Paul Foot is an artist who we cover sporadically at The Velvet Onion, and this is one of those special occasions.
On Saturday evening he performed three consecutive London shows in two different theatres, including his final UK performance of ‘Ash In The Attic’ (his 2010 Edinburgh show, directed by Noel Fielding). In the midst of this, Velveteer Mog donned her skates and managed to catch him for a brief chat:
Paul Foot off-stage is very like Paul Foot on-stage. Our interview takes place in the theatre auditorium where he’s shortly to perform; as we chat he paces around the microphone stand, presenting his answers from centre-stage. After 15 years doing stand-up, perhaps Foot’s more at home performing than he is having a standard conversation. So instead of idle chit-chat he performs his responses with small theatrical flourishes, explaining his points with the careful enunciation of a gent from a different era. It’s difficult to tell whether he’s utterly serious or joking for much of the time. A dialed-down version of his on-stage persona. He strikes me as an extremely nice chap – a view confirmed by how marvellously accommodating he is, his friendly banter with the theatre staff and some delightful friends of his I met before the show.
Once we’ve established that a tomato juice and a packet of crisps contains most of the major food groups and will therefore sustain him through the evening, we begin. I ask him if he’s feeling emotional about Ash in the Attic coming to an end. “I’d better not get too emotional that this is the last one, because it isn’t. It’s the last one in Britain, but then I’ve got to do it 26 times in Melbourne!” And he’s already working on his follow-up show; he explains that an average year for him consists of preparing a show for Edinburgh, performing it at the Festival, then performing the show elsewhere until it’s time to start preparing for the following year’s Edinburgh Festival: a neat, if somewhat repetitive annual cycle.
I ask him about his new 2011 Edinburgh show, which he’ll be previewing during June and July. He explains that he’s still deciding exactly where to take it, and there are currently a couple of different options on the table. “I’m thinking ‘artistic purity’…something quite different. I might do something more formal, more professional in a way, where I restrain the shambolic side of my personality. It will still be fresh, but it’ll have a different energy about it. My aim is to have as few words as possible, to really push it – I want to see if I can make people laugh properly for an hour with the fewest number of words ever.” And will any of his comedy acquaintances be directing this show? He gives a playful smile, presumably knowing full-well what I’m getting at. “I might get young Noel again…or I might not!”
On the subject of “young Noel” I mention that he recently told The Velvet Onion that he wanted to get Paul involved in his new TV show for E4, Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Paul pauses before he answers, “He has also said that to me, and the fact that you’ve now said it is confirmation. He can’t turn the clock back now!” Further interrogation reveals that filming may take place at the end of April when Paul returns from Melbourne.
Paul Foot has enjoyed the support a loyal fanbase of ‘connoisseurs’ for some time, but last year he reached a more mainstream audience through appearances on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Come Dine With Me. It’s fair to say that he stole the show in both cases. Paul explains his approach to the cooking on Come Dine With Me with absolute seriousness: “I was playing it to get the most laughs, not to make the best meal. People now think I’m really bad at cooking, but I’m actually quite good at it.” He seems genuinely troubled by this, adding “If anyone wanted to come to my house for a really humourless evening I could cook a much nicer meal.”
As the audience for tonight’s show start to line-up by the door, I ask him how he keeps each gig fresh? “A, it’s my job to make it fresh, and B, when you go on stage and there’s an audience it becomes new – you re-live it with them. You never get bored of it because you’re in that moment and you’re saying those things and they’re laughing…it’s fresh in the sense that you never really know what they’re going to laugh at. Before I go on stage I remind myself that this is this moment and one day I’ll be dead. It doesn’t matter what I’ll be doing next week, or whether or not my show went well three months ago. This is now, and so I just go and be in the moment. I always remind myself that this must in no way be routine.”
Many thanks to Paul Foot for finding the time to talk to The Velvet Onion.
Fans of humour take note: the faultless and fabulous surreal logic that is Ash in The Attic will be coming out as an audio cd. Although Paul was reluctant to reveal exactly when, he did admit, “it could be as early as later this month, or it might be a little bit later…but we’re not talking months and months.” All clear then! To join his Guild of Connoisseurs and receive news updates and information about his forthcoming secret gigs, why not visit his website?