Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Dieting funnyman still enjoys chewing the fat

Dieting funnyman still enjoys chewing the fat

IT’S the moment every father of teenage daughters most dreads — finding out what they really think of you.

Last summer the comedian Hal Cruttenden — known for his regular appearances on such TV favourites as Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice — had written his new stand-up show ready to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Everything was in place — except that he didn’t yet have a title.

Rather touchingly, he asked his two daughters, aged 16 and 18, which word best summed him up. They said “Chubster”.

Hal’s now back on the 5:2 diet beloved of his old schoolmate George Osborne and, following the success of his show in Edinburgh, has been touring the UK with it.

Chubster not only touches on his usual moans about being a
middle-aged, middle-class father of fat-shaming teenagers but also introduces us to new problems like his struggles with IQ tests, political zealots and the trauma of supporting the England rugby team.

The tour was originally due to have finished in December, but due to phenomenal demand extra dates have been added that will take Hal to Norden Farm in Maidenhead tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday), followed by the Glee Club in Cowley Road, Oxford, on Friday, March 8.

“I can’t wait to get back on the road,” says Hal. “I’m not actually that sociable naturally but I love chatting to my comedy fans because we’ve immediately got something in common. We both love me!”

Having originally trained as an actor, Hal had small parts in EastEnders and Kavanagh QC, but has now been a stand-up for more than 20 years. So who were his comedy inspirations?

“People like Eddie Izzard convinced me that you could do stand-up successfully and be middle-class,” he says. “I thought it was so impressive and it taught me that it was more the joke than the person telling it. I so love Billy Connolly’s charisma — I just want to sit down and listen to him. With comedians like Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges, I think for me it’s more a case of jealousy than inspiration.”

Who was the first comedian he saw live? “I was 17 and a friend and I were given tickets to go and see Dave Allen at the Aldwych. I was astonished — I thought he would have appealed to an audience my parents’ age and higher, but in fact there was a wide age span there and everyone was enjoying it.”

What can audiences expect from the 2019 leg of the Chubster tour? “Oh, a sprinkling of politics, my never-ending battle with trying to lose weight, and bringing up children.”

Have Hal’s family seen his live shows and if so what do they make of them? “Oh yes, they always see the shows. As to what they think of them, my children are now asking for a raise in their pocket money and calling it research costs!”

How does he relax after a show? “I really need to take my mind away from comedy, so I tend to sit there either watching horror movies on Netflix or alternatively catching up on watching some televised rugby matches.”

When he’s working on a new show is he disciplined enough to, eg, write at a specific time of day? “I am anything but disciplined, I am rubbish — if I didn’t have a deadline to work to I doubt I would get anything done. I have the upmost respect for Lee Mack —
I have absolutely no idea how he writes all the comedy scripts and stand-up shows that he does.”

Hal has toured extensively all over the world, but is there a place or a venue still on his wish list?
“I would really love to perform in New York, and not just an open-mike event just off Broadway. I really fancy doing Carnegie Hall or the Radio City Music Hall.” With that sort of ambition, what’s the best advice he has been given in his career? “I wish I could remember — quite a lot of what I am told doesn’t register at the time. It’s about six to nine months later when something goes wrong and a comment comes flooding back into my consciousness.”

Lastly, if he was stranded on a desert island with two or three other people of his choice — historical, fictional or contemporary — who would he pick? “Stephen Fry — he is always entertaining — and then Karl Marx. I have had his Communist Manifesto since I was a student and never got around to reading it. Perhaps whilst stranded with him on a desert island he could explain it to me.”

• Tickets for Hal’s Norden Farm shows are £18. To book, call 01628 788997 or visit www.nordenfarm.org

Words by Peter Anderson and Matthew Wilson

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