Comedian Hardy is still making a stand

EMMA LEE One of the UK’s most respected stand-up comedians, Jeremy Hardy, is appearing at King’s Lynn Arts Centre on Saturday. EMMA LEE spoke to him.

EMMA LEE

"I'd quite like to play a romantic lead," muses comedian Jeremy Hardy. I've just asked him where he sees his career going.

"I'm probably about the same age as George Clooney - I might pick up some of the roles he doesn't want," he deadpans.

I'm speaking to the 44-year-old in the middle of his latest solo tour, which stops off at King's Lynn Arts Centre on Saturday.


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Having a conversation with him is quite like having your own personal stand-up show - it's littered with witty asides and humorous observations.

Known for his socialist leanings, he's one of the country's best-known stand-ups (he's been working the circuit for more than two decades).

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The Aldershot-born stand-up is a regular on radio and TV shows such as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, QI, Grumpy Old Men and the News Quiz.

He's won the Perrier award, which is one of the most prestigious prizes in comedy, appeared in Blackadder and featured opposite Burt Reynolds, David Schwimmer and Rhys Ifans in the feature film Hotel, directed by Mike Figgis.

And in April 2002, just after the siege of the Church of the Nativity, he travelled to Bethlehem to film Jeremy Hardy Vs the Israeli Army, a feature-length documentary following the work of the International Solidarity Movement.

In the film he goes from being an unlikely witness to a human shield, confronting an Israeli tank.

"I was a conduit," he says. "The producers had a list of people they wanted to take part and I was probably about 98th after Nicky Campbell. I try to maintain an interest in it and keep an eye on what's happening. Like most situations it's quite depressing seeing what people do to each other."

Does he think that he'll do any more projects like it?

"I'm not very pro-active. I think 'here's a good idea', then I get distracted and everything goes on the back burner. I'm not very hardworking or diligent.

"It would be great to do another film, but I have enough trouble working out how to plumb in a washing machine. The many petty problems in life," he says with a sigh.

And get him started on what fires him up there's no stopping him.

"I still talk about Margaret Thatcher. People say 'are you still banging on about her?' I probably will until she's in the ground.

"When you start out in lots of areas of your life you have ideas about how it should go. And it would have been quite depressing 20 years ago to think that we are where we are now.

"Nelson Mandela got out of prison, but apart from that it's been fairly grim. I think we get more bewildered as we get older.

"I think your perception of the world keeps changing. You think you have started to get an handle on something and then you get confused further. When you shout and no-one listens you get fed up," he adds.

Jeremy was friends with the comedian Linda Smith, who died earlier this year from cancer. He speaks very fondly of her.

"Linda was great - the funniest person and a joy to work with. I wish I'd done a lot more work with her. She was an English everywoman. She didn't set herself above people like some performers do. Most performers put themselves on a pedestal, but she never did that," he says.

It's 22 years since Jeremy started out in comedy and says he's "relieved" to have made such a lasting career out of it.

"When you start out you're only doing 20 minutes. Doing a two-hour show with a theatre audience and an interval is quite a different experience. I don't tend to get heckled - I think people worry that if they put me off I'll never get through it. I'm distracted enough as it is. I think they're willing me to get through it without losing my thread too many times," he says.

"I did a couple of characters when I started out and then concentrated on stand-up. I was trying to be a gag writer and it was the only way I'd be able to do anything with my material."

Are there any topics in particular that he'll be tackling in the show?

"A bit of everything really," he says.

"I'll be talking about sport in a disparaging way.

"Having to spell your name out over the phone. The Government. Life, death, shopping, Broadband, health, education.

"You can condense the whole gamut of life into two hours if you cut out the trivial stuff."

Jeremy Hardy is at King's Lynn Arts Centre on May 6. Tickets cost £12. Box office: 01553 764864.

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