I’ve so far only seen Edward Aczel live the once but he blew me away, and when his show “Is Edward Aczel Infinite?” turned up on NextUp it was the main reason I signed up for the site, and in the review commented “He’s clearly a master of his art… Aczel is a pretty unique comedian, and one who should be sampled if at all possible”. He’s been enormously respected within the industry for years now and garnered a huge amount of acclaim, with novelist Zadie Smith describing his show in The New Yorker as “One of the strangest, and finest, hours of live comedy I’d ever seen”, while The Guardian called him “Perhaps Britain’s greatest living anti-comedian” and The Scotsman said he’s “One of the most inventive and memorable comics working today”. Here he talks about his current show, why he loves anti-comedy and how performances always go wrong to a certain degree.
Comedy To Watch: How would you sell “Is Edward Aczel Infinite?” to someone previously unaware of your good self?
Edward: Its tricky because I’m known as a bit of an acquired taste. I see my comedy as a bit of a cul de sac, on an obscure un-commercial end of stand up comedy – I tend to tell people if in doubt don’t come.
CTW: And is Edward Aczel Infinite?
Edward: That’s basically the show…Great title isn’t it though? Its an exploration of science – in a very loose tickle my tummy kind of way. But don’t worry you won’t know anything (I mean anything at all) having been to the show.
CTW: You’ve talked a lot about anti-comedy in the past, but what appeals to you most about doing it?
Edward: Because I love watching things go wrong. Preferably completely wrong – shambolic and chaotic are great fun. Anti Comedy has a great history – everything went wrong for Laurel and Hardy or the Marx Brothers – its the best comedy to watch.
CTW: Have you ever considered doing any other kind of stand up or scripted performance?
Edward: I have done some film and stage acting which I love, and done other things like sketches etc. But I’ve never done any other kind of stand up. Principally because I’ve never felt I would be any good at it – I tend to gravitate towards being a mess – because that’s where I score points
CTW: What’s your favourite thing about performing stand up?
Edward: I love making people laugh, its something I get a great deal of pleasure from. It sort of doesn’t seem to matter what I say or do – as long as people laugh (in my mind its a binary transaction). Its all about what I feel internally – good or bad (rather than what people see).
CTW: And conversely, what’s your least favourite thing about it?
Edward: I don’t particularly like conforming – so I probably miss out on an awful lot of things the comedy industry has to offer.
CTW: What’s your favourite piece of audience interaction that has taken place in one of your shows?
Edward: Difficult question because audience interaction is a large part of my show. I tend to like when stuff happens off the wall – I have a memory of a guy at gig in Hay on Wye – responded in a very random way to one of my questions – but I’m afraid my memory is so frazzled I couldn’t tell you any more than that (except that he had a flowery shirt).
CTW: Has a performance ever gone wrong? And if so, what happened?
Edward: Performances always go wrong, I suppose its the just the degree of wrong. I’ve been a stand up for about 12 years and during that time I’ve experienced pretty much every kind of gig. Edinburgh previews tend to be pretty random – because you and your audience are kind there for different reasons – you’re desperately trying to see that something you came up with earlier in the day works – and they’re trying to enjoy themselves. Usually there’s only one or two people – so the odds are not good all will go well (often they don’t).
CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?
Edward: I’d love to make a film – a lovely comedy film – In reality I’d probably retire though (although not entirely sure I’d also give up comedy).
CTW: What one piece of underrated comedy do you wish more people knew about?
Edward: I love Alistair Green and wish the world knew much more about his talent.
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Edward: “Ed” When it really boils down to it what have you actually achieved? My answer would definitely be “Nothing Much” – but that’s probably why I don’t ask questions (its just the way my mind works). I suppose I’m not alone in that.