The cat laughs

Sean Lock claims that there’s no such thing as a cool co­me­dian, yet he’s about as cool as they come. Brian Boyd tack­les the self-styled ‘Graeme Souness’ of hit TV show

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Comedy -

T’S LIKE a prop­erty boom at the mo­ment,” says Sean Lock of the cur­rent surge of in­ter­est in standup com­edy. The English comic, best known for his work on tele­vi­sion panel shows 8 Out Of 10 Cats and

is re­fer­ring to the wide ap­peal of the com­edy panel show and how this has en­abled acts such as Frankie Boyle, John Bishop and Michael McIn­tyre to em­bark on mas­sive the­atre tours and be­come mod­ern-day com­edy su­per­stars.

“You look at the amount of big gigs th­ese acts can do now and it re­ally is stun­ning,” he says. “They’re fill­ing out venues such as the O2 in Lon­don, which is what a rock band is sup­posed to do, not a stand-up comic. This is like ‘com­edy is the new rock’n’roll’ all over again. And if you re­mem­ber, that phrase was first used when Bad­diel and New­man played Wem­b­ley Arena back in 1993. But they weren’t the first comics to play Wem­b­ley Arena – I was. That’s tech­ni­cally true be­cause I was the sup­port act on the night for them.”

For Lock, the suc­cess of the panel show is down to the fact that “it’s a con­densed for­mat which gives you the best bits of a per­son’s stand-up rou­tine”. He ad­mits that when the for­mat works, it works very well, but when it doesn’t, it de­serves all the crit­i­cism it gets.

“Yes, a lot of the stuff you see on th­ese shows is pre­pared ma­te­rial, that’s just how th­ese shows works. On 8 Out Of 10 Cats, my­self, Jimmy Carr and Ja­son Man­ford have got the pro­duc­ers around to our way of think­ing – which is to trust us and al­low us to ad-lib.”

He sees him­self as hav­ing a “Graeme Souness” role on 8 Out Of 10 Cats. “You do get the odd guest who has their own agenda or is be­hav­ing like a to­tal arse, and it’s my job to get an early tackle in and di­rect them back to the point of the show,” he says. “I can be re­ally rude and ag­gres­sive if I feel they’re ru­in­ing the flow of the show, and the look on their faces as I’m talk­ing to them – it’s like ‘I can’t be­lieve I’m be­ing talked to like this on na­tional TV’. But I know it’s all go­ing to be edited out – so I can say what I want, ba­si­cally.”

Hav­ing worked as builder af­ter leav­ing school, he first be­gan do­ing stand-up dur­ing the “al­ter­na­tive com­edy” era of the late 1980s.

“It was a to­tally dif­fer­ent scene then; a very po­lit­i­cal scene,” he says. “The cir­cuit now couldn’t be fur­ther away from what it started off as. It’s now part of light en­ter­tain­ment. When we started do­ing this, we cer­tainly weren’t think­ing of hav­ing a big show­biz ca­reer. Stand-up is now very much the main­stream.”

Lock was do­ing qual­ity stuff away from the lime­light for years be­fore a TV cam­era put him in fo­cus and gave him the sort of pro­file he has to­day. His stand-up shows, such as No Flat­ley, I Am The Lord Of The Dance, have won him nu­mer­ous awards and he has also writ­ten for the likes of Bill Bai­ley and Mark La­marr.

Lock has a re­fresh­ing take on his pro­fes­sion. “There is this fal­lacy of the ‘cool’ co­me­dian out there,” he says. “You see the guys who take them­selves very se­ri­ously and think they’re be­ing very suave and sar­donic. But they’re just jesters like the rest of us; they’re just goons like we all are. The job is to make peo­ple laugh.

“Hav­ing said that, my own ap­proach is a bit dif­fer­ent – and I’ve been like this since I started. There’s a dif­fer­ence, for me, be­tween stuff that works and stuff that I think is good. I’ve done stuff which has gone down re­ally, re­ally well, but I’ve taken it out be­cause I don’t think it’s that good. It’s al­ways bet­ter to do stuff you be­lieve in. You can see a good few acts out there on the wrong side of that line.”

Lock’s cur­rent show is called Lockipedia. “It’s strange, in that I play a form of Bat­tle­ships with the au­di­ence,” he says. “What I do is call out a row num­ber and a seat num­ber and the per­son sit­ting there has to give me the first let­ter of their Chris­tian name and then a word, any word, beginning with that let­ter. I then look up what is says un­der that word in my Lockipedia. I’m still very sur­prised by the amount of filthy words peo­ple shout up. Which is fine by me – I can do knob jokes all night.

“For ‘X’ once, I got ‘Xerxes The Great, The Per­sian Em­peror of 400 AD’, which was a bit

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