Paul Foot: Interview
Paul Foot has three shows running at once, but this isn‘t stand-up, it‘s ’live musing‘
Paul Foot doesn’t see himself as a stand-up any longer: ‘The term’s too broad to describe all the different styles that comedians can do. I prefer to call what I do “live musings”.’ In his new series of shows, running at three separate venues until shortly before Christmas, he’s also aiming to provide real variety. But it’s a form of variety where he alone supplies all the ingredients. There’s a game show, called ‘Ready, Steady, Foot!’, where the audience suggests a genre, a period in history and a location, Foot then improvises a play. He’ll read from his novelette ‘Judy Cardigan: A Tale of Two Titties’. And then, of course, there are those live musings.
In the play he might take on six or seven roles. ‘Or even more. It could be an entire army. It makes very little difference, because my acting skills are non-existent. I might also tackle rather more abstract parts like “a sense of foreboding”.’ He’s writing a chapter of the novelette immediately before each show. ‘It’s best described as a load of sentimentalised romantic tripe with weak plot lines and flimsy characterisation.’ At the end of the run he’ll hawk it round and look to get it published.
If that sounds mildly deranged, it’s in keeping with Foot’s entire career. He was born and brought up in Amersham: ‘A wonderful place for fresh produce, wild woodland mushrooms, rustic farm workers, milk maidens and relaxing country walks.’ After college (‘I attended Oxbridge University where I studied Mathematics, which was a total waste of time’), he was drifting towards becoming an accountant when he suddenly decided to have a crack at stand-up. At that point he’d not seen any live comedy at all. ‘I didn’t know that you were expected to prepare some jokes beforehand.’ So he winged it: ‘Can anyone here name a fruit? A peach, madam? Personally, I prefer a pineapple.’
Foot says it went quite well. Building swiftly from this beginning, he created an act ‘full of innuendo and rudeness’. Then, in 1996, he wrote a new one ‘consisting mainly of jokes about pepper’. The following year he won the BBC New Comedy Award and the Daily Telegraph Open Mic competition. He created a show in the form of a lecture about crime and another based entirely on the rising price of Chinese takeaways. ‘Then, in April 2006, I started performing my heartfelt and frenetic live musings.’ What kind of topic might he address? ‘Hard to say, but one example would be how much my life has been blighted by ghosts.’
He’s called the current series of shows ‘Paul Foot’s Comedy for Connoisseurs’. The title comes from his ‘secret society’ The Guild of Paul Foot Connoisseurs. ‘My loyal connoisseurs have secret events just for them, such as tours of pirate ships, medieval banquets, Halloween séances and flamingo-based adventures. Anyone can join by visiting www.paulfoot.tv.’
The shows take place at Theatre 503 in Battersea, the Red Bar in Soho and the Arts Theatre Club. The venues, Foot explains, have been carefully selected. ‘For their location, target demographic, ambience and cheap room hire rates. It’s a project we hope to expand globally within the next decade.’
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