Marcus Brigstocke: 'I saw Jerry Seinfeld live and thought, "Mate, just tell me one thing that you care about"'
- Brian Donaldson
- 9 November 2018
The stand-up and star of stage and screen takes on the mantel of Beelzebub in his touring show
As the erudite and passionate stand-up and actor tours with his latest show, he tells us about playing Lucifer, dividing up audiences and walking a tightrope …
In your new show, Devil May Care, you are essentially playing a character. That's something of a departure for your stand-up.
Audiences who come to see me are used to seeing someone being fairly polemic, angry and frustrated. But in my new show I wanted to do something where I step away from the cliché of me being posh, middle-class and a bit angsty. What if I remove myself from the picture? So, I'm going to be Lucifer.
And you're not doing this by halves, are you? That red face must take ages to slap on?
We'll see how far into the tour I regret this but I will be wearing full devil make-up and horns for every show. But I need to just remember that, frankly, some people have real jobs. So, I might be like, 'oh it's going to be a nightmare, I shall have to put make-up on every night!' Well, really, wow, how tough.
What's the general idea behind Devil May Care?
What's interesting for me is the speed with which we put each other into groups, and that's something which has been accelerated by social media. 'Right, so you voted for Brexit: that means you're a bit thick. You're a Conservative: you're basically a Nazi. You're a Corbyn supporter: you're a dangerous myopic utopian dreamer. You're a Scottish Nationalist: you're naïve and blinkered. You're English: you're every bullying patriarch that ever existed.' Social media has amplified that process, and in this show I'll be dividing everyone up deliberately and in a cartoonish way by saying how everyone is so much worse than everyone else: I'll show that we're really not helping each other with this level of discussion.
You're well-established now as someone whose stand-up makes you think and as well as laugh. This sounds like another one of those shows?
My starting point for a show is not what's funny, it's entirely what's interesting, and my job is then to make it funny. Obviously, come show-time if I've failed to make it funny it doesn't make the edit even if it is interesting. But what's more important to me is 'what do I really care about?' When I saw Jerry Seinfeld live – and he's someone I obviously admire as a stand-up – I was thinking, 'mate, just tell me one thing that you care about'. That's always been the stand-up that I've been drawn to; it doesn't have to be passionate or ranty but just needs a feeling that someone cares about something.
As well as your stand-up and numerous bits of telly, the Brigstocke CV has expanded with roles in theatre, most recently playing PT Barnum at London's Menier Chocolate Factory. How was that?
It was incredible. I worked out recently that between last November and March I walked over 5km on a tightrope. It was thrilling, and for me, it was a dream role. I'd really love to play Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady because, you know, Rex Harrison couldn't sing either.
Marcus Brigstocke: Devil May Care is on tour until Saturday 1 December.