Glenn Wool bring's greatest hits set to 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Wool's Gold features material from comedy troubadour's 20-year career
This article is from 2014.
Comedy troubadour Glenn Wool is reflecting on his 20 years of stand-up to produce a greatest hits set. Jay Richardson wonders where he draws the line between truth and myth
Of no fixed abode, Glenn Wool is one of a select band of stand-ups who ply a global comedy circuit, travelling continent to continent, acquiring cautionary tales of exotic misadventures and invasive customs officials as he goes. Just back from Japan when we speak, the 39-year-old Canadian is preparing to perform in Estonia, land of his forefathers, where he’ll visit the ‘Vool’ ancestral island home and ‘commune’ with his past. ‘Many historians believe it’s where the Vikings thought Valhalla was, so I’m going to investigate,’ he explains. ‘I might be a Norse god!’
At the Edinburgh Fringe, he’s presenting Wool’s Gold, a compilation of the best routines from his 20-year career. He’s grown ‘mildly concerned at how many paedophile and Holocaust jokes’ he’s written in that time. ‘I’m not making fun that the Holocaust happened,’ he states. Rather, his stand-up is a ‘magnifying glass on the extremes of human behaviour.’
And besides, as a Viking-blooded vagabond, he wonders if ‘inappropriate jokes sort of fill the role of sea shanties, you know? Sea shanties weren’t just dirty songs, they were a way of teaching people who weren’t highly educated that murder and rape was wrong.’ He checks himself to admit: ‘I’m not sure that’s actually right. But I reckon there are large parallels with primitive sailing in my job.’
Wool remains confident that he and a hardy band of fellow comics, including Stewart Francis, Craig Campbell, Rhys Darby and Simon Evans can break the record for the world’s highest land-based gig when they trek to Mount Everest’s base camp in October. That’s despite the avalanche which killed 16 Sherpas in April, a kidney infection and a severely sprained ankle he picked up in an Amsterdam whisky bar with Phil Nichol and Paul Myrehaug. Later, the roistering Canadian comics would compete in magic mushroom-fuelled wheelchair races while in hospital. Revisiting his old material, Wool is discovering that ‘jokes I thought were great aren’t that good, whereas some that felt like filler, with an elder’s eye, I’ve realised are great. I just wasn’t good enough to tell them at the time.’
For him, there’s no wrong subject matter and he’ll justify anything he says on stage. ‘If you’re overly sensitive then it’ll probably upset you. But then, what are you doing at my show?’
He’s equally outspoken in his regular podcasts with Frankie Boyle but they’re scrutinised by lawyers before being released. ‘Frank has a considerable amount to lose,’ he notes, chuckling that he’s not worried about being sued himself, grandiloquently feigning horror that ‘they might take all of my suitcases!’
The pair are currently in discussions with the BBC about working for the corporation. But after Wool’s History Channel show concerning how the rich got rich fell through at the last minute in the US, and his contributions to Boyle’s Channel 4 show Tramadol Nights never made it to screen, he’s begun to think of himself as a liability with producers.
‘Me and Frankie realised that if we make our own albums and put them on the internet for free, the only editor we have is ourselves,’ he says. ‘We’ll sit down every couple of weeks and record an hour every day, sometimes two. Then we edit it down. The first thing that goes is all the slagging of other comedians. If we ever released that we wouldn’t have a friend in the industry!’
Glenn Wool: Wool’s Gold, Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, 2–25 Aug (not 11, 18), 9.30pm, £13–£14 (£12–£13). Previews 30 Jul–1 Aug, £7.