The phenomenon of Alternative Comedy is mostly associated with the new wave of comedy which exploded onto our television screens during the early 1980’s. Pioneered by politically motivated anarchists including Ben Elton, Alexi Sayle and Rick Mayall, British comedy was taken to uncharted territory as these stars toiled with the very art of comedy and flipped it on its head and sitcoms such as The Young Ones came through the screen as this comedy phenomenon firmly took hold. By the nineties Alternative Comedy had become part of the mainstream and the comedy world was awaiting another generation to put their own stamp on this ancient art.
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Writer and comedian Paul Foot began his comedy journey during the late nineties. By this time the pioneers of Alternative Comedy had become national treasures and in turn had crossed the border into mainstream comedy. This created the opportunity for Foot’s generation to fill the void which these eighties icons had set. Alternative Comedy by its very nature is a bespoke, underground scene which thrived in cult venues like the Comedy Store. Associated with subjects which tend to be too left field for mainstream audiences, such a discipline has a defined target market. Therefore Paul’s generation found their success in small and intimate theatres which thrived upon this style of comedy.
Making his Edinburgh Festival debut in 2003 with his one man show Most Wanted, Paul was unphased by the significance of the festival and realised that performers were getting too worried about the prestige of the whole thing. There’s no doubt that events of this nature positively assist in the development of one’s career yet they shouldn’t be the linchpin. Long gone are the days of the Perrier Award being a vital stepping stone for any budding comedian, making stars of future comedy powerhouses such as; Lee Evans, Milton Jones,Richard Ayoade and Matt Holness, Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller. For Paul, unfortunately this award has slowly lost its significance over the last decade so Edinburgh has sadly lost its appeal.
In 2010 Foot returned to Edinburgh with his critically acclaimed Stand Up show Ash In The Attic directed by Noel Fielding. Since starting on the circuit together at the end of the nineties, the irreverent comedian has always been extremely generous to Paul and identified with his left field approach to his work. Finding himself on the comedy peripheries, Paul was honoured when his celebrated peer agreed to direct his new show. Having never even seeing the BBC1 daytime show, Paul was slightly perplexed as to the title but liked the bizarre reference and so the name stuck and Ash In The Attic became one of the turning points of his career.
Noel Fielding would once again prove vital to Paul’s transition into TV when he welcomed him on to BBC2’s music based panel show Never Mind The Buzzcocks alongside regular team captain Phill Jupitus. Both comedians have been extremely generous to Paul over the years and it was a joy for him to appear alongside two men who were right at the very top of their game. This extended his audience and made him into a recognised TV face; something which he’s always been grateful for. Yet this wasn’t his only brush with TV as in 2009 he became a regular contributor to the 21st century variety show Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle.
Despite his television credits, Paul is more at home in front of a live theatre audience and his recent stint at the Leicester Square Theatre has cemented this. As a comedian, Paul is at his best when amongst an intimate crowd as he gets a certain amount of joy from bouncing off the audience and sharing in-jokes. This is something that you could never do in a big stadiumx and explains why Paul remains extremely content with being a successful live performer. In the current entertainment climate where live comedy is thriving, Paul’s stage appeal goes from strength to strength with his surreal take on the world. It was a great pleasure to interview the unique Paul Foot and wish him all the very best for the rest of his career.