The night I unlocked the funny cupboard | 20 questions: Des Clarke

The night I unlocked the funny cupboard

20 questions: Des Clarke

How did the idea for the show come about?

The show is called Destiny so being a Sucker for word play it seemed like quite a cool way to include my name in the show title. It also allowed me to think about my life story and plans for the future with a chance to weave a nice wee story around my visit to a fortune teller.

Did it change much as you worked on it?

The show evolved quite a bit after I visited this one fortune teller in Glasgow who was really inept, but I quite enjoyed the experience and decided to tell the story of that particular visit. Also, my own personal destiny was affected when I narrowly missed being at Glasgow Airport when the terrorist attacks happened this year through a bizarre chain of events. This incidentthen became an important part of the show's story.

Which comedian(s) inspired you to become a stand-up?

It's probably predictable as a Scotsman but Billy Connolly and Chic Murray were big inspirations. Growing up I also watched the likes of Dave Allen, Eddie Izzard, Bill Hicks and Eddie Murphy.

Where and when was your first gig?

Blackfriars Comedy Club in Glasgow, 2000. It was a legendary underground comedy venue which helped launch a lot of Scottish comedians throughout the Nineties.

How did it go?

It was a 5 minute spot and it actually went all right. I was all over the place but my adrenalin saw me through. I did proceed to die completely in my next gig which brought me back down to earth with a bump!

What’s the best gig you’ve ever had?

I had a gig really early on at Nice n Sleazies in Glasgow and it was the first gig I had ever 'stormed'. The feeling was unbelievable and that night I felt I'd unlocked a the key to the funny cupboard. Bizarre metaphor but all told it was a bit of a turning point for me.

And the worst?

A gig in the north of Scotland a couple of years ago where no paying punters turned up but the venue manager still made us do the gig anyway - to no audience - or else we wouldn't get paid. Both soul destroying and frightening....

What’s your ultimate ambition in comedy?

It's hard to pin yourself down to an ultimate ambition but I'll be happy as long as I keep working hard at my comedy and continue to enjoy getting up on stage.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever regretted saying on stage?

I once asked a bunch of students on freshers week what they got in their uni goodie bags... they then proceeded to throw the entire contents at me. Rice Krispies, contraceptives, Pot Noodles - you name it, it was battering off my face!

What’s the worst thing a critic has ever said about you?

A critic once said that watching me made him upset. Hey, at least it's a reaction of sorts, though melancholy wasn't exactly what I was going for.

When did you first come to Edinburgh, and what did you do?

I first came as a teenager on the train through from Glasgow and I remember seeing Phil Kay doing a blazing gig and thinking, wow this would be a great job.

Has the spirit and the atmosphere changed much since then?

I think the Edinburgh Fringe has become less of a Fringe year on year. It's in danger of becoming a victim of it's own success. We're all part of the commercialisation of the Festival so I'm not going to be a hypocrite but I don't think it would be a good idea for things to go so far that Edinburgh just becomes one big month-long industry conveyor belt.

What’s your favourite Edinburgh experience?

Seeing the last ever Late and Live at the old building in Cowgate was a bit special. It was really sad but at least I could say I was there that day.

And your worst?

Doing a 20 minute spot at a free gig in a place called Scruffy Murphys back in the day. I had a decent seven minutes but I was trying to stretch it out to 20... not a good idea! It was a free gig with an audience full of non-English speakers. It was that stereotypically frustrating fringe show that we've all had at one time or another.

Where are your favourite place to eat and drink in Edinburgh?

The Pleasance Courtyard is still a good place to hang out, if a bit too manic at times. The Stac Polly on St Mary's Street is good if you want a nice bit of dinner. I can also recommend the Cafe Piccanti on Broughton Street which provides the perfect greasy end to any night out and does a great line in deep fried Mars Bars!

Where do you go to escape the festival?

I stay through in my home town of Glasgow. It's less than an hour away by train and is a good place to run back to and escape the madness of the Fringe. Not a leafleter in sight!

What’s your view of comedy awards like the if.comedy?

If people want to give comedians an award for doing a good job then that's really cool - it's alaways good to see talent recognised. I don't think you can live your life by whether you win one or not but the fact that they exist doesn't really bother me.

What one bit of advice would you give to someone visiting the festival?

Perfect your Scottish accent... you won't get charged over the odds for anything and leafleters are more likely to leave you alone!

What one thing would improve the Fringe?

More Scottish people going to shows! To help this we really need to improve the transport links between Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. I don't think it just would benefit the Scottish acts but would have a positive effect on the fringe as a whole.

Apart from your own, what other show would you recommend?

I've been working with the socialist politician Tommy Sheridan on his chat show at the Gilded Balloon and (biased as I am!) for sheer quirky cult value it's always an unpredictable and fun hour.

  • Des Clarke: Destiny, Pleasance 21:20

Published: 24 Aug 2007

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