[prev] …vulnerable, you know, looking at yourself with the same critical eye with which you look at others. I love that people were coming out of Bravo Figaro in tears, devastated! You can go from being funny to being very raw and emotional, to move people, to emotionally engage with them.
I saw you perform many years ago, and at the end of the final section you suddenly became incredibly angry, and shouted, because the topic was very serious. The curtain went down and no-one really knew how to react – it was very powerful and very effective and I remember it all these years later. Is that something that you like to do, to discombobulate the audience?
No, I want to engage with audiences in different ways, it’s not about discombobulating them, it’s getting them to think, to feel, to experience something.
Certainly to think about things in a different way, to perhaps not be comfortable…?
Yes… no! Yes and no. I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable in the gigs, I want them to connect in an emotional way to the show.
‘Someone sat on the “wrong” seat on a bus, and it was one of the most important points in the civil rights movement…’
What can people expect from this current show, what’s it about?
Mucking about! I’m talking about dissent, mucking about – they can be small acts or they can be big. But small acts can have a larger significant, you know, someone sat on the ‘wrong’ seat on a bus, and it was one of the most important points in the civil rights movement. There’s a whole range of stuff that’s very significant and very exciting. One thing we did recently was organise a stand-up comedy gig in the street – we took over a whole street! – but it was a pro-gay show and we did it outside the Russian consulate, it was a real gas to do! Everyone who went to that will remember it.
‘Some of the stuff we’re doing in the show is just about being naughty, some of it is a tiny bit illegal’
In the last few years the culture in Britain has changed from: ‘unless we’re explicitly told we can’t do this, we can do this’ to ‘let’s assume we’re probably not allowed to do this’. It appears to be something you’re very concerned about
I’ve always believed that you should do the thing you want to do until someone tells you that you shouldn’t. We’re human beings, this is our country, these are our politicians and our laws. Some of the stuff we’re doing in the show is just about being naughty, some of it is a tiny bit illegal, and some of it is challenging the police. One of the things we’ve been doing is working with the staff at the Curzon Cinema in London, who have been working for trade union recognition; two days ago the management recognised the union and signed off a voluntary recognition deal. These kinds of things are important; these actions have consequences.
Would you describe yourself as an adrenaline junkie?
Yeah, yeah, I wouldn’t describe myself totally as that, but it would be in the description somewhere.
What did you think when Russell Brand called on people not to vote?
I like Russell, I think he’s normally more intelligent than that – in this instance he was not quite as intelligent as he should have been. The thing is, it is how people feel, even I’ve felt that on occasion. But it is important to get out there and act; for example, the minimum wage is a deeply flawed concept, but it makes a significant impact if you’re getting it, rather than getting less. So when someone says ‘don’t vote’ what you’re doing is turning off a whole load of people from the political process, and they then don’t engage. Voting is not the greatest thing in the world but it does have a significance and it does change things. I’m not saying you have a moral duty to vote because I think you have a right to reserve consent. But the whole ‘don’t bother to vote because you’ll never change things’ attitude – it’s just an excuse to be lazy.
What are your top tips for people who want to be engaged in making a difference, especially if they’ve never done it before?
There are two things you must remember: you’ve got more power than you think you have; and things will take much longer than you think they will! You have to… [cont]