'I used to be straightforward kinda mental' | Limmy talks to Paul Whitelaw about finding an outlet for his madness

'I used to be straightforward kinda mental'

Limmy talks to Paul Whitelaw about finding an outlet for his madness

There is no escape.

If you were forced at knife-point to describe a recurring theme in the work of Scottish comedian Brian ‘Limmy’ Limond, then those four words might leap to panicked mind.

From hapless premium rate quiz-master Falconhoof to thin-skinned former junkie Jacqueline McCafferty and couch-bound fantasist Dee Dee, his award-winning BBC sketch series Limmy’s Show! is full of bemused characters struggling to make sense of an absurd and unjust world.

Limond, a former web designer from Glasgow, chose to end Limmy’s Show! after its third series in 2013, but his darkly comic fascination with thwarted lives and obsessive trains of thought has persisted via his blog, Vines and voracious Twitter feed, plus several appearances on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe.

He’s also just published his first book, Daft Wee Stories. True to form, it’s a charmingly fatalistic compendium of imaginative vignettes in which ordinary, well-meaning people are given tantalising glimmers of magic and adventure, only to be brought back down to Earth with a preposterous and often ultra-violent thud.

Limond’s daft wee stories are a fecund allotment of horror, whimsy, pathos, nonsense, psychosis and misery. The very lifeblood of comedy itself, at least if you’re that way inclined.

‘I like people going mental or on the verge of going mental,’ he explains, over Afternoon Tea in a Glasgow pub.

Your book contains 82 daft wee stories in total, some short, some longer. Did you structure it along the lines of your sketch show?

I had a wee spreadsheet: that one’s got a bit of violence, that one’s got a bit of sex, that one’s got a bit of shite or something to do with an arse in it. I’ve got one called Arnold’s Arse and another one called Arnold’s Arse Eye, because I just happened to write two stories to do with somebody’s arse. So I thought, just make it the same guy and you’ll get away with it.

It’s quite easy to imagine some of these stories being adapted for television or film. You also direct as well as write and perform, so do you have any plans along those lines?

Certain stories in there could potentially be made into telly things. I can see some of them as wee five minute things on iPlayer, or a programme with maybe four of the stories in it. That fear of writing something and it going nowhere, that happens less with books than it does with telly stuff. With books, any cunt can write one! Go on Amazon and there are millions of books and authors out there, people you’ve never heard of. But on telly, even if you’ve never seen something, you’ve probably heard of it. There are only so many limited slots…

I gather you were writing a multi-character sitcom for the BBC. What’s happening with that?

I had three ideas. I wrote one sitcom and they said they really liked it, but my idea was too dark for what they wanted. I don’t think that was the only reason, maybe it was too much of a comedy drama. It was a flashback sort of thing, three guys from different walks of life meeting in a pub. There’s an old alky guy asking their stories, so it was kinda like one of those old Amicus horror anthologies. But it wasn’t one story at a time, it went back and forward. The other one was me playing these three characters in a house. They were into it until some new person came along and said ‘Naw’.

Wasn’t Falconhoof the star of one of your sitcom ideas?

That was my favourite out of the lot. That was more conventional and Curb Your Enthusiasm-y. He’s this guy who works on this programme called Adventure Call, a normal guy who’s just drifted into this job. And he’s getting hounded in the papers, because a lot of weans have been phoning in and running up their parent’s phone bills. So in the papers there’s all these Photoshops of him as the Pied Piper of fucking Hamlin and Fagin. It always goes tits up for him, just like in the Adventure Call sketches. He’s always optimistic, but there’s always something that fucks up. I ended it on a crescendo, a chase like in Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave ‘Em. It’s quite mainstream and straightforward, but they weren’t into it.

That must be frustrating. Was writing the book a way of exploring ideas on your own terms without interference?

No, but I’m more into the idea of writing stuff in future. Regardless of how this goes, I want to write other short stories and I want to get into writing novels. With the telly stuff, they’re quite straightforward, they’ve got no reason to bullshit you. So I don’t try to read between the lines that much. I heard a lot of talk about slots, like a mainstream Mrs Brown’s Boys kind of slot and a sketch show slot, and maybe Falconhoof was somewhere in between.

In your work you often return to the idea of things going catastrophically wrong, of lives unravelling at a moment’s notice. Is that a fear of yours?

I think about things like that. There’s one story that I didn’t put in the book, about how all it takes is for a few coincidences to happen in the one go. Imagine you were walking down the street and maybe three people happened to look at you, or the same song that nobody really plays any more came on the radio three times in the same day. That would be all right, these things happen. But what if you saw three different people carrying a rubber duck or something, that’s enough to fuck you up for the rest of your life. These days you can tweet about it. If something mad happens you can tell people about it on Twitter and they’ll go, ‘Oh that’s weird, we’re all with you.’ But if you’re on your own with no one to talk to you’re fucked.

So writing these things down, sharing your ‘mad thoughts’, is a form of catharsis?

