MY COMEDY HERO
Back in my salad years, as an earnest student at St Georges Hospital Medical School in Tooting, London, a trip to a local comedy club at the weekend was an occasional and immensely entertaining diversion. One night we made the trip to a now defunct venue called the Cartoon Club in Clapham to see a much touted young man who, as legend would have it, had qualified as a doctor from our own alma mater. Expecting witty middle-class platitudes and medical anecdotes, what we witnessed was something altogether more life-affirming: a bizarrely-collared fool with a mousetrap attached to his nose delivering fast-paced one-liners mixed up with seemingly pointless non sequiturs.
The one-liners were uniformly funny, but that wasn’t what made him memorable. It was the way that, later in the set, he would drop in comments which acted as punchlines to non sequiturs delivered way back in the set which created an unstoppable momentum of mirth. By the end he was already my comedy hero, but many years later, I performed one of my first sets at a gig where he was headlining, and promptly died a miserable, soul-destroying death. Rather than mock, or avert his gaze, he took the time to have a friendly chat and offer unpatronising advice, the comedic equivalent of Cristiano Ronaldo trying to teach the school nerd to play keepy-uppy.
Harry Hill is my comedy hero for three reasons. For bringing to the increasingly homogenised world of stand-up comedy a persona that is both unique and uncompromisingly hilarious. For allowing his leftfield perspective to illuminate the mainstream to such a spectacular degree with TV Burp. And for being a gentleman during one of my early moments of darkness.
(Interview by Brian Donaldson)
The Stand, Glasgow, Thu 17 May; the Stand, Edinburgh, Fri 18 & Sat 19 May.