An Interview with Comedian Paul Foot

BY POPULAR REQUEST (!) Here is the text from my interview with Paul Foot, back in the days when I was an edgy and stalkerish student journalist. It was published in Leeds Student at some point in 2009 (I had to salvage the HMTL-stricken words off their website) and I believe it is still the most in-depth interview with Paul Foot to date.
I like this interview because it documents the first time I properly met Paul. Since then Paul's become a friend and I've become his publicist. One of the many bizzarre and unchartered limbs of my couldn't-make-it-up career in media.
It seems Paul Foot is a comic of both the margins and the centre. An eccentric and aloof character known for holding secret gigs and subversive tea parties, as he springs onto the stage (with a strange roll-along suitcase never too distant from him) we feel as if we are in the presence of Dr. Seuss’ take on Paddington Bear. He bounds and buckles before the audience delivering his bizarre humour that slips between enthusiastic loud bursts and humble self-musings. There are some impressive facts and prizes tied into the Paul Foot story. Amongst several comedy awards Paul was nominated for a Perrier, and more recently he was a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing, not to mention his thousands of committed fans (or “connoisseurs’ as he calls them).
But this stage presence of the extrovert recluse is a cleverly constructed identity, and to the fashion-trained eye there is a clue-his exquisite Paul Smith tie.
I spent an afternoon and evening shadowing this shadowiest of comedians, on behalf of LS, before, during and after his gig at Winston Smith’s Leeds comedy night Gag Hole. I set myself the task of finding the real Paul Foot. How has he come to be on the brink of world stardom four times and always somehow refrained? Who are the inspirations and cultural resources behind his genius humour? And what of his never-before documented past— a confused maths graduate from Merton College, Oxford —
It is the last day of April, and the sun fills the room with a warm glow from behind Winston’s canary yellow curtains. I am sitting in Winston Smith’s bedroom in Leeds where Paul Foot lies (fully clothed) inside Winston’s bed and looking somewhat like Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother.
I’ve watched Paul perform three times, at the Edinburgh Fringe, in London and now here in Leeds. Winston Smith introduces us as I sit gingerly on the foot of the bed, rummaging in my satchel for my Dictaphone. Paul smiles with an unsettling mixture of friendliness and knowingness, I am now reminded of the landlord in the Wicker Man. I learn that feeling at ease and also a bit
uncomfortable is an important paradigm of Paul’s act, if not self-conscious.
I ask Paul to talk about Last Comic Standing, a popular TV show from last year presented by Fearne Cotton in which 35 “international’ comedians took part in a US knock-out tournament. “I was invited to the heats in Miami. One or two of the comedians were from Australia, but mostly from the UK. So it was thirty-five comedians on one jumbo-jet, a massive party.”
Unlike other professions, say singing or acting, it seems comedians get on well together. “There are probably only two comedians that I don’t like as people. Generally we all bond and get on well together. It’s delightful, you can meet a comedian who has been in the business for fifteen years, or one who has just finished their first gig, and you get along great, you understand each other”.
Last Comic Standing was Paul’s biggest audience to date, with a live theatre of 1100 plus an international TV audience of over 15 million. “I was quite nervous in Las Vegas. There was a difference between getting into the final and, well, not getting into the final”. Iliza Shlesinger eventually went on to win, her humour perhaps tailor-made for an American audience, with reels of jokes about Pizza and fatness.
I wondered what working with Fearne Cotton was like. “I saw her a lot for the actual finals, but Fearne had a lot to do, I just turned up for my parts of each show. I was having a holiday basically. Fearne’s lovely and very good at her job”.
Like all comedians Paul started off unheard of. “I remember at first I had one fan. Just one person who would turn up to my gigs. It was sad”. Nevertheless Paul’s fan-base rocketed as a result of the exposure on such a huge show, and he now has an avid following which demands a lot of Paul’s time-delivering video blogs, replying to fan emails and updating his twitter. “The internet can be problematic, I’ve been having problems with Twitter this weekend. Also, there’s another Paul Foot, an actor who is in Equity”.
A particular cult classic Paul Foot moment is his spoof film proposal, in which Paul plays all the characters. The plot revolves around a trophy wife who accidentally kills her older husband while having sex on an internet-purchased mahogany dining table.
Perhaps my favourite Paul Foot moment is his routine on how despite Jesus’ many attributes and achievements, was a failure in the field of carpentry.
But I venture into the more sincere side of the interview. What did Paul Foot do for a living before comedy?
“Well I knew I wanted to be a comedian when I was at Merton”. Where most figures in the public eye that went to Oxbridge flaunt the fact, Paul rarely acknowledges his educational background. “Maths was a tragic degree. I was good at it but it was boring. Upon graduation I took up a job with a recruitment agency.
"I remember the interview, I told him that I was completely uninterested in the job but that I wanted some money. The guy told me that I was unemployable with such an attitude, but he took me on anyway, in fact I initially didn’t take the job and then he head-hunted me. It wasn’t hardcore, I just fetched cakes”.
