Clive Anderson: Back Chat

Clive Anderson: Back Chat

Clive Anderson: Back Chat

The former-barrister turned comedian Clive Anderson chat to T&L about his new one-man stage show and why he’s championing Langley Vale in Epsom

He may have spent nearly 15 years practising as a barrister, but in his spare time he was writing comedy scripts for legends such as Frankie Howerd and Mel Smith. Clive Anderson soon gave up law and has since become one of the nation’s most well-known broadcasters, presenting shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway? and Clive Anderson All Talk as well as Loose Ends on BBC Radio 4. The comedy writer is about to hit the road with his first-ever solo stage show Me, Macbeth & I… He tells us more…

What is Me, Macbeth & I about?
Mostly it’s about me but Macbeth gets more than a look-in as well. Involving the Scottish play lets me touch on my Scottish roots, various attempts at acting, performing and other disaster. And it makes the whole a bit more theatrical. Stand-up comedy with a bit of stand-up tragedy, if you like.

What do you think you’ll enjoy most about touring?
Visiting different places, something I used to do more of in my early days in my former profession as a barrister. That and the odd hotel breakfast.

Is it interesting engaging with an audience?
More than interesting. A live audience gives an immediate verdict on a joke. If nobody laughs, it’s not funny. I should have a bit more time on tour to interact with the audience, taking questions and so on. It is something I have always liked.

Does it ever get any easier performing live on stage?
Not really. I suppose you must learn from experience, but I don’t think you ever lose PPT – Pre Performing Tension.

You’ve been in the industry for a long time – how do you think comedy and entertainment has changed over the years?
Stand-up comedy has pretty much re-invented itself in that time. Alternative comedians doing five or 10 minutes at the Comedy Store in 1980s Soho have progressed to huge stadium tours and big TV and Internet shows followed all around the world. Four or five TV stations have multiplied to hundreds of channels on Sky, Freeview and the rest. Having said that, I do a show every week on Radio 4, which has remained mostly unchanged.

You’re bringing Whose Line Is It Anyway? back on stage again…
Whose Line Is It Anyway? finished on British TV about 20 years ago, but it is still going strong in the US. A few years ago, we tried doing a live version of the show which has worked well. We have done them at the Edinburgh Festival and also in London, at the Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall and elsewhere.

Does it still astound you how brilliantly quick and funny the improvisation is from those taking part?
Yes, they are fantastic. Sometimes they turn things into fully formed songs as they go along as well. The beauty of the stage shows is that the audience can see it being done before their very eyes, with no help from TV trickery.

Are there any comedians you particularly like?
Over the years I have had the good fortune to work with several of my comedy heroes such as Frankie Howerd, Peter Cook, Robin Williams. Sadly, they are no longer with us, so there’s no good comes of being liked by me…

Have you been to Epsom before?
Yes. I used to travel around as a barrister and can remember appearing on a few occasions at the Epsom Magistrates Court, though admittedly you don’t always get the best view of a place through its criminal courts.

Do you have favourite spots in Surrey?
I am president of the Woodland Trust so can I put in a word for Langley Vale Wood? 600 acres of beautiful woodland created as part of the Trust’s centenary memorial to those who fought and died in the First World War. I assume most people in Epsom have heard of Langley Vale and I do hope they visit.

What new projects have you got coming up?
I am just finishing making the second series of Mystic Britain, a documentary series on the Smithsonian Channel which looks at a range of historical and pre-historical sites and stories all around the country. For one reason or another, I and my co-presenter Mary-Ann Ochota film most of it outdoors in the coldest months of the year. So instead of Mystic Britain, it should be called Wet, Windy and Freezing Britain!

Clive Anderson: Me, Macbeth & I will be at The Maltings in Farnham on 20 March and The Epsom Playhouse on 20 April