“You write something and if it makes me laugh, I just hope that I’m not totally insane and that it’ll make the audience laugh as well” – An Interview with Andy Hamilton

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One of the nation’s most accomplished comedians, screenwriters and directors, Andy Hamilton, is heading to Nuffield Theatre on Thursday 29th November for the latest date on his tour, An Evening with Andy Hamilton.

The format of the evening breaks traditional with the established ‘norm’ in stand-up comedy and closely resembles a ‘question and answer’ session. Hamilton will draw on, as he puts it, a ‘vast reservoir’ of memories, anecdotes and opinions to improvise, based on audience interaction, and deliver another stand-out evening of entertainment.

Best known to current students as the co-writer of the hit BBC sitcom Outnumbered alongside Guy Jenkin, or as a regular on panel shows such as QI and Have I Got News for You, the 64-year old caught up with The Edge ahead of his trip to the South Coast.

So, Andy – a brand new tour for you. Give us a bit of an insight into what it’s all about, and the new format.

I’ve been out touring a few times over the years and I’ve always done the second half as fairly improvised, where I just respond to audience questions and I’ve always really enjoyed that, so I thought maybe I’d do the entire show like that.

So that’s what I’m doing with this show; fundamentally it’s shaped entirely by the questions the audience ask me, and that can be about anything they like, from the political to the personal. It’s very nice being in the moment, it’s very natural and spontaneous.

As a performer, that must take away quite a lot of the rehearsal and writing process before heading on tour, too?

Well, between you, me and the gatepost, that’s part of the attraction! Because if you write an exquisitely tailored show, that’s all well and good, but you still have to learn it and there will be moments in the show – I’ve always ad-libbed and done stuff like that – but the nice thing about this form is that I’m free.

If someone asks something interesting or I have an idea that’s funny or something new, I can pursue it and don’t have to worry about somehow weaving my way back into the structure that I’d rehearsed. That’s the fun of it, that it is so free.

Do you think this format has a bigger future in comedy, or is it specific to a certain type of performer?

I think it depends on the performer. I like doing a show that is shaped and structured because usually then you know that it works, it’s better for the performer.

Ross Noble has usually always improvised from start to finish, whereas Jimmy Carr wouldn’t, I suspect. I’m 64 now, so I’ve got a pretty big fund of memories, anecdotes and I’ve got opinions on anything, really – even stuff I know nothing about! I’ve got quite a big reservoir of stuff I can talk about, so maybe it’s more of an ‘old man’s’ format!

You had quite a long, distinguished career in comedy. How has it changed over the years, and oppositely, where do you see it going in the future?

I don’t think it’s changed in the fundamentals at all. Obviously, there are many, many more outlets and the nature of that is that if someone comes up with a joke, it’s out there instantly and travelling a lot further, a lot faster and that has certain implications.

When I first started, comics used to get up and do the same jokes relentlessly for their entire careers. But I don’t think in essence, it’s changed. Because social attitudes are changing quite fast, it’s perhaps a little bit more sensitised, but it’s always been like that to a certain degree.

What comedians did, or continue to inspire you?

In terms of comedians, I don’t think I’ve been inspired by any. I’ve got lots that I like, and admire, but there wasn’t one that did something and made me think ‘oh, I must go and do that!’

How different is the process of writing for different platforms?

Each one is different and requires different techniques, but the basic question is still the same, that you write something and if it makes me laugh, I just hope that I’m not totally insane and that it’ll make the audience laugh as well.

Looking beyond this tour, what does the future hold for you next?

I’ve got lots of ideas jointly with Guy Jenkin, who I’ve written things with. We’ve got things out there looking for backers, and I’m doing a second series on radio of Andy Hamilton Remembers in the Spring. I’m also going to be writing a novel in handwriting, which is unusual, but I don’t know when that’ll come out as it’s going to take me a while.

Catch An Evening With Andy Hamilton when it comes to Nuffield Theatre by buying tickets here! Check out a scene from the very first episode of Outnumbered below.

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Damian is a final-year History student, part-time motorsport media professional and a lover of films and stand-up comedy.

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