Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Paul F Taylor: Head In The Clouds

By | Published on Friday 26 April 2024

We here at TW Towers have long been fans of Paul F Taylor, having been first exposed to his excellent work up at edfringe, so it’s safe to say that he’s very much a favourite for us. 

So, when I heard that he’d be making a stop at Soho Theatre soon with his latest show, I definitely wanted to catch up. Plus, ‘Head In The Clouds’ has an extra hook, because in it Taylor touches on his experiences of ADHD, a topic that’s very much of interest to me, and no doubt others. 

I spoke to him, ahead of his upcoming London performance. 

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about what to expect from ‘Head In The Clouds’? Does it have specific themes?
PFT: The show is as much funny stuff I could fit in as possible. It’s messy, chaotic and a lot of playful fun. Come along if you like Harry-Hill-esque, short, unconnected and quirky funny ideas.

But then it also has a deeper meaning, where I explore how hard it is to concentrate in the modern world and how, through connecting with my daughter through play, I’ve managed to reframe my highly distracted mind as a positive thing.

CM: What made you decide to cover this stuff? Is it about where you are in your life right now?
PFT: Yes, I’ve always grappled with maintaining my attention and resented the labels I was endowed with for lacking focus. The show title is literally the words of a terrifying teacher from my school days, “Taylor! Your head is in the clouds!”

Am I a sufferer of ADHD? Yes, but that is only really part of it. I think this show resonates with how we all now feel in the modern world, where everything is fighting to steal our attention.

CM: When you talk about personal stuff, are you telling the whole truth? How does it feel to share it?
PFT: Everything starts with the truth, even the silly jokes. My usual outlook is to go for the funny; the truth is ultimately irrelevant.

Literally sharing truthful tales from my actual life was not something I was used to. But as uncomfortable as I felt with those parts initially, sharing them began to become cathartic, and so I leaned into it.

During the Edinburgh Festival, I was very surprised and proud at how many ADHD sufferers came up to me after the performance and told me how much they connected with those elements of the show.

Considering where I started, it was totally unexpected, but it showed me the deeper meaning of the show, which really spoke to people.

CM: How do you put a show together? Do you start from scratch, or are you stitching together tried and tested bits? How does the creative process work?
PFT: It’s messy, disorganised and slow going. I get very frustrated with myself about it. I tend to work with short-form ideas that are unconnected. I tend to just write them down. Try them out sporadically here and there.

Then, when I have a show looming, I try to sit down with all the ideas literally surrounding me on scraps of paper and I see what jumps out to me as a theme. Frankly, the whole process is a flawed shambles.

For this show, I decided to embrace the chaos and make the muddle the show, and try to dig into why that was. Then a structure presented itself.

CM: How would you describe your style of comedy?
PFT: I tend to use too many words when I describe my act because I don’t really know how to pitch it. I would say “quirky one-liners, surreal observational comedy act outs, and a fair bit of improvised goofing about”.

See that’s too many words isn’t it? OK, let’s just go with “funny nonsense”.

CM: How did you come to be doing stand-up? Was it something you always aspired to?
PFT: Deep down, I always wanted to do it, but I had an academic family, went to a very academic school, I didn’t even know anyone who did anything even close to something artistic or alternative. I don’t believe I even knew anyone who had chased their dream.

Later in life, after I got a degree in something I didn’t care about and then got a job doing that, I started to realise that I couldn’t conform to being a regular nine to five worker, I just didn’t care, and it didn’t work for my mental health.

My creativity was crying out to be set free. So I saved up some money, dropped everything, then I started performing because I had to. It was either that or depression. It was a terrifying thing to do.

CM: You also act. How does stand-up compare to acting? Did you always want to do both? 
PFT: At my school, drama was something everyone laughed at, mostly because we all had to keep pretending to be a tree in drama class. I mocked it too because I was desperate to fit in, but secretly I would have loved to be an actor.

I’d basically decided it wouldn’t ever be a thing I would end up doing, and so I looked down on anyone else who did it, but really it was fuelled by my own resentment that I couldn’t be me.

Then, when I started doing comedy, pals started asking me to be in sketches and short films, and it all started to snowball a bit, and my confidence grew.

CM: What have been the highlights of your working life so far?
PFT: Obviously meeting my wife at a gig, performing stand-up on TV, winning awards and working with my heroes.

But really I’m just totally in love with the sound of delirious laughter created by my words, that is as important as anything else to me.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
PFT: Obviously, I would love to have a special on Netflix, to do ‘Live At The Apollo’, and I would love to be cast in a hilarious role in a feature film or comedy series.

But obtaining those things isn’t fully in my control and it feels foolish to desire them, so let’s just go with staying in love with the process and getting as good as I can at this, then see where that takes me.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
I’m taking this show on tour around the UK. Tour dates here.

Paul F Taylor brings ‘Head In The Clouds’ to Soho Theatre on 4 May. Head to the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.  

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Photo: Ed Moore