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Ask A Comedian: Andy Parsons

Ian Chaddock

BY Ian Chaddock

11th Jul 2023 Humour

Ask A Comedian: Andy Parsons

An experienced stand-up comedian and regular panellist on Mock the Week, Andy Parsons is set to return with his new show Bafflingly Optimistic.

What stand-up or film stands out as making you fall in love with comedy? 

The first comedy film I remember falling in love with was The Blues Brothers—it had great music, memorable dialogue, brilliant car chases and a scene where a bunch of marching Nazis were forced to jump off a bridge into a river. 

What do you remember about your first time doing stand-up? 

I was doing a five-minute open spot at the Chuckle Club before Sean Hughes, who had just won the Perrier Award. I had a piece of paper in my back pocket with a list of jokes on. After a couple of minutes I forgot the next joke—so I took out the bit of paper but was so nervous I dropped it.

"She gave me back the piece of paper, saying, 'Keep going, you’re doing really well'"

A lady in the front row picked it up and for a moment my future was in her hands. Thankfully, she gave me back the piece of paper, saying, “Keep going, you’re doing really well.” That’s a heckle you can deal with.  

What is the weirdest heckle you’ve ever heard and how did you respond? 

I was in Newcastle and as I was wrapping up the show, a lady heckled with, “You can’t go yet, our taxi isn’t due to come for another quarter of an hour.” Then a bloke piped up, “Do you know what a Mackem is?” I said, “Yes, I do. As in ‘Up the Mackems!’” 

It being Newcastle, there was then inevitably a boo, at which point I said, “I’m terribly sorry but it appears everybody here thinks you’re a ****”. This got a sustained round of applause, at which point I said, “I didn’t want to call you a ****, but sadly this lady’s taxi has yet to arrive.”

What is the weirdest job you’ve ever found out someone in the audience does for a living? 

I don’t tend to ask audience members what they do for a living, but I once had a bloke in front row with a broken foot who turned out to be a mechanic—one of his co-workers had been driving a car into the works garage and had forgotten it had no brakes on it. Apparently the handbrake still worked, but he’d forgotten that as well. 

What has been your most hilarious live show experience? 

I was recently in Salisbury and two seemingly drunk women had been shouting out during the show and upsetting various other members of the audience. I said I needed to keep the show tight because I had a train to catch and one of the women then offered to give me a lift home.

Andy Parsons

I thanked her but explained that I didn’t want my last memory to be being driven into a tree by two drunk women I didn’t know, just so that I could do an extra five minutes In Salisbury. The woman was extremely offended by this, saying that she wasn’t drunk but then slipped off her chair, knocked her entire table over and banged her head on a pillar. Her more drunk friend then shouted out, “Can I catch the train home with you?” 

What is the craziest thing that ever happened on Mock the Week that people wouldn’t know about?  

We recorded the pilot for Mock the Week on July 7, 2005, in front of a studio audience of zero, because that was the day of the 7/7 bombings in London. Jack Dee was also scheduled to record a Live at the Apollo that night and ended up performing it to an empty Apollo, with the producers then cutting in a studio audience from a different show. 

What is your best memory of being a writer on Spitting Image and who was your favourite puppet?  

The original Spitting Image got massive viewing figures and is fondly remembered. But I recall when I first joined the team, the producer saying to me that the ideal sketch was 45 seconds long because the puppets couldn’t hold the attention for much longer, so to write three lines and then a punchline, and that if I couldn’t think of a punchline to have the puppets hit each other because that always looked funny.

"We portrayed Tony Blair as a giant plastic smile with limited principles"

Our favourite idea for a puppet that we came up with was for Tony Blair before he became the leader of the Labour Party. We portrayed him as a giant plastic smile with limited principles—some puppets stand the test of time better than others. 

What’s your new stand-up show about? Have you always been bafflingly optimistic?  

We have been visited by the Four Horsemen, in the form of Disease, Death, War and Greedflation, so what hope is there? Nobody asks to be born, it’s a struggle to get a job, a partner, a house and a mortgage. Crime is on the increase, there’s strikes and an energy crisis, a cost-of-living crisis and climate change. Then if life wasn’t bad enough, they’ve come up with AI.

Life is tough economically, environmentally, medically, historically and emotionally—what sort of an idiot would be optimistic in the current climate? 

Are you excited to finally return to do an Edinburgh run?  

Having done 17 previous full-run Edinburgh shows, I’ve not done one for 17 years so I’m very much looking forward to doing one again. One of the reasons I haven’t been up for so long is because I’ve now got two kids and my wife worried that she wouldn’t be able to cope with them for a month in my absence, and I worried that if I took them up to Edinburgh, I wouldn’t be able to cope with them.

"I’ve not done an Edinburgh run for 17 years so I’m very much looking forward to doing one again"

There’s a six-year gap between my two kids, mainly because we found the first one extremely tricky and it took us a long time to get round to having a second one. The only real reason we did was because pretty much everybody we met said the second one is easier than the first. And arguably it is. The trouble is, you’ve still got the first one. 

Andy Parsons is set to play a run of shows at Edinburgh’s Pleasance Courtyard for Fringe from August 14–27 and will tour the UK this autumn

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