Interview in SGfringe
A Bit Of A Mouthful, Edinburgh 2012
Tell us about your brand new Edinburgh Fringe show A Bit of a Mouthful
A Bit Of A Mouthful is a show I do all on my own, rather than with a jazz trio, a Big Band… or a full orchestra. It's a collection of musical observations (with the odd sing-along!) charting the (ahem!) early middle years of an overwrought, overweight homosexual, in and out of love… but constantly (aren't we all?) on the prowl. When I was writing the show, the lyrics often came out a bit "Tourettsey" and for this I'm afraid I have to make no apology!
I have managed to lure a shower of performing pals to come and sing… so the spesh guests will include Arthur Smith, Judith Owen (from last year's hit, Losing It with Ruby Wax), the wonderful Hattie Hayridge, Rory Bremner, Bob Downe, Dean Friedman, Barbara Nice and the extraordinary Leanne Jones (Molly Wobby's Tit factory)
Is this your first Edinburgh Fringe?
I was at EdFest in the late nineties in a show called Hell Bent, Heaven Bound which was nominated for a Perrier Award. I acted in a Fran Landesman play called Forbidden Games at The Pleasance in '98, and in 2006 I did a concert of Joni Mitchell songs at the Queen's Theatre.
You're a renowned Jazz vocalist, musician, music producer, actor and comedian (I hope we haven't left anything out). What attracted you to Stand-Up Comedy?
Well, it's more "Sit Down Comedy" with me. I'm a bit useless at the pacing, prowling, leany-on-the-mike stand blokey business. So my funny stuff comes out of the stories in the songs. I am a HUGE Stand Up fan though and have mahoosive respect for comics.
You've worked with some of the very biggest names in both comedy and music, but do you have any hot tips for the future?
Never use hair gel as lube (sorry Sarah!!!) and vinegar and newspaper is a boon for your windows.
You had a leading role in Richard Thomas' and Stewart Lee's notorious Jerry Springer the Opera, which was forced to close down due to a homophobic campaign by Christian Voice. Did you think the musical was "blasphemous"?
Doing Jerry Springer The Opera was so much fun as I was cast in it AS it was being written. The lyrical content was SO relevant at the time, exposing, with stunning, achingly beautiful music, the freaky, (almost new then) obsession with "being someone" (now we have that fatuous desperation on the box every night, whether it's pop singing, giving dinner parties, or being the next Jesus). Blasphemy can only exist if faith is mutually applauded then marginalised by derision. Neither of these things should be held particularly aloft in good art. The church, in all its sickening, money laundering blind faith, has never held a mirror up, and never will. It's futile to think otherwise. And that piece, by Stewart and Richard, was ground breaking in so many ways.
Who are your biggest influences?
I am a Geminian gay man, so my influences, capricious and flighty, are many. Top of my head… South Park, Victoria Wood, Miles Davis, Carmen Macrae, Aretha, The Wombles, Joni Mitchell, Noel Coward, Auden, Liane Carroll, Lenny Bruce, Bette Davis, David Hockney. Oh… and I think Graham Norton is the bees!!
What do you love/hate about Edinburgh?
I love Edinburgh – in and out of Festival time. Love the topography, the air, the Scots (I just presented The Scottish Jazz Awards here) love Henderson's, The Jazz Bar, CC Blooms, salt'n'sauce on me chips, good Scotch… endless! The only thing I'm hating is my performance nerves, which start at about 4pm. But they're kinda good nerves. I don't get nervous singing jazz or acting (look out for "Titus" a new British film… I play Eric, a miserable jazz club owner. Ann Mitchell is also in it. But COMEDY!!! What a larf!
Do you plan to see any other shows whilst you are here?
I'm thrilled to know personally a raft of brilliant performers, in all fields. Have seen Leanne Jones in Molly Wobby's Tit Factory which I think will be the hit of the festival. I will be seeing David Mills in Smart Casual. He is unique. Bob Downe I can't wait to see. God in a Bag at the Underbelly is lovely and has my friend Hattie Hayridge in it playing a waitress. The Horne Section at The Grand is amazing… I will be guesting too on that. Mrs Nice with Barbara Nice is the feel good show to end the genre. Stephen K Amos: Work in Progress I am relishing, and we share a nightly blether in the Green Room at The Stand. He's a love.