If you’ve nowhere to put it, if you’re no a creative type of person, then it could drive you mad. It could also make you really fucking bitter if you’ve no got the opportunity. I’m really lucky because I used to be straightforward kinda mental. Hanging about with pals and coming out with shite, putting on a show for them and having mad thoughts: ‘Here, this would be mental, wouldn’t it? Imagine this, imagine that.’ But I had nothing to do with that stuff when I was unemployed. It’s easier these days, you just start a blog, but in the old days – forget it, your life’s fucking ruined.

The internet more or less saved you?

Lots of people could do what I do, coming up with stories or making telly things. But because they’ve ended up in some sort of way of life, they don’t think they can. That’s what I was like. Before I did the web stuff I was in college, and I had low self-esteem. I didn’t want a job because I didn’t think I could handle any responsibility. ‘I’m a clown, I can’t hold down a fucking job.’ You get that into your head, that you’re a fucking waste of space. So when I finished college all my pals had jobs, they were getting up in the morning and getting paid. But I thought I couldn’t do that, I’m just a daft cunt. But then years down the line I started doing my web stuff, my Flash stuff, and had to get a job and be responsible. They actually let me lock up the fucking place at the end of the night! I couldn’t believe they’d let me do that, I could’ve knocked all the fucking computers in there.

Your comedy could hardly be described as mainstream, and yet it clearly strikes a chord with lots of people. Maybe we’re all just deeply miserable, hence why we enjoy laughing in the face of that…

I’ve got a dark sense of humour, a sick sense of humour, I always have. These days it isnae fashionable [laughs]. Having a dark sense of humour, finding terrible things funny, you feel like some relic from the 1970s. I wonder if ten or twenty years in the future that’ll be drummed out of people, it’ll be socially unacceptable. You can’t laugh at something that’s bad. ‘Can you believe we used to do that?!” They’ll show a clip of Laurel and Hardy, something falling on Stan Laurel’s fucking heid, or Tom and Jerry: ‘I’m sorry, but what’s so funny about a bowling ball falling on a cat? I’ve seen that in real life and it’s horrible.’

And yet these things are funny, often inexplicably so.

What makes a thing funny? Has anybody really worked it out? If somebody gets hurt and you laugh, maybe it’s because deep down you don’t like the person. Or you’re glad it isn’t you. The idea of losing it all is funny. You can’t really explain why, because the next dour-faced serious person might say, ‘Well I don’t find that funny. I’m sorry, but I know someone who lost everything.’ But that’s funny!

Maybe it’s a defence mechanism, or a nervous reaction.

You’re talking to somebody and they tell you that somebody died, they suddenly become serious. But you’ve still got a buzz about you, you’re happy. I can’t just switch that off, it’s got to go somewhere, so maybe it comes out in a laugh. It’s just funny when you’re told no to laugh: ‘Don’t fucking laugh, it isnae funny!’ It’s like the teacher in front of the class saying, ‘I’m warning you.’ And then you’re trying to hold in a laugh, going beetroot. Maybe that’s it, because these things are so serious. It’s like how you can’t laugh at funerals, but you do. Or you don’t want to get a hard-on when swimming, then you get one.

A few years ago you performed a stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe, but since then you’ve said you’d rather focus your energies away from live appearances. However, you’ve just embarked on a nationwide book tour and you’ve announced a Limmy’s Show! theatre gig in Glasgow next January. What changed your mind?

Doing the book tour. I really want to promote the book, so I realised that I’m going to have to be in front of folk and that’s it. The more you rehearse the more confident you become, so now I’m really looking forward to it. I now want to do it as opposed to feeling that I have to do it.

What can you tell us about Limmy’s Show! live? Will it feature your excellent supporting cast from the series?

Aye, it’ll be me, Paul [McCole], Alan [McHugh] and Kirstin [McLean]. So Kirstin will be doing Jingle the jester, but with a wee twist. That’s what I want – all your favourites but with a twist. I want to do something that involves the audience, so if I did the ‘Yes Or No’ sketch then I’m in the audience as the guy asking the question….

Do you have plans for a live DVD?

Maybe we should do one. I think it would be all right, because I hope we fuck it up a wee bit. When I was doing the stand-up before, it was just me. It was kinda lonely, and I wasn’t experienced enough to have a laugh about it when I fucked up. I just ploughed on. But if I’m looking into Paul or Alan or Kirstin’s eyes, and we start to smile then that’s okay. They’re having a laugh and we’re having a laugh.

So you’re going to be more visible in future?

I’m no hiding away in my house any more, and that’s opened the fucking doors in my head. This is going to happen, you do live stuff now. It helps to tell yourself that: this is what you do now. Simply by doing it makes that true. It’s a bit like NLP, and it’s what I did before with my live stuff at the Fringe. I just visualised myself doing it and enjoying it, you’re happy and they’re laughing. Imagine they’re no laughing? Well you’re enjoying it, you’re doing it. That works for me anyway. The fact is, this is my job now. Flash is dead!

• Daft Wee Stories by Limmy is published by Century today, priced £14.99. Click here to order for £10.49. Read our review here.

Published: 30 Jul 2015

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