'I fricking love history' | Tony Law on what inspires his comedy

'I fricking love history'

Tony Law on what inspires his comedy

First of all, I can't write OK. I'm typing this with my finger on my phone. I can't even swim. I could. I learnt as a kid, but I've done swim so little in the last decade of being both the best, and most undiscovered, comedian in history that I've unlearnt swim. Don't tell me it should be swimming you pompous jerk. I say swim in all the tenses.

Let us begin. I think as a baby in Trinidad I spent a lot of time looking out at the vegetation and trees; later I used to get hallucinations that I once lived in republican Rome.

 In Canada, before I had to go to school at 6am, Professor Kitzel followed by Max The 2,000-Year-Old Mouse, and Rocket Robin Hood were on the two English TV channels. We also had the 1966 encyclopaedia. So when it was too cold to escape outside, I escaped inside history and through to the past. 

I fricking love history. If you are remotely curious, you'll love some bit of history at least.  If not, you are probably some moron bully wanker who should die. You dick (not you, you're awesome). 

So very much of what I spout out of my communication systems is history. I've read two thirds of more history books than any human ever has. I'm friends with Mary Beard so everyone can fuck off (Sorry). 

One example of a routine I did about being a Viking, was a way to link up all different cultures, and the idea of where we come from. I’m fascinated by how we all connect together. OR I just riffed about Vikings and made it funny, ‘cause I'm funny all day long. It's an illness. Low self-esteem x 

abandonment issues + atheism = funny guy. Makes you a dick to be married to, I imagine.  Just as well I'm awesome at sex. Heh. How could you possibly judge that? Like art – you can't judge comedy. 

Bullying is the worst. It's awful. Let's murder all bullies (too strong?). The things I hate in life are misogyny (obviously), just plain bullying (ug), xenophobia (ick) and reactionary division of people (gah!). 

One time I read all of Simon Sebag Montefiore’s books about Stalin, it was so well written and interesting it was actually traumatic. It was horrific, it induced paranoia in me just to know the depths of inhumanity we people can sink to. Everything smelled like milk for a month. Go figure that one out, liberal media. 

It’s easy to just go: ‘Oh well Stalin was just evil.’ But there’s criminals and thugs like Stalin all over the place. Ultimately all the baddies from history come from bad parenting (that’s my theory anyway). Don’t ever give me total control over a police state. I get mad too quick.  

History always crops up in my shows because that’s what I’m into, that’s how I engage with ideas. I think discussing stuff like the absurdity of people like Stalin is a great way of getting people thinking. 

Stand-up comedy is often: ‘Oh I’m very left wing… here's my view.’ Whenever somebody tries to connect with politics. I’m not sure it always gets through to people, because people will agree or disagree with what is being said and laugh or not laugh accordingly. But if you are silly about Stalin or Vikings you can stimulate people's brains in a different way.

If you get people to see that Vikings are misunderstood you could get people thinking: ‘Oh I wasn't thinking about Vikings, but we too are a mixed race of people who come from all over the world.’

I can’t say it’s my grand scheme for any for my routines to connect historical events and the current state of the world. I don’t set out trying to humanise Mayan Priests, but I’m fed up of people writing them off by thinking all they did was sacrifice people. If we taught everyone global history right through school (plus statistics and geography) the world would be a far better place. 

I'm currently into the Silk Road, I'm nearly thw-thirds through Peter Frankopan’s book so I'll be ready to move on soon. Probably go read Tom Holland on Islam. Whatever I get into, though, at some point I'll accidentally improvise a bit on stage and have to keep it in the show.

Tony Law: Absurdity For The Common People is on at The Stand at midday.

Published: 21 Aug 2017

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