'Comedians get too self-important' | Q&A with Lee Mack

'Comedians get too self-important'

Q&A with Lee Mack

Why did you sign up for Duck Quacks Don’t Echo?

I’m getting to the age now where I’m trying to impress my kids more than anything else and they love stuff like this: facts, science, experiments... Plus, I quite like the idea of being a host for a change because I’m normally a panellist on panel shows.

How did you find hosting? Was it easier or trickier than you thought?

It’s neither, just different. When you’re a panellist your job is to disrupt the host, they’re the teacher, you’re the pupil, and suddenly I’m now the teacher. You’ll read the autocue wrong and they’ll take the mickey, which is normally what I do to other people. It’s a bit like cracking the whip because you’ve got to keep things on track.

Were any facts harder to prove than others?

Taste-testing one of the most expensive coffees in the world went, not wrong, but…

There is a type of cat that people feed coffee beans to that, once pooed out, they collect and roast. As far as I was concerned it was the nicest coffee of the lot, but none of the others agreed. That was hard to prove scientifically because taste is arbitrary, but most of the facts are black-and-white cases of yes or no, like, do ginger people have a higher tolerance for pain?

We lined up loads of ginger people, shot them with paint balls, then did the same with non-ginger people, and it turns out the ginger group sustained the pain the longest.

We looked at the science behind why that might be and there is a reason, although I can’t remember what it is.

Which experiment did you most enjoy conducting?

I liked the custard can dance one. If you throw custard into an audio speaker and send sound through it, the custard changes from a liquid to a sort of semi-solid and starts dancing around. As soon as you pick it up, it melts in your hand like something from a weird science-fiction movie. It’s brilliant.

Have you got any unusual facts about yourself?

I’ve said this quite a few times in interviews, but it’s true: the first horse I ever rode wasRed Rum.

Looking over your career as a whole, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t take it too seriously. People do become self-important, especially comedians because you perform on your own in front of thousands people. You can start to feel invincible when, actually, you’re just telling jokes to a very small amount of people, relatively, in the world.

Just remember you’re doing comedy because you didn’t study at school.

When did you sit back and think: I’m pretty good at being funny?

Comics never think that. They always think they’re one gig away from never working again, which is why they’re all paranoid lunatics.

There is the saying that you’re only as good as your last gig and it’s true. You can do thousands of shows, but if you have one ropey night, you go, “Ah, I’m not funny any more.” It’s the make-up of the comic. The voice saying you’re not funny makes you try to prove you are. That’s a deep answer isn’t?

What’s been the lowest point? Have you had many nightmare stand-up moments?

Loads. The worst was when some family members came to see me perform at Stoke University. I died on my arse, was slowclapped off stage, the lot, and they must have looked at me and thought, “You’re not a comedian, you’ve been lying to us”.

You just keep going and you end up being in the job for so long that you don’t know any different. Next year will be 20 years since my first gig – how the hell did that happen? It’s a crazy escalation of events when all I wanted was to get up at my local pub and get 80 quid for 20 minutes.

Have you ever said anything controversial and, if so, do you regret it?

I’ve been included in things. My name was mentioned in articles about how disgusting people were at the British Comedy Awards, but I haven’t been caught up in a Russell Brand-esque scandal yet – touch wood.

I think it’s a silly game that people play: there’s a branch of people that pretend to be offended when they’re not really, then there’s a bunch of people that go, "All right, if they’re going to be offended, I’ll offend them." Newspapers need to be filled and if someone swears it’ll fill a quarter of a page nicely.

• Duck Quacks Don’t Echo starts on Sky 1 at 10pm on Friday

Published: 2 Feb 2014

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