Tuesday, 16 January 2018
WE live in interesting times, so thank goodness for Andy Parsons — a comic who can make sense of what’s happening at home and abroad, and make us laugh about it.
Fresh from his appearance at the Henley Festival, the former Mock the Week regular is preparing to embark on the autumn leg of his 2017 tour.
This will bring him to the Concert Hall in Blagrave Street, Reading, on Thursday, October 26.
And as the title of his new show — Peak Bulls**t — suggests, the 50-year-old is holding nothing back.
“2016 will be remembered for the EU referendum, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove,” says Andy. “So if I have to summarise the show, it’s asking has the world gone mad, what it means to British in 2017, what it means to be a patriot — and is it true that we only like immigrants if they can win us gold medals at the Olympics? We’re not keen for people to sneak into a Britain on a dinghy — unless they can paddle it very quickly”
He’ll also be musing about the role of satirists in the world, during a period when most political comics were in favour of Remain in the EU referendum and supported Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election.
I say it must be a good time to be a satirist, but he demurs.
“You could argue it’s the worst time to be a satirist because the events of 2016 have proved that what satirists say has no effect whatsoever on the general public. Satirists should be arguing for World War Three and an increase in bankers’ bonuses on the grounds that, then, they are much less likely to happen”
In person, Andy is more quietly spoken and laid back than the “Mr Angry” persona fans know and love from BBC’s Mock the Week, which he appeared on for 10 years until 2015.
He enjoyed the run, he says, but the limitations of seven comics recording a half-hour show meant that complex points about that week’s events often had to be whittled down to a few soundbites.
“We would rarely get a chance on Mock the Week to discuss anything contentious — such as terrorism or tax credits or Syria. I mean, David Cameron wanted to bomb Syria in 2013 and 2015 but in those two years he had completely changed his mind as to which side he wanted to bomb. It seemed he wanted to bomb both sides. That didn’t seem like a coherent foreign policy — more like somebody who had some bombs that were coming up to their use-by date.”
Andy, who was born in Dorset, now lives in south-west London with his medical statistician wife and their young son and admits there is a metropolitan London bubble — but adds that touring the country is the antidote to it.
“It doesn’t matter where you live or what your politics are, the same things — health, education, jobs, pay, crime — affect us all. There are many things we can all agree on.
For instance, Philip Green
should not have been
allowed to sell BHS to a
former bankrupt with no
retail experience for a
quid. I would have
made a better owner of
BHS. I’ve got no retail
experience, I’m not a
former bankrupt and
I’ve got a quid.”
As he goes on to
suggest, there’s not
exactly a shortage of news stories to get riled up about at the moment.
“When emotions are heightened and you talk about the state of the world, I think — at least, I hope — that maybe people are more interested in what you have to say. There is a lot of anger in Britain at
the moment — if only we could use anger as a renewable energy source, what a place the world would be.
“Getting the likes of Sarah Vine and Katie Hopkins to shout their newspaper columns into generating turbines so as we could all have a free cup of tea.”
Andy rejects the idea that people are not interested in politics. “Look at the turnout for the referendum,” he says. And if further evidence were needed, the live recordings of his popular monthly podcast, the Slacktivist Action Group, regularly sell out London’s Soho Theatre.
Each month Andy invites three guests from across the political spectrum — a politician, a journalist and a comic — to talk about something topical they are passionate about. “It is very tempting to watch the news and get so fed up with the world that you sit on your arse and do nothing about it. The idea of the Slacktivist Action Group is that once a month we actually get out and we sit on our arses and do nothing about it together.”
He hopes it may be possible to do a touring version of the podcast at some point in the constituencies of the guest MPs. “I think people really are hungry for political debate because, while we are being bombarded with information, you could argue that we know much less about the world we live in — what with the growth of fake news on the internet and if people really don’t trust experts any more.
“There is so much bulls**t out there that people don’t know where to go for their news and information. Apparently a lot of people are getting their information from comedy shows which, given that they are comedy shows, is very worrying. You ask any comedian why the chicken crossed the road and they will all give you a different answer.”
Does he welcome fans who don’t share his world view?
“Of course — let’s face it, I’m often not even sure of my own worldview half the time. And regardless of political persuasion, everybody can agree that all politicians are no longer the same given that Donald Trump has no political experience and that Jeremy Corbyn wears vests, has an allotment and enjoys photographing manhole covers.”
Being such a politically engaged comic, is he prepared to make predictions? He laughs. “Nobody could have guessed what happened in 2016, so I’d be a fool to predict 2017. All I can predict is that I will be travelling the length and breadth of the country on tour, visiting a lot of motorway service stations and at some point I will succumb and indulge in a Ginsters buffet bar.”
The sheer unpredictability of the news agenda means he will be writing new material as the tour progresses — and if this year is as eventful as the last, he’ll be a very busy man indeed.
Tickets for the October 26 show at the Concert Hall are £17. The show starts at 8pm and has an advisory rating of PG. To book, call the box office on 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com
For more information, including a complete list of tour dates, visit www.andyparsons.co.uk
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