Interview by Olivia De Zilva
English comedian and surrealist extraordinaire, Paul Foot returns to The Adelaide Fringe with his new show Image Conscious, a “brand new show with brand new material’.
“Yes, there’s lots of new material in the new show. Image Conscious is different to some of my previous shows, in that I have actually given it a traditional structure, but jam-packed it with ridiculous humour. It has a beginning, middle and an end, but you won’t know why any of it has happened! That’s the Paul Foot guarantee: an entirely pointless evening, or your money back.”
When I ask Foot about his comedic journey from Merton College, Oxford to becoming the world’s answer to a comedic Salvador Dalí, he is delightfully introspective:
“It all [the comedy experience] evolved organically really. I have always just gone on stage and said my humour, which I think of because that’s what I find funny. I haven’t done it on purpose, like Salvador Dali bringing his pet anteater onto that television show. What a ridiculous pet to have! An anteater needs to eat 30,000 ants a day. That’s more than 10 million ants per year! Where did Salvador get all these ants from?”
And his surrealist perceptions of Adelaide?
“It [Adelaide] the cheese diamond of the southern lands”
For many British comedians, the rite of passage is to appear on a panel show, arguing pointlessly over funny questions with stupid answers. With shows including Would I Lie to You, The Big Fat Quiz of the Year and QI, there are always opportunities to display one’s comedic prowess with an audience and colleagues from the entertainment industry. One of the most prolific quiz shows, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, has been host to a range of comedians including Noel Fielding, Bill Bailey, Simon Amstell and of course, Foot himself.
“Never Mind the Buzzcocks was especially fun, because it was so chaotic. Noel Fielding and Phill Jupitus are excellent and generous performers, and very silly men. There were no rules on that show, and no preparation — anything could happen! Once Noel and I spontaneously smashed a cake into a man’s face on the show. However, they paused the recording to tell us that there were cocktail sticks inside the cake. We had to carefully remove them, restart the cameras, and go back to anarchic cake smashing mode”.
Of the difference between Australian and British comedians? It’s negligible.
“I’m not sure there is much of a difference necessarily. I think our national senses of humour are very similar. I have noticed one difference in Australian and British audiences though. A few years ago, in my show called Still Life, I performed a piece of humour about a man who ran a failed guava-themed shop — it only sold guavas, and guava-related merchandise. But there was a pineapple-themed shop over the road, which was obviously much more successful, so his business failed and he met a terrible end. In Britain, people would fall about laughing at this pathetic man and his failed guava-themed shop, but in Australia, when I performed that humour, everyone would be so upset and worried about the guava man, even though he was totally fictional — completely made up in my mind. So, I think maybe the Australian sense of humour is a little less cruel than the British sense of humour — ye are kinder than us, especially towards fictional, failed fruit entrepreneurs.”
When I ask about the ever-evolving face of comedy in 2019, Foot is enthusiastic, relishing the fact that he can use “all the various platforms and media to do different sorts of humour”. Foot’s platform of choice? Podcasting.
“My podcast is great fun to record — it is definitely where I do my weirdest, most unusual humour. My top Connoisseurs (his fan-base) all download the podcast to hear the weird humour from the depths of my mind. I once did a whole podcast about a kestrel — the kestrel cast. There was also a snake cast and a pigeon.”
However, when discussing the platform of television, Foot is slightly ambivalent, saying that his “top priority is stand-up comedy and his live shows”. Though, if he were to make a television show, it would be “fun and entirely fictional”:
“I’m sure it would be a fun thing to do…. maybe I could do one about the Titanic. In case you’ve not heard of it, it was a big ship that sank years ago in the ocean because it hit an iceberg because it was too big and couldn’t turn properly. Pathetic! Yes, maybe I could make a show about that, in which I play a young, poor American man who paints a picture of a lady in the night time and then the ship sinks right down. That would be a great show! Someone should make that…”
Catch Paul Foot’s new Image Conscious playing at The Garden of Unearthly Delights from the 11–17th of March.