Paul Foot graduated from Oxford exactly when the internet was born. “I had to read manuals on HTML and just write websites from scratch. None of us really knew what we were doing”. It wasn’t long before Paul left bureaucracy for comedy. “I was scientific as a child, although Mathematics was the wrong degree, I should have done English or, um, perhaps Latin. But of course it doesn’t matter now. My interests are mainly comedy and cock”, he looks away at the window with a wry little smile.
The interview reaches a natural interval and Paul begins to make suggestive comments towards Winston. “He keeps being all sexual” jokes Paul, casting an eye at the unsuspecting and seemingly innocent Winston. “He keeps talking about his cock and saying he wants me to touch it”. They begin to laugh, Paul clearly in his element, Winston sat cautiously on the window-ledge of his own bedroom, picking at the hem of his chequered shirt. I snatch my moment to quiz Paul over his sexuality— does he have a gay agenda?
“I hardly ever acknowledge it. My material is probably the straightest of any openly gay comics. I sometimes mention sexuality, but often not, there are other things to talk about. When I’m out in the provinces, like Bedford, I’ll do my routine about gay sperm since it causes such a reaction.
“It angers me to read about homophobia, like people being beaten up at three in the morning in a car park because of their sexuality, so I sometimes use comedy as a learning curve. It’s pathetic when comedians are homophobic and think they’re being cool and ironic, they’re not, they’re just crap comedians who lack imagination. I’m not going to go around telling people not to be gay, and similarly I’m not going around telling people to be gay. I don’t have a gay agenda, just a comedy agenda. I’m a comedian.”
Sexuality – tick, I move on to more pressing issues like fashion. Where, repeat WHERE, does Paul shop in order to conjure this look of mostly-purple antiquity? He is reluctant to tell me exactly. “Anywhere really. These trousers came from a shop for example. This cardigan was from a connoisseur. He wore this cardigan, I wore my cardigan and we immediately swapped, there was a bond”.
Fine dining is a topic that Paul will discuss. “I’m self-taught, with a few lessons learnt off my mother. I enjoy cooking game pie, venison omelettes, that sort of thing”. Winston mentions how Paul once made a roast dinner at 4am for a group of friends, but ate the best bits of meat himself. “Well I bought it all” Paul hastily interrupts in mock self-defence. I ask him if he has a favourite restaurant back in London. Paul gives a prompt and definite reply: “Pied à Terre”.
Paul is adverse to pop culture, “I can’t stand films, there’s too much going on, people walking around, men wearing hats, and women, I just can’t follow them. My favourite film is Titanic. I don’t like it, in fact, I hate it. But it’s my favourite”. On literature he says “I haven’t read a book since I was seventeen”. What about Harry Potter? “Well actually I did try that. It’s rubbish”.
And so the official interview slot draws to a close as Paul sits up and adjusts the cuffs of his shirt. I leave the house of Winston Smith, anticipated about the evening’s performance, I’m perhaps more confused now as to who Paul Foot really is.
The evening eventually arrives and I am sitting with my American friend Maggie on the second row. I was beginning to consider myself a quite senior Paul Foot connoisseur by now, afterall, I’d not only seen him perform several times, but I’d interviewed him extensively at his (or Winston’s) bedside, as well as sharing a large icy pitcher of Pimms before the gig.
Nothing, however, could have prepared me for Paul’s set that night. His comedy started off in recognisable Footian territory, musing on the farcical nature of counselling hotlines pinned to the credits of soap operas. The second phase of his gig took a loony twist as Paul began speculating over the occurrence that is vans—that’s right— just vans, as in the vehicle, and then his invented accessory – vanglasses—.. I just can’t explain…
My journalistic ability is yet to be formative enough to describe Paul’s set… in fact I question whether I will ever develop writing abilities strong enough to do Paul’s comedy a decent service. Still, the audience of around one hundred Leeds students, were a riotous concoction of laughter fits, gasps of shock and (I’m pretty sure) pissing themselves.
The final part of Paul Foot’s act was titled “Revenge on a Bed & Breakfast Landlady”. The complex and increasingly elaborate tale spiralled out of control until, somehow, Paul had two men simulating sex with themselves on stage, ululating like Red Indians and pretending to smash imaginary china dollies while he screwed himself up into a ball on the floor and started wailing as if in pain. The audience by this point had lost all sense of reality to their inner senses and to laughter. None of them knew what to think anymore, they just knew that Paul Foot was something else.
“In my teens I imagined my future self at 48 years old, married, with a Ford Sierra and children” Paul told me quietly as we walked towards the grandeur and noise of Leeds University Union. His career stands testament to how none of us, not even Oxford maths graduates, can predict our futures, but that creativity and humour are enough to be a success, and more importantly – to be happy.
Students run up to Paul post-gig, asking for info about upcoming gigs, excited girls take photos alongside him while even the most scrofulous of boys offer him their rosy-cheeked praise. He is invited to a handful of parties too. Surely the cool party culture is the icing on the comedian’s cake, it’s the social approval they all craved in school, the opportunity for them to cash-in all that hard-crafted humour for drugs and sex?
“I’m okay thanks” he politely rebuts. “I don’t really feel like partying tonight, but I’m quite hungry though, I might just get some food”. And so Paul Foot’s off— in his Paul Smith tie, roll-along case in tow, and disappears into the warm May moonlight.
Follow Paul Foot on Twitter: and join his Official Facebonk Page.

Skittles: Taste The Facebook Following

Skittles have launched a Facebook campaign in which a hunk is locked in a perspex box for 24 hours with Skittles dropped on him every 15 minutes. The amount of Skittles dropped every 15 minutes depends on the amount of people who have joined up with Skittles on Facebook during that period. Genius.

In signing up not only do you swear online allegiance to Skittles, but you also give Skittles access to all of your basic details including name, gender, a list of your friends and associates, and any photos or content that you've added to Facebook with an 'everyone can see' setting, so it is essentially a data mining exercise in which online privacy is yet agaiOOH LOOK... Skittles falling on a hunk's head! WHOOOOO!

The Facebook page also has a live commentator making jokes in a deadpan manner such as "Why isn't he busy sorting the Skittles into different coloured piles?

How many Skittles will be dropped?
A maximum of 2,000,000 Skittles. Currently there are only approximately 9000 Skittles going into each drop drop. For every 1 person who joins on Facebook 40 Skittles are added, although how this is put into practice is not revealed. Do they have a special Skittles counting machine, or do they just shovel in any old amount and hope Rain Man isn't watching? The entire gimmick is recorded and livestreamed through the Facebook page.

Who is David Phoenix?
The man in the box goes by the name of David Phoenix and he appears to be a kick-boxer and stunt artist according to the University of Yahoo Answers. He is dark, handsome and is currently sitting in the perspex box wearing a red sports jacket looking quite glum (probably because he can't w*** , as one boy following on Facebook helpfully pointed out).

Where is the Skittles stunt happening?
In Soho, London. Where else would a rainbow-obsessed publicity stunt involving a male model occur? Melissa Smith just revealed on Facebook: "I've just seen the real deal....
St Annes Court, in between Dean St and Wardour Street, he's even more awesome in the FLESH......"

Disappointingly the Skittles don't all fall onto David's head, they mostly just land infront of his crotch joining a huge pile around his feet, and David isn't naked, which would have struck me as a must. As PR expert Paul Wells scoffed to The Jack of Hearts this afternoon: "Oh Skittles, what’s the point of having a hunk in a box, if he’s not at least half naked?! These social media stunt rookies are absolutely clueless."

What will happen when the Skittles go over his head? Does he have a game plan? Before entering the perspex box David Phoenix asked people to follow him on Twitter @IAmDavidPhoenix , yawn, go on then.

The Facebook group currently has over 1,300,000 members make this an incredibly successful campaign, especially considering there are over 20 hours to go.

Some questions raised on the Skittles page that there are currently no answers for: Can David go to the toilet? Can he eat the Skittles? Can he take his clothes off?

I've just read this little article about the whole affair by Rosie Baker in Marketing Week. According to her piece the footage from this campaign, which pays homage towards the gunge-tank glory years of 1990s kids television, will form part of a new marketing campaign too.

I'm so going to take a look after work. If only for the Warholian brilliance of 15 minutes.

Why Are Simon Cowell's Pop Tarts Above the Charts?

So this year’s X Factor live show performances will be purchasable through iTunes and other official websites, but sales will not affect the Official Top 40 charts, putting Simon Cowell in an omnipotent throne above the charts.

If 500,000 people like and buy a song then it should be number one, that’s what a chart is! Why is Simon Cowell scared of transparency and online democratisation? It’s supposed to be a harmless music competition, albeit a money-grabbing one, not some Kim Jong-il Karaoke freak show.

Some have praised Cowell for ‘protecting the integrity of the charts’ as if this man’s first taste of chart success wasn’t with novelty singles as profound as The TeleTubbies (‘Eh Oh’) and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers! As if this man doesn't look to 80s sensation Sinitta for her earnest opinion on singing.

The officially provided reason for this above-the-charts malarkey is that the show’s makers want to prevent audiences from knowing who the tournament’s favourites are. This too is slightly flawed in that iTunes already has its own popularity tally system and the size of Facebook fan pages has always correlated with a contestant’s popularity.

Now that X Factor can make money out of its 'live' performances it completely changes the nature of the tournament in that contestants are going to be given songs with maximum money-making potential. If 500,000 girls and gays are going to buy a 1 Direction single each week for the next 10 weeks then there’s no way Simon Cowell is going to chuck the boys out of the tournament no matter how badly they might screw-up.

Will the contestants be rewarded for lining Cowell's pockets each week or do they remain unpaid popstars? Perhaps the proceeds from all of these Saturday night whore-outs should go to charity? And how much money does the original artist get paid? Can Kate Bush sue if she feels her creative genius has been sieged, shat on and spewed out by a talentless teenager?

I like The X Factor, it’s hilarious and I enjoy watching it, but for me it is basic wine and crisps pre-clubbing Saturday night entertainment, not a conglomerate Orwellian Ministry of Music that rams a spoon down your throat and then smacks you in the face with it. Luckily we still live in a world where televisions can be turned off. Sadly half of Britain don’t seem to realise this.

Wow, we’ve only had one live show and already the Jack of Hearts has had an X Factor rant! And last night in Tescos I noticed a stand selling X magazine, so expect another…

YouTube Sundays: Madonna Couldn't, Britney Couldn't, Calvin Could

Few people know Britney's killer groove 'Trouble'. It only appeared in the UK as a bonus track on 'Circus' for those who pre-ordered the CD although internet downloads are available. It's one of her best tracks; sexy, cool, minimal, disjointed and 'current' - but for some reason it was never a single. A couple of years earlier Madonna tried to make a hit out of the same synth scale in 'Get Together', her follow-up to the genius Abba-sampling hit 'Hung Up'. But again, nobody paid much attention. Then only last year Calvin Harris released 'Flashback' as the second single off his Ready For The Weekend album, and despite having had nearly 4 million plays on YouTube it still didn't receive the recognition it deserved.

Three questions:

1) Can anyone else see the striking shared ground between these three songs?

2) Is there some kind of curse on this melody?

3) When will Lady Gaga make her version and fly to the top of the charts?

Take a listen:

Britney Spears - 'Trouble'

Madonna - 'Get Together'

Calvin Harris - 'Flashback'

X-Factor Girl Group Belle Amie Named After Gay Adult Movie Company

These four girls Rebecca, Sofia, Esther and Geneva were thrilled last weekend (well, last summer, but let's pretend) when Simon Cowell told them that they were going through to the live shows of this year's X Factor, as a girl group called Belle Amie.

The girls innocently named themselves Belle Amie after they saw the phrase in a french text message that one of Geneva's friends wrote to her. What they probably didn't know is that Bel Ami, is one of the world's most successful gay porn production companies. I don't imagine Simon Cowell would have known this either, assuming he's too busy to attend Ryan Seacrest's movie nights, and Louis is probably a bit slow at responding to his Blackberry.

Wouldn't it be more fitting for the twinky boyband 1 Direction to be called Belle Amie? Pretty boys Harry Styles and Liam Payne actually resemble Bel Ami 'models', whilst Niall Horan has a sufficiently complex blond hairstyle to feature in a Bel Ami title.

1 Direction is an awful name, they may as well be called Direct Line, although I think that's the name of a Lancastrian tribute act to the 90's boyband Northern Line. Then again, having a crummy and pointless name seems to work for boybands. Northern Line, Westlife, East Seventeen, what about Southern Fried? No? How about 911 Direction? or Directory Enquiries? Or just 9/11? Now that would be post-modern. The Post Modernists? Now that would be cool.

Below (don't click the still unless you're liberated enough to casually browse a successful gay porn production company's website) is one of the 'models' pages from Bel Ami online. The idea is that viewers can search Bel Ami's hundreds of gay titles in search of a particular 'actor' that they have a soft spot for. But it made me think... wouldn't a porn star knock-out tournament make for perfect evening television?

Here in London we have Gay Porn Idol every Thursday at Heaven, beneath Charing Cross Station. Anyone can enter and the idea is that boys who need to top up their job seeker's allowance to buy a new vintage jumper can make-out with themselves (or a friend) and the 'winner' gets £100! Only problem is, the boys who enter rarely match up to the high standard that good quality gay porn directors and X-Factor judges swear by.

Below: Bel Ami's cast directory online. A bit like Top Trumps, but literally.

What I don't understand is, if Bel Ami have hundreds of gay porn actors, who are all incredibly built and challengingly handsome, then where on earth do they live? I've never seen one walking around. Do they all live on yachts? Sometimes I think the FAQ section on Chanel's website needs to be a bit more comprehensive.