It's a privilege to be able to interview you, and I wish you all the best with your forthcoming show.
1. How first attracted you to comedy?
How? You have fallen down on the very first question and after such a marvellous build up! Interviewing isnt as easy as it looks is it?
I have always just loved making people laugh and people who could make me laugh. I remember being about 5 and doing a little puppet show behind the sofa for my mum and nan and they were crying with laughter (no doubt at the situation rather than because I was actually being that funny), but I loved the feeling that their laughter gave me. Growing up in Somerset there was little to do and so when I was a bit older TV shows like The Young Ones and Monty Python records were a source of great joy to me and me and my friends started putting together comedy shows and magazines.
2. Who have been your idols and influences?
Monty Python and Rik Mayall when I was young. I learnt all the records and recorded stuff off the telly first with an audio tape recorder then with a video once they were invented. I did stuff at school with a guy called Steve Cheeke who went on to do a double act with Simon Munnery. I think Steve was a big influence on my ethos of comedy.
3. In your years performing at Edinburgh, what changes, if any, have you seen in the festival or the shows on offer?
It has changed massively. When I started everyone had very simple posters and photocopied leaflets and hoped for the best. It has become a lot more commercial and the PR machines have taken over and improved the publicity materials and the press coverage. There are also a lot more shows and for me too many big names coming up to cash in in gigantic venues, taking the audience away from the people who need them. At the heart of it it is still the best arts festival in the world, but the money and sponsorship for the venues and agents has changed things. As ever the acts are the ones losing the money.
4. In addition to your solo achievements, you've co-starred and/or co-written quite a few sitcoms and comedy series on radio and television. What is the secret of a successful comedy partnership?
I think the main thing is to have the same sense of humour and be able to laugh together and ultimately to compromise. Me and Stew would disagree a lot but usually about the tiniest of things and at the end of the day we found nearly all the same things funny. Its important to be good friends as possible and I would rather work with people that I felt comfortable around than prima donnas who were bigger names or even better actors.
5. Conversely, what do you think is the fatal flaw that can break a comedy series?
All sorts of things. I suppose when the teamwork falls apart or when a person or people begin to think they are more important than the whole
6. Given your history with the BBC, would you be willing to return in front of the cameras for another series?
Yes if the right thing came along, but I am not desperate to get back on TV. I like doing my live work and though it would be nice to get the extra publicity and thus ensure I can keep doing my own shows, I would only appear in something that I really liked and thought was worthwhile. But I dont hold a grudge against the BBC (it was really only one person there who didnt like or get us). Also I am quite glad that I am not famous and I dont really want to be much more well known than I am, so I would be wary of doing anything too high profile.
7. Name one thing about yourself that would surprise most people.
I am diphallactic that isnt true, but it would be surprising
8. What did you make of all the business regarding Stewart's Jerry Springer The Opera ?
It was madness. Its a fantastic, intelligent and entertaining show and the people protesting against it are mentally ill and if you check out their website, arrogant and right wing. If there is a Jesus I think a) he will be able to deal with anything that Stewart Lee can throw at him and b) he would hate these idiots for so wilfully misinterpreting what he said OK so he loves everyone and he would say he still loved them, but inside he would hate them.
9. What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
Isy Suttie singing a song about paedophilia to some slightly bemused freshers in Norwich
10. Do you think anything of the Alternative Eighties has survived into the Noughties?
Comedy like all things is an organic process and it moves on, yet is informed by what has gone before it. I missed out on those days doing comedy in the more self-obsessed and commercial nineties. I think there are a lot of newer acts that encapsulate the spirit of experimentation that was the best thing about the slightly self-righteous (though necessary) attitude of alternative comedy. Look forward my friend, not back.
11. How satisfying was it to get Talking Cock published?
It was great to write a book, even if it was about cocks and I was very proud of my work in this field and have had a lot of nice responses. Alas my pleasure was a bit tempered by the fact that the publishers didnt seem too interested in promoting it and it thus didnt sell too many copies. But you know its there and exists and that is something to be proud of. It was recently published in Russian which was very satisfying and hilarious.
12. You maintain your own website, where among other things you've detailed your career. How does it feel looking back and seeing how much you've accomplished so far?
I feel I have a lot more to accomplish and that much of the stuff I have done previously has been looked over a bit, so a bit ambivalent. I have realised that my ambition is to keep on working and keep on creating original and interesting stuff and thats more important than anything else. Yet there is a stupid part of me that would like to get more recognition. I am proud of pretty much everything I have done. Some things arent as good as others, but I was at least attempting something interesting.
13. What do you consider a good day for you?
Any day that I manage to write for more than three hours and especially if I am finishing a script. I hate the process of writing. It is so painful and depressing and its hard to motivate yourself. So finishing a script gives me a sense of achievement, but it doesnt last long and you have to move on to the next one. If I have written a really great gag or routine in a day as well then that gives me some happiness.
14. At 38, do you find yourself caring less about things that mattered more in your twenties, and more about things that mattered less?
Yes you priorities do change and in a really good way. You become less self-conscious and self-obsessed and care less about what other people think and do things for yourself. I was an idiot in my twenties. I think I will look back in ten years time and think I was an idiot in my thirties too. This is the way of life.
15. Finally, what can we expect from Someone Likes Yoghurt?
Its a show about challenging closed systems of thought and about taking ideas to their logical conclusions, no matter how long this takes or how irritating the journey is. Its edgier than some of my other stuff. It treats the trivial and the important with equal weight and gives a window into the paranoid section of my brain. Some of you will love it, some of you will hate it, some of you will think its all right. Its a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears in that respect. The people who love it are correct though and the people who hate it are idiots, so if you dont want to look like an idiot then just pretend you think it is really good.