Jeremy Hardy – 'there's a bit of the indefatigable wartime spirit about me'
- Brian Donaldson
- 14 June 2017
The political comic and Radio 4 regular takes his positive vision of Britain on tour
In 1988, Jeremy Hardy won the Perrier Award and 14 years later, he was taking on the might of a Middle Eastern military force in the documentary Jeremy Hardy vs The Israeli Army. Nowadays, he's passing on his wit and wisdom in everything from the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue stage juggernaut to his solo stand-up tours. Here he discusses being pals with another notable Jeremy and getting more right wing as you head towards the grave
What's the content of your current show?
I'm talking about politics but more about how these things impact on me and affect me emotionally in terms of feeling bewildered and battered by them. I'm not trying to sound like an authority and people don't need to bring notebooks to the show. It's much more the ramblings and discontents of a person in the back half of life. I'm in the intriguing position of being a friend of Jeremy Corbyn and knowing him personally. It's quite a strange position to know somebody that's in the news and know the person who they're talking about and taking pictures of. This is odd because you usually talk about people as abstractions on stage when your experience of them is the same as an audience's.
You mention being bewildered and battered, but will audiences leave the show with a spring in their step?
I'm trying to break down some negatives such as the fear of migration and refugees and this siege mentality that has been built up about how we're supposedly under threat. I'll chip away at that in a perky way: there's a bit of the indefatigable wartime spirit about me.
Would you say that British society has progressed much from when you started doing comedy in the 80s?
There has been progress in lots of ways in that society is more integrated, it's more open, there's gay marriage, and it's safer for people who are not white to walk down the streets in most parts of the country than it was 40 years ago. But I feel that our attitude to our borders is wrong; it's the first time that an awful lot of people think you can and should just close your border and remain in this splendid isolation. Instead of people thinking 'oh god, look at this terrible refugee crisis, we must do our bit', there's a lot of people thinking 'how can we get out of doing our bit and find reasons not to provide sanctuary for these people?' In that regard, that somehow we've reached peak diversity, we're not moving forward socially or politically.
You won the Perrier Award in 1988: that must feel like an eternity ago?
I now meet comedians who weren't born then. It feels like a different time as I'm not the same person doing the same thing 30 years ago. I tend not to look back on old clips of myself or look at things I wrote or listen to something from the radio 30 years ago: I remember them but it feels like someone else. One of the things that has changed is that there was a lot more variety then than all these solo male stand-ups now. We called it the alternative cabaret scene. When someone like a Harry Hill comes up, it's a real breath of fresh air. There are more women comics than there used to be but still not 50% of the world, so it's a shame for me that there's not the same variety.
What do you think of the hoary old cliché that people get more right wing as they get older?
I think you kind of get more confused or more nuanced sometimes, but think of Ken Loach who is at the height of his powers and making films that are more political than anything he's done before. And he's 81. So, I don't think its necessarily true you get more right wing but perhaps you just settle for less when your time is running out. Maybe you just want to see some progress before you head for the crematorium.
Jeremy Hardy is on tour until Tue 14 Nov.