Interview: Will Durst – BoomeRaging from LSD to OMG
‘Hillary is less cuddly than a stainless steel teddy bear filled with angry wasps’
This article is from 2015.
In 1989, Will Durst became the first American to be nominated for the Perrier. Making a long-awaited return, he considers the British impact on universal humour.
How well did satire do under Obama? And would another President Clinton be good or bad for American comedy?
Satire was perhaps a bit muted under Obama, but there were many reasons. For one thing, its hard to mock hope. And he’s a smart guy. Didn’t make many stupid moves or statements. But Hillary. Aaaah. That would be brilliant. Because comedy is based on shared references. And we know her. Smart. Capable. But not what you call loveable. Less cuddly than a stainless steel teddy bear filled with angry wasps. As huggable as Margaret Thatcher. Now.
The British are overly keen on saying that Americans don’t do irony. Can you offer a piece of evidence that blows that theory out of the water?
George W Bush has a think tank. You can't make stuff up like this. What’s next? The Barack Obama Dynamic Leadership Seminar. Colombia University’s Introduction to the Iraqi War as taught by guest lecturer Brian Williams. Fox News. Internet privacy.
Bill Hicks or Denis Leary?
My. My. My. What an interesting and provocative question. Have to go with Bill Hicks mostly because he’s dead. Besides, you always go for the original before embracing the bad Xerox without any toner.
Are American comedians bothered about winning awards?
Americans are taught that competition brings out the best in our abilities. In the UK trying too hard is considered a bit unseemly. Also, the width and breadth of our country allows us much more space to hide in shame. You guys don’t have that luxury.
What will Trevor Noah need to do to maintain The Daily Show’s success and reputation?
Time. Give the guy some time. He’ll figure it out and be just fine. The show will properly morph, and needs to do so. And puppets. Hopefully he’ll introduce more segments that include puppets.
Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman?
Yes. Anytime. Every time. All the time.
How healthy is the state of live comedy in America? What should be done to improve it?
The state of comedy in the US is in its typical state of flux. Cyclical. Up and down and in and out and left and right. The whole Katy Perry song. Constantly evolving as the kids take over and make it their own: ‘out of the way, grandpa’. Comedy will always reflect the generation that frequents the clubs. Today it speaks with a hashtag. Tomorrow it will have a bifurcated tongue.
Do Americans generally welcome the likes of uppity Brits (John Oliver, Tracey Ullman and Ricky Gervais for three) coming over there and stealing all your jokes?
Are you kidding? YESSSS!!!! We love your uppity Brits. And aspire to be just like them. Some of us have attempted to return the favour. Consult your Darwin: cross-pollination keeps the species fresh and alive. Don’t forget that in my land, it is generally accepted as scripture that John Cleese is the funniest human on the face of the planet. Thanks for sharing.
Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld?
Game of Thrones.
Billy Connolly is widely regarded as the man who helped paved the way for modern British stand-up comedy: who would you pinpoint as doing the same in America?
George Carlin was the actual bridge between the mother-in-law jokes of the late 50s and took the modern observations of Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl into the mainstream. We all walk down a path carved by his machete out of the comedy wilderness that descended on November 22, 1963 and back into the light around 1975. And then Steve Martin and Robin Williams made goofy funny again.
Will Durst: BoomeRaging from LSD to OMG, Gilded Balloon, 0131 622 6552, 8–31 Aug (not 18), 5.30pm, £10.50–£12.50 (£9.50–£11.50). Previews 5–7 Aug, £5.