TALKING TO HAL CRUTTENDEN
One of the country’s top stand-up comedians, having toured the country extensively Hal Cruttenden comes to Guildford to open this year’s Guildford Fringe Festival as he headlines Gag House Comedy Superstars at G Live on Friday, June 28.
Hal has made several appearances on Live at the Apollo(BBC 1 and 2), Have I Got News For You(BBC1) and The Royal Variety Performance(ITV) as well as his regular appearances on shows such as Mock the Week(BBC2), The Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice(BBC2 and Channel 4) and The Apprentice: You’re Fired(BBC2). The second series of his sitcom Hal(co-written with Dominic Holland) was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and he has released two comedy DVDs, Tough Luvvieand Straight Outta Cruttenden.
“I’m very excited!” said Hal. “Particularly because I’ve worked with all of the Gag House Comedy Superstarline-up before. Blind comedian Chris McCausland from Live at the Apollois brilliant, Paul Sinha from The Chaseis incredibly clever and very funny, and Susan Murray is one of the legends of the comedy circuit. It’s going to be a great night.
“I feel very at home in Surrey. Most of my mother’s side of the family is here; there’s something cosy and relaxing about it. The comedy world moves to Edinburgh for August each year and it would be far better if the whole thing was just relocated to the Guildford Fringe Festival instead!
“I’ve performed in Guildford before and I’m looking forward to playing G Live. The toughest crowds are the 30-seaters that you play when you’re first starting out in comedy – and then playing somewhere huge like the O2 is very strange because you have to go very slowly to give time for the audience to follow you and the laughter to roll around the room, whereas somewhere the size of G Live is perfect for comedy.”
Hal is currently enjoying a hugely successful UK tour with his Edinburgh Festival Fringe show, Chubster.
“Chubsteris constantly developing; I’m always writing new content to keep it interesting. If you’re doing a gig with the same material you’ve done for several months, it starts to get a bit depressing. I could never perform the same play for nine months, it would drive me mad to deliver the same words night after night. I tend to write a lot at Christmas because there’s always a new tour or a new festival on the horizon.”
So who or what influences Hal’s comedy material?
“I find jokes come from what’s happening around me; the best ones just come to you in the moment. I was at a drivers’ awareness course with a nun today, and I just sat there chuckling away knowing that I’ll do something with that. Usually you get one big idea and then other things take shape around it.
“For me, stand-up is a bit like therapy. It’s talking about things I really care about and getting something off my chest. Sometimes you have to be a bit careful – there have been occasions when I’ve become obsessed and just wanted to write about Brexit or Trump all of the time – but you can never sit down and say ‘I should do something about this’ because it doesn’t work.
“The comedians who influenced me at the start of my career were people like Eddie Izzard in the 90s, but I’ve become increasingly influenced by so many different styles of comedy. I’m interested in the bravery of really shocking comics; I love some Frankie Boyle and Ricky Gervais stuff even though I would never want to be as shocking as them. I suppose I’m becoming a little bit more edgy – but with a camp, posh voice!”
Hal’s years of experience on the comedy circuit make him an adept and versatile stand-up, but how does he still ever need to deal with hecklers?
“The toughest thing is when you’re struggling and a heckler shouts something that the rest of the audience kind of agrees with! But luckily that’s rare now – you only tend to get that when you’re just starting out in comedy. If it does happen, I’m very nice to them during the show but then I wait for them afterwards… Just kidding. The best thing is to be very logical with them. Helpful heckling is lovely but if someone’s trying to take you down when you’re doing well and the audience is on your side then it’s easy to retain control. You have to be quite brutal, hit back and pretend you don’t care that they are trying to sabotage your art!”
A father of two, how did Hal describe his job to his children when they were growing up?
“For years the kids didn’t understand what I do, they thought I was a clown without the face paint and outfit. You have to make out it is really hard work because you want them to respect you: you don’t want them thinking you mess about and show off on stage, and get paid for it… I like to describe myself as a hero to my children, risking danger and death, but they don’t really buy it. It must be great to be a fireman or a policeman and come home and say ‘I kept you safe tonight children’ whereas all I have is ‘I entertained people and made them laugh.’
“I congratulated my youngest on saying something witty when she was about eight, and she said ‘yeah, and I don’t even have to spend hours sat in a room planning it like you do.’ But it does mean they see the hard work and the volume of material that you write to enable you to perform stand-up.”
So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets today to make sure you don’t miss out on Gag House Comedy Superstars!
Guildford Fringe Festival runs from June 28 to July 28 and the full list of events on their website: www.guildfordfringefestival.com