Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Carey Marx: Intensive Carey

By | Published on Wednesday 28 May 2014

I first came across Carey Marx, quite a few years ago, at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was stunned – to put it mildly – when I learned, back in 2012, that he had suffered a heart attack. Fortunately for the comedy circuit, he survived to tell the tale, and, as you might expect of a stalwart entertainer, created a show to, er, tell the tale…

In 2013, Marx was back at the Fringe with the critically acclaimed ‘Intensive Carey’, and this week he’s bringing it to the Soho Theatre. I sent him some questions about his career thus far, the show, and of course, his health.

Caro: Intensive Carey is inspired by your unfortunate brush with ill-health, isn’t it? What can audiences expect from the show?
Carey: This is a story set in an expanse of time before, during and after I had a heart attack. The humour is in retrospect because retrospect is where some of the best humour thrives. Retrospect allows us to laugh at very dark matters and how they changed us. The main way I was affected at the time was by becoming a complete idiot. I thought it was bravery. But, it was idiocy. I find that part of it quite funny now. A heart attack turned me into a loony.

Caro: How easy is it to keep sharing this story? Aren’t there bits you would rather forget…?
Carey: A heart attack is a difficult thing to forget. If I ever do, I hope when I remember again I’ll write my next show about my amnesia. Ignoring such a massive physical and emotional event in my life, I think, would be reckless and irresponsible.

Comedy is allowed to cover important things that matter. Though having said that, some of the show is reckless and irresponsible. But, I have no problem talking about my, or saying the phrase, heart attack. When my dad was dying of cancer, there were people who could not mention it or even say the word. They would call it ‘the C word’. My dad and the Macmillan Nurses who deal with cancer all the time, called it cancer. That’s what it is. Some people say ‘the C word’, usually in a whisper, as if they could catch it by saying it and their teeth would fall out of their mouths. I think they’re pussies. Or maybe I should say, ‘P’s, in case I become one. Sometimes I wonder if those people actually can’t say the word cancer. They should maybe practise with similar words like candour, canter and caster. I had a heart attack. That’s a fact, not something I’m talking about to upset anyone, and it certainly doesn’t upset me to talk about it. Having a heart attack upsets me and I prefer to avoid doing that again. One way to avoid it though would be not forgetting it happened.

Also, there is inherent humour in fear and I find that humour life-affirming, binding, valuable and worth sharing. People should not feel threatened. It’s not like heart attack humour is taking harmless-observational humour’s jobs.

Caro: Are you well now? Have you taken active steps to keep yourself in good health?
Carey: I have a stent, and will need a bypass at some point. I go to the gym and eat a little healthier. But, I have not become a teetotal marathon running example of healthy living. I think we’re quite elastic and when life stretches us out of shape we slowly return mostly to whom we were before. And I think that’s nice to know.

Caro: Do you view life differently since having a heart attack?
Carey: This show is not really preachy or about a life changing message that all who come will benefit from. But, I do have moments of private joy and gratitude that I’m not in a hospital bed right now. The thing that changed my view of me most was not the heart attack itself but the support structure I came to realise existed around me. It’s hard to get lost in your own neediness when you truly see your place amongst the people around you. But no god saved me to spread any gospel or tell you that life is the best thing in life. I had to get a replacement bus after waiting half an hour in the rain tonight, so I don’t think that’s true.

Caro: How did you get into comedy? Did you always want to be an entertainer?
Carey: I had no choice. I tried jobs but they’re quite hard. You have to work. It’s unbelievable and I admire people who can do it. I fell into comedy. I fell in love with it. Stand-up is one of my favourite forms of expression. For many, admitting to what you find funny is a naked feeling. Audience members often look at each other for acceptance and approval before committing to a big laugh, and sometimes a belly laugh slips out and exposes a person. At its best, stand-up is a bare-knuckled, fearless, and vulnerable communication and I find its possibilities exciting.

Caro: Your touring schedule has taken you all over the world, taking in myriad festivals. Do you enjoy all the travel and changes of scene, or is it exhausting?
Carey: It’s great and exhausting. Travelling around Britain is less fun than it’s ever been though with more replacement buses, complicated train systems in which lines, trains and routes are owned by different companies, and it’s ridiculously expensive. I’m currently saving up for a ride on the London Underground! I love being at a festival, mostly because it means I don’t have to travel for a while. Though I do love a long haul flight. I would not normally spend 30hrs watching movies knowing there are no pressing commitments and nobody interrupting except to bring me food and drinks. It’s just a shame aeroplanes don’t have a popcorn machine. Truthfully though, it makes me most happy when I have a long stint staying in London. I’ve been all over the world and my favourite place is home.

Caro: You’ve done a few TV appearances. Is that something you’d like to do more of?
Carey: Yes please. Well, not just anything. Sometimes I think there’s a lot of crap on TV and I’d like to be given a chance to be a part of it. Mostly, I don’t want to do TV for TV’s sake, but in the celebrity obsessed culture we live in it does get increasingly difficult to sell a show when people don’t have a TV appearance to confirm to them that you must be good. I’d like to be given a chance to make a TV programme about what arseholes they are. They’ll come out to see the guy on TV who called them arseholes for thinking he’s good just because he was on TV, because they’re arseholes.

Caro: What are your future plans? A new show? Another Edinburgh?
Carey: My next endeavour is to get my new one hour show ready for the Edinburgh Festival. It’s called ‘Abominable’ and it’s about the abominability of abominableness. It’s going to be the funniest most interesting and joyful show I have ever written. I haven’t started writing it yet. But it will be. You’ll see.

Carey Marx performs ‘Intensive Carey’ is on at Soho Theatre until 31 May. See the venue website here


Photo: Steve Ullathorne