tue 07/07/2020

Comedy Interviews

Roy Hudd: 'I was just trying to make 'em laugh'

Jasper Rees

Roy Hudd, who has died at the age of 83, was the last link to the age of entertainment before television. Born in 1936, he entered the business just as music hall and variety were dying out. But he knew the luminaries of that era: Gracie Fields, Max Miller, above all Chesney Allen, who asked him to play the late Budd Flanagan in a stage revival of the songs of Flanagan and Allen.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Garrison Keillor

Jasper Rees

It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, and has been for the past 42 years, ever since Garrison Keillor first reported on the town's goings-on in his weekly radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Keillor's purring baritone is the gentle voice of non-coastal America, and it is picked up by 700 local public radio stations by four million listeners. But at 72, and after a health scare, Keillor is stepping down.

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10 Questions for Comedian Alexei Sayle

Thomas H Green

Alexei Sayle (b 1952) first came to fame at the birth of alternative comedy, as MC at the Comedy Store in London at the dawn of the 1980s. He cemented his reputation via his recurring role in the anarchic student sitcom classic The Young Ones, as well as appearances in a number of Comic Strip Presents… films. He has written and fronted a host of sketch shows, including the Emmy Award-winning Alexei Sayle’s Stuff.

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10 Questions for Ventriloquist Nina Conti

Jasper Rees

Nina Conti is a postmodern visitor from a previous era. Ventriloquism, the remarkable skill of vocal misdirection, was a staple of yesteryear’s mainstream. Its practitioners were odd men pedalling flaccid Saturday-night humour. And indeed she inherited her skill from a much older man.

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10 Questions for Harry Shearer

Jasper Rees

It is the fate of political leaders to be played by actors. In the circumstances Richard Nixon hasn’t been dealt a bad hand. He has been portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in Oliver Stone’s Nixon, by Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon on stage and screen and by tall handsome Christopher Shyer in Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar. But towering over them all is Harry Shearer, who has been impersonating Tricky Dicky since Nixon was actually president.

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10 Questions for Count Arthur Strong

Jasper Rees

Autumn is a season of tumbling leaves, dark afternoons and of course fatuous memoirs from people off the telly. But every so often the world is taken by surprise, less by autumn itself than by the arrival of an autobiography by a genuine star that contrives to stand aside from the hideous commercialism of the bestseller lists. Such a book is Through It All I’ve Always Laughed. Or so its author would no doubt claim.

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10 Questions for Musician & Comedian Reggie Watts

James Williams

Equal parts prodigiously talented musician, consistently funny comedian, auteur, theatre performer, free thinker and writer, Reggie Watts is nigh on impossible to pigeonhole. He is a hurricane of furious creativity operating completely in his own lane, hurtling full-speed towards Parts Unknown. Primarily known for his inimitable blend of improvisational music and comedy, each show he performs is completely original, never to be repeated.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson

Jasper Rees

Is Steptoe and Son the platonic ideal of the British sitcom? Two men trapped in eternal stasis, imprisoned by class and bound together by family ties as if by hoops of steel, never to escape: it’s what half-hour comedy should be. Posterity would seem to agree, because since the sitcom ended in 1974 the two rag and bone men have never been out of work, appearing in the cinema, on stage and radio.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Comedian Rowan Atkinson

Jasper Rees

The generation of alternative comedians who emerged around 30 years ago have long since elbowed their predecessors into the long grass and themselves become the establishment. Of no performer can that be said with more certainty than Rowan Atkinson. His rubbery physiognomy is instantly recognisable to billions, which is why he – or rather Mr Bean - was granted pride of place at the Opening Ceremony as guest artist with Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra.

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theartsdesk Q&A: Comedian Tim Minchin

Jasper Rees

Tim Minchin (b 1975) has had a year in the stratosphere that would arouse envy even in the biggest arena comedians. He has taken an orchestra on the road to play bespoke arrangements of his scabrous attacks on religion, hypocrisy and uncritical thinkers. Despite the fact that God and the Pope are regularly spotted in his gunsights, Minchin was somehow the obvious (although also highly quirky) choice to write the lyrics to the RSC stage musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

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