Ripping into religion? Anyone can do that... | Tommy Holgate interviews Marcus Brigstocke

Ripping into religion? Anyone can do that...

Tommy Holgate interviews Marcus Brigstocke

Never afraid of trying something new, Marcus Brigstocke has sailed around the Arctic, learned and performed French for a documentary, curates the annual ski/comedy/music festival Altitude in Meribel, France, and can be seen dressed in drag on children’s television.

And although he claims to be a jack of all trades, and master of none, the 36-year-old certainly likes to ensure there’s depth to his stand-up.

‘It’s very satisfying to invest yourself in a subject,’ he says, ‘It’s good to go “What is this, and why do I care?”

‘The comedy I don’t like is when you don’t get anything of the person. You don’t find out what the stand-up really feels. When people bring up really outrageous things like pedophilia and war, and you get a string of well crafted jokes, but I always go, “What do you actually think?”

‘I like to find subjects that light me up before I think, “Why do I find this funny?” as opposed to going, “This is funny, how can I make jokes about it?” That way the audience are getting something that I really care about.

In his topical role on Radio 4’s Now Show and as team captain of Argumental on Dave, Brigstocke has become known for his strongly opinionated material, delivered with fury.

‘It’s very cathartic actually,’ he says. ‘Sometimes it’s - not faked, per se - but like with The Now Show, it’s not like I wake up on Thursday morning and go, “You know what? I’m furious!”

‘Sometimes it is, but usually I browse the internet and papers until I find something that hits that button and I go, “Right fucker - I’m coming for you.” Then I can create the anger.”

‘Stand-up is such a brilliant way to communicate. And a brilliant way of writing too. It makes you write within a certain spectrum, because if you don’t make them laugh you’ve failed.’

In 2008, Brigstocke set up the Altitude festival in the French Alps – and if it sounds like little more than an excuse of him and his comedy mates to spend the days on the slopes in exchange for gigging at night, you’re not far wrong.

He explains how it came about: ‘I basically made a phone call to this bar I knew the name of, and said to the bloke, “Why don’t you have me and my mates over to tell a few jokes, and pay for us to go skiing”. And here we are now.’

Brigstocke is snowboarder – a pastime Ed Byrne jokes is like ‘being beaten up repeatedly by a mountain’.

‘It might be for him, but not for me,’ Brigstocke says. ‘My ankles are fucked so I can’t wear ski boots all day, plus boarding is as close as you can get to flying. And sometimes you are flying.’

Brigstocke is an avowed atheist, but bucking the comedy trend, his current show God Collar, carefully avoids attacking those who do believe.

‘Ripping into religion? That’s bollocks man, any fucker can do that,’ he says. ‘If you’re going to talk about something as dear as religion, that people hold very dear to themselves, you can’t just plough through it and go, “I’m an atheist and you’re all thick.”

‘I’ve got to think what it is about religion that draws people to it. And at what point I stop in my tracks and can’t throw myself into the faith. This show is by far the most personal thing I’ve ever done.’

  • Marcus Brigstocke: God Collar is at the Vaudeville Theatre in London until February 11. For more details of the Altitude festival, visit

    Published: 5 Feb 2010

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