Comedy is a funny thing. One minute you’re telling a few jokes to your friends, the next minute you’ve won the BBC newcomer award.
The minute after that you’re putting on a show in Edinburgh about killing your girlfriend and eating your mother. The Void sent Tom Canning to chat to Andrew Lawrence about butchering loved ones…
Andrew Lawrence is a very strange man.
I’m sitting in a bar next door to the Soho Theatre in London and all that is going through my mind is that this man has written a song called So I Set His Face On Fire. Luckily, it’s a darkly comical song, and not a musical confession.
Having started doing stand-up while studying at Uni, Andrew Lawrence first realised that comedy was his thing when he speculatively entered So You Think You’re Funny? and came second. Following a brief stint as a librarian in London, he quickly won three more comedy competitions, including the BBC New Comedy Award in 2004, which isn’t bad for a 26 year old.
Now, following years of gigging around England, and recently being nominated for the Best Newcomer at this year’s Edinburgh Festival with his first full-length show, the delightfully titled How To Butcher Your Loved Ones (which sounds like an Open University course on pure physical brutality) Andrew returns with a new show, with new jokes, new stories and new vulgarities, called Social Leprosy for Beginners and Improvers.
“The show has followed on quite organically from the 20 or so minutes I’ve been doing in the clubs for the last two years. It’s a very biographical show about people who have been very instrumental to the persona I convey on stage, and the troubled relationships that he’s had with these people, which have ended, more often than not, in extreme violence of a comedic nature. It’s lots of fun.”
And fun it most certainly should be, with Andrews disturbingly dark persona commenting on everything from his family, to his failed relationships to suspiciously deceased co-workers. But is this persona the real Andrew Lawrence, and if not, where on God’s Earth did it come from? “It’s something that was just there. When I was at University it’s something that I started doing when doing the open mic nights. It’s sort of like any comedian doing a persona; you could say it’s a grotesque subversion of myself. I don’t know where it came from to be honest. But everyone has his or her own distinct sense of humour and it’s about tapping into that. It’s about having an original voice.”
As well as performing stand up comedy, acting in Ideal with Johnny Vegas, and providing audio amusement to Channel 4’s Shipwrecked podcast, listeners to Radio One might remember a few years ago turning on the radio early one morning to hear a very weird person talking about getting fucked by a doctor. The episodes of The Milk Run, written by Andrew Lawrence, were so original and twisted, that they were nominated for a Sony Radio Award.
“They came about through the BBC new comedy award. That was part of the prize, the opportunity to write for radio. At the time, the Milk Run shows were happening, so the producer asked if I had anything and I said that I’ve got a couple of hours worth of narrative that I’ve wrote in the persona that I perform. Because they wanted something fairly quickly, I said well if you want it, this is something that I can work into two structurally coherent two hours. I think it came across quite well, but something that’s done very quickly. Radio is something I’m very interested in doing but it’s a question of finding something which works both for me and a format.”
That’s the beauty of stand-up, there’s only one director, one writer, one producer and one performer and it all comes down to my shoulders whether it’s good or bad.
But would he go the whole hog and dive into TV comedy?
“It’s difficult. I’d love to write something, but I don’t think there’s anyone out there that I am especially keen to collaborate with. No one in as much as no one doing anything particularly similar to what I’m doing. Not that I can see anyway. It would be great to find someone who is on your wavelength, because often people collaborate on things and they turn out to be a lot of time wasted. That’s the beauty of stand-up, there’s only one director, one writer, one producer and one performer and it all comes down to my shoulders whether it’s good or bad. I would certainly like to write for TV, I’m not sure about sketch shows particularly though; I wouldn’t want to be restricted in that way. I’m not sure about the shelf life of that format to be honest.”
Having been compared to Chris Morris and Leonard Cohen in the past (“I’m flattered, as they are both amazingly successful in their respective fields”) and being a self-taught guitarist, it comes as a bit of surprise that Andrew’s inspiration in comedy comes from that most unlikely of sources, Harry Enfield. “He was the person that really first got me interested in comedy. I know he has come under a lot of stick in recent years but when he first emerged onto the scene he was extremely original.”
With time desperately running out, it was time for one last question, and one that had been on my mind ever since I first heard of Andrew Lawrence. “My own version of the Aristocrats joke? I’m aware of the concept, as the producer, Paul Provenza, is someone I have a lot of time for. Hmmm.. No, I haven’t thought of one, at least not yet anyway.” And with that, he leans back and smiles a grin that makes you wonder just what humorous filth is going through his mind. Probably best not to ask….