Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Andy Zaltzman: 2016 – The Certifiable History

By | Published on Thursday 15 December 2016

If you are a fan of excellent comedy with a political edge to it, or a lighter take on cricket statistics, then you’ll be well aware of the great Andy Zaltzman. If you’ve never witnessed him at work, then that’s completely shocking and you should rectify the situation immediately.
Luckily, you have quite a few chances to take in his latest show, because it’s set for a fairly chunky run at Soho Theatre, beginning this month and stretching into the new year. I thought that seemed like a very good reason for a quick chat, so put a few questions to him, ahead of his London dates.

CM: I think we can gather a little from the title… but can you tell us what you’ll be covering in ‘2016: The Certifiable History’?
AZ: Everything that has happened this year. In 75 minutes. I will be passing the official judgement of history on what has been, unquestionably, a fun-packed year if you are fan of massive political upheavals.

CM: I think most of the people I know would say that 2016 has been pretty disastrous (I don’t know anyone who voted for Trump). Do you think we are doomed?
AZ: Doomed might be a bit strong. Statistically, most worst-case scenarios do not actually happen. Most, anyway. Not all. It has been a vintage year for deepening pessimism. How disastrous 2016 proves to be is largely down to what happens in 2017. And 2018. And all years from 2019 to at least 2066. And possibly beyond.

CM: You’re heading out on tour after your run at Soho, but it’s with a different show, isn’t it? Will this one make a return at some point?
AZ: I don’t know if ‘2016: The Certifiable History’ will still work in, say, 2023. ‘2017: The Certifiable History’ might work at the end of 2017 though. I might do that, if this one goes well.

CM: You perform at the Soho Theatre quite regularly, don’t you? Will you be returning with ‘Satirist For Hire’ at a later date…?
AZ: I hope so. It is a fantastic venue that has given me and many other comedians tremendous support.

CM: You’ve been doing your very popular podcast, ‘The Bugle’, since 2007, but it’s recently been re-launched. Can you tell us about that? Does it have a new format?
AZ: John Oliver had to retire from Bugle duty this year. He’s too busy. Running a hedgehog sanctuary in New York or something. It’s what he’s always dreamed of. I’ve relaunched ‘The Bugle’ with a squad of guest co-hosts – Hari Kondabolu, Nish Kumar, Wyatt Cenac, Anuvab Pal from India, and my sister Helen, the undisputable High Priestess of Podcasting. The format is largely the same, but with different voices and perspectives. And still occasional outbreaks of puns. I’ll try to introduce some new strands in 2017.

CM: Can we go back a bit, now? How did you end up in comedy? Was it something you always wanted to do? How did your career begin?
AZ: I did a few gigs as a student, then went to the Fringe the summer I left university, and did three open-mic gigs that went so badly that I gave up. A year and a bit later, I was coaxed into giving it another go on the London circuit, and my ‘career’ accidentally evolved from there. I had vaguely wanted to be a sports journalist, but did not really know how to fill the years from age 23 to 100.

CM: Were you always interested in politics? Does it inform all of your comedy?
AZ: To an extent. My dad always had the Today programme on the radio when he took me to school in the mornings, so I think I osmosed politics during my teens. It does not inform all of my comedy, particularly not on ‘The Bugle’. My stand-up is mostly broadly political, I think, but I have never been particularly interested in the Westminster political game.

CM: Are there any fellow comedians you would cite as influences?
AZ: Robert Newman influenced me a huge amount early in my stand-up career. I learned a lot touring with Lee Mack. Chris Morris and the team that created ‘On The Hour’ and ‘The Day Today’. I studied the Ancient Greek comic playwright Aristophanes at university, which may well qualify me for lifelong membership of The Metropolitan Elite™, but I loved it, and he was a genius. Total comedy, ranging from acerbic political satire, via slapstick and surrealism, to dick jokes.

CM: I don’t know much about cricket, but I think you do – can you tell us a bit about the various media you’ve created on the subject?
AZ: I’ve written a blog for since 2008, called ‘The Confectionery Stall’, in which, for the most part, I attempt to make cricket statistics funny. It is the one thing in the world in which I have something approaching genuine expertise. I’ve also done podcasts and video for Cricinfo, and currently do an occasional podcast with the outstanding Australian cricket writer Jarrod Kimber called ‘The Cricket Sadist Hour’. I joined the ‘Test Match Special’ commentary team last summer, doing stats/scoring/occasional jokes, which involved a spectacular array of coloured pens. Which did seem somewhat outdated in the year 2016.

CM: Which is better, TV or radio?
AZ: Is there not enough division in the world already? They can both work.

CM: Are you going to write any more books?
AZ: Some day, I hope. There are already a lot of books in existence, though. So I imagine the planet will cope if I don’t get round to it.

CM: What plans do you have for the future?
I’d like to invent a long-haul trampoline that will revolutionise trans-Atlantic travel. Other than that, I’d like to make ‘The Department’ as a TV show. It was a Radio 4 series I did with John Oliver and Chris Addison from 2003 to 2006. It would work on the telly, even if we were told at the time that it had too many jokes and words in it.

Andy Zaltzman performs ‘2016 – The Certifiable History’ at Soho Theatre from 20 Dec-7 Jan, see the venue website here for all the details.

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