Chris Addison talks The Thick of It, The Look of Love and returning to stand-up
The baby-faced comic is in Scotland for the Glasgow International Comedy Festival
Were he not wholly spoken for, Chris Addison is the kind of genial, jovial, nice tall chap that a prospective suitor would happily introduce to their parents. But that doesn’t mean he will hold back when giving both barrels to certain scaremongers of the press. Stand-ups and TV comedians have become used to acting as the whipping boys and girls of the tabloids in recent times. But even that hardened community were a little shocked when a certain paper got hot under their conservative collars at Channel 4’s festive Big Fat Quiz of the Year, actually donating a front page to some post-watershed blokey banter.
Addison is in no mood to pull a punch or five. ‘It’s all just such manufactured nonsense, it really is. God bless the Daily Mail, it still adheres to its original proprietor’s maxim of “sow the seeds of discord” and that’s what they do. We do seem to be living in some kind of censorious age with lemon-sucking faced, doily-gloved Mary Whitehouses at every turn and it’s getting very boring. There’s nothing wrong with making jokes about the Queen; there just isn’t. Shove those people in front of 18th century cartoons of King George and see what they were doing in those incredibly censorious days of executions and treason.’
Regularly dubbed as a ‘thinking person’s comic’, Addison rejects shouty hectoring in favour of agile reasoning whether he’s doing shows about human civilisation, national identity or the Periodic Table. In terms of content, Addison is now taking a looser approach and The Time Is Now, Again is a return to his comedic roots. ‘It’s jokes, stories, lies, whimsy, a lot of sweating and quite a lot of laughing on the part of the audience,’ he says. ‘I know that for sure as this is the third and final leg of the show: I’m now putting it to bed. The last tour was the first one I’d written in about five years so more people had gotten to know me from things other than the stand-up so this was all about re-introducing myself. I thought I should go back to doing the proper straight stand-up of my past.’
Part of Addison’s comedy apprenticeship was working as a box office assistant at the Gilded Balloon during the 1994 Edinburgh Fringe. ‘Yes, I worked for Karen Koren,’ he admits proudly. ‘She looks at me oddly now because she knows I was on the other side; she can’t do the nicey nicey performer thing with me because she previously got angry with me. My first Edinburgh poster was one of the greatest moments in my career. And there will never be a better pay day than the £15 that I earned at the Frog and Bucket, the first time anyone ever handed money over to see me tell jokes.’
You get the feeling that people would happily stuff many more fivers in his pocket if he could somehow persuade Armando Iannucci to go back on his decision to end The Thick of It last year. Like the show’s creator, Addison (who appeared as slimy policy advisor Oliver Reeder) simply feels the time was right to pull the plug. ‘It was the correct decision and a strong decision as well. It was a joy to do and has been so well received by people, so it was inevitable that you’ll feel sad about it. It’s been incredible to knock about with those people for eight years. But I’m currently working on Veep, so I could console myself that it hadn’t quite stopped for me.’
As well as appearing in the second season of Iannucci’s take on US politics, Addison is donning a beard (that’s right, one of the most boyish men in showbiz had a beard) to play a men’s mag editor in Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love which stars Steve Coogan as porn baron Paul Raymond. ‘Everything about it sounded like a real rock’n’roll lifestyle but after a few weeks into the shoot I was thinking, “I can’t wait to leave this world, it’s so bleak, so depressing”.’
Yes, yes, but the beard? ‘They wrapped cling film round my face to get the shape and they sent it off delicately to a woman who then makes your beard. There’s a lot of hair work in The Look of Love, a lot of wigs and some merkins. They’re not a commodity that’s really required that much now, because the fashion these days, as I understand it, is to shave down there. We needed them not to look like that because that’s not what they did in the 1970s. And so the only way to create a merkin was to stitch two sideburns together. That made me howl with laughter.’
The Time Is Now, Again is at Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 27 Mar as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival and at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Sun 7 Apr.
The Look of Love is released Fri 26 Apr.