Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Hal fellow well met?

“ANGRY” isn’t a word many people would associate with Hal Cruttenden

“ANGRY” isn’t a word many people would associate with Hal Cruttenden.

The affable comic is perhaps best known to TV viewers for his appearances on The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice and Live at the Apollo — not to mention hit panel shows such as Would I Lie To You? and Have I Got News For You.

All is calm and bright on the surface, but beware — there are a few jagged rocks lurking beneath.

A clue to their existence was given in the title of his last stand-up show, Tough Luvvie — the DVD of which is out at the end of November.

Well before then, though, there is the chance to catch him in person when he brings his latest show, Straight Outta Cruttenden, to Norden Farm in Maidenhead next Friday (October 23).

By happy chance, Straight Outta Compton — a biopic of the notorious rap group NWA named after their 1988 debut album — has only recently hit cinema screens.

“That was pure luck,” confesses Cruttenden. “And I’ve still not seen the film — I’ve got to go and bloody see it! Massive bit of luck...

“The thing was — it’s a very silly title, obviously — I downloaded Straight Outta Compton again, having not listened to it for years, since I was at university. And I just thought, oh, this is cool!

“The theme of the show is that I’m a bit of a moody, angry midlife crisis man who likes listening to gangsta rap.

“I’ve just found that I listen to it more the older and angrier I get. I don’t know what it is about middle age, but I remember thinking, oh, why do people get so moody in middle age? Just miserable. I like to do it with a smile on my face.”

Cruttenden, who is 46 and married with two teenage daughters, immediately adds: “I do cover lots of things in which I am not like NWA in any way — it is not a show about gangsta rap at all.”

Rather, Straight Outta Cruttenden sees Hal venting his thoughts about the real evils of the modern world — such as over-sharing on social media and the 5:2 diet.

Funnily enough, the person who has perhaps done more than anyone else to popularise the 5:2 is the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne. Who, it turns out, Cruttenden went to school with.

“Two Tory ministers, actually... I was at school with Ed Vaizey as well.”

The school in question being St Paul’s in Barnes.

“It tends to produce a lot of Tory MPs. I don’t think I concentrated hard enough when they were trying to indoctrinate us!

“I’m left-wing but I actually like to think, when I do a show, I wouldn’t ever want to be one of those comics that just has people that agree with me come to see me.

“I have a whole thing about how deep down I’m incredibly left-wing — I’d like to see, you know, worldwide socialist revolution, the end of capitalism... as long as I can hang on to my nice car and it doesn’t adversely affect house prices. Complete champagne socialist.”

As for Osborne and that diet...

“I don’t know much about diets ... I’m just trying to eat healthily now. But I think maybe the 5:2 diet would work for George Osborne.

“Maybe it makes you even more right-wing? It puts you in such a bad temper — it makes you so angry the whole time that you just need to take it out on the poor!”

When it comes to politics, there’s not exactly a shortage of subject matter right now. “What’s interesting is that politics has suddenly got very divided again, which is great for comedy.

“[Corbyn’s leadership] could be a complete disaster but it’s very exciting. People are watching politics a bit more. The hardest thing about doing political comedy is that loads of people switch off because it hasn’t been that interesting for a while.

“The great time for satire was Thatcher — such a character! An extraordinary character that we had in the Eighties. But now we’ve got an extraordinary character on the left, what would be nice would be to have an extraordinary character on the right!”

Readers, do we know anybody who might possibly fit that description?

“He [Boris] has gone a bit quiet recently. It’s quite interesting because I think he was counting on Cameron getting tipped out [at the general election]. Now Osborne’s moving in...

“But we do love characters, we do like faulty people. It’s weird in Britain — we like our politicians to be real, and maybe a bit faulty, but not too faulty. Because I think there will probably be a massacring of Corbyn if he doesn’t get organised — or something.

“It’s such a fascinating situation for him. This is a man elected on a massive vote of the party, but with a parliamentary party that frankly thinks it’s a disaster.

“People are saying, â??This is terrible, we’ve got a disastrous leader,’ and that creates a great tension.”

In the wake of the Labour leadership result, some have speculated that the relentless rise of social media may somehow have benefited Corbyn.

“The thing is, you only have to listen to people who agree with you, quite often, don’t you? On Facebook you sort of have your friends’ opinions, and they all seem to be the same. If people only look at Facebook they’re only going to get very much one side of the story.

“I think people do that left and right. The left-wing go, â??Oh no, the government don’t care — they’re all evil!’ And, you know, the right go, â??The left are all mad, and they want to control society, and we believe in freedom.’ These are stereotypes that people just reinforce on social media.

“And, actually, I don’t think I’m a better person for being more left-wing. I don’t judge. When I’m with a Tory I don’t go: â??You must be slightly less caring than me.’ It’s just a different opinion about the way society should be and what’s caring and looking after people.

“But there is a lot of this very pompous self-righteous c**p on social media [laughs]. I don’t actually have too much in my show about that, but I have a lot about people who have annoyed me on social media.

“You know, showing off. I’m of a generation where people put their kids’ GCSE results up, and I’m like â??F*** off...’ You have to go â??Oh well done Mrs Johnny!’ but inside you’re going â??P*** off, I don’t want to hear about your little Johnny’s five A-stars...’ ”

So what’s the answer?

“I’d like a bit of a return of the stiff upper lip. The thing is, I think of myself as quite emotional, but I now feel that everybody’s more emotional than me and I’d like it to go back to the old way.

“I think we are desperately indulgent. I think we’ve gone through a thing of going â??Well, we’ve got to be more open’ but we haven’t realised that your emotions are still just yours — they’re not really important to everybody else.

“You don’t really need to say them to everybody else — or the problems of life, because everybody’s got problems. I quite like Britain being a little bit stiff upper lip — I think it would be nice to see a return to it.”

l Tickets for next Friday’s show, which starts at 8pm, are priced £17. For more information or to book, visit

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