Edinburgh intros #1: The chap who’s been in Alpha Papa, Doctor Who and Jonathan Creek is GEARING UP for another Edinburgh Fringe, and his new show tells the tale of his Lance Armstrong fandom
1. Tell us a bit about the show.
Well, it’s a sort-of story I tell about how for a long time I was obsessed with cycling and how my teenage hero was Lance Armstrong. Then I grow up a bit and it all goes a bit pear-shaped, but in a surprise twist the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire in 2014 and it’s all ok again. In a manner reminiscent of a toe-curling dramatic monologue I “do” all the characters that appear in the story.
2. What’s your favourite bit of it (so far)?
I spend about a quarter of the show on an exercise bike re-creating races, and as I lead a very sedentary existence, this can only be good news. Everyone who’s seen the previews has said “oh wow, you’re going to be so fit by the end of Edinburgh”, and I just can’t wait.
3. If your show were a dog, what breed would it be?
A big, smiling, golden retriever – full of energy and desperate to be loved. Plus my grandma used to show goldies at Crufts and I’d like to make her as proud of me as she was of Darcy.
4. What’s your walk-on music going to be and why?
For the third year in a row I’ll be coming on to Blondie’s One Way or Another, with my good friend Liam Williams saying “welcome to the stage …” etc recorded over the top. Liam did the recording back in 2013 and as his star has only risen since then. I’m convinced that hearing his voice at the start of my show gives the crowd some much-needed reassurance. The music was chosen because people have good feelings towards Blondie and they did not have good feelings towards my previous opening track, Darius Milhaud’s 1920 ballet score Le Boeuf sur le Toit. I was young then.
“I’m a diligent washer-up, tidy, polite, and a confident veto-er of parties.”
5. Who will you be living with, and how do you expect that to go?
I will be living at ill-advised expense on South Clerk Street with sketch group Sad Faces and stand-ups Brydie Lee-Kennedy and Chris Coltrane. I expect it to go extremely well as I’m a diligent washer-up, tidy, polite, and a confident veto-er of parties.
6. What will your Edinburgh daily routine be?
I’m doing my latest show ever this year, with a 9.10 PM start, so it will be either really nice or completely terrifying to have the whole day free before going to the venue. I’ve made lots of plans for aggressive self-improvement this year, so I suspect my routine will be to get up around 8, play some tennis, go for a swim, do my German on Duolingo, go up Arthur’s Seat, watch something from Netflix’s “Critically-acclaimed” or “Independent” sections, then slink around the Free Fringe venues exit-flyering before having a nervous potato and getting my freak on for the show. After which the drowning of sorrows in the “Malt of the moment” at the Dagda bar. Great bar.
7. Do you enjoy the Fringe?
fter supping a few malts of the moment I’ve been known to get philosophical about the nature of the Fringe. This’ll be year no.9 and I’ve known good ones and bad ones, ones where you paint the town red night after night and ones where you cry yourself to sleep in a series of public places. The trick is to know that it all stems from the show. If the show’s going well then a sense of contentment, pride and joy spreads out through your Fringe experience and you have a brilliant month. You see everything in a positive light and the world is full of possibility. If the show is going badly the process goes in reverse. Mostly I love the Fringe as it’s great eating neeps.
8. You’ve worked with some pretty big names over the past few years. Any inspiring words of wisdom from any of them?
Some people whom I admire a great deal have been kind enough to say encouraging things and that’s been amazing, plus I made Tom Baker laugh with a gag about where he was standing, and I could have died right there. But the most helpful things have come from slightly weird angle. Firstly, Stephen K Amos (whom I’ve never met) said something in an interview in 2011 that’s stuck with me: “Try not to think of your career as a race but as a story”, ie don’t drive yourself insane looking around at what everyone else is up to. And second, the best piece of advice on how to improve my act came from Ben Target, who had a long chat with me a couple of years ago and who just said I shouldn’t be afraid of putting something real about myself into the show, instead of hiding behind characters. He’s the nicest man on earth.
9. How would your young self have reacted if he’d known Lance Armstrong would one day cycle in Yorkshire?
He would have become very excited and then discussed with his mates AT LENGTH how fast they thought Lance could make it up Holme Moss, the biggest hill in the valley. He would have seen it as confirmation that both cycling and Yorkshire are really really cool and always would be.
10. How serious an Armstrong fan were you? Was there any sense of betrayal when he was finally stung?
In the show I slightly play up the fandom, so that I’m taking Lance as my inspiration for life in general. In reality it wasn’t quite that all-encompassing, and my big cycling hero was really my dad. Aaw. Lance-wise, I certainly thought he was awesome, as did all my mates – not so much because he won, but that he always raced in such a dramatic and exciting manner. The whole sport was rotten to the core at the time but Armstrong’s domination was so total, his story so inspiring, that it really seemed too big to be a lie, you know? Plus it was a story you had everything to gain from believing. As such I kept the faith for many years after he’d retired and people had started really digging. I was actually on the Royal Mile when a friend told me that he wasn’t challenging the USADA case, which meant he admitted it all, and I was really sick about it. I say in the show that I started crying a bit when I watched the Oprah interview and it’s completely true. Hey-ho, at least Tom Baker laughed at my “where he was standing” joke.
11. Do you have a bike now?
I have two bikes gathering rust in sheds at my old house. I haven’t ridden them for years. I’m frightened of London.