In January 2013 I was approached by a Q and A site who invited me to answer a selection of personal questions for the benefit of my “fans” (their word, not mine). In the event, things didn’t quite work out between us, so I pulled the plug. However, several people have asked me to reproduce the answers here.
Q: You’re at a karaoke party — what song would you sing?
A: “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place”. But I wouldn’t sing it, I’d say it. Then I’d do it, and never look back.
Q: What’s the first job you ever had?
A: Kitchen porter in the restaurant on top of the Post Office Tower in central London in 1966. I learned how to mop blood from the bottom of a fridge, how to break up a fight between drunken co-workers, and how to make melon boats.
Q: What did you look like in high school?
A: I left school at sixteen. Here I am a year later trying to look like a hard case.
Q: What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
A: British Columbia. I lived there for several years in the 1970s and went back recently to see old friends and remind myself how beautiful it is. Still quite a lot of trees, I notice.
Q: What’s something quirky about you that most people don’t know?
A: My brain is full of football trivia from the fifties and sixties, like a mattress stuffed with worthless ten shilling notes. But it could be worse – it could be full of bible quotes.
Q: Growing up, what did you want to be when you got older?
A: I wanted to play for Manchester United. I had everything except the motivation and the ability, but for some reason it didn’t happen.
Q: When did you realize you had a gift for making people laugh?
A: When I did my first gig at the Comedy Store in 1985 and they booked me for six consecutive weekends.
Q: A: What’s the coolest venue you’ve ever performed at?
A: The Guilty Pea, a tiny club in the upstairs room of a pub off Oxford Street which was like a glorified closet with a bar in it. It was always absolutely jam-packed with a terrific atmosphere, and it paid the comedians better than many of the big clubs. Here’s a press clipping from 1992.
Q: Who is the funniest person you’ve worked with?
A: The musical comic (I won’t embarrass him by naming him) who was so smug and arrogant about getting an encore he got booed off half way through it. We laughed and laughed (the other comedians, that is).
Q: What’s the best comedy show you’ve been to as a fan?
A: My old pal Jerry Sadowitz is the only genuinely edgy comedian I’ve ever seen, and the only one I’d pay money to watch now.
Q: What would be your dream comedy show lineup?
A: First half: Lenny Bruce doing “How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties” followed by Lord Buckley performing “The Gasser”. Second half: Spike Milligan and Tommy Cooper getting into comic difficulties with a stepladder and a tin of paint.
Q: Which historical figure would you like to spend an afternoon with?
A: Whoever wrote Shakespeare’s plays, whether Shakespeare himself, or the Earl of Oxford, or an infinite number of monkeys hammering away on typewriters. I just want to know.
Q: What’s the best purchase you’ve made recently?
A: The DVD of ‘Chimes At Midnight’ with Orson Welles, based on Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays. I’ve been looking for it on DVD for years, and it’s finally on Amazon. Maybe there is a god after all. (Nah)
Q: What are your current must-watch TV shows?
A: This is the 21st century; there’s no such thing as a must-watch TV show any more. For me, TV is mostly news and sport, space and science shows, old Frasier reruns, and University Challenge. The rest is a blur.
Q: What was the first car you drove?
A: A black 1961 Chevy 2. Drove it across Canada and sold it in Montreal in the middle of a blizzard with taxis sliding around the streets sideways.
Q: What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
A: A tree fell on me when I was logging in Canada. I should have been killed, but I tripped and fell into a natural hollow, the tree fell across it, and I emerged from under it with hardly a scratch. This is what I looked like then, with the Chevy 2 in the background.
Q: What’s the number one thing on your bucket list?
A: Appreciating the present moment. I’m sure I’ll get around to it one day.
Q: What upcoming event are you most looking forward to?
A: I’m quite looking forward to my next pint of beer. My local pub has a quick turnover of real ales, and it’s always nice to try new ones. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
A: “The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom is courage.” – Thucydides.
Q: What’s the top cause that you like to support?
A: Animal rights. I became a vegetarian 35 years ago while watching a deer being butchered, and it’s still the best decision I ever made.
Q: If you had to switch paths today, what profession would you go into?
A: Not sure. Theologian looks like a soft number. I’ll do that while I’m making up my mind.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to enter your field?
A: Get to the point, then shut up.