ritual to help me write, and the current show I’m touring contains a Qabalistic pathworking (subtly, mind, you won’t even know it’s happening).
I’m a metalhead. The devil has the best tunes, that’s a scientific fact. But metal takes its toll on your life. I didn’t realise how much black clothing I owned until I went to perform in Australia and nearly died from heatstroke. I even had a black beach towel. I’m also in a steampunk band called The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. Steampunk is a genre of fiction: it’s Victorians with computers and spaceships. We’re the only band doing real punk in this area and sound exactly how punk sounded back in 1877.
I’m a vegan (or ‘Kevin Keegan’ as we say in London) and have been for 13 years. ‘What do you eat?’ people ask me. I respond by killing them and eating them: the ultimate comeback. Human meat is fine, as is human milk, as long as the person in question has the mental capacity of a cow. Mmm, delicious…
Probably the most visual way in which I’m alternative is my cross-dressing. Dressing up to perform seems right, and for me that means TRANNYTIME (which is a phrase I’m trying to give more currency). I don’t like the word ‘transvestite’. It’s useful, to help audiences know what I’m talking about, but I don’t like the term. Without wanting to sound too politically correct, I prefer the term ‘genderspastic’. People assume, because I cross-dress, that I must be gay, but I’m actually heterosexual. I dig women, and that’s what makes me want to cross-dress. Apparently this is dead common. So ladies, if you’re bored of knowing where your clothes are, I’m sort of like a gay best friend that you can fuck.
Despite all these things, ultimately I just want to be an all-round family entertainer like Bruce Forsyth. No matter where I’m playing, or to what audience, I’ll try my hardest to make them laugh. I will literally do anything.