Every time I’ve seen Phil Lucas perform live he’s left me in hysterics, and it’s no surprise that he’s received a great deal of critical acclaim from the likes of Chortle who in their review said “He’s like Harry Hill with PowerPoint, a stream of silly non-sequiturs coming from his mouth while extra gags pop up on screen, giving twice the jokes for your money…A huge hit with the audience”, whilst The Huffington Post stated “Mr Lucas is wonderfully funny. Our new favourite thing” and We Are Cult wrote “I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as violently as I have watching a Phil Lucas presentation”. Unfortunately and rather sadly he’s now decided to give up being a stand up comedian, and in this exclusive interview he explains why.
CTW: You’ve recently decided to give up stand up comedy which we feel is an enormous shame as we’ve hugely enjoyed your performances each and every time we’ve seen you – what led to your making such a decision?
Phil: Well, thank you very much for the kind words, it’s lovely to hear that you enjoyed my nonsense and it’s appreciated. In terms of why I’ve given up there are lots of reasons.
Mainly, I’m just bored with it. Something has changed in my brain and I’m not sure I know exactly why that has happened yet, but I’m not motivated (or able) to come up with funny stuff to say on stage anymore – my mind isn’t thinking that way.
Secondly, I think you have to be realistic about your own place in comedy. There are people with better-skills and more consistent material working much harder than me, yet they’re barely scraping a living. In that environment, what’s a 48-year-man with PowerPoint, a limited set of comedy skills and no desire to do Edinburgh really got that’s going to make his opportunities better on the live circuit?
Thirdly, I know my limitations. I’ve never once, from day one, called myself a comedian. I think I’m a middle of the bill novelty act that just happens to fit best in the environment of comedy clubs. I know the areas where I’m lacking and there are many of them. Those areas are never going to be rectified and there’s no point denying it.
CTW: Ian Boldsworth also recently stopped performing stand up, and cited one of the reasons as “the behaviour of audiences” – was that ever an issue for you?
Phil: Not really to be honest, although I have noticed that the scope of what’s on and off limits has narrowed with audiences over the past five years. I think society’s ability to rationally accept differing points of view is decreasing in general and that manifests itself in comedy audiences. I also think a grip on irony seems to be getting less in society and that’s starting to reflect itself in clubs too.
And then of course there’s the big one of offence. Offence is a badge of honour amongst some nowadays. They feel that being offended earns them some entitlement or right to special treatment. I’ve got no time for it. If you go to a comedy club and get offended by someone; tough luck, get over it. I’m not personally a fan of willingly offensive comedy, but I accept it can be part and parcel of going to a club.
CTW: Is it possible you might make a return at a later date?
Phil: Possibly. I might do the odd thing if I get the urge, the money’s good or I can be sure people haven’t seen it before, but I don’t want to do it regularly anymore. I might also do something in the future that’s a bit more narrative about old buildings or some tiny detail of the Second World War that took months of research, only interests me and is of absolutely no benefit to anyone. But I think the days of sticking cheese slices on statues of Vladimir Putin have gone.
CTW: Apart from stand up is there anything else you’d like to do in the comedy world?
Phil: Well, writing, (and particularly comedy writing) has been my lifelong most happy thing, so I’d like to do more of that. I’ve written scripts for Playstation games, some TV stuff, those stupid Sunday Sport stories and a few other bits and bobs. I’d love to do loads more of that as I’m happy as Larry when I am.
I’d also quite like to come up with stupid ideas for companies and things so they can go off and make marketing campaigns or adverts. Really, when it comes down to it, I just want to sit at home in front of my computer in absolute silence creating or learning.
CTW: What were the highlights of your time doing stand up?
Phil: Oh gosh, lots. The really good gigs, meeting lovely people, making great friends, getting to see more of the country, the camaraderie backstage with other acts, seeing someone great at the very start of their comedy journey.
CTW: And conversely, what were the low lights?
Phil: The times I pissed myself whilst travelling to gigs (twice), my two really bad stage deaths, awfully run comedy nights, seeing open-mic comics setting up comedy courses, delusion, ego, arse-licking, being dumbfounded by some agent’s choices, people writing reports of their own gigs on Facebook, reading The Comedy Collective, non new material/new act nights with more than five people on the bill, big comics (who have sensibly changed their names on Facebook to protect themselves) being tagged in posts so that their cover is blown, any night that is not playing music whilst the audience are arriving and getting settled, using personal hardship as a career move.
CTW: Is there any material you’ve ever regretted doing?
Phil: Not really. There was one time during a Brighton Fringe show where I thought it would be funny to do very sexual press-ups to Prince’s Get Off, but I’ve got really weedy little arms and can’t do press-ups, so I just collapsed on the floor on the first attempt. Nobody understood what I was doing and I’m not sure I did too. I also regret my trousers falling down at a gig, but if you regularly go commando, they’re the risks you live with.
CTW: What would you like to see change about the current comedy scene?
Phil: I’m utterly sick of issue-based shows. Many people seem to be mining their negative experiences for exposure, sympathy and career progression. It seems to be getting less about the laughter and more about the message. It really bores me. I think the majority of it is cobblers anyway. I want to go into a comedy club and forget about the crap going on in real life. I don’t give a toss about the act’s political views or traumatic life experiences, I just want them to be funny. If you really must wang on about how getting a paper cut in 2008 deeply affected you and is ultimately the fault of the Theresa May or the patriarchy, then make your focus the funny stuff and the message the secondary, more subtle, element. Comedy really is taking itself far too seriously nowadays – it’s disappearing up its own arse.
I also don’t know why so many comedians have started to become social and political warriors, but it’s reached peak unbearability. I think it may come from a subconscious belief that if you’ve got the skills to notice things that others don’t see and those things make people laugh, you also then have the skills to see some sort of ‘truth’ in the political world. You don’t.
CTW: This site is all about celebrating the best comedy around – So which other stand up comedians would you recommend people check out?
Phil: There’s lots and I’m going to forget some really good ones now, but, Andrew O’Neill, Sean McLoughlin, Paul F Taylor, Phil Jerrod, Fiona Ridgewell, Ben Robson, Rachel Parris, Joey Page, Lou Sanders, Rob Deering, Mark Silcox, Mark Simmons, Bobby Mair. There’ll be loads of great acts I haven’t seen too.
CTW: And what tv and film comedy are you passionate about?
Phil: Well I’m really not into films at all unless they’re made by Stanley Kubrick or are Carry Ons, so there’s not much I can say there. As for TV comedy, I’m a big fan of the stuff I grew up with – all the Croft, Perry, Lloyd, Galton and Simpson stuff. There’s plenty of current stuff I like, but as you used the word passionate, then the stuff I grew up with would fit that word.
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Phil: Is it true that you really don’t like any graffiti? Yes, that is true. I loathe it.