Kevin Eldon prepares for some Titting About at the Fringe
Ubiquitous comic brings strong views and extra pants to Edinburgh
This article is from 2010.
With strong views on the comedy scene, Kevin Eldon arrives in Edinburgh as something of a national institution. But he tells Julian Hall that he’ll still need an extra pair of pants
So ubiquitous is comedy actor Kevin Eldon, that he could be a parlour game: ‘Can you name a decent British comedy series that Kevin Eldon has appeared in, however briefly, since the start of the century?’ Among the answers are Jam, Black Books, Spaced, Brass Eye, Big Train, Smack the Pony, Nighty Night, Green Wing and Nathan Barley. And the list just goes on. Making his solo debut at the Fringe this year with Kevin Eldon is Titting About, the 49-year-old will be flexing live performance muscles he has used intermittently since the early 90s, when he appeared as character act Paul Hamilton, a politically correct poet. ‘I never really went away from stand-up completely,’ he says. ‘I’m in love with it even though it’s rather scary. I’m the same with Ann Widdecombe.’
With, on the one hand, sporadic Fringe appearances across the years (his most recent was four years ago with Bill Bailey’s punk rock covers band Beergut 100) and on the other a household face status when it comes to TV comedy, Eldon will surely be something of a curio for Edinburgh audiences? ‘If they’re expecting me to be digitally reproduced, or a recording of something I did earlier, their jaws may well slacken a little as I intend to attempt to perform the show live in real time.’
At times as hard to penetrate as some of his famously sinister cameos (remember ‘The Cleaner’ in Black Books?), Eldon is tight-lipped when it comes to his new show, saying that it will be made up of ‘confused sporadicity, ill-preparedness and potholing’. Attempting to elaborate for me, he adds, ‘It’s not really an act as such. It’s a series of bits of different acts I’ve made up with my mind.’ I ask, angling further, if he will be returning to his Paul Hamilton character and therefore go back to themes he explored in the 90s. ‘Yes, at times I’ll be touching on the ideas I had then. I shall be mercilessly lampooning John Major and making jokes about Milli Vanilli miming to their records.’
Unsurprisingly, for a man who gives few interviews (‘it’s a bit boring rattling on about yourself isn’t it?’ he once responded when asked why), Eldon is much more comfortable talking about other people. Given his career span and the fact that he has worked with many of British comedy’s leading lights (notably he was part of the Cluub Zarathustra cabaret group that included Simon Munnery, Stewart Lee, Johnny Vegas, Julian Barratt and Sally Phillips), Eldon is in a good position to pass judgment on the comedy scene and that he does with no hesitation.
‘I think it’s largely become much more conservative. When I started, there were some genuinely original acts around. There were people who would just do odd dances or melt ice or not say anything and just trip up over the mic stand. To my mind these people were worth a thousand sprout-faced little twits shouting about their wretched girlfriends or the problems they have at a Cashpoint.’ Is it all really that bad? ‘Of course there is still an enormous amount of brilliant acts about, old and new, but I find it galling that people who have no innovation or real creative flair can put together an identikit set of comedic clichés and get away with it, nay, get praised for it.’
When an act says something like this before performing at the Fringe it can be a hostage to fortune if their show gets panned. However, although Eldon says he is scared enough to be taking extra underwear with him, in all likelihood the critics and general Fringe chatter is not going to affect him. ‘It’s easy enough to just stay away from the elements I don’t like, all the showbiz hooey and the schmoozy bollards. The best bit is that it’s a beautiful city with lovely people in it.’
Kevin Eldon, The Stand, 558 7272, 6–30 Aug (not 16, 23), 2.30pm, £8 (£7). Preview 5 Aug, 1pm, £7 (£6).