Andrew Lawrence: interview
The rather sick Andrew Lawrence talks to Time Out about not winning at Edinburgh and butchering his loved ones
In his stand-up Andrew Lawrence comes across as hopelessly depraved. The stories he tells about his dysfunctional family and his own shocking behaviour would seem gross and distasteful if they weren’t so funny. For sheer outrageousness the only point of comparison is the appallingly sick Bib and Bob routine that Jerry Sadowitz performed some years ago with Logan Murray. The additional complication here comes when you try to disentangle the real-life Lawrence from his act. Ask a question, it’s the onstage persona that replies.
Lawrence’s show at the Soho Theatre bears a close resemblance to the one that earned him an If.comeddie Best Newcomer nomination at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. ‘It’s much the same,’ he confirms. ‘But without the orchestra, the burlesque paraplegics, the pyrotechnic display, the dancing midgets and the celebrated kitten-stamping skit.’
But what it has lost it gains in other ways. ‘There are now embittered asides about the If.comeddie. That was a total fix. My show was clearly best. The fact that a girl won it instead of me just smacks of that rank tendency towards positive discrimination that has blighted the comedy industry for far too long.’ What chance, he asks, has a white middle-class male in his mid-twenties got of ever winning it? ‘Absolutely no chance whatever! I wish I was a Polish, mute hermaphrodite, in a wheelchair, with no jokes, in a show where I just throw shoes at people. Then I’d be a serious contender.’
He called his show ‘How To Butcher Your Loved Ones’. He talks a lot about his family. ‘About the fraught relationships I’ve had with them. And with close friends. Relationships resulting in violence and death.’ One chilling incident he describes, caused by a tragically comic misunderstanding, involves his grandad’s life support machine. They’re supplemented by callous accounts of his actions against his parents. In the outside world Lawrence behaves no better. ‘A lot of the unpleasant things I do are food-based. I like to throw a Jaffa Cake at fat people in the street and see if they’ll jump up and catch it like a dolphin. Whenever I’m in Tesco, I like to rub my cock on all the apples.’
Lawrence has enough self-awareness to account for these transgressions. ‘It’s nice to have fun at other people’s expense. But sometimes I think it’s because I’m a very bitter man who failed to win a prestigious comedy award because the judging panel were all tasteless scumbags.’ Another explanation, however, presents itself. Just consider his place of birth. ‘I was born in an insalubrious gaping black greasy orifice of chlamydial doom: Croydon. The main impact this had on me was that, for much of my life, I have wanted to leave Croydon.’
So far that’s proved impossible. ‘If I had money, I could live anywhere I like. Regrettably, I work in comedy. It’s very difficult to achieve upward mobility on a salary of minus £4,000 a year.’ But surely stand-ups find themselves well rewarded for their labours? ‘It’s not my money. Half of it goes on travel and accommodation. A quarter goes to the Inland Revenue. And a third to my agent.’
So why do it? ‘I need the love of an audience to compensate for the fact that I cannot find a woman anywhere who will touch me with a shitty stick.’ How did he get into it in the first place? ‘The question is not how I got into comedy, but how the fuck do I get back out again? Imagine if I went for an interview for a proper job and they asked me what I’d been doing for the past three years. The only honest reply would be that I’ve been talking vacuous nonsense to lowlife dickheads in skanky old pubs.’
So Lawrence soldiers on. In Tony Blair’s right-on Britain, it’s his nihilism that makes him so delightful. He has no illusions about his trade. ‘It’s all shit. Comedians are self-indulgent work-shy toerags. A lot of them haven’t thought of a new joke in years. I could be doing so much better if it wasn’t for the scurrilous nepotism that’s rife in this rotten industry. And if I had better material. And stagecraft. And a more professional attitude.’
Andrew Lawrence takes ‘How to Butcher Your Loved Ones’ to Soho Theatre for three nights from Thursday.
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