Circuit Breakers: Hal Cruttenden
Andrew Mickel27 June 2012
Star of the circuit Hal Cruttenden kicks off the latest feature on the SSP slate
Time for another new slot on SSP: Circuit Breakers. This takes a bit of explaining, but bear with us: we've asked Hal Cruttenden five questions, which he's answered, like the polite award-winning hero of multi-gig evenings and this summer's Edinburgh that he is. Next week, he's going to ask another hero of the circuit five questions. The week after that, next week's circuit hero gets to ask one of THEIR circuit heroes five questions. And so it will go on and on and on, until we run out of stand-ups, or they run out of questions. Imagine that!
So first up, Mr Cruttenden: the master raconteur of London's gig circuit, who brings a vicious yet attentive tongue to gigs up and down the land. If you've got questions on the circuit, you should go to Hal. Which is what we've done.
We've also accidentally cropped his photo to look like Derek from EastEnders. SORRY HAL.
To get us in the interviewin' mood, here's Hal on La McIntyre:
What's the most number of gigs you've packed in to one night?
Not as many as people think actually. I have a reputation for multiple gigging but my record is still only five – although I have done that number on many occasions. I love the buzz of getting to a gig and going straight on however stressful the journeys are in between. You know the way Lee Evans sweats on stage? By the fifth gig, I walk on looking like that.
You spoke during the London Is Funny shadowing exercise about how no-one goes into gigging as a career: do you have a comedy dream, or can you imagine doing the circuit forever more?
I don’t think there’s any comic who wants to spend their whole career on the circuit. I’ve done two of my own tours now and want to move my career to a place where I can live off my own shows. Who wants to be hanging around clubs when you’re in your sixties and seventies? ....Apart from Peter Stringfellow.
You're heading to the Fringe this summer: what's prompted the big Edinburgh push? What sort of thing can we expect?
Having had a family quite early in my career I’ve not been able to play Edinburgh as much as I would have wanted. Thankfully I’m now in a financial position to go back and do it. Artistically the deadline of Edinburgh makes you write more material and because you’re playing a long show to people who aren’t necessarily fans (unlike on tour) it pushes you into being a better comic. I like to think this show is more honest while also being the funniest I’ve ever written. People who know me from TV appearances tend to see me as a bit of a jolly, fat, posh man with nothing to say. I think I’m more interesting than that and, since my diet, I’m tubby rather than fat. So there!
What's the worst gig you've ever had to play?
The very worst ones are those where you feel physically intimated by members of the audience. I was once held against the wall by a squaddie in Wales. It sounds sexy but it was bloody terrifying. With the way people drink in the UK it’s easy for a comic to be misunderstood and cause offence when none is intended. I’ve since had some great gigs playing to soldiers. I once did a show to troops who’d just got back from Afghanistan. We were told that they’d had a horrific tour; been shot at every day, had lots of injuries and fatalities, so I wasn’t at all sure they’d be in the mood for comedy. They turned out to be lovely. One of them came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I could never do what you do.’ I said to him, ‘Just grow a pair'. He laughed, thank God.
You've been in comedy long enough to see a lot of peaks and troughs: do you think the current comedy bubble is about to burst?
All my career, people have been waiting for the British live comedy scene to fall apart the way the American one did in the early nineties, but I’m yet to see a major crash. The recession has made it harder for people to start clubs but the established ones seem to be doing pretty well. Paradoxically, the youtube generation seem to still crave the live experience even though they sometimes have to be told to stop filming during my shows!
TV comedy seems very healthy. I’m counting on the slow death of reality TV to give rise to a new generation of great sitcoms, written and starring me! I want to be the 21st century Leonard Rossiter.
THANKS HAL CRUTTENDEN.
Tune back in next week when Hal asks someone ('tbc') some questions.
In the meantime, visit Hal over here, and get tickets for his month at the Pleasance Courtyard here...
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