Finding Funny: The Adam Larter Interview
Christian chats with Adam Larter, the Founder, Weirdos Comedy Club, about their new show, ‘A Christmas Tail’, which will be on in London the 9th, and 11-13th December. Tickets can be found here.
Adam Larter is the founder of Weirdos Comedy Club, a collective of some of the best comedians on the UK circuit, who come together to do the most unique and innovative nights around. He is also a comedian, and a writer. Mainly however, he is very very funny, but I can’t always explain why. Either directly or indirectly as a result of Adam, I have seen things that I can never unsee: his chest, his legs in red tights, comedian Ali Brice with a face painted green able to only say the name “Laura” in a high pitched voice, two Scottish brothers delivering a monologue in between hitting each other, and sing-alongs with the rest of the audience whilst everyone had different lyrics.
The type of hilarious chaos which occurs at any of the shows, plays or events which he has been involved with, is something which you’ll have to search hard to find elsewhere. And it’s not for everyone; I have watched him baffle classic Friday night comedy crowds in Leicester Square, who had travelled so far from the mainstream they were in risk of drowning. But that’s what makes it so special. For the past three years, he has written and put on a comedy Christmas Pantomime all in aid of Great Ormond’s Street Hospital. The first was Hook, and last years was The Colonel, about Colonel Sanders and the beginnings of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This year they’re doing something called A Christmas Tail, starts this week, and I catch up with him before he dives straight in.
I ask him what he’s doing.
He laughs. “Is that an ‘explain the project’ sort-of-thing?”
I say yes.
“It’s a pantomime, but it doesn’t follow any of the traditional pantomime stories. It’s an original piece written by me, directed by Matt Highton, with the usual cast of idiots. It’s at some points a bit more satirical than stuff before, but still got that element of surrealism and wackiness”.
A Christmas Tail is about “a feminist mermaid, Christmas, how Christmas works underwater, and the conflict between the human and underwater world. Matt said he had the idea of ‘Christmas underwater’, and he knew I’d get excited about that visually. We fleshed that out, how that would work as a story. I went away and wrote it and handed it over to Matt to direct it. It seems quite easy when you put it like that, doesn’t it?”
The pantomime is part of the Weirdos Christmas trilogy, and I ask whether this will be the last one. “It’s the last of this kind. I mean it’s not the end of Weirdos. But it’s a chance to do something different. We can’t call ourselves an avant-garde lot if we keep doing the same thing every year, even if that thing is quite different”.
“I make a lot of props and I destroy them on purpose just so that it makes you move on to the next thing. There are some people who spend a whole year doing one hour’s worth of material and I just think that’s… Strange? Like, you must be slightly dead after. I don’t know, is that not weird?” I agree with him and say that it is weird. Who are the real weirdos, eh? Definitely still Adam & Co.
Because they are so different, it made me wonder whether Weirdos is in reaction to the mainstream circuit.
“When it started, and started going to comedy nights, I got this big reaction to realising how much mainstream stuff was out there… but now I don’t really mix in those circles, I don’t go to watch that stuff. I don’t understand those comics who watch [Michael] McIntyre and then get angry at it, it’s just not something that I pay attention to. In the same way that I don’t listen to reggae. It’s just another thing out there that I don’t like”.
“It’s weird that it’s certainly the most popular form of comedy, but that’s not to say that if the Mighty Boosh didn’t announce a tour tomorrow they wouldn’t be people selling out Wembley Arena… Y’know it’s just not there right now? Not that there’s not an audience for it”.
“So it’s not a reaction, it’s just what we prefer to do. And that’s always been the pattern from like Monty Python, to the alternative gang in the 80s/90s, Boosh and Garth Marenghi in the 2000s. Maybe we’re just starting to be that next lot of people coming through? Or at least maybe the failed version of them. There’s always one lot that makes it and one lot that doesn’t. Not being commercially minded, we will probably be the lot that doesn’t”.
But there’s clearly a love for it: “We are really happy doing what we’re doing. It’s really lovely when it’s successful. It’s great to see John [Kearns] winning the award this year”. John Kearns, who was the lead in their first Christmas Panto ‘Hook’, won the biggest award in Comedy, the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award, only a year after winning the Foster’s Best Newcomer – the first comic in history to do so.
Out of 1000 comedy shows in Edinburgh, this is quite a feat. I ask whether he thinks the industry is oversaturated. “There’s a lot, but there’s still a lot of one thing. When I did Computer Boy recently (a 3-person comedy play about a boy who wishes he was a computer), there were lots of industry types who came along because there aren’t many people doing long form narrative comedy outside of Edinburgh shows. So there may be ten million stand ups, and ten million nights, but if you want to do something, or write something original, you’re automatically in a smaller crowd. So I don’t think it’s oversaturated, it’s only oversaturated with crap”.
Weirdos puts on lots of nights, but the range of comedians, from Matt Highton’s storytelling, to Ali Brice’s bizarre characters, is particularly special – there’s not one word that you could use to describe all of them. “I personally like surrealism, but it’s nice having Matt on board because his mind automatically works in a very filmic way, of storytelling. We had Holly [Burn], who was the first one to bring a real physical edge to what we were doing. And then a few character people along the way. And then a few who are… slightly stand up, but a weirder version of it”.
In the summer, Adam directed comedian Ali Brice’s Edinburgh Show. I say it was hilarious. “It’s ‘cause he’s got no dignity, that’s what it is… Literally none, he’s like the biggest idiot you could possibly think of”. Ali was the lead in The Colonel last year, while the leads this year are Harriet Kemsley and Katvia Kavinge, and Joz Norris. “It’s nice to give Joz a big part, because he’s been part of Weirdos for quite a time now, and he normally gets given the idiot character, which he still is, but it is nice to give him some sense of purpose in the play”.
Their more frequent show, Blueprint, feel like going to a sleepover where Joz is effectively a running joke. “He’s our Fozzy bear. We’re entirely modelled on the Muppets. If you stop and think you can figure it out. Actually Ali is Fozzy Bear, Joz is Gonzo. Miss Piggy is maybe Beth, she’s the diva. She won’t mind me saying that”. Beth’s show, incidentally, was one of the most brilliant things I saw in Edinburgh. “Yeah, she’s nuts”.
I ask what’s next. “For me, I don’t know if there’s ever a point where I could make a career from it. I write this weird shit, and there’s this amazingly talented bunch of people who can bring it to life. I just feel so lucky to have that… I always seem to get lucky with the cast”.
“At the moment I just want it to continue, but in a different form. And just… try and avoid stuff that has been done, I mean I know everything’s been done, but… I just don’t want to become another regular night where people go “oh that’s Weirdos… and they do *this* thing”. Anything but that really”.
I’ve been to see them many times now, and can honestly tell you that I cannot say what Weirdos do. I still have no idea. And that’s why it’s so